Microsoft alternatives that work? As if!
So now that I’m actually in computer classes that aren’t freshman level, I’ve noticed a sharp increase in the anti-Microsoft atmosphere. Even the professors take time to make irrelevant jabs and jokes at Microsoft’s expense. It’s really, really distracting and annoying. One of these days I’m going to start making jokes and Linux and Apple’s expense. I’ve already had a few opportunities that have presented themselves… Ironically because they were trying to make fun of the Windows market. One particular opportunity arose when they were talking about how Dell would use generic hardware, lock it down, and slap their brand name on it to sell at a profit, to which I immediately remarked: “Oh, you mean like Apple?” Nobody said anything, but such things from my mouth will be more common if they keep up the tirade.
Anyway… At one point in the class, the conversation turned to how horrible Microsoft Office was and how awesome OpenOffice is and how the ODF standard is awesome and how DOCX is just an evil money-making scheme. I mean, there was some interesting things mixed in between the rabid open source arguments, such as how governments were concerned that old documents might not be able to be opened in 50 or 100 years and how they needed a document format standard. So I decided, hey! If you would have just given the facts instead of taken the opportunity to make fun of a capitalist business that is supposed to make money, I would have considered using OpenOffice because of ODF. But, ya’know what? I tried it anyway.
Unfortunately, once I actually started using options in OpenOffice that I take for granted in Word 2007, I started running into some pretty interesting problems. Most notably the automatic bibliography features. A professor told me OpenOffice makes writing papers easy because you don’t have to remember APA formatting. Great, I said! Let’s try that! I have a paper due this week that needs APA formatting, so let’s give it a shot. Load up a new document… Tools… Bibliography Database… Instant crash. In Linux. How awesome is that? Okay, maybe it’s because I’m not using Ubuntu Stamp of Approval OpenOffice. Let’s try Bibliography Database on Windows. Load up a new document… Tools… Bibliography Database… Instant crash. In Windows. How awesome is that?
Seriously? A modern feature with the prominence to be on a first-level menu crashes the entire application without any warning? I wonder what would happen in Microsoft Word did that. Which, I might add, it doesn’t. I tried it just now. Guess which word processor I’m going to stick with? I’ll give you three guesses and a hint: It’s not OpenOffice. So much for the arguments that open source bugs get fixed before proprietary stuff. I try to look up solutions and I get bugs reported from 2007 and 2008 for version 2.0. Hello? This is 2009 and version 3.1 and the bug is still there? Excuse me while I laugh at your precious open source ideals.
The same goes for Ubuntu Netbook Remix. I put it on my Dell Mini because I was tired of Dell’s version being old. All was well… That is, until I wanted to switch from the new-fangled UNR desktop interface that turns your entire desktop background into a task bar. I want to see my background image, thank you very much. So I switch! Simple, right? Something as basic as switching between Netbook interface and normal interface shouldn’t have any problems, right? Hah! How could I be so naive? Not only was there a bug that prevented the window manager from running on start up, but the bug persisted even when I switched back to the stupid “new” desktop interface. Applications would load, but the window manager wouldn’t technically be there, so I couldn’t move, resize or even close the windows. They’d keep opening on top of each other and run in the background.
Yeah, I’m totally convinced open source is superior to Microsoft products, guys. Gee, I wonder what would happen if editing the Start Menu properties on Windows suddenly caused windows to freeze open, even on reboot, until you managed to limp along to find a patch you had to download from deep within a bug repository. It wasn’t even in the automatic update, yet. For some reason, this massive bug managed to sneak through a severe lack of Ubuntu testing and I’m still not even sure it’s up for automatic update. To be honest, I spent a day browsing bug reports so I could fix something as basic as changing desktops. I would never recommend Ubuntu to anyone who wants to use their computer easily.
And then there’s Apple, of course. The iPhone, pride of the cell phone market, of which I own, relying solely on iTunes, the single most laughable chunk of programming I’ve ever had the honor of using. Right now, it’s idling at a lovely 50MB of RAM. Doing absolutely nothing. When it wants an update, it vomits dialog boxes all over my desktop until I either update or hide the warnings. I finally just hid the stupid things. I would rather be entirely clueless as to updates than have boxes popping up in the middle of my work and games. Of course, I can’t even use the Apple Update thing that have going… I have to install new versions of iTunes from full-install scratch. And I mean I have to uninstall the iTunes I have, too. Why? I don’t know. It makes no sense, but whenever I use the update feature, my iPhone invariably ceases to sync. It’ll toss up a cryptic “can’t connect” error that not even Apple’s knowledge base can pinpoint. Only after I uninstall and reinstall from a full 100MB installer file will it ever actually work.
So folks, there’s a reason I use Microsoft Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2007: They just work.