Lisa and I had a meeting with somebody the other day. As we sat in her office, the lady nodded toward an ageing PC and bemoaned the fact that “once you buy a new computer these days, it’s almost immediately out of date”.
It wasn’t the time or place to argue, but of course I feel differently.
Sure, if you’re locked into a Microsoft based system, you’re going to find yourself in a viscious upgrade cycle. You’ll constantly be watching for the latest version of Microsoft Office or anxiously wondering what their forthcoming Operating System will mean for you and your business.
Now, my main machine in the house is easily 4 years old. It was a highly specced Dell Dimension XPS system back then. Probably not as wonderful by today’s standards, but still a fine system. Its only upgrade has been an additional 2Gb of RAM, and it’s still a star performer. So, in my opinion, the hardware platform has stabilised.
The Windows World
In the world of software, things are much different. On Windows XP, I’m mostly committed to Free or Open Source applications: Aptana for web development instead of Dreamweaver, Notepad++ for quick text editing, OpenOffice forword processing and spreadsheet style stuff. Comodo for firewalling and antivirus.
I’m still using a fairly old version of Adobe Photoshop, but it does the job for my needs, even if it is missing some of the features of the newest version. GIMP’s an acceptable replacement…I suppose. The only thing that’s really tying me to Windows right now is the amazing Windows Live Writer.
Now, in the dual-boot universe that takes me to Ubuntu (a version of the Linux operating system). What a wonderful system: all is free – upgrades, software, and not a subscription fee in sight. Much the same applications are available for Ubuntu as I’m using in Windows, so it’s a familiar environment. The same FireFox plugins I use in Windows are fully compatible with Ubutnu, so yet again, I’m up and running in no time.
Better still, the world of Ubuntu melds beautifully with the web servers I host my sites on, so it’s easy to connect to them and back them up remotely using Rsync (which I’ll write a tutorial on shortly). I can even live edit files on my websiteto make quick tweaks. It’s a fantastically flexible environment.
I’m not trying to ‘sell’ Open Source to people who don’t want or need it. But if you’re labouring under the misconception that Windows is your only option, you might want to consider experimenting with some form of open source.
Recycling old hardware
I made a lot of trips to our local dump over Christmas, and was shocked to see a huge number of cages with old PCs being left to rust outdoors. My feeling is that there may have been enough decent components within to either rebuild a good Windows machine or even a fantastic Ubuntu PC.
Is it still fair to say that Linux and Ubuntu use far less resources than Windows, even today? Probably.
What would it take for someone to run around the local dumps and salvage these machines, recondition them and send them back out into the world? If only more people were familiar with Linux, they’d be able to extend the life of their computers easily and free themselves from the upgrade cycle.
Someone needs to start this business! Just remember who gave you the idea!
…And My Point Is?
My point is that the old argument about computers being obselete 15 minutes after you buy them really doesn’t stand for much anymore.
It is possible to become free of the cash cow that is big-budget software. Once you’ve got a decent computer base, you’re pretty much set.Since we’re running a small business, running on 95% Open Source software means that we’re using legitimate software. We don’t have to worry about license management or anything like that, and we don’t have to fret about the BSA or FAST coming knowcking on the door. Conscience clear.
And most of all, we don’t have to pay for using 10% of the features of a Microsoft product like Office. We get those for free with OpenOffice.
All I can say is – it works for us.