Friday, October 24, 2003

So, why is Linux better than Windows? I think that was the topic for today. Well, actually, it isn't. I'm not saying it's worse, but I'm not going to say it is better. I like it better. Some people prefer Maxwell House to Folgers and some prefer the Chiefs to the Broncos. Does that make one really "better" than the other? No, it doesn't.

But I have a lot more fun using a computer running Linux that Windows. As I said in a previous post, the excitement that was there back in the early days of the PC is here today on Linux. There isn't just one application that everybody uses (like MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Outlook Express, etc) there are a bunch of good applications for pretty much every need. And each one of them brings something to the table. It's alot of fun to try different applications to see which one suits my style of working.

Need a spreadsheet? Well, there's gnumeric, kspread, and OpenOffice Calc (if you're curious, here's a list of some others... linux spreadsheets. And there all bring some neat features. And none of them has to be the "best" - whatever that means, anyway. I use the one I like. You use the one you like. Well, you say, what if we have to share a spreadsheet? You know, what if we both have to work on it?

I have a couple of thoughts on that one. When was the last time you truly shared a spreadsheet with someone? Come on. Most of the time you just want them to see the results, not actually get in there and start mucking around with your formulas. So, you just "print" or save as a pdf file - something that can be done from any of these spreadsheets, and send that off in an email.

But, ok, some times you do need to work on the same spreadsheet with someone else. The 3 mentioned above interoperate pretty nicely. Why? Because their file formats are publically available - there's no voodoo going on behind the curtain to try to prevent people from reading or writing to their format. Since all of these can be had for free, if you send me a gnumeric spreadsheet and I prefer KSpread, well, I just fire up my copy of gnumeric and use it.

But wait! If I use kspread all the time won't I get confused trying to use gnumeric? Oh, got me on that one, didn't you?

Give me a break. What has really changed in spreadsheets since VisiCalc? I have never run across a spreadsheet program that I couldn't solve moderatel compex problems on with minimal effort.

Ok, that's it for tonight. Next time, I'll pick up with what is needed to restore competition to the world of software, bringing back innovation, and the just plain ol' fun of using a computer. It's really easier than you think.

God wants you to know who is He is, and He's giving you a tool. Grab a bible and read Acts 3:11-26.

God bless,


Wednesday, October 22, 2003

OK, so we have a market that has been conquered by MS (the browswer market), then they lose interest in it, but not after introducing a bunch of windows and IE only extensions. This starts me thinking... Maybe integration and a single source supplier isn't such a great thing. I had had a linux box for a while but it was mostly just a curiousity. So then I decide to migrate all of my non-development activities over to linux to give it a shot.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of open sources products available on windows (in fact I'm using the best browser available as I write this - Mozilla Firebird, tonight running on windows), but I decided to give linux a real try. So, if you remember the excitement of personal computers in the mid-80's, that's kind of what using linux is like today. The rate of change is incredible. REAL innovation is going on (not just stuff like Office 2003 where the biggest new feature is being able to control who accesses what document and in what mode, but only if you drop a ton of money for a microsoft only server infrastructure). Linux occassionaly gets knocked for just imitating what already exists on windows - and there is some of that, but mostly, it's just good developers writing original software.

Then you start to get used to things like, no viruses. Oh, sure, it is possible to write a virus for linux but in general, because of the user and permissions model of linux, they could never be as damaging as what you get on windows. Some people claim that you don't see viruses on linux because there just aren't that many machines running linux and virus authors want to do maximum damage. But are arguing emotionaly, not based on reality. These people don't understand that about 60% of the web servers in the world are running apache - an open source web server and the majority of these are running on linux. That's a lot of machines. No real virsuses to speak of. It's funny, you start to get used to not seeing the "requesting virus scan" at the bottom of your app's when you open a file, then when you run windows you kind of feel cheated that you have to sit and wait for that.

So next time I'll start on why linux is better. Talk about what I use and why. What I like and don't like.

Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly.


