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Win 7 Sins FTL

In Linux Format issue 124, page 77, I wrote about the Free Software Foundation's Windows 7 Sins page. Specifically, I gave my opinion that the page is too zealous and hyperbolic; that it makes the free software community look like irrational mouth-foaming Microsoft haters. I said that we should focus more on publicising GNU/Linux rather than bashing Microsoft.

A reader emailed me asking for more elaboration on what I dislike about the page - so here are some of the quotes on the page and why I think they don't work.

"2. Invading privacy: Microsoft uses software with backward names like Windows Genuine Advantage to inspect the contents of users' hard drives. The licensing agreement users are required to accept before using Windows warns that Microsoft claims the right to do this without warning."

This is just too sensationalist. WGA is a royal pain in the rear, but the fact that this text doesn't elaborate on "inspect the contents of users' hard drives" shows that they're just trying to stir up fear. Many people would read that as "Ooh nasty Microsoft is reading all my private files" which is not the case. This is like the FUD that we in the community often accuse Microsoft of spreading.

"3. Monopoly behavior: Nearly every computer purchased has Windows pre-installed -- but not by choice. Microsoft dictates requirements to hardware vendors, who will not offer PCs without Windows installed on them, despite many people asking for them. Even computers available with other operating systems like GNU/Linux pre-installed often had Windows on them first."

I don't see the argument here - many companies offer Linux machines now. The mighty Dell sells Ubuntu boxes. Sure, MS is still dominant, but Dell isn't being "dictated" to. This might've been a valid argument ten years ago.

"4. Lock-in: Microsoft regularly attempts to force updates on its users, by removing support for older versions of Windows and Office, and by inflating hardware requirements. For many people, this means having to throw away working computers just because they don't meet the unnecessary requirements for the new Windows versions."

This one is way over the top. I don't know anyone, ever, who has "thrown away" a working computer because an old version of Windows has been EOLed. Users just go on using them, albeit with a security risks. Besides, Linux distro requirements inflate over time too, thereby "forcing" you to buy new kit (unless you want to run Damn Small Linux for the rest of your life).

"Microsoft has its own security interests at heart, not those of its users."

This tries to conjure up an image of a bunch of C Montgomery Burns-like businessmen cackling evilly in the heart of Redmond. "Silly users! Who cares about their security! Mwahahaha!"

Of course, it's totally wrong. Microsoft's security woes have been due to a huge, wobbly codebase with chunks from donkey's years ago, coupled with ten thousand different programming teams and twice as many Project Managers. There's no conspiracy - it makes no financial sense.

Look, I agree with the heart of many of the arguments on that site. I'm glad the issues are being raised. But we can have this debate without resorting to hyperbole, spin and tabloidesque language that simply turns away most level-headed observers. With a bit more balance and restraint, that could be a useful site - but right now I reckon it does us more damage than good.

Your comments

Here Here

I totally agree with you, Mike. One thing I have learned over the years is spreading FUD, calling names, and then preaching that "Linux is better" just attracts the children on MySpace; people that don't really make the necessary decisions about Linux adoption.

Business owners, CxOs, and the people that WILL make the difference in whether Linux makes it or doesn't just want to see numbers.

My advice to the next gen of Linux users, Show 'em the numbers...


Though I agree with most of what you say, I think the lock-in comment is justified; for example, there is no way out of MS Works or MS Publisher. The latter is widely used.

Way back in 2000 MS had dropped support for older Word formats which Linux continued to support. In effect, because I wasn't using Word, I had to upgrade to Linux to be able to share files with Word users because the conversions I had to older formats were no longer supported in Word.

Note: I had to change because Word users were locked into a smaller range of file formats.

Lock in.

I also agree with most of what you say, with the exception of 'lock-in'. Ever tried to buy a laptop in a high street store without windows? If you ask the salesman often look at you funny.

Dell sells Ubuntu boxes?

I agree that mud-slinging helps nobody, regardless of who started it.

