Gates - Land's new Operating System, Windows 7, was released this week to much less fanfare than Microsoft usually musters for this kind of thing. Personally, I think Windows 7 has the potential to change the very landscape of home and business computing, to turn everything on it's head.
Why? Because Windows 7 sucks. Moreover, it sucks so badly that it will finally drive the email-checking, web-surfing, IM'ing, porn-downloading masses to brighter shores.
I want to disclaim that I'm no technofile. I'm a particularly savvy user but not a guru. Unlike many computer professionals from tech support reps to code monkeys of all stripes who love to bash Windows simply because anything made by Microsoft must be bad*, people like me tend to work with any program that's set in front of us, regardless of its quirks and limitations. Windows was the default OS on virtually all PC's for decades; it's what we went with.
It seems that, ever since Win-2k or perhaps XP, each subsequent Windows release has been progressively worse. Culminating with Vista, each edition has been less user-friendly, less efficient, less accessible, more system-intensive, less versatile, more prone to failure, less customizable and more expensive. Each was flashier than the last and each made bigger presumptions about the relative stupidity of the end user. It seems that, in trying to compete with the slickness and accessibility of Macintosh, Windows sacrificed nearly all of it's usability. By all accounts, Windows 7 is more of this same trend.
Herein is how Win7 changes the future.
Last summer I got fed up with Windows, with the forced updates, with the clunky compatibility, with the pre-loaded software, with the blue screen of death and with Microsoft's presumption that everyone in the world is an intellectual property thief whom they must monitor and thwart. I switched one of my two computers to Ubuntu, a version of Linux. Once I learned the gist of the OS, I went all the way and put Ubuntu on my work machine as well.
In the past Linux, the fantastically stable, incredibly powerful, virtually unhackable, infinitely customizable and free operating system favored by system architects, programmers and other species of uber-geek, has failed to gain traction with the casual computer user because most 'flavors' of Linux aren't user-friendly. They aren't terribly intuitive. They're run from the command-line,** which requires some time to learn. If you don't know what you're doing you can massacre your machine and, unlike Windows, Linux never, ever asks "are you sure?" Simply, you have know what you're doing in Linux in order to do much of anything.
But, that's part of the point. Part of the reason that graphical computing became so popular is because three generations of users found personal computers to be fundamentally alien machines. Now, though, everyone under the age of thirty has grown up with them, is comfortable with them, understands them. Anyone under twenty has never lived in a world without them.
Enter Ubuntu, the self-styled "Linux for real people." Simply, Ubuntu is a version of Linux called "Debian" with a Windows-like desktop interface. It's designed to be easy and simple to use for people who grew up on Windows while introducing such people to the wonders of Linux. You get the familiar click-&-drag functionality in an operating system that is several orders of magnitude more powerful, more versatile, more secure, more stable and more customizable.
The transition is not entirely painless, mind you. The file architecture is not the same as Windows' so you'll have to take a few minutes to learn where everything goes. Not all of the same programs that run on Windows have versions for Ubuntu, though they all have equivalents. You'll get to keep Firefox and GoogleEarth, for instance, but you'll have to learn Gimp and oO-Calc in lieu of Photoshop and Excel. You might want to do what I did; put Ubuntu on an older computer so that you can get comfortable with it and see how much more useful and powerful it is before switching whole hog.
Really though, it will be no harder to switch from Windows to Ubuntu that it was to switch from NT to XP or 2000 to Vista.
And that is exactly my point. While you weren't lined up to switch this week, you were going to switch eventually. Instead of switching from Windows-Whatever to Windows 7, switch from Windows to Ubuntu. You'll have greater functionality, faster system performance, broader compatibility and more ease of use. You'll be virtually immune to viruses and hacking. Most importantly, you'll earn the respect of proto-nerds like me while defying the Microsoft leviathan.
Oh, and did I mention Ubuntu is 100% FREE and so is All of the Related Software including the Office Suite, Photo Manipulation Suite and a Whole Host of Media Manipulation and Playback software that are all equivalent to, and usually superior to, their Windows Couterparts.
So, take this opportunity to help Windows 7 change the world of computing by switching to something better, something free.
It's Right Here When You're Ready to Take the Plunge
*This might be true but it's not relevant here.
*Yes, I know that there have been a number of other GUI's created for a myriad of different Unix setups from Red Hat to KDE and beyond. Umbuntu is the first to gain significant traction outside of Geekdom so don't nit pick.