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WIRED: Open War ('Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Moral Victory')

Oct 18, 2001, 15:29 (92 Talkback[s])

[ Thanks to Mikael Pawlo for this link. ]

A sprawling article that defies an excerpt. Starts us out with abusive zealots at Red Hat