Instead of, why not...

Ted Mittelstaedt tedm at
Tue Feb 15 11:22:05 GMT 2005

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-freebsd-questions at
> [mailto:owner-freebsd-questions at]On Behalf Of Anthony
> Atkielski
> Sent: Monday, February 14, 2005 3:07 PM
> To: freebsd-questions at
> Subject: Re: Instead of, why not...

> Yes, and unfortunately that happens a lot.  The most frequent
> constraint
> I encounter myself is the need to read or write Microsoft Word files.
> Fortunately it is mostly just reading, so I can get away with the free
> Word viewer downloaded from MS, but if I must write the files,
> I have no
> choice but to use the dusty old copy of Office running on my oldest
> desktop machine.

Many wordprocessors write in Microsoft Word format these days.

> I personally have no use for Word at all, since I do
> all my text processing on Quark these days, but other people don't have
> Quark XPress, usually.

That is what AW used to layout my book, as a matter of fact.  It's
currently the defacto standard in the publishing industry because
they can go directly from it to a printing press.  But it is rediculously
expensive at $1,045.00 SRP.  I hesitate to tell you how large of
a percentage of my book royalties a purchase like this would take, but
I will say it's definitely more than a single digit percentage.

IMHO this is self-defeating.  Very few book authors would spend this
for writing software, and the publishers (like AW) spend millions a
year in retyping costs to take manuscripts from printouts and such
to stick them into Quark.  Quark is really vulnerable from being
disloged from this monopoly.  I can see that Quark is already
starting to fight a rearguard action as they are dumping copies
of it at the educational price into the academic market, now.
(where a lot of books originate)

You should at least check out Scribus
This is an open source project that is aiming to replace Quark
There has already been one book published with it.  While perhaps
you might not be able to use it now, give it another 5 years and
it might do it.  I would have probably used this for writing mine
if it had been available then.

> But even if this were not the case, the obvious question still arises:
> WHY would I switch to 100% UNIX, when Windows works perfectly on the
> desktop?

YOU personally might not.  But you were originally arguing that
FreeBSD was unsuitable for a desktop OS.  Now I see this is subtly
changing, you are now only arguing that FreeBSD is unsuitable for
YOUR desktop OS.  But, you see, that is the point that I was trying
to make in my last post.

Anything can be used as a desktop OS, depending on your needs for
a desktop.  One of our customers for example uses Wyse Winterms
(my idea, incidentally) that he purchases off Ebay, that are logged
into a Fedora server. His desktops are at a number of stores that are
in the grocery store chain that he manages the IT for, they have cash
registers attached to them.

The company he works for is one of the faster growing regional
Mexican grocery store chains in this area.  I am quite sure that his
company is successful in a large part because of the massive inventory
control they have - the second something is sold in any of their stores
it's updated in the master inventory, there isn't any of this batching
bullcrap that a lot of grocery stores use, where they have individual
servers at each store who all dial into each other at night and attempt
to create some recognizable update to the database.  His chain can
move product between stores and get product ordered faster than any
of their competitors, and when your dealing with perishables this is
of paramount importance. (particularly when most of them are shipped from

Now, most people aren't going to be using Winterms but the point is
that people have wildly varying needs, and many of them could in
fact use FreeBSD successfully as a desktop OS.

> They don't need an excuse.  If they have a program that they
> know how to
> use, there's no reason at all for them to learn to use another program.

Tell that to Microsoft then.  The new versions of Word, Excel, etc
ARE ANOTHER PROGRAMS the training required to bring most of the office
users up to speed on them is considerable.  I know this from experience
I used to work as a sysadmin for a number of years and worked at several
companies.  I always hated when Microsoft brought out new versions of
software because users would pester me with support questions for MONTHS
after updating them.  The worse offenders in fact were usually the same
people who were the biggest pushers to get updated.

