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Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Mon Jan 1 21:43:52 UTC 2007

Anthony wrote:

>On 12/31/06, Ray Saintonge wrote:
>>Anthony wrote:
>>>Interesting...  They're donating computers pre-loaded with Windows and
>>>providing technical support and training.  Would they still donate the
>>>computers if the library told them they intended to install Linux on
>>>them?  Maybe.  But would they still provide the free technical support
>>>and training for those libraries?  Somehow I doubt it (although it
>>>would be really cool if they did).
>>Why would those libraries _want_ to install Linux?  The primary reason
>>for free software evaporates when they are spared the costs of
>>proprietary licences.
>I'm sure entire books have been written on why one should use free
>software rather than no-cost software.  If you really have trouble
>finding information on this let me know and I'll do a better search
>for some resources.  Or maybe someone else can provide us with some?
I don't think that it's a question of availability of information.  
Motivated library boards could look it up just as easily.  I think that 
it has more to do with budgetting processes.  A cost free, and at least 
superficially reliable, alternative can look mighty inviting in the 
current budget when there is serious competition for funds.  Problems 
that may not arise for five years can wait five years to be addressed.  
Decision makers don't like complicated choices, even more so if those 
choices involve technical matters that they do not understand.  For some 
Microsoft has been in their face for years; the marketting strategy has 
been successful.

The technically super-savvy people fail to appreciate the enormity of 
the gap between them and the end users of the technology.  In a society 
that embraces specialization, those who pursue a non-technical specialty 
leave behind the skills needed to understand technological change.  How 
can you expect somebody to understand how to change the clock on a DVD 
player when they aren't yet able to do it on the VHS player?  Personally 
I get my son to change the clock on my car radio when we change between 
daylight and standard time.  I can't be bothered to go through a thick 
manual to figure it out.  Under those circumstances I should probably be 
pleased with year around DST. :-)

I recently had my stereo amplifier die after 20 years.  Replacing it was 
a daunting task the results of which do not satisfy me.  My original 
unit did what I wanted it to do, and I am now faced with the prospect of 
working around a lot of features that I never wanted in order to achieve 
my old functionality.

I suspect that Microsoft has grokked this problem.

>But for the purposes of this discussion, it's enough for me to merely
>point out that the software license being given to the libraries does
>not entitle that library to free upgrades.  
I don't know enough to comment on that last point.

>That alone should be
>enough reason to prefer Linux, if all other things were equal.  the
>clear strategy here of Microsoft, if not the Gates Foundation, is to
>give it away for free, get 'em hooked, and then start charging.
They don't need to start charging the libraries.  That would not be good 
marketting.  The end users of the software in the libraries are young.  
Their loyalty to the Microsoft product line for the next 50 years is far 
more valuable.  The managements of large for-profit corporations have a 
big advantage in this kind of long-term strategic thinking and problem 
solving.  Compare that with the enormous energy which some organizations 
expend over whether dates should be marked A.D. or C.E.

>Of course, all other things aren't equal.  If the library gets free
>support from the Gates Foundation with Windows, and doesn't get free
>support with Linux (which tends to be more costly to support in the
>first place), then it's going to be really hard for them to choose
That's consistent with my point.

>If the Gates Foundation really wants to help the libraries, then they
>should help the libraries free themselves from relying on the
>continued charity of Microsoft.
I can't imagine that Bill Gates' altruism would include 
auto-deFenestration. ;-)


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