Interoperability my arse!

Windows XP Running On Linux
Image by paradoxperfect via Flickr

Roy says it best about the new Windows 7 installation. Once more, for all their rhetoric, Microsoft’s actions show yet again that they don’t care about interoperability or playing nice with anyone else. All they care is maintaining their desktop monopoly and part of that tactic is not making it easy at all to setup a dual boot setup.

While in 2001, when XP came out the excuse “Only hardcore geeks use GNU/Linux so why should MS even consider them” might have had some basis, 8 years later, when desktop GNU/Linux is more than viable through distros like Ubuntu and where it is quite likely that people might consider trying this other OS while wanting to keep the Windows option open, it fails to convince.

This is nothing other than the same ol’ spiteful, monopolistic tactics on behalf of MS. This capability, to install multiple OS’ without screwing up each other has existed for ages so it’s obviously not rocket science. As such, MS’ refusal to implement it can be nothing but deliberate.

And if that’s not enough, we now have GNU/Linux users defending such actions! So now, among the atheist appeasers, Women “feminist” appeasers we have to add GNU/Linux appeasers as well. If Microsoft apologists were not enough. Of course, that there are those who would sell-out to MS in order to get ahead in the marketplace is nothing new, but plain users? Those who are the ones getting the most annoyance out of such tactics? Why do they feel the need to apologise  for MS?!

Here’s some of the classic excuses (and my counter) you’ll see on why this isn’t really a problem, move along, nothing to see here:

GNU/Linux users are a small minority. Most desktops will be Windows only so why should MS even implement a dual-boot consideration?

Because even though GNU/Linux is small, it is also showing accelerating growth and even a small percentage of desktop users, when seen on a global scale means quite a few million people. People who will all be inconvenienced when they need to upgrade their installation or repair/reinstall it when it will (eventually) break down.

Because MS has been blabbing about “interoperability” for the last few years and they need to be called on their bullshit at some point. Their rhetoric has never been honest and their actions prove it again and again.

They didn’t really make it hard to install Windows 7. It could have been far worse.

Gee thanks…

Should  we be thankful that Microsoft doesn’t go out of their way to prevent GNU/Linux installations now? Should we praise MS for not making our task more difficult than it already is? What kind of fucking stupid slave-mentality is this? “Golly thanks for using lube while screwing me in the ass, sir!”

And you know what? They did make it harder than Windows XP. Slightly so but nevertheless true.

You don’t stop criticizing someone when they act less evil than they could have been. You stop criticizing people and corporations when they stop being evil.

Pfah!

All you need to do is hack #1, #2 and #3.

Which is obviously something all people who’d like to try out the system can do right? No, of course not. And MS knows this and they know it will further reinforce the perception that GNU/Linux is only for hardcore geeks. You know what the regular user will say when you mention hacking the goddamn boot loader? “Huh wut? No thanks”. Which will mean that it will always require a power user (and perhaps more than that) to simply set it up (and then again and again when Windows invariably breaks down and requires reinstallation).

Compared to the possible scenario where Windows acted like an OS of its generation and recognised that “hey, there are other OS’ out there, perhaps we should be considerate to those of our users who might be dual-booting”, and have Windows autorecognise the MBR is taken, and provide sensible options on how to work with it that a simple user can follow, you know, like GNU/Linux has been doing for what, 8 years now?

Of course it is better to make it seem as if only IT nerds can setup and maintain a GNU/Linux installation alongside Windows 7, even when they difficulty has nothing to do with GNU/Linux and everything to do with MS’ refusal to play fair. Thus they can keep their ignorant audience locked in and happily continue spreading their FUD, only they have some appeasers from the GNU/Linux camp on their side as well who will make their point for them by saying stuff like “Oh it’s easy. Just reinstall Grub and then hack the bootloader“.

Other OS’ and even some particular GNU/Linux distros are worse than that.

A Tu Quoque is a logical fallacy. If other OS’ are doing even worse, then they are worthy of even heavier condemnation. And about those GNU/Linux distros that do it (see Moblin, IPCop etc), you do know they are meant for a single OS installation right? You do know that Moblin is for netbooks which are unlikely to have a dual-boot while IpCop is a firewall right? Don’t you think it’s just a tad intellectually dishonest to bring those up as examples of such faults?

You wouldn’t would you?

So while there can be other who can be just as bad, if not worse than MS, this does not constitute an excuse of any kind, especially since they hold most of the desktop market and their actions are clearly deliberate. And if Free Software OS’ are doing this without having a reason to do so, then you can always change it by contributing or even convincing the developers of the errors of their ways.

