Thursday, January 4, 2007

OS Wars, Flame!

Will the prattle over whose operating system is superior ever cease? Well, no, of course not. I, of course, opt to sit above the fray and will pompously claim to speak for the common man. What do I mean by that? I mean that insane and inane debates over which operating system is "best" completely miss the point. The point? That most people don't care about the operating system, they care whether or not their computer does what they want it to do.

I bow before the inherent superiority of Linux and its Unix origins. I acknowledge that a core of Unix invests Mac OS X with a certain sophistication and advantage that Windows XP -- and probably the forthcoming Windows Vista -- can't, and won't, match. Fine. Mac fanbois, are you happy?

Good. Excuse me, though, I'm sticking with my XP boxes, thankyouverymuch.

Why? Because XP works. I know someone can crank up some stats that show that once an XP box touches the Internet it takes approximately three shakes for an XP box to be overrun with spyware and virii. I've had one virus in the last three years, and while Norton rolled on its back and said, "Alas, I am defeated," AVG racked a round into its virtual AK-47 and blasted the intruder straight to Mars. I do not practice safe computing; I surf wherever the hell I want and boldly stare at...well, all sorts of stuff. But a simple combination of an effective router (came with my DSL setup), an upgraded firewall (Grisoft again), and use of Firefox (though IE 7 is just fine) appears to mean I'm immune.

And I dare, dare I say, to use Outlook (v2003)!

Macs are very pretty to look at, but they are the most autocratic computers on the planet. In return for allegiance to their insular rule, they are relatively seamless in operation; the trains run on time, and everyone has a modicum of health care.

XP boxes are, to continue the analogy, pure democracy, which means mob rule. Microsoft attempts to impose a republic on this democracy, a moderator between mob demands and what the system can actually do. For those efforts they are cursed as demons straight from the lower Circles of Hell. Because of mob rule, and an imperfect republic, XP boxes are slightly less stable but vastly more versatile.

Oh, and just for the sake of completeness, Linux represents an oligarchy. There are an elite few who know all the inner workings; everyone else just does as they're told. It's an open oligarchy, though, because anyone willing to devote the time and energy can rise to become a member of the elite.

Again, though, most people don't give three figs what operating system their computer foists upon them. They look at the tools provided and see if they fit their individual needs.

Right now, XP has -- for me -- the killer app. I was shocked to discover that it's Microsoft Word 2007. I've despised Word for -- in computer years -- ever. Now it rules. What changed? The document map feature suddenly just works. I quickly and easily built a project outline and the assorted levels appeared in the document map, all neatly organized. Now I write, within the outline itself, and those words are invisible in the map, but a click at where they belong in my outline takes me there. For project development, as well as somewhere to keep track of plot points, characters, locales, etc., I use MS OneNote, which cooperates with Word.

I love it.

I have abandoned WordPerfect, for over 15 years my preferred writing tool. I've tried OpenOffice Writer and found it has all the flaws and things I hated in Word, with none of the things I liked about Word. It has nothing like the improved implementation of the document map.

I'm addicted.

I had briefly toyed with the idea of getting a Mac Mini and a copy of CopyWrite, but I've tossed that idea away. Word 2007, backed by OneNote, has given me a way to organize my writing and keep me working on books and the like. Now I don't have to worry about converting my software library, and I can still play Day of Defeat.

So feh to OS X, Linux, and even Vista. XP and Word 2007 have become the toolkit I've been seeking for almost 30 years with personal computers. About time!

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