Thursday, 20 May 2010

Karmic Cash

It occurred to me that my output to date might suggest that I am anti-Windows, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I'm quite a fan of Microsoft (or, at least I was) and believe that without Bill Gates computing would remain the purview of corporations and academia.

That said, Microsoft (and the other commercial software vendors) also has its flaws not least the constant and unnecessary product upgrades. My foray into open source has taught me that I can be just as productive as I was in my Windows days but save a small fortune into the bargain. Take a fairly average (non-corporate) project manager's software collection:

Windows 7 (Home Prem/Full)£149.99Ubuntu 9.10 LTS £0.00
Microsoft Office (Std '07)£349.99OpenOffice £0.00
Microsoft Project (Std '07)£519.99OpenProj £0.00
Microsoft Visio (Std '07)£229.99OpenOffice Drawing£0.00
Internet Explorer£0.00Thunderbird £0.00
Windows Media Player£0.00RhythmBox £0.00
Microsoft Autoroute£49.99OpenStreetMap £0.00
Anti-virus softwarec.£50.00ClamTK Virus Scanner£0.00

That's a lot of cash!

There are a few caveats:

I know that the OS normally comes bundled with a new PC, but if you want to upgrade it will still cost you money and you're tied to the latest technology. Ubuntu on the other hand runs quite contentedly on a pretty old PC: there are exceptions, as my recent experience with Lucid Lynx demonstrates, but you can run an excellent (and safe) system on a recycled base (saving money & the planet).

I've used Microsoft's Retail List Price and no-one pays full price! However, you will pay quite a lot for most of the more arcane Office products (Project & Visio, especially) and they are not always substantially better than the free alternatives.

Some of the commercial software is just better than the free stuff. Again, I would rate MS Project and Visio as far better products than anything that I've found for free: but the question remains as to whether they are so much better as to justify several hundreds of pounds for each version/upgrade.

There are two other considerations when choosing an operating system: virus infections and footprint. Ubuntu is not as prone to attack as Windows and nor does it need the 16GB of disk space to run!

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