Karma: “Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering.” It’s not often one hears a CEO of a huge global corporation suggest that women should accept the pay they get and trust the future will take care of itself but M$’s Nadella did just that.“it’s clear that Nadella believes that women should trust that things will work out in the long run, or he would never have said it.” He later tried to back pedal on that but most folks feel words spoken from the heart reflect the darkness therein.
I think women should require M$ to suffer the future appropriate to its own karma. To do that women need to be informed of M$’s long history of abuse of consumers, businesses in the supply-chain and plain criminal behaviour. Then they would really shop for an operating system instead of taking what the market (M$, actually) offers.
Women are a diverse group and they use a lot of PCs so it is hard to write an article that is good advice for all women. I decided to use hyperlinks to allow readers to choose their own path. At several places there will be a decision-tree where readers can choose one or more options to follow this article and develop a strategy that suits them to give M$’s future a little nudge.
If you are a shopper, you have every reason to be annoyed with M$. They have deliberately and for decades distorted the market by illegal means so that unlike corn-flakes or cars you have very little choice in what is offered on retail shelves. Don’t you find it odd that you can only find products from M$ on retail PCs in your neighbourhood when there are seven brands of peanut-butter, 8 brands of cars and 16 brands of wrenches there? Don’t you find it odd that M$ is paid $billions for PC-operating systems annually and you, the consumer, don’t even know the price you pay for it? That’s because M$ has arranged to render consumers powerless to shop properly for a PC by forcing OEMs and retailers to supply only their OS. Oh, that’s not legal these days but M$ did it for so long that it’s a habit with very addictive roots.
It started when IBM entered the PC-market and made a deal with M$ to supply the OS. All kinds of businesses respected the IBM name and everyone making software wrote for IBM-compatible PCs so the only PCs that could be sold ran the software which came from M$, or rather the company that M$ paid to supply software. You see, M$ has no special genius in making software. The whole world has programmers who make great software for operating systems and applications. It’s just that their products are not usually offered unless they are “partners”(slaves) of M$. By bundling the OS with the PC at the manufacturer, consumers are not able to see M$’s OS as a line-item and they can’t choose an OS for their PC.
Armed with this information, what can a consumer do? First, search for operating systems or PCs with other operating systems or with no operating system. They are out there and they work very well but you have to look. A search engine is your friend. There may be only one or two retail shops in your community and you can’t spend months looking for a PC with a product other than M$’s, so let a search engine do the digging. It helps to know what questions to ask. Useful keywords are “no OS”, “Linux”, “Chrome”, “open source” and of course, “operating system” and/or “PC”, “desktop”, “notebook” and/or your choice of region. Do you feel empowered to know you have choices? Notice that Google is not M$… neither is Gmail nor Google Docs nor Android…
Of course, you need to narrow your search somewhat by combining search-terms, like this:
"no OS" "desktop" "canada" "price" You can tighten that by date or relevance and narrow results further, just three screens, by clicking on “search tools”.
One of the first things you should notice is that there are used computers out there. Many people and organizations dispose of PCs long before their end of life. They do that if the OS from M$ becomes obsolete or slows down or is riddled with malware. You can buy such machines and change the OS yourself or hire a geek to do that. Just be sure to specify what non-M$ OS you want installed. That could cost you as little as 20 minutes of your time or give some income to keep the wolf from the door of your local geek. Further, the first buyer of a PC pays the retailer ~$100+ for the OS which is split by retailer, OEM and M$. If you buy a used PC, you may be reimbursing that first purchaser or getting an illegal copy of M$’s OS if that first purchaser retains a copy. Replacing that OS is often the right thing to do. Do the right thing. The key point: buying the latest PC to make M$’s latest OS look fast is not in your best interests. Buying an older PC may be perfectly adequate to your needs. In a typical PC browsing the web the CPU may be only utilized a few percent of its capacity. About the only time a PC running M$’s OS gets a workout is during booting. That’s irrelevant if one suspends processes to fast memory instead of shutting down and rebooting all the time. With GNU/Linux, there’s rarely a need to reboot except updating the kernel. With M$’s OS, reboots are much more frequent. Any PC made in the last 10 years running GNU/Linux is likely adequate. Many on the market are only 5 years old. Used desktops may cost as little as $100.