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12 thoughts on “Interoperability my arse!

  1. Well.. a long time ago when chaos created itself and invented life, it might have thought.. "why not giving them something to think their bollocks off on" .. and tried so hard to be against the nature of itself and created evolution. When chaos was done with that it might have thought "okay.. I dont get the point.. and they also won't.." And it turned back to what it has been eversince and just watched. And I say, lets give it quite a show, then! 😀

    Earl Grayle

    1. But I'm not worrying about dual boot systems. I am simply pointing out MS' dishonesty and calling out those defending it. Just because the underlying reason might not be relevant in your opinion does not make them less suitable for a callout.

      As for the Virtual Machines, while I agree that it's a nice solution, unless they reach the level where one can play games in them, it's unlikely to be a solid solution for people who don't want to switch for this reason.

      1. If you can manage 75% of the speed of a single-core system, which is a reasonable goal, then people can play games — just not at 100% speed. And that's not actually a bad thing if you can achieve critical mass — once Linux reaches critical mass on the desktop, game developers will start writing native versions for Linux to avoid the speed hit.

        (And actually, now that I think of it, a standard VM along the lines I proposed would help a great deal. Right now, developing a program which uses sustained AV for Linux is a pretty serious undertaking, because there are so many API alternatives that it's difficult for an outsider to learn which ones are suitable, and since all of them are open-source, almost none of them are guaranteed to be around and well-supported for the foreseeable future. If there were a VM included with popular distro X using some particular fast, low-level set of APIs for AV stuff, that would constitute a guarantee for developers that popular distro X has a fast, low-level set of APIs for AV stuff which was unlikely to change or be discontinued without significant public note and documentation of alternatives.)

    2. I don't like Linux — it has dealt with its rough GUI edges by glossing over them, and an elephant with a towel tossed over over it isn't really hidden.

      I beg to differ. GNU/Linux has certainly not glossed over any rough GUI edges and the GUI is therefore continuously improving and evolving according to the wishes of the users.

      1. Right. Wake me when Linux manages copy and paste between programs (beyond plain text) as well as the Mac did in 1986. Or has human-readable directory names in the default file system structure. Or auto-detects hardware well enough to show corresponding controls for a trackpad instead of a mouse on laptops. Or has a sufficient control structure that users never have to edit xorg.conf. Or survives poor OpenGL support gracefully. (Or ships a distro which comes with a default theme which isn't fugly, although that's a subjective matter.)

        I try Linux out roughly every 6 to 12 months, depending on how busy I am. I would really like to enjoy it, so I keep trying, but so far I haven't. Last time I tried Debian, because I wanted to install on a PowerPC Mac Mini I have acquired and Ubuntu doesn't support PowerPC any more. I admit it: the Debian installer (finally) achieved a level which I would consider sufficient for non-computer-savvy users.

        (And, incidentally, the difference was not anything to do with the "graphical" part of the GUI. It was that the descriptive text for the configuration questions no longer assumed that the user knew what the significance of each item was. All the earlier installers I've seen for Linux would ask for configurations without explaining what they were or whether it made any difference what the answers were. All the LiveCDs in the world won't make up for poorly-worded text with no online help.)

        But the day-to-day experience of Linux is still something I would recommend to new users only if they either have unlimited access to a Linux guru or else will never do anything outside a web browser so they can memorize a simple set of steps to deal with those few pieces of the OS which will encroach on their lives. Way too many ways things can go wrong, too many options for advanced users turned on by default, too many ways to easily change the GUI in such a way that talking someone through something over the phone becomes a practical impossibility, too many programs which reinvent the wheel with respect to GUI widgets, an almost total lack of documentation, too much reliance on the command line (which is instafail in GUI terms), and of course the main distributions give you a choice between the fugly-but-functional GNOME and the busy-and-inconsistent KDE 4. It's like someone took the worst weaknesses of the GUIs of Windows Vista and Mac OS X and built them all into one unholy hybrid, and then decided it wasn't awkward enough and made the desktop environment a changeable option.

        So, yeah, the Linux GUI/desktop environment is evolving. But not fast enough or well enough to really make it compete with the non-free alternatives, and always with the insistence that Linux should be mediocre at doing everything, just in case, rather than being really good at a few specific things. I'm starting to think of Linux the way I think of the Democratic Party, or the more liberal Christian Churches — their main function is to prevent other options which otherwise might appeal to the same people (the Green Party, or agnosticism, or the Haiku Project) from gaining support by — to quote an analysis I read a few years ago — "sucking all the air out of that space".

