Thursday, November 03, 2005

Microsoft "Works"

I've always thought of Microsoft Works as a contradiction in terms.

Seriously, for all you out there who are disillusioned with Microsoft, and that may be a fair number, there are lots of alternatives. When it comes to operating systems, I would recommend the latest version of SuSE Linux as a very user-friendly open-source operating system. That means a number of things: it's completely free, has an enormous user support system, is easy to install, and does most of the things you would want. Certainly it does email, browsing, word processing, image processing (indeed, the Gimp, which is the image processor for Linux, is something Windows people can only drool at, or pay a bunch of bucks to get Adobe Photoshop or whatever Adobe program you need for that.)

Linux does some things very much better than Windows. An example: I am historian for the Virginia Tech Tae Kwon Do Club. That means, among other things, that I get lots and lots of pictures that I have to resize and post on the Club's webpage. We're talking hundreds of pictures. I could manually resize them all myself. Or, in Linux, I could use a Bash shell script, already written by one of the previous historians, which just processes all the pictures one by one and does the job in about a minute. And then, I have to upload them to the host machine. I could do that manually in any operating system. Or I could use Cadaver (I don't know what kind of program you'd call this), and upload them all in another minute. This cannot be done in Windows, to my knowledge. It's quite easy in Linux. The moral of the story: any time you want to do some chore on a bunch of files, the Linux Bash shell with the added power of scripting, is much more powerful than Windows.

I will say this for Windows: the only Windows operating system worth getting is XP Professional. You see, for a long time Microsoft has had two lines of operating systems: the home line and the business line. The business line has always been better. NT was better than 95, 2000 was better than 98, and XP is better than ME. One of the boys I live with nicknamed ME as Windows Many Errors. XP is the very best operating system in the world for wireless Internet. In addition, if you want to play movies, you pretty much have to go with either Windows or Macintosh. Linux simply doesn't make this cut because the movie makers have not released the codecs, thus making it impossible for open-source software to get into that niche. So if you want wireless, or you want movies, you'll probably end up with Windows XP, and I'd definitely recommend Professional. Really, if a Windows program doesn't say Professional on it somewhere, it's not worth getting.

Now for the subject of this post. We've dealt with the operating system. Suppose you've installed SuSE Linux on your desktop as a dual-boot with Windows. What about an office suite? Nothing easier: go with OpenOffice, available from the OpenOffice webpage, but more likely than not, already included with your SuSE distribution (make sure you install it when you install SuSE). This office suite is not on a par with Microsoft Works. This is a good thing, as Works is one of the most pitiful "office suites" ever. Microsoft Office Professional, whatever version is most recent, is a decent office suite. OpenOffice, which is free, is completely on a par with Microsoft Office Professional. It even has the equivalent of the Solver routine in Excel. I was impressed with this office suite, and it being free doesn't hurt, either. You get a spreadsheet, word processor, database, presentation software (similar to PowerPoint), and maybe one or two other things like a drawing program for diagrams (similar to Visio). So if you're tired of paying an enormous amount of money for proprietary software, that you'll just have to upgrade later anyway for a similar amount of money, why not go for free stuff?

What about browsers? No problem. You can get Netscape for Linux, and even better, you can get Mozilla Firefox for Linux. The latter, in my opinion, is the very best browser available in any operating system.

What about email? You can get Thunderbird for Linux as well, which is a full-featured email program.

Being something of a musician and composer myself, I would definitely ask about music notation software. Well, there is always Lilypond, a free music notation program. It's got a bit of a learning curve, as anything associated with LaTeX will, but it'll do quite a bit, including complicated polyphony (indeed, polyphony is what it was designed for).

My advice? Get Windows XP Professional with WinDVD and wireless if that's what you need. Then partition your hard drive, and put SuSE Linux on the other partition(s). You won't be sorry.

In Christ.

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At 11/03/2005 03:15:00 PM , Blogger zan said...

I really don't know what you are talking about totally, though I have heard of Linux from my husband who works for INTEL. I am looking at my laptop and I have microsoft. That is about all I know. It does whatever I want it to do. However, my husband's office is full of computers that he works on as a hobby. I bet their is Linux in there somewhere. :)


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