Another thing you may notice in your shopping is that there are a lot of small cheap computers for sale. Because they are smaller they cost less. Some may not have fans and hard drives so are more quiet. You may have to add a hard drive (< $50) or some memory (<$50) to fill up a "barebones" PC and actually install these but they are intended to be user-serviceable parts, just like wheels on a car or batteries in flashlights. Like wheels or batteries, you just have to make sure what you buy will fit. You might need a screwdriver or just your fingers. Or, you can hire a geek. Everybody knows one. Some geeks will help you nail down the detailed choices of shopping on the web. A variety of small cheap computers that is becoming very popular with consumers and that you may actually find on retail shelves is the Chromebook, Chromebox or PC with ChromeOS. These are actually PCs running GNU/Linux operating system but with a limited selection of applications, typically just a web browser and built in media player. If that's all you do with your PC, that's all you need. They may cost $100-200 less than Wintel PCs that your local retailer offers. Chromebooks often store data/images/files/documents on the web rather than on a local hard drive. M$ likes to tell people these are not real PCs but even M$'s OS operates like this lately with a subscription model for M$'s services rather than selling licences. As usual, M$ is holding people back from choices they could make today. Another option is Android/Linux. This is the same operating system found on smartphones and tablets by Samsung, Google and many others. If you can do everything with it you don't need M$ at all. Many PCs (smartphones, tablets, desktops, and notebooks are all personal computers) using ARM processors are smaller and cheaper and use less power than those using Intel processors and will run various Linux operating systems very well. By using neither Intel processor nor M$'s OS, a wise consumer can save at least $100 from the price of a PC, and sometimes even $200. ARM processors are usually found on mobile devices but there are a few desktops and notebooks using them. Intel now makes processors that compete well with ARM in power-consumption but they only started doing that when consumers found they had the choice. Consumers need to do the same with M$ and their operating system. If this seems too depressing for you or too much of a challenge, you can still hire a geek. Otherwise Install GNU/Linux or start using your GNU/Linux PC…
Do It Yourself
If you are your own geek or you like to mess with lots of detail and even get your hands dirty, this is for you. If you are a computer geek you most likely know this stuff but there’s nothing wrong with a reminder.
There are quite a variety of PCs available these days. The ones that have been around the longest, the “desktop” PCs with Intel or AMD x86/amd64 processors are the easiest with which to deal. Many of them have a few screws on the case to allow a panel to be removed giving access to all the goodies. With the power-cord unplugged, remove the side panel furthest from the cluster of connectors on the back or lift the lid on others. There may be some button to push but it is OK to do this on most machines. It’s your machine, right? You may have a user-manual that explicitly tells you what kinds of memory modules or hard drives you can plug in and how to do that. If not, just do what works. Everything’s OK except spilling your coffee in there, bending/breaking stuff and zapping stuff with static electricity. Control the urge to do that and you and your PC will survive and thrive.
Some “barebones” PC will come without memory modules or hard drive so you should figure out how to add those. Hard drives come in a few kinds and memory modules come in dozens of kinds so if you need to buy those get it right. Typically, hard drives these days come with SATA connectors and you may also need to obtain a SATA cable and some screws to fasten the hard drive into a bay on the PC. You can’t just sit the drive in there. Move the PC and a lump comes crashing down on fragile things… I know. I’ve done that as a temporary measure, and forgot… You should have multiple outlets on the web or in local stores that sell this kind of stuff. In my nearest big city, every big box store that sells PCs sells these things as “accessories”.
When you open the PC or the manual you should be able to identify the motherboard or the kind of memory modules to obtain. If it’s not right there, check the manufacturer of the motherboard for specs or check out the pages of a manufacturer of memory modules for a list of compatible parts. Crucial.com and Kingston.com are only too glad to help you find one of their products compatible with your PC. The various stickers on your PC should give you a make/model to help the search. The typical memory-module is a plastic and metal stick a few cm long and wide but only a fraction of 1cm thick. It has a “comb” of metal contacts on both sides of one edge with one or more notches or “keys” to make sure it’s inserted in a socket correctly. There will likely be tabs at the ends of the slot to remove or to insert the device and lock it into place. It should snap into place with just a little force of your thumbs. Memory modules are usually identified by speed, layout, pins and some standards like “DDR2 or 3”. Typically a motherboard will have only one type of memory socket but occasionally two and a range of speed like 1100-1800 Mhz. Double check all the specs available and shop for a reasonable price from a reliable supplier. I’ve had memory modules arrive dead on arrival but usually retailers will accept a return and supply a new device of the same kind. Prices are very low these days compared to the old days with 4gB RAM costing far less than $100. That should be enough for all but the heaviest use of a PC, but you can’t have too much RAM. Your PC almost certainly should have at least 1gB of RAM. You may also get better performance if sockets are populated in a certain order. Read your manuals or check the makers’ sites. One last thing. When you do identify a kind of memory module that will work, shop for that kind of module at other places. You can save quite a bit by shopping around. There is a small risk that a generic module may not work but I’ve not encountered that. These memory modules are smart and so are the memory controllers on these motherboards. They can adjust a bit to work with whatever fits…
The hard drive will need both power and data connections. Typically, the motherboard will have some connectors included but you may have to add or to extend a cable to reach the mounting point. Almost any generic PC will work but a wise consumer will shop for make, warranty, capacity in gB, transfer rate in MB/s, price and so on letting competition in the market work for them.