Having said that, I don't think the "monopolistic behaviour" statement was inaccurate - MS has a well-publicised history of special deals with resellers, and it's still as hard as ever to find a Windows-free PC for sale. Last time I enquired I was told they'd "have to" charge me extra for removing Windows. Maybe Bath is just 10 years ahead of the rest of the country? :o)

Incidentally, "the mighty Dell" only sells Ubuntu pre-installed on a netbook. I just checked their site: laptops over 10.1 inch and desktops all had the Ubuntu option greyed out, and Ubuntu (or Linux) wasn't even listed under operating systems. A search turns up one small, atom-powered 'laptop'.


Pastyeater: Check this out!

Box without an OS

May be you can't get a new desktop from Dell without an installed OS but you can get one from Novatech ( Most of all their computers can come without an OS, although Linux is not an option in the operating systems listed as their options, only Windows.

Nothing gets up the noses of the public more than negative publicity. We must be positive about things, even if (Heaven forbid) Windows does something better!

Most people just need a computer to send and receive emails, write documents, store their photographs and their music, etc. We just need to show them they can do it easily (and cheaper) with Linux instead of Windows.

A completely non techy friend of mine is now running his newish Sony laptop with Linux Mint 7 quite happily after the original Vista OS crashed yet again with a virus. We should be highlighting these examples.


@ Captain_Tux

The link you provided directs to the Dell US site, mate. Pastyeater is referring to the British site, where it has recently been slim-pickings for Linux fans. In addition to the Dell Mini 10(v), I believe the only other Ubuntu powered laptop currently available has been a Latitude model in the small business section. A couple of Vostros are also listed as having an Ubuntu option but this proves false when you get to the customization screen.

Hopefully, Dell will get this sorted pronto.


I agree with everything except point No.4 - I have a friend who had to get rid of his machine which was running Windows Me. There was no support for it anymore,it was riddled with viruses etc, and was largely incapable of running anything else from the Microsoft camp, so out it went. He got another machine with XP on it, but it was just because he had to really.You could argue that the hardware was so out of date it had to go, but believe me he would still be running that old thing if he could.

Um. hmmm. No you're wrong.

the fact is we CAN'T have this debate without resorting to hyperbole because this has been a hooting fest from day one: I'm not going to run up to someone with picket saying "kill bill gates" on it and force someone to read propaganda.
I will on the other hand direct someone to site if they just got back from best buy where some retard told them linux is less secure and harder to update. Tell me that's wrong.

Totally Agree with Mike

I totally concur with Mike in this one, the worst way to try to convince any to change or switch anything and/or behavior is by coming with attacks. When you do this your are dismissed as a just a ranting idiot. Look at a what Mac does, what they do is show people there is a better alternative. With Linux the same can be done but since we can't count on the millions for publicity is up to us, the individual Linux user, to show how viable Linux is to carry out all your computer tasks and needs. It is not easy since a lot of people out there can't comprehend how can you do things in a computer without Windows, but it can be done.

I agree, sort of ...

A lot of people have no idea what "free and open source" means. Heck, I had no idea until about six or seven months ago. While I agree that Microsoft bashing isn't the way forward, I view Windows 7 Sins as purely a publicity stunt.

I am sure that anyone switching to Linux will quickly learn what being a Linux user is really all about.

FUDing is the root of the problem

Wholeheartedly agree against the use of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD). Mike you are correct that the "Windows 7 Sins" piece was steeped in hyperbole but I as a scientist with my own frustrations against proprietary systems I can empathize with their lack of restraint on this piece.

To #2
I agree, I'm quite sure Microsoft simply need to be *seen* doing something after all allowing a certain level of piracy enhances the lock-in eventually because employees, used to the system, may expect their employers to provide it. The FSF is a very strong proponent of user privacy; Microsoft, I fear, would trammel my privacy for a little security be it financial or otherwise. I am reminded of Franklin, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

To #3
Partly agree, the situation *is* improving but still far from what I would consider fair. One vendor changing suit is encouraging, the fact that it is Dell being the second largest vendor (second to HP, whom are also wonderfully linux compliant)is extremely encouraging. In agreement with Rich, Dell UK seems to have a slightly different - pre loading Ubuntu is restricted to some products, it is not applied to all devices equally. An improving situation is not the same as "their being no argument for it". Simply means you need to re-tune your argument to recognize these positive developments :)

