Linux can save us

Pay peanuts and still you have no security worries.

You can't afford to drive anywhere, and, even if you could, you may not have a GM car to drive there for much longer. Some of you may be losing your houses, and the mortgage companies that gave you that mortgage in the first place? IndyMac went down late last week and now the question of the day is which major national bank will follow it down.

What does this have to do with Linux? Everything.

With both people and companies having to squeeze a nickel's worth of good out of every penny, how long do you think people will be paying Microsoft for its imperfect operating systems and office suites? Vista Business SP1 'upgrade' has a list price of $US199.95. Office 2007 Professional is $329.95. That's $529.90, or as much as a new low-end PC. Or, I could go with Ubuntu Linux for zero money down. if I wanted big business support, I could buy SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) 10 SP 2 from Novell for $50. SLED, like any desktop Linux, includes OpenOffice 2.4 for free.

Which one would you buy when your IT budget is going to be cut to the bone?

Your job may also be at stake. Do you want to keep buying Windows when according to the SANS Institute's ISC (Internet Storm Center), an unprotected Windows system will last "less than five minutes" before being hacked? Five minutes!?

Of course, not all experts think Windows is that insecure. Why some security pros believe that a vanilla copy of Windows could make it as long as 16-hours. Isn't that reassuring?

You can prevent that from happening. All you have to do is to keep your patches up to date. To do that, of course, you'll need to hope that the patches themselves won't blow up; the patches actually work and that Microsoft won't make it impossible for you to download those patches in the first place.... again. But, other than that what do you have to worry about?

Oh wait, there is all that malware out there. Well, you can always buy anti-viral software. So, if we go with the cheapest, most basic anti-virus program from Symantec, Norton Antivirus 2008 for one user has a list price of $39.99 per year.

Let's add this up. I can pay $569.89 for the operating system and software for my PC or I can pay $50. Oh, and if I pay the big bucks, I have a system that won't last a day on the Internet unless I'm constantly on my guard and Microsoft doesn't foul up again.

Gosh, which one do you think is the better deal?

Yes, I could use open OpenOffice, or its corporate big brother IBM Symphony, on Windows as well. That would save some money, but I'm still running Windows with all its other up-front and on-going security costs.

It's time to give up our Microsoft habit. We used to be able to afford to pay the Microsoft tax. Those days are done.

The hard days ahead are the days when we need to make the most of what we have and that means Linux. If we, and our businesses, are to make it through the great depression of the 21st century, we must start moving to Linux today.

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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Computerworld (US)

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