And the costs had nothing to do with it.  I remember the Office 95 -
Office 97
upgrade, for example.  At the company I was working at that time they
were a small startup and didn't have a lot of cash - I sat down with
the CFO the day after pricing was announced for Office 97 and laid out
exactly all of the costs required for updating - from new system
(for some people with older systems that would just be too slow) to
the licensing plus a sketchy analysis of the productivity losses and
labor costs.  The guy went white, and we jointly went to the CEO and
all of us agreed to stand firm in the face of user demands for upgrading,
as the company just couldn't afford the expense then (at least, according
to the CEO and CFO)  But of course I was being naieve - 2 months later
I was commencing an Office 97 upgrade, and all the costs I had predicted
materialized, plus a considerable number more.  The CEO had buckled under
userbase screaming about it, and had been talked into believing it would
save money (by the sales VP of course)  It never did, then they went
through the whole thing again with Office 2000 2 years later.  I had
left them by then and gone to work elsewere, they eventually folded in
2002 or thereabouts.  But it is a fact that there were major and badly
IT infrastructure upgrade projects - such as a new main switch - that
never got done on account of the constant demands for help and assistance
from the userbase for the new Office software.  And the few times I
tried telling the user's supervisors to tell them to go get training,
I was rebuffed with the "that's what we are paying you for" line.  Well,
no, what I was being paid for was to keep the infrastructure stable and
growing to support the company, not to babysit a bunch of lusers who
couldn't read the manual.  And since I ended up wasting time on the
I was not particularly proud of the infrastructure in the company when I
left it.

So, don't give me the bullcrap about people wanting to stay with what
they know.  They don't.  If the vast majority of users in a company
knew anything about computers beyond how to turn them on, companies
wouldn't need IT people.  In reality only a handful of users in most
companies take responsibility for their own computer literacy, the
rest of them expect to have it hand-fed to them, and will learn as
little as possible.  And you can hand-feed
them FreeBSD/Linux and office apps that run on that platform, with
just as much trouble as you can hand-feed them Windows and MS office

> It's not up to these people to justify to you their continuing use of a
> solution that has always worked for them and continues to work
> for them.

They never do this.  Oh only if they would I would have been so happy
to let them contine using their copies of Office 95!!!  I would have
been much happier and most of them would have also.

> It's up to you to explain to them why they should expend
> additional time
> and effort learning to use something new just to accomplish exactly the
> same thing.

You just don't get it.  It just doesen't work like that in reality.

In reality, what happens in these companies is that you get 1 or 2
power users, or more commonly, people who think they are power users
but are just wannabes, who read the marketing literature saying how
the new version is going to be so much easier and faster.  They then
go get copies of the new stuff (often expensing it in violation of
internal company policy) and load it on their PC, then call in IT when
that blows up something on their PC because now they can't work and
it's an emergency.  IT gets badgered into getting a bandaid in place
on their system, so they eventually get it running.  Then, they go around
to everyone else and use the old "I got something that you don't got"
psychology, and next thing you know the rest of them want it also.

I will also observe that all the time that these power users spend
on this pretty much means they can't do the work they were hired
to do.  But, they don't seem to ever get fired for that.

> You seem to think that switching from Windows
> to UNIX is
> no big deal,

For some it isn't a big deal.

> even though it serves no purpose,

Not true.  In businesses it makes a LOT of sense.

>  They want the path of least
> resistance so that they don't have to waste time thinking about
> computers.

No, so they don't have to spend time thinking, period.

Has it really escaped you that the vast majority of the US adult
population is very uninterested in this activity?

> And on the desktop, the path of least resistance
> is Windows.

And, guess what?  Putting apple juice and grape juice in the kid's glass
instead of milk is the path of least resistance too.

easy does not always equal best.

> question comes up again:  Why bother?  Windows does the job, so why
> _not_ install Windows?

The principle and most obvious reason is cost - an Open Source solution
is cheaper - assuming the costs we are talking about are overall, long
term costs.

Think of it this way.  Supposing that you personally were not required
to output in Quark file format to your customers.  (we will assume for
the moment that all other file formats you output in can be produced
by open source software)  Suppose you have another 30 years of work
before you retire.  Suppose that you generate your current and future
income from these desktop applications.

Right now you only know your Windows desktop apps and your looking
at the UNIX apps and thinking about the big learning curve that
you would have to go over to switch to them before you could become
as equally productive.  (I'm of course ignoring the gaming apps which
are transitory and produce little of anything of value, and can be argued
that time wasted on them is being stolen from much healthier games
such as physical activity games that will keep you from having a coronary
at age 50)

You know that during that learning curve you will be spending a lot
of time on it, as time=money, this represents a significant cost to you.
SO your asking why spend the money?

The answer is that if you stay with the commercial software, over your
lifetime you will have spent a much larger portion of your income on
commercial software, than if you take the cost now of switching over,
beause those commercial companies cannot survive without a revenue
stream, and they get this by constant upgrading.  That upgrading also
raises your lifetime hardware costs significantly.

You know, people face decisions like this for things like buying water
heaters - I think you were arguing in favor of something like this
last week in fact - and make the obvious choice to go with the cheaper
overall cost solution in a blink of an eye, every day.

Why is it so agonizing when it's their computer software?


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