Saturday, September 29, 2007

Why we need to move to Linux

I've been a Windows user for a long time now; probably almost 20 years. The reason isn't because of loyalty. I mainly use it for the same reason everyone else does: it comes with the computer, and I get stuck with it because pretty much every piece of software I need runs on Windows. But I know it's not the nicest system to use. Mac OSX gets a lot of things right in terms of usability. And it's pretty. You get the sense that they really think about the end-user and want to make a good experience for them.

But ultimately, OSX has to fail the end-user for the same reason Windows does: corporate interests. Apple doesn't want to make it easy for you to, say, copy music from your iPod to your computer. Microsoft doesn't want to include bit torrent functionality out of the box. Why? Because they don't want to piss off content companies that they're making deals on the side with.

Ubuntu Linux offers you both of those functionalities right of the box. Why? Because those are popular use-cases for the user. People want to do those thigns. Seriously, how many people have you heard complaining about not being able to copy music off their iPod easily? Most people are surprised this isn't something that's available by default.

Now, we can get into the ethics of piracy, but at the end of the day, I don't think that software companies should be dictating what you should and shouldn't be doing, especially when the only reason they're doing so is because content companies don't like it. And remember, it's not illegal to copy music from my iPod onto another computer I have. That's fair use. And Bit Torrent doesn't necessarily need to be used for piracy. It's like selling a VCR that won't record because it might be used for piracy.

Sure, Ubuntu doesn't offer MP3 playback out of the box - a hugely popular use case for users. But that's a trade-off. It means they can distribute it for free without being sued. And at the end of the day, moving to open source codecs is really better for the consumer: it makes things cheaper!

The world of open-source software I think is always one that is going to do things in the best interest of the user. Even if the total package isn't there yet, give it time. It will be.