New Month… New PCW… New Rant

Well, as it has been inordinately sunny here over the last few weeks, getting time to type up blog entries has been thin on the ground.

That notwithstanding it is shocking how fast the time is passing – it only seems like yesterday I was complaining about how pants Personal Computer World magazine was, and planning to cancel the subscription, when the latest copy arrived in the post today. I had intended to cancel, honest.

This month (again) I wish I had. To stop the rants taking over I am planning to address each issue I have with the magazine in separate stages.

Despite my annoyance, there are some postive points. The cover disk (“more than 8GB of great software” and “9 full products worth £176”) is reasonable. Unusually for something which heavily relies on its “value” as a Unique Selling Point, this disk is crammed full of open source software – which could reasonably be downloaded by anyone with a faster than dial up connection. The brunt of the disk space is taken up with Star Office 7 (brilliant), SuSE 10.1 Live DVD (good – but you will have to burn this to a disk before you use it, and then download a better version to install it), Knoppix 5.01 (not bad – live CDs of this distro turn up everywhere though) and the ever present Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake (This gets everywhere, I suspect there are more copies of this floating around on disk than there are people in the world). It is good to see PCW head down the open source route some more.

This leads me nicely on to a hatstand comment in the Letter pages (p 25 for the pedantic). Tom Callway from the Open Source Consortium quite rightly chastises PCW for their comments about OS software in the July issue. The reply is bordering on the nonsensical. It somewhat resembles a Microsoft or Adobe press release…

Alan Stevens replies that while the software may be free, it might not be a good choice for small businesses to use it on the desktop. He explains that the lack of familiarity is the key problem thinking that “most people know how windows and windows applications work.” He states that this may affect productivity and make it harder to recruit / retain staff.

Some good old FUD there…. (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt for the newbies).

He finishes off with how it can be difficult and expensive when things go wrong because specialist help is needed.

This was obviously written by someone who has not stepped outside a Windows (and old Mac) dominated corporate environment for quite some time. Of the people I know who interact with Windows based software on a daily basis I would say less than 2% are actually aware of any of its underlying properties. Less know how the OS itself does things.

IT support for Windows based PCs is big business and can cost phenomenal amounts of money. There is a reason for this…. It is not because every user is a Windows expert…..

To further highlight the idiocy of the comment, Linux applications are nearly all identical in “look and feel” to their windows based versions – it takes a fraction of a second to learn where the file menu is etc. Most Open Source office packages are close enough to (for example) Windows that the transition is totally painless. Less hassle than (for example) switching from Word Perfect to Word. I am sure any one uses Lotus Notes at work, but not at home will be aware how easy it is to learn new ways of doing things. The implict statement in PCW’s reply is that business have to use Windows because that is what the staff have on their home PCs.

Pure madness.

How hard is it to use Firefox? (Open source is not just linux!!!!)

What learning curve is there for someone moving to (eg) SugarCRM from MSCRM? If you know how to use the MS package, you can use the OS equivalents with just as much ease. For hardened experts it may be different – but the reply is talking about general-skilled staff.

Things will get funnier when (if) Vista, Office 2007 et al., are launched. What argument can there be then for staying with closed source software? When most home users use Works, why do companies use Word? They are similar, but so is star office (even more similar IMHO).

Shame on you PCW. Very poor reply.

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Website administrator for the WhyDontYou domain. Have maintained and developled a variety of sites, ranging from simple, plain HTML sites to full blown e-commerce applications. Interested in philosophy, politics and science.