Computers

Most of what I wanted to say is now covered in the section This web site but there are a few things I wanted to mention:

Java

There are two applets on this site

  1. count down that you should have seen when you entered the site; source code
  2. minesweeper that is similar to the game included with Windows.

Linux

(The following is a highly condensed version of what I wrote in 2000. I'm now running Red Hat 8.0 and it is a big improvement over 7.2 in most respects which was a lot better than the OpenLinux I bought in 1999.)

There was a news in July 2000 that said Bill Gates is now worth $90 billion so I see no need to give him any more of my money. With that in mind, I’ve been excited about the surge of interest in Linux, a free operating system based on UNIX, the industrial-strength operating system that amongst other things, was used to build the internet.

What allows Linux to be free is that it is part of the "open software movement" where programmers around the world are given access to the source code for software allowing them to make any improvements they see a need for and then they make it available for everyone else. There is a good argument that this broad approach to building software is actually better than a few specialists in software companies working on software as there are far more people finding bugs and then fixing them.

It doesn't always work. When AOL bought Netscape, it dumped Navigator on the open source community and it languished allowing Internet Explorer to become dominant.

[Feb 2005 update: Firefox has risen from the ashes of Netscape and is now a demonstrably better browser than IE. Get Firefox.]

The chief "spokesman" for the movement is Eric Raymond. Download his paper The Cathedral and the Bazaar for his detailed analysis and how he comes to the conclusion that "with enough eyes, all bugs are shallow". It’s in Rich Text Format which any word processor including Word Pad can open though I notice Word Pad loses some spaces between paragraphs where I used lines.

I am amazed at how good Linux and its applications are given that most of the development has been done by programmers volunteering their time. However, Linux is not quite ready for the average user; while it is much better than it used to be, it is still to hard to set up and make changes. To give just one example, if you install a new program, the menus will not be updated and no icon will be placed on the desktop so you can run it.

No matter how good Linux gets, Windows won't go away in the foreseeable future. Windows is such a strong brand and many will continue to pay for it even if there is a free alternative. The Microsoft monopoly makes so much money it can afford extensive advertising. Linux is free or nearly so and so won't generate the revenues to support the same media coverage. Huge investments have been made in Windows software and the knowledge that office workers have in using it, so few companies are likely to change.

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