To #4
Disagree, lock in is an endemic symptom in proprietary software and the rationale for it is patently obvious, keep users using your software and by association imply others to use it. There is ~200kb of bloat for every *.doc format file I make, where does it come from? How do they justify it when other formats, be it XML or RTF or ODS are as competent, smaller and a world more cross compatible. Each Windows iteration requires more resources. Fact. Having just virtualized a clean copy of XP and Vista I can tell you that for XP's 19 system processes it idles at 118Mb of RAM and that a Vista clean copy idles near by the 280Mb mark! You may refer me to a tweaking article but I am quite sure Joe user is hesitant to change the registry, turn off services or uninstall bloatware. Mac have recognized this and the focal principle for Snow Leopard was reducing the need to system resources. In science, I can tell you that the lock in system has never been so bad - I must submit article in .doc, coursework in .doc, present in .ppt and submit images in .jpg. No compromise.

"Microsoft and security". Enough said.

Shame on Mike

I totally disagree with Mike's arguments. Microsoft is Linux NR ONE ENEMY and what FSF are doing to fight against them is higly commendable IMHO. Please Mike stop all that nonsense and shameful statements in favour of M$, wake up and remember you're working for LINUX guys. Thanks!

Linux preinstalled?

Despite MS's bad history with resellers, I agree with Mike here - the main reason for the fact that all major computer shops have Windows preinstalled is not a big conspiracy from Redmond, it is the old law of demand and offer: most people want that!

I don't think the Gates/Ballmers conspiracy can explain the fact that some places had UNR installed on netbooks for a while and then switched back to MS Windows, or that "WINDOWS VISTA PREINSTALLED" or the possible update to "7" is such a prominent feature in advertisements.

The problem is that the majority of computer users are not open for anything new and go for the stuff they know. For most of them the word Linux sounds like a bunch of nerds hacking endless commands in a console in order to create a database of star wars characters, whereas "Windows" sounds like a normal user friendly PC. Everytime I mention that I use Linux, people look at me in a mixture of alienation and admiration.

We all know that an Ubuntu installation is likely to go faster and with less complication than a Vista installation, but the majority of people don't! What Linux needs is better PR - and Mike is right that appearing as a group of Microsoft haters does not help in that.


Although I agree with you Mike take a look at the name of the OS

A generic word like "Windows" is a hit - like it or not - and does
stick in the minds or ordinary people.

Linux should have been called something like "Doors" instead of
a meaningless word like "Linux"...

To "sell" something you need a catchy name for it!

Ask most poeple what UNIX is and they would look at you with glazed

However point 4 does hold true as in many instances, we in our
business have been clobbered by the lock-in methods M$ use. ALL
of the SW we use has NO Linux alternative so by definiton we ARE
locked in! :(

(Also one of the directors has only had one taste of a Linux flavour
very recently and that turned sour very quickly.)

Scratch one company`s use of Linux......

tuxedo junction

well as a SNES player and other retro stuff (like Commodore64, Gamecube and playstation 1 and 2 and um a Amstrad1512 hiding in the loft somewhere - rather than write hate letters about m/soft I just get on with working with Fedora 11, Ubuntu 9.4 or its Server equivalent (I like to tinker and experiment with my server). Life is short! Too short to chase after M/soft! I just enjoy Linux and think about when I had a windows system some four years ago and the nail-biting I would do if the system went down because of a virus or a hole in the code used to build the package - and how lucky I am with Linux and a UK Linux format Subscription! :D terabyte1 (Anonymous Penguin (without the red rubber glove on my head))!


Lock in is real, and it's not just OS. the creeping .netification of apps, where they rely on MSSQL,.net etc, has caused us to buy 4 new windows PCs in the last few months, simply because the new version of our accounting software requires a coreduo and 2Gb of ram to do the same job as it did perfectly well on the old PCs, before it became a "fat client".

