Mast Kalandar

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Tue, 10 Jun 2008

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Monopolies, Convenience and Companies that are "not evil"


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If you want to skip the rest of this post then the pithy summary is:

  Monopolies are born out of perceived convenience
        or
 Convenience is the always wrong reason to accept less choice
 (or less security)

Do you know how the MS monopoly started? The following is how I personally experienced it and remember it.

In the 80's and early 90's, MS was not the monopoly that it is today.

The proprietary Unix companies were "not evil". The management of these companies decided that:

  1. free software was bad for them
  2. commodity hardware would never be any good
  3. competition meant that they should diverge from each other

The users of these proprietary Unices found it convenient to just play along --- so you had Solaris networks, HP/UX networks, AIX networks and so on. All based on proprietary mutually incompatible hardware. Quite often there were software incompatibilities as well. These users (which were well-funded government and institutional labs) depended on the paid-for support from these companies, which was generally quite good --- at least until the late 90's.

Those who played along with this "convenience" helped create the MS monopoly. In the late 90's it started to became hard for these companies to find well-trained support staff. All the small computer labs were by then running MS; most of the job applicants had been trained in these labs. Or if the job applicants had studied in an HP/UX network it was not easy for them to learn to maintain Solaris or vice versa. At that point the users who had created a Solaris network were caught between a rock and a hard place; let the network be handled by incompetent people or pay top-dollar for the few trained professionals who were smart enough to work with any system.

Many of these labs then fell into MS's lap! I won't name names...

Did these labs have a choice? Of course, they did! They could have taken the slightly less convenient path of installing GNU/Linux and creating a network based on that and the cheap commodity hardware that it worked on. Moreover, if enough of these labs had done this there would not have been the shortage of trained *nix professionals that started in the late 90's.

Remember that Linux (or GNU) was not written to dethrone MS. Linux was written so that its users could use a smoothly working Unix on cheap commodity hardware. GNU was written so that its users could conveniently and legally share code across different Unix platforms.

Hereendeththelessen.


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