HP goes to the Penguins

| 9 Comments

Thought this was an interesting announcement from HP: first notebook with Linux installed.

Apart from issues about usability, I've found no one who doesn't seem to think that Linux is a better operating system in terms of flexibility and reliability. Which is why I've always been interested in why it wasn't a bigger seller. One of the usual answers would be path dependence, arguing along the lines of the story heard in most econ classes: the QWERTY keyboard versus, say, the Dvorak one. The Dvorak configuration has been shown to be more efficient, plus, it's not that hard to switch our current keyboards into that configuration. So why do we persist with inferior solutions? Are people just sort of lazy and/or dumb? (I tend not to think so, but this is often the tone I hear in economists voices when they talk about the fact that people don't regularly conform to models of rationality.)

In Microsoft, issues of (possible) path dependence have gotten big enough to warrant investigations about predatory practices and monoplist behavior. Everyone uses it because, well, everyone uses it. We've settled on an equilibrium that tends to reinforce itself, since the cost of getting out is view to be higher than the benefits gained from the move. And the more people settle into it, the harder it becomes to get out. But, is there really any good reason to stick with Microsoft, other than that fact that it's simply everywhere? If not, should we expect to see increasing migration away from Microsoft as its market share decreases since ubiquity, then, was the real strength?

9 Comments

Bah. Linux is not more "flexible and reliable".

I've been using MS NT based operating systems since 1996. Since version 3.1, I have not had ANY system crashes. I know that the Win 95/ 98/ ME OS crashes often, but NT/ 2000/ XP does not.

Linux is an absolute bear to use. I seldom have to go to the command line with XP. It is common to have to do so with Linux. To me, having to mess around on the command line level is not "flexibility".

Linux has an advantage in that there aren't as many worms and viruses aimed at it. Other than that, I don't see any reason to use it.

Don't get me wrong. XP isn't perfect. It could be cheaper, for one thing (I'd like to pay maybe $80 for a full version of XP Pro).

Linux just isn't a real desktop OS, in my opinion. And I fail to see why people waste so much ink on it. They must either be uber-geeks who LIKE the command like, or people who have never used Linux or Unix.

My IBM Thinkpad T40 running Windows XP Pro blue-screened on me just last night. I've been developing software for Windows NT/2000/XP, Linux, SCO, and Solaris since 1996 and have seen more than my fair share of system crashes on the MS operating systems. As far as reliability goes, I'd rank them in order from most reliable to least as:

Solaris
Linux
SCO Unix (OpenServer specifically)
MS Windows NT/2000/XP

I do not agree that Linux "is an absolute bear to use". Admittedly, I'm pretty much an "uber-geek" power-user but my wife isn't and she has had no problems using any of my linux boxes. The usability criticism may have been valid 5 years ago. I'll readily admit that my use of Linux from 1994-1999 was a "labor of love". But with the progress made by the KDE and Gnome desktop projects along with such software package management tools as yum and apt, my current Fedora Linux machine is an absolute pleasure to use. I've got all of the power and, yes, *flexibility* I've always had, with an ease of use that is easily on par with Microsoft and will be soon, IMHO, rivaling that of Apple.

I have some questions.

Does your wife install software on Linux?

'nother question.

Could she install Linux itself?

Third question.

Could she install XP, and could she install software on XP?

What were you doing that you got the blue screen of death?

Seriously, I haven't had an NT based OS crash on me since I swithced to NT 3.1 in 1996. And I'm an engineer, I use high powered 3D design, FEA, and CFD software that pushes the CPU a heck of a lot more than the average user.

The programs themselves crap out all the time, but they never take out the OS with them.

Does your wife install software on Linux?

Yes. She wanted a way to rip her CDs to mp3 and she found and installed "grip".

Could she install Linux itself?

She's never done it, but I believe she could if necessary. Having installed both Linux and NT on a variety of machines, the latest installers for SuSE, RedHat, and Mandrake are all very slick and every bit as good as the installer was for NT 4.0.

Could she install XP, and could she install software on XP?

Yes, she has done so for her job.
Yes.

What were you doing that you got the blue screen of death?

Reading my email / surfing the web.

Seriously, I haven't had an NT based OS crash on me since I swithced to NT 3.1 in 1996. And I'm an engineer, I use high powered 3D design, FEA, and CFD software that pushes the CPU a heck of a lot more than the average user.

I develop high-powered speech recognition software that pushes every resource in the machine as well. I've run into lots of situations on Windows where we had to redesign our software because some piece of code we wrote caused a BSOD. This is USER SPACE code I'm talking about, too. No developer that codes in user-space should ever have to work around a kernel-panic. We were often dealing with these kernel panics in SCO and in MS win32 code. Never in Linux, never in Solaris.

I suspect that the people who wrote your 3D design software (something like SolidWorks perhaps?) ran into many of the same sorts of problems we did and had to work around them. It's a tribute to them (and not MS) that you don't have any problems with the software.

I'll grant that XP is a much more stable OS than NT. Before the BSOD I got last night, I haven't had nearly the problems I've had with NT and 2000.

Oh, and one of the biggest usability flaws of MS that I've just run into again this morning: needing to reboot the machine after installing a piece of non-driver software. That has NEVER happened to me with the other OS's.

Man, your wife is a ringer! I'd like to see my wife install Linux. She's the type of person that just wants to get on the computer and have it work. She doesn't care how it runs, just that it does. She told me that the DSL was out for 3 days. She rebooted the computer, but gave up after that. The modem needed to be rebooted, but that was too much for her (that's why she has me!).

Well, if what you say is true and it is now as easy to install Linux as XP, then Linux is slightly more attractive. The last time I messed around with Linux, it took me 2 weeks to get my mouse to work with X Windows. Of course, this was the days when you had to use text files to configure your mouse.

I'm using Autocad, Mathcad, Solidworks, ANSYS, and Star CD. No BSOD on any of them. Mathcad in particular craps out all the time, but it never takes out the OS.

OS's just don't get me going in any way. XP might have a few annoyances, but in my experience Linux is just as annoying, just in different ways. Even if everything I hate about Linux has been fixed, it still doesn't work with all the programs that I want to use, nor would it be as well integrated with my Ipaq (although I suppose that there are Linux alternatives to that too).

I've recently received a new computer with Windows 2000, replacing an older computer with Windows 98. I've had a number of crashes, and haven't noticed any significant improvement in reliability. This is using statistical software (SPSS), Netscape, IE and secure shell software.

Glad to see the discussion.

Of course, these sorts of pro-v-con things are pretty much never-ending between fans of the systems. I always preferred Apples, personally, but have resigned myself to Windows since I have to be able to work with the software at the office regularly. I should have qualified my statement above more, actually. From most developers, and those who do push the limits of their systems (including those IT people who work for massive companies) that I've talked to, they all prefer Linux and sing its praises. Since its at this level that I think the big shifts in computing would come (adoption by one company affects more people than me getting a Linux box at home), it seemed relevent to say that these are the people for whom there is better system out there, that they just can't transition to.

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