Friday, October 17, 2003

Whew. This is turning out to be a bit of a long way around things, but back to the browser issue. To summarize: MicroSoft dominates the browser "market" by giving away an inferior product and attempts to take control of the internet with value added extensions that only work with their platform and browser (ideas completely contrary to the interet). But, enough of us (this includes me) think it's ok. After all, IE really does everything I need.

THEN... Enter things like pop-up adds. And all of a sudden, browsing the internet is painful. In researching what to do about it, I stumble across the fact that there still are other browsers out there. And, hey, they have some neat features: pop-up blocking (selective by site), in-line add blocking, tabbed browsing, AND they are fast. Hmmm. This sounds to good to pass up, so I start using some of these. Then I run into the issues from MS's polution of the internet.

I come across a number of poorly developed sites, that require either IE or Windows to function properly. Now, what iritates me about this, is I have found some good software products (i.e. browsers better than Internet Explorer), but I can't use them because of what MS did to the internet. Then I start looking around at other product areas. Like email programs (Outlook / Outlook Express) or word processors (Word). And you know what. People have very little choice these days about what products to use. AND, if you do go digging for some of these products, you will find that they have some desirable features. In fact, some of these products have done a better job of innovating (in ways that really help me out) with very little (or in some cases 0) funding.

What is this all leading to... I think I'll pick it up tomorrow.

Take care. There is a God and He loves you.


Thursday, October 16, 2003

Well, here goes the first entry. If a computer to you is simply something you use to accomplish a task, and really nothing more, you won't appreciate these ramblings. But if a computer to you, is something that gives you pleasure to use, then you might want to read on...

I've been using Linux for about 2 years, but only recently have I really gotten in to it. Why Linux? Well, basically I love software. I write software for a living (of the closed variety), and one of the most exciting things for me is to try out new software. I like to see what's being done by other developers. Well, in the M$ world, there's tons of software to try out, but you can't really use it unless you have $'s to spend. And while I love software, I'm basically cheap. Hey, I'm an engineer.

The other thing that has gotten me to seriously pursue open software and Linux is my experiences with Internet Explorer. You probably remember the history. The www was emerging and most of us were really clueless about what it was. A company called Netscape create a killer app called Netscape Communicator. And it allowed you to find all kinds of information on computers all over the world. Wow! This was so cool, even though most people didn't really know what to do with it (for the geeks out there, there was a lot of talk about the "network" becoming the computer). Well, in Redmond, all that was being said was, " the internet? It's nothing, really." While this was being said publicly, M$ was frantically developing Internet Explorer. It's a standard tactic by market leaders - down play anything the competition has that you don't, while you are trying to catch up (every wonder why market leaders always seem to need to catch up??? But that's another day).

OK, so then M$ introduces IE. And gives it away (because no one would have really bought it, compared to Netscape Communicator). But to their credit they continue to pound away at it until it becomes a reasonable browser. And, well, it's free. It's already on my PC, why would I want to buy Netscape Communicator? And in short order the tables turn and IE is the dominant browser. Then M$ thinks, "hey, why should the internet be an open arena, when M$ can own it?" So they introduce things like active x controls and other proprietary extensions. And incompetent web site developers around the world jump on board. Now, there are a bunch of web sites that require IE for them to work correctly... (never run into this? Well, in addition to developing software, I do the financial work at my company, including payroll direct deposits and 401k contributions - Hey, when there's only 2 people in the company... So, both of these sites require IE because the site developers had limited skills and not alot of insight).

WHAT!!! This makes no sense. The internet is supposed to be an open environment with a free exchange of information. People running Mac OS, unix, windows, whatever, can all point there browsers to a destination and get great information. But now M$ has polluted this. And what makes it worse, having conquered Netscape, there was no longer an incentive to put development effort in to IE. So it becomes a dinosaur.

Ok, this is getting a little long for a debut. How about I continue tomorrow?

If you learn nothing else from what get written here, know that God loves you. If you don't believe me, then pick up a bible sometime and read the gospel of John.