If your PC has all the hardware or you’ve made it so, close it up and boot. The PC should do some self-test to verify that all the hardware works. If it doesn’t, read whatever is displayed on the monitor or listen to the kind and sequence of “beeps” emitted. It’s all useful information in the rare event that something is wrong. In my experience, the most likely problem is a memory module not inserted quite right. Usually just removing and reseating is all that is required. Next most likely is a defective memory module. Out of many hundreds of PCs I’ve only seen that a few times but it does happen.
If you are doing it yourself or if you hire someone, you might still need to know how to install GNU/Linux. There are literally hundreds of sources of GNU/Linux. I’ve been using GNU/Linux for many years and only dealt with a few of them. You can hunt for a distribution of GNU/Linux at Distrowatch. You can get the software by downloading an image file of a CD and burning a CD, buying a CD or receiving a copy from a friend, or getting files to put on a USB drive… or… That’s why geeks are useful. Whatever method is needed they can do it. One of the easiest methods of escaping M$’s traps is to visit Goodbye-microsoft.com or Goodbye-Windows.com. Download an executable file and run it. Voila! Upon rebooting, the installer starts… If that other OS runs at all
I recommend Debian GNU/Linux. It’s a very diverse OS with lots of choices for almost every kind of use of a computer from client PC to server. Debian has a thorough manual with just about every option included. There’s a book, of course, but you can watch a geek (me) do the deed while having lots of fun on Youtube. See Part 1 of Fun with Debian. As a geek, I like total control of installation but a normal human being can just accept the defaults and come pretty close to what they want/need. I usually skip the defaults simply to end with the XFCE4 desktop rather than GNOME or KDE. Those work but I like menus and icons, you know, stuff that works for me.
Hire A Geek
If you hire a geek, it is quite possible that there will be “failure to communicate”. The absolutely best thing you can do is to present the problem to the geek and ask him/her to solve the problem whether it is acquiring a PC, repairing it, setting it up or installing software. A true geek will have multiple solutions to every problem and if you set a budget and define the problem it’s almost certain to be solved. When I was a computer teacher and had to deal with a few complaints by users about anything it usually took 5-10 minutes for that communication to happen, seconds to formulate a solution and a few minutes to solve the problem. Geeks can really be frightened by communicating with humans (imagine hand-feeding a wild Grizzly bear), so be gentle. There are some things that really annoy geeks. Top of the list is telling a geek how to solve a problem that the user cannot solve. No one likes a straightjacket. If you want GNU/Linux say so. If you know what source/distribution of GNU/Linux you want say so. If you know what applications you want, say so. If you want a brief introduction to the finished work, say so. If you want a choice of how the thing will look and act state your preferences. There are many styles of desktop OS available in GNU/Linux. Most geeks will know some of them reasonably well and can help you visit Distrowatch.com or look at screen-captures to pre-approve the installation of software. A geek installing GNU/Linux for you can install less than 1000 packages of software in a few minutes or many thousands in half an hour or so with very little effort. Ask for something that’s minimal to give you a fast efficient system that’s easy to learn to use or ask for something “full-blown” to have a very flexible system capable of just about anything. Above all learn how to install software on your GNU/Linux system so if you find you want some addition package you can go ahead and do it yourself. To a geek, a customer able to take care of himself is a satisfying customer likely to spread a good word, or contribute feedback. Geeks, while very comfortable with hardware and software, are people too and need satisfaction.
Using GNU/Linux on a desktop/notebook PC is a lot like using XP on a desktop/notebook. It’s point and click. There are menus, icons, little pop-ups to help you choose… You can customize it. Don’t be afraid to change things. You can always put them back. Learn to install software from the repository using Synaptic (the graphical client for APT). Learn to use the office suite, LibreOffice, and several other useful applications. Missing something? Learn how to search for packages using Synaptic. The chief difference for users is the file-system. Most of your files will be in /home/your_user_id. Most downloads will go in /home/your_user_id/Downloads and so forth. You can right-click and do things like moving or renaming files or creating them. Just do it and have fun. Once you have more than 1000 files or so, you may have trouble finding stuff because the lists or arrays of things are too big to fit on one screen. I suggest you install Recoll. It indexes whatever you want and is your private search engine. Whether you have 100 or 10 million documents, it can find them in an instant.
If you’ve made it this far you are ready/able to escape M$ and take control of your IT. Congratulations! You are now free to enjoy Free Software that works for you and doesn’t make you a slave of M$.
Besides the obvious joy you will feel sending a message with your delivery of karma to M$, there are many other benefits to using GNU/Linux: little or no malware/worms/viruses, no slowing down, no re-re-rebooting, no worrying about obscure authentication codes (I was at one school where I had to put my body and keyboard in an unnatural position to read and type the thing… I hated those stickers), no worrying that you might be violating copyright by voiding your licence from M$ because of obscure restrictions in that end-user licensing agreement that your lawyer hasn’t read yet, and so on. Of course, with GNU/Linux, the licence specifically permits copying and distribution so if you have friends you want to liberate, just send them a copy, or deliver it yourself or through your favourite geek. Enjoy.