Hi, Josh.

Josh wrote:
When will the average consumer learn that Mac and Linux are more secure?

My response:
That's a good question, and one I can't answer. I need a crystal ball for that one.

Although, I can say this. In my years working with the public, trouble shooting their computers, etc I generally find security isn't often at the top of their list of requirements. The average John and Jane out there only care about being able to send and exchange e-mails with their friends and family, do some instant messenging, browse the net for that special recipe, play a few games, and maybe a few other odd tasks. They usually don't worry about system security, or know how to make their computers more safe and secure.

I've met plenty of people who don't even update their anti-virus software regularly, because they were never told they needed too. They just assumed since it was installed and running they were safe. I've met several people who run XP as administrator even though Microsoft warns end users not to do it on a regular basis. Most people do it unaware or holy innocent of the damage that could happen as a result of running as administrator. Bottom line, your average consumer really doesn't understand computer security well, and regardless of the operating system being used half of the problem is the operator's own knowledge about how to secure his/her computer effectively.

For example, you say that Mac and Linux is more secure than Windows. Generally speaking that is absolutely true, but it isn't invincible. I can think of several ways in which a poor operator can weaken the operating system's security without even thinking about it such as using weak passwords, logging on as root, forgetting to password protect his or her system, enabling automatic login on startup, and so on. These are all common problems we techs see on Mac, Linux, and Windows and our average consumers have picked up some rather bad security habits and practices that carry over from operating system to operating system. Bad operator equals bad security too.

Here is a simple example. A couple years ago my wife and I did some house sitting for her parents, and she decided she wanted to browse the internet. When she started her dad's computer up it was password protected. Well, seeing as her dad is a minister we decided to try the obvious. We typed Jesus into the password box, and sure enough we logged right on. Point being if we could crack it with one guess his password was far too simple, easy, and was very weak. People do stupid stuff like that all the time holy unaware of how easy their security can be compromised by a determined hacker, or a lucky guess as was our case.

Josh wrote:
You know after a fresh install of windows xp things load lots faster? then put your anti-virus and anti-spyware and security software on there and things run half or less than half as fast because every thing's being scanned. But if you remove the security software you risk a total breakdown.

My response:
Yes, I know that. That is one of my major gripes with Windows. As long as you don't plan to use Windows for the internet you don't need as much security software, but the average user does thus they need the entire range of security software. I know as well as anyone having a screen reader, anti-virus program, spam blockers, firewall, etc all running in the background eats into memory and CPU performance.

Josh wrote:
When will the consumer get tired of the crap, the $1200 for Jaws and Window-eyes and
say, I've had it?

My response:
Well, there is more to it than just security or the cost of the software to consider here. Most of it comes down to availability and compatibility issues. Most of the people in the world use Windows, own Windows, so most of the hardware and software out there is designed for Windows. Most programmers are taught to program for Windows, most technical manuals and guides are for Windows, and the list goes on and on. Converting the consumer base over to something else like Mac OS or Linux is a massive undertaking that can't be done over night if at all.

First of all, you have this huge catalog of Windows software that includes things like games, financial programs, imaging software, you name it that won't run on anything else but Windows computers. So assuming user x decides to install and run Linux the first major problem he/she will have is trying to locate software that compares to what he/she already owns and likes. Speaking from experience it is hard to find something that really compares to Sound Forge, Adobe Photo Shop, the DirectX API, Quicken, etc. Sure their is Audacity, Gimp, and GNU Cash, that can serve as alternatives they still aren't 100% equal to their Windows counterparts. That is only the beginning of problems.

Second of all, you have hardware issues. Some companies are hell bent on producing Windows only hardware, and or ship only Windows compatible drivers for it. Linux developers then either have to acquire the specifications from the company, or try and build a generic driver that hopefully supports that hardware correctly. So in order to make Linux more universally compatible the hardware manufacturers may have to release open specifications regarding their hardware which they will not freely do thanks to current copyright laws. Plus in some cases they may have to redesign a certain piece of hardware to be less Windows specific which they won't do unless myricle of myricles Windows ceases being the driving operating system on the market.

Last of all, to use any new software the general public has to be taught how to use it. Everyone that currently uses Windows would have to have some degree of training to learn how to use Mac or Linux. While Mac and Linux both have a windows-like interface they still would be quite confusing to someone who only has experience with Windows. Plus some people aren't good with teaching themselves by downloading a manual from the internet and reading it. Some people need the hands on training classes which, again, primarily deals with Windows and Windows software. So more colleges and tech schools would have to expand to teach more classes devoted to Mac or Linux, and they won't do it currently do to lack of demand.

Basically, what you have is an endless cycle. What we programmers call an infinite loop. Microsoft got there first, became hugely successful, and everyone just built the computer and technology industry around them. Now, that they have done so it would take a considerable effort to retrain, rewrite, and redesign everything to remove Microsoft from their central position of power. Many companies have tried, but it is difficult if not impossible to knock the god of the software industry off their thrown. So far Apple has come the closest and they can only claim about 14% of the computer industry, and Linux has an estimated 5 or 6% we know of. The two combined have only barely scratched the surface of the software markets full potential.

For me, as a blind Linux user, while I like the operating system it doesn't come without its share of disappointments and problems. When it comes to accessible games most are aimed for Windows users and therefore I can't play my favorite games while running Linux. I have to be careful what hardware I use on my computers, make sure it is Linux compatible before buying it, or upgrading to a new computer, etc. Sometimes there is a new piece of software I want to try, but it is only in source code. I then have to download it, compile it, and install it. While these and other issues are only miner annoyances to me I can tell you many people don't want to bother with it. Like electricity people will by and large take the path of least resistance to reach ground every time. If they have to spend megabucks for this or that for the features Windows offers them they will do it. Less headaches for them.


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