Bill G Got One Thing Right

Bill Gates, to his troops, 2001-01-04
“Our most potent Operating System competitor is Linux and the phenomena around Open Source and free software. The same phenomena fuels competitors to all of our products. The ease of picking up Linux to learn it or to modify some piece of it is very attractive. The academic community, start up companies, foreign governments and many other constituencies are putting their best work into Linux”

That was written the year after I adopted GNU/Linux and he was right on all those points. I went from being a newbie to being able to do everything a teacher normally would do with that other OS in just a few days. The download took more time, 10 days of nights and weekends on dial-up… I replaced Lose ’95 on five old PCs in my classroom and never looked back. GNU/Linux was clearly superior to the software we were using on Macs and other PCs in the school.

Bill’s troops did respond by producing a better product but it took a decade or so to get “7” out of the chute while GNU/Linux kept getting better. Since that memo, MacOS and GNU/Linux have taken serious share from that other OS and now Android/Linux is doing even better. It looks like, for the foreseeable future, M$ and that other OS will be swarmed by competitors doing a great job of IT and continuing to take share. I don’t know where it will end but shares will be something like 1/N where N is a few will be the situation in a few years. M$ will have to compete on price/performance as will Apple. It’s all good. The world does not owe big software companies a living and the world can produce its own software with FLOSS.

I recommend Debian GNU/Linux for those who want to escape high licensing fees, slowing down, re-re-reboots, phoning home and malware while doing a better job of IT than Bill and his troops.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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4 Responses to Bill G Got One Thing Right

  1. In Canada, the governments and large businesses cooperate in Computers for Schools and volunteers refurbish PCs and donate them to schools and libraries. That way schools can get stacks of identical machines which helps managing the devices. In my province, Manitoba, schools can get up to 20 per year 8 year old machines installed of XP. It is simple to overwrite that obsolete OS with Debian GNU/Linux and have a good fleet of shiny clean machines if power and space are not issues.

  2. gewg_ says:

    @jack h
    Many municipalities/counties require paying fees to leave stuff at their dump / landfill / recycling center.
    If you station a kid outside the entrance of your local facility on Saturday with a handful of $1 bills and a sign reading “Cash for computers; any condition”, I’ll bet you can score some useful stuff for near-nothing. Most folks will view **getting** a buck instead of having to *pay* as a good deal.
    In suburbia, cruising the streets on trash day can yield useful stuff for $0.

  3. jack h, I think there may be better options for most schools. Considering that there are millions of old PCs being left to gather dust in a pile or scrapped every year, schools can get old ATX PCs for $0 and students can get all kinds of experience refurbishing them, fixing them and programming them. Space is an issue. The Pi definitely is advantageous there.

    Whatever the hardware, FLOSS is the way to go. There are so many good choices for introducing programming. I like FreePascal but others use Python or Java etc.

    Over the years, my students and I have had great fun installing GNU/Linux, running diagnostics, creating servers, databases and networks, all with just Debian GNU/linux. The important thing about doing this is involving students in stuff they like to do. I had a lot of fun with girls versus boys at disassembling and reassembling PCs. Some like to write and setting up a Wiki or Bulletinboard works. Others like multimedia and creating their own stuff. Nothing motivates a student like getting something quickly that will benefit them immediately in life.

    Of course there are risks. After one lesson in servicing PCs, I heard that one of my students had taken apart her Dad’s PC for a thorough cleaning. It worked afterwards… to my relief. The parents were a little horrified.

  4. jack h says:

    I was wondering if you had any ideas about the Raspberry Pi and the ways to make it useful to teach kids since you have experience that many dont.
    Ive been following it regularly the past few weeks and noticed that Seneca College in Toronna is doing a Fedora Remix for the Pi and its great to see various teachers and students getting involved.
    Were gonna have a cheap computer for kids to tinker with, what now?
    How can we make it fun and educational the way elementary and high school robotics competitions do it? (minus all the hoopla and especially travelling that these things are demanding. there is nothing a 10yr old in Gr.5 will learn more by going to Atlanta for a robotics cup that justifies the expenditures. its becoming less about learning, more about winning and competing… and spending money. the amount of expensive laptops I see at those events makes me thing that low cost is really not a priority with the adults).

    Because of your experience, i was curious if you had some thoughts on this for some later post.

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