Well, folks, it's another month, and yet another hefty mailbag. We've got more people asking strange hardware questions (though you won't see them here) and a few more interesting Windows questions than we usually get. Like, what about that new version, 2000ME. Is the "Millenium Edition" really Win2K Lite (a bunch of "server" features stripped off) or win98 with a Win2K GUI tacked on and the ability to reach the command line ripped out? Estimates are pointing more toward the latter, but really, we can't tell for certain except by behavioral analysis -- there's no source, not even a "non free" source view like the Sun Community License.
Honestly, what are you gonna do if you're stuck in the Windows way? The slashdotters think it's pretty easy - "If your system works, don't upgrade". Hmmm. Once upon a time rsh worked great. It's not even that it's broken - as an application, as a server, the "r" tools still run like they always did. But, the environment around them has changed; they are so inherently unsafe that I know few sysadmins who don't use ssh and the analogous family of tools instead, even if they have a captive lab such as the environment the "r" tools grew up in. Besides, I took a fresh look at the licenses as posted at MS.
Let's say you don't want to upgrade, but you just hired 12 people, and you want windows95 sp 2 for all their systems. For the purposes of argument let us also say that you are not in the Silicon Valley, so you cannot simply run down to the leftover software shop and pick up one from last year -- they're long gone, even w98 are hard to come by, all you might buy are win2k in one of its forms.
You should read your EULA on the package of Win2k you'd like to get. Oh yeah. Forgot, you have to buy one to get far enough into the package to read that. Doh! One copy can't hurt the ol' pocket too much right? Maybe. So, you read it with a magnifying lens and maybe it says it's a license to this or any older version of Microsoft Windows (tm). Better check your lotto ticket at the same time, they have about an equal chance of being a winner.
Probably no mention whatsoever of older versions. Okay. You visit Microsoft's website. The EULA posted there:http://www.microsoft.com/PERMISSION/copyrgt/cop-soft.htm
...says basically, if and only if you bought it in a store (you did! wow! full pop was worth something!) then you can write to them for permission to downgrade it. One copy at a time.
Hoo boy. "Permission to downgrade" and they'll probably blow you off. You're not one of their "Select Customers" by a long shot. Even if they say yes, you'll have to figure out how to get copies from the media you already have to cooperate with the idea of having multiple instances in the office.
You hardly have a choice, you think. It's an OS learning curve for the new version's differences, or a technical doan-and-dirty to make the old dog play new tricks.
They've certainly come a long way from when I wanted to upgrade a useless copy of Windows to one of their more helpful products like a mouse, a joystick, or a book.
You might be right. You have no choice about some things in this world. But the choice you lack is control over your external environment -- you can still control your own response. You are Mr. Bill's external environment. He has fairly little power over you.
So, if you're about to go through this headache, it should make Linux, FreeBSD, and BeOS look a lot friendlier. Sure, it will be different, but perhaps not as amazingly different as you'd expect. If you have anyone technical enough to take Microsoft on as a challenge, Linux with its source and a lot of people trying to make it easy might not be such a bad thing to try.
Ooo, owie, no UNIX experience here! you cry. Ah, but there's this. There are a world of people - not all of them programmers - out there contributing something to make life easier. Not necessarily for you. Chances are they've never heard of your 40 person startup. But, they're trying to make it easier for themselves... and then posting it for others.
Now I'm not just talking about companies that make their living serving a niche specialty. I mean, sure, I even work for one (Tuxtops, selling laptops) and don't get me wrong, I think it's great that people can consult or sell products to meet specialty needs. But the companies that are doing the best, are the ones whose confidence in their solution is so strong, that they have no problem giving at least parts of it back to the community.
It's plain folks and small groups that make the difference here. The more likely that you are similar to any of these other folks that might be working on something, the more likely that something that will work very well for you already exists in Linux. Or, the more likely that you'll see a bit of fame and friendship, if you post your solution to that very same everyday problem, first.
Between this and more active local user groups, your chances of doing well with Linux really have improved quite dramatically in the last couple of years, It's possible to find Installfests with local gurus in a lot of places. It's our way of paying back those early days when we got some help after we realized we were lost. We all had to start somewhere.
I'm still lost sometimes. That's why I love going to the trade shows, so I can meet all the cool folks with different specialties than my own. And if I can give a little back by being a local guru at the Installfests, I like that. A lot.
(By the way, Tuxtops will be doing an Installfest for Laptop Users at the Atlanta Linux Showcase. If you want to meet me sometime, that's your best chance. I think it will be a lot of fun.)
But that's what I'm really doing here, anyway. A few hours of my time every month can make a lot of people around the world happy, because we've're "Making Linux a Little More Fun!"
See you next time, everyone.