Linked by David Adams on Mon 25th May 2009 21:22 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes Over the years, we've occasionally run an "Ask OSNews" feature, wherein a reader asks us a question and we answer it publicly. Lately I've really been enjoying Slate's Dear Prudence advice column and the ever-interesting Straight Dope, and I thought we should see if we can get more OSNews readers to submit questions, and turn Ask OSNews into a more-regular thing. If your question falls outside of our domain expertise, we'll try to track down an expert to help out. And of course, our responses will always be supplemented by further advice from OSNews readers in the comments. Questions are welcome on any topic ranging from OSes and computing to science and geek culture. Contact us with your questions. (Please include "Ask OSNews" in the subject). Today's question is from a young student in Hungary who's seduced by the faraway siren song of Apple's marketing and wonders, "should I switch?"
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Consumer Prioritized
by lucere on Tue 26th May 2009 02:51 UTC
lucere
Member since:
2009-03-22

There seems to be a rather significant point missing from this discussion. Mac OS X is unnecessarily brand locked and, though it is physically possible to bypass these locks, it does violate the license. Even if a product has advantageous traits, if that product is not prioritized to the consumer it should not be supported. The most significant anti-consumer trait is that of being unnecessarily proprietary.

In the case of a software product such as Apple's Mac OS X, two important hindrances are caused by this practice. First, software developers who develop for Mac OS X must, if they wish to retain their customer base through hardware upgrades, develop for Mac OS X and at least one additional operating system to accommodate those users who will start with an Apple computer and then upgrade to something like a Panasonic, Itronix, Samsung, Fujitsu, etc. computer. This redundant development increases development cost thus increasing the IT cost of the end user. Second, a user of an Apple brand computer who upgrades to another brand must re purchase all of their commercial apps as there is no legal way to continue using the operating system that was running on their previous computer. This means that the cost to upgrade to another brand of computer is not just the cost of the computer, but is the cost of the computer plus all of their apps. If they have apps by Adobe, Autodesk, etc. this can be rather pricey and, for all of this expense, the user does not receive better software, just the software they already had.

The effect of this, especially in this hard economic time, is incredibly wide spread. All of this redundant development and redundant purchasing retards the progress of the IT industry as the consumer has less funds available to allocated for new products and thus less funds are available for R&D. Unnecessarily proprietary products exist only because consumers enable their existence. It is the consumers who have the power to stop this and, as such, is always advisable to never purchase a product that is unnecessary proprietary.

Moving to the question of what operating system to use is a bit more detailed. First, surprisingly you never want to start with the operating system. Start with what hardware you would like to use. Personally, I always prioritize to reliability: if a computer doesn't work it doesn't matter what software is installed. I have used Panasonic since 2000 and have been more than ecstatic: customer service is great, warranties are three years, and systems are physically durable and easy to repair. They are the most costly (up-front) computers available but you can easily have them indefinitely. Other reliable brands are Samsung, Fujitsu, and Itronix.

Once you have chosen the computer, list all of the activities for which you would like to use the computer (eg: word processing, web browsing, SIP, video conferencing, etc.). Now list the operating systems (not including ones that unnecessarily brand locked) for which applications are created that enable you to perform those activities, and simply choose the best OS. Typically today that will be GNU/Linux. If you get a Panasonic it will be easy to through Ubuntu on as everything will work automatically (including the wireless thanks to the included Intel wireless card instead of a stupid Broadcom card) and the total install is quick and easy.

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