The comment about Publisher being "widely used", out of roughly 2000 business customers,I know of only 4 that use Publisher (all are churches!), and our copyshop hardly ever sees .pub files these days.
Publisher is an amateur product, more suited for home use.
Most professional DTP packages store files seperately and collect them for publishing and printing, which is why there is no "way out" of Publisher- not many people want one.

why hastle MS...?

why hastle MS...?
The best way to get more people aware that linux exists and is worthy of their use is to stop wasting time M$ bashing and instead start hastling software vendors to produce cross-platform software.

I'm a photographer, and use Linux wherever I can. I have a MythTV computer at home, and my personal PC, laptop and netbook are all running some form of linux.
When I am out on a shoot, the computers my customers use to view photographs also all run linux, HOWEVER... I am still forced to use XP to run photoshop, my dye-sub printer, and my Nikon Camera tethering software. Yes, there are alternatives, but where it really counts.. they still arent as good.

Until big companies like Adobe get on board and start making their products truly cross-platform.. linux is always going to be second best, and no jumping up and down arguing about it will change that.

Monopoly behavior

Monopoly behavior: I don't see the argument here - many companies offer Linux machines now. The mighty Dell sells Ubuntu boxes. Sure, MS is still dominant, but Dell isn't being "dictated" to. This might've been a valid argument ten years ago.

What world are you in? I have tried to buy laptops with linux installed even tried to buy one without OS told many times Sorry Sir you can't have one without windows you got to have it installed or no can sell one to you...

Microsoft Monopoly

As a Linux and Windows user (we won't go into which ones) it is interesting to examine the concept of the Microsoft monopoly in operating systems.

Firstly,is it a monopoly ?. Well as far as the Apple Mac is concerned one shouldn't include them. After all the MacOS won't run on an Intel/AMD PC and only Apple make the Mac. MSWindows will run on all Intel/AMD PC's, as will Linux.
But a monopoly "exists when a specific individual or an enterprise has sufficient control over a particular product or service to determine significantly the terms on which other individuals shall have access to it." (Wikipedia)
But this monopoly can only exist if there is demand in the marketplace. No demand, no monopoly, even if the definition above is true.

So where is the demand for MSWindows coming from ?.

Well, Microsoft were first into an emerging market and they had a big break when IBM didn't patent the first PC configuration so they got a major marketing lead.
Apple was formed to build computers to a different specification to meet a different market (initially), the media/graphics industry.
So the "mass" market was left to Microsoft and they achieved as near to saturation as possible in these conditions. The PR their OS has received worldwide through the years is phenomenal in the absence of any other truly competative OS. Is there anyone who hasn't heard of Microsoft and Windows. Even the remotest Tibetan Llama herdsman will have.........but will he have heard of Linux or Ubuntu. I doubt it.

I am an avowed Linux FOSS supporter but I realise that the only thing that will bring Linux to the forefront of the marketplace is positive and sustained Public Relations. In the last week we have seen the beginnings of good PR for Ubuntu on the back of the relase of Windows 7 ironically. But good PR nevertheless with extensive TV, internet and newsmedia coverage.

Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Mint, PCLinuxOS and Mepis (to name only some) are already there in terms of user-friendliness, pleasing to the eye, configurability and stability. Comprehensive Linux packages that will substitute for MSWord, MSExcel, MSPowerpoint, Windows Media Player, etc., are already available. Some applications such as The Gimp (graphics) and K3B (CD/DVD read/write) are arguably better than equivalent MS applications.

All that is needed is a sustained period of exposure of the Linux experience to the consumer and this situation will without doubt change but I believe it will take the rest of this decade before we see Microsoft's dominance eroded to less than 50% of the market.

It is easy to knock Microsoft and Windows from the viewpoints of stability, security and cost but we have all benefited from their products hugely over the last two decades. Linux will I have no doubt have its day, but Microsoft I am sure will continue to build operating systems into the future while their business model will need to change radically from the present one as FOSS takes precedence in the marketplace.

M$ bashing doesn't work

Agree with Mike...
Experience has shown that M$ bashing will not convert one soul to Linux. Even interested computer users won't change from Windows by proving them wrong. To prove to themselves that they are right they will go out of their way to prove the FSF is just hyperbole. Prove a person is wrong and they will attack. Show a person a better way and they may follow. And when they do covert they will convert completely.
Better, Easier, Cheaper, Prettier, Choice, Peer, Support and Reciprocation are the foundations of programming a customer to use a new product. Evangelistic churches tend to do this rather sucessfully and look at the people who attend - they're rather full-on!
Just my two cents...