        1. Right. Wake me when Linux manages copy and paste between programs (beyond plain text) as well as the Mac did in 1986. Or has human-readable directory names in the default file system structure. Or auto-detects hardware well enough to show corresponding controls for a trackpad instead of a mouse on laptops. Or has a sufficient control structure that users never have to edit xorg.conf. Or survives poor OpenGL support gracefully. (Or ships a distro which comes with a default theme which isn't fugly, although that's a subjective matter.)

          Copy-Paste has never been a problem for me. Human readable directories in the root filesystem are not necessary. It autodetects trackpads perfectly. I haven't had to edit xorg.conf for the last year at least.

          And anyway, just because GNU/Linux does not have the features you think are required, does not make it bad. I can in the same way complain about the faults of Macs as well when they don't have the features of GNU/Linux. In short, you're just using your subjective judgement to slander a whole OS with FUD.

        2. But the day-to-day experience of Linux is still something I would recommend to new users only if they either have unlimited access to a Linux guru or else will never do anything outside a web browser so they can memorize a simple set of steps to deal with those few pieces of the OS which will encroach on their lives.[…]

          What a load of FUD. I've given GNU/Linux to people who have no access to a tech or use it just for browsing with no problem. Similarly, I've seen people struggle with Macs just as well, which just goes to show how biased your opinion is. No, way too many things Don't go wrong as long as you explain to people to take care to use their sudo rights carefully. No reinventing the wheel is not necessary.

          It's like someone took the worst weaknesses of the GUIs of Windows Vista and Mac OS X and built them all into one unholy hybrid, and then decided it wasn't awkward enough and made the desktop environment a changeable option.

          Seriously, you're just rabidly hating it because it's not Mac. Nothing else.

          1. Took me a while to remember that I had left a comment here. 🙂

            You have partially misread my comment: I said that Linux WAS acceptable if the user is only going to use a web browser. But, frankly, ANY graphical OS is going to be acceptable if the user will only be interacting with it by following a short series of static steps every single time; if there were a way to run a modern browser directly in DOS, then DOS would be an acceptable solution for that type of user.

            As for "things don't go wrong", I have to laugh. When I installed Debian (which was my most recent Linux experience), the installer CD booted, and then refused to actually install, saying it was unable to detect a CD-ROM drive. The time before that, I installed Xubuntu on a Pentium III laptop, and the graphical updater program failed on its first run, leaving the apt-get database locked. Turned out that this was a known bug, which had been discovered months earlier, but since it was possible to fix the problem by resort to the command line, it wasn't deemed important enough for either a new CD image OR a note on the website. Then there was the bug on another laptop where the autoconfiguration of xorg.conf for the video driver turned on an option which was not available on that card, and launching the terminal program would crash X11 and terminate the session. (There was a workaround: switch to 16-bit color instead. But, of course, Linux doesn't give you a GUI option to change color depths, so that wasn't an option. I was able to do it with a terminal session, but I guarantee you that most users would, by that time, have dug out the Windows install CDs and be heading back to Redmond-land as fast as their CPUs could carry them.)

            As for "autodetecting trackpads" — sure it accepts the trackpad's input, but I'm talking about the GUI, not the input device support. None of the environments I have seen give you any configuration controls for trackpads, displaying the mouse controls instead. Both Windows and the Mac were smart enough to at least give you both and then warn you that one of the two wouldn't work as long ago as 1995, whereas Linux GUIs just blithely assume that everyone has a mouse. If that doesn't sound bad to you, then either you've never used a trackpad or you must be one of the people — a significantly small minority, in my local and subjective experience — who like "touch to click" turned on, since Linux ALWAYS turns it on by default and does not provide any GUI to turn it back off. And any GUI which resorts to "you have to use the command line for that" is a failure as a GUI.

          2. You have partially misread my comment: I said that Linux WAS acceptable if the user is only going to use a web browser.

            I have not misread your comment. I find it ridiculous. GNU/Linux is acceptable for anything from Web Browsing, to media using, to media manipulation, to office work, to programming to gaming (as long as the game has been written for it). What you say is plain and simple FUD, not at all supported by experience.

          3. As for "things don't go wrong", I have to laugh.

            Sorry but your subjective and anecdotal experience is not cutting it. It is not the applicable for most people who wouldn't be able to install windows or Mac themselves either. Alternatively it is based on what you personally consider unacceptable which is lame as far as arguments go since I can also complain about the lockdown of the Macs, their Fischer Prize GUI, their lack of applications etc.

            Fact of the matter is that if GNU/Linux is installed for a non-technical user by a professional, as their Windows or Mac would have been, then it will most likely not require any further support.

  2. At this point, complaining about Microsoft's tactics is kind of pointless. They aren't going to change anything, and Windows isn't even the focus any more. I'll let you in on an open secret: Microsoft knows that sooner or later it is going to lose its desktop OS monopoly through defection to Macs and Linux and/or some new challenger to be determined, and they know they are unlikely to be able to stop the defections by improvements to quality because they can't make major improvements without breaking their base of installed software. (That's why the last three Windows versions had really long development cycles in which major features were announced and then quietly removed. Go back and Google "Longhorn" to see all the features dropped from the development of Vista.) Their entire business model is currently based around trying to develop a monopoly in some other market by introducing new products sold at a loss, like the XBox and the Zune. They are throwing new products at the wall to see what will stick, and preserving the Windows majority through unfair tactics buys them time to do so, so there is no chance that they will listen to any sort of appeal, even though their upper management knows that majority is doomed in the long term.

    Since complaining about it isn't going to lead anywhere, what you Linux folks need to do is to develop a strategy for dealing with it. I would suggest that you take a page from Apple's book, sort of. As you know, when a Windows user switches to Mac OS X, they do not have the option to keep their existing Windows installation at all. Yet Windows users are switching to the Mac! That means the problem isn't "I want to keep my old Windows installation," and therefore dual-booting is of limited utility and is not worth fussing over. The main thing which has enticed the "but I still need Windows for ___" crowd to the Mac — insofar as they have been enticed — is not really Boot Camp (dual-booting Mac and Windows) but virtual machines. Both VMWare Fusion and Parallels Desktop sell like crazy. People are willing to pay money to have an easy solution — which means Linux should be at an advantage in this regard by not charging money — but the solution has to be genuinely easy, with which qualification Linux has problems.

    On Linux, therefore, the key would be to pick a virtual machine program, buff it up to the point where new users can deal with it quickly and simply, and integrate it into the installation so that a Windows user can easily go from "single boot Windows with no Linux" to "single boot Linux with Windows in a VM". Although it would be nice to include some sort of migration utility on LiveCDs to make this easier — a program which would burn the user's files to CD/DVD in a form which could be restored from inside the VM, for example — the most important part is making it trivial to have the virtual machine in the first place.

    Unfortunately, although it is entirely possible to have a good, solid VM on top of Linux — VMWare, for example — making it trivially easy is going to involve doing a bunch of things which Linux has, in the past, had trouble with:
    1. There needs to be a single project. No splintering off into different distros over trivial ideological concerns. That's how Linux projects die. OpenOffice.org has been fairly successful at keeping a single main development track going; learn from their example.
    2. The goal of the project can't be to support every single Linux distro with every single desktop environment and every single set of libraries. A VM is going to need fast low-level access, so wrapping a bunch of alternative options isn't going to work. The VM should be written so that it works immediately on a default installation of Ubuntu (with GNOME), and let the other distros/desktop environments figure out what they need to make that work after the fact.
    3. That includes KDE. The recent history of KDE, where version 4 wasn't really ready for prime time but got the full "4.0" name and release anyway, and then there were lots of fast point releases, demonstrates that KDE isn't a stable development target. Getting an easy-to-use pushbutton VM working on Linux is going to be tricky enough. Let KDE do the support work.
    4. Don't start off by trying to integrate the Windows GUI into Linux. The Mac VM products have features like that — where the windows belonging to Windows programs become "real" OS windows — and it has eaten a lot of development time without adding much to the experience. Until at least the 2.0 release, "Windows in an X11 window at 75%+ of normal single-core speed, with video acceleration" should be the goal.
    5. Any configuration option which is reasonably common needs to have a GUI control which can be set from within the VM and which does not require a reboot of either the VM or Linux (unless it is technically impossible to avoid). That includes "which OS gets control of the CD burner", "which OS captures USB devices", and "what parts of the Linux filesystem, if any, are mapped to drives in the VM"

    1. Whoah, massive reply. But I think you miss the point of my rant. It wasn't really expecting MS to do anything different but rather calling them out on the BS and tacking some of the apologetics coming from our side.

      As for your idea, it has merit but as always, the biggest problem is to get all distros and developers to see things the same way. It's unlikely to happen which will simply mean that whichever distro does it better will come out on top of the others (similar to how ubuntu is doing). I personally don't think this splintering is a huge problem as conformity can also lead to rather bad outcomes.

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