I hear a violin.

"A house divided can never stand."
That is a pretty good quote to sum up the Linux "community" right now. It seems like there are so many different points of view out there on that we are missing the one big point, and that is we all have different points of view. I guess sometimes you really can't see the forest for the trees. The FSF is acting like M$ in its attacks on other peoples points of views and knocking Linux distributions that include Mono and "non-free" drivers yet Google is embraced with open arms. Just a little side note the "invading privacy" issue they put forth about M$, the new darling of the open source world Google dose and have been doing for along time and what is even worse they admit it. Instead of us "acting like a mardy teenager" over silly things we should just agree to disagree on somethings and move on. If you don't like Mono don't use it same goes with M$. If we keep up the petty infighting we will keep pushing users away from open source software and we will hear Nero (M$, Google, Apple...) playing the violin while our Rome burns.

Fed up about the argument

By all means the author is right but in a general sense I am fed up with the whole argument.
I have learned how to handle and deal with a pc thanks to Microsoft and as soon as I got to know Linux I experimented with that (next to Windows XP).
Today and since a long time now I have changed Windows for Linux. For all I need to use my pc for Linux is very good. And we ought to applaud people like Mark Shuttleworth (Ubuntu) who are really trying to make Linux a mature and professional OS. In a sense a market product!
Although having choice is good the ridiculous amount of Linux distros out there is also not an advance for Linux.
What to choose when you are new to Linux land? For no clear reason I always used to like (and still do) Fedora and Red Hat. Though my favourite is Opensuse however, why can they not do what Canonical can do. Why always the hassle with certain codecs?
Today Ubuntu is the OS of my pc and that won't be changed! Ubuntu is the only one out there what makes a real effort in bringing a good OS to Joe Bloggs.
If Canonical would do the same as for instance Apple they may make a very big impact on the pc market. Buying an Ubuntu like buying a Mac would be the future.

Am I smelling rats at Linux Format?

Maybe I am becoming paranoid, but looks like the folks at Linux Format are turning their coats. First, Paul Hudson and his love for Mono. Now, Mike dismissing the perfectly valid points of FSF. C'mon, Mike, the FSF guys may have been a bit over the top, but the "hyperbole" doesn't make their points misleading or false. Reality has a loud voice, it's just that.

dell laptop

A friend of mine has a linux (ubuntu) dell laptop pre-installed from dell,
try installing the updates, it wo`nt. he phoned dell to find out why he could`nt,
he was told you ca`nt update, so what`s the point of haveing linux if you ca`nt update?.

The way I do it

I've been a Windows guy all my life. A few years ago, tried Linux and hated it. Every few months I'd try again but get frustrated and give up. Well, I was trying to jump in deep waters, trying to get Linux to work like Windows. So I decided to just "use" Linux without trying a bunch of custom configurations. It didn't take long to realize what I had been missing.

In the last year, I have converted my wife, daughter and several friends of the family. All but one of my home machines are now Linux. I'm converting some of the servers at work to Linux.

I don't "bash" Microsoft, I just point out their flaws and make Linux comparisons. I give away live CDs and help people get used to the new environment. That's the best way to spread the word.

Just visited the Dell site

Just visited the Dell site and there still shipping Lucid Lynx 10.04, Yet Ubuntu 10.10 was released on 10 October 2010 and the prices are unrealistic $624.00 for an Inspiron 15n. My own 11z with it's 500GB HDD didn't cost more than $400 so what gives you pay for a newer laptop with an older copy of Linux!!

Your better off buying a budget netbook and just returning your M$ recovery CD and asking for the money back on the OS which leads to a saving of £64.99 and then installing Linux yourself, however it should be duly noted that when Vista first started hitting the shelves it was twice that figure.

As someone else already commented it isn't for everybody, if your not prepared to sit down and take the time to learn a little bit about how it all work's and expect it to just be point and click, you will find it a bit of a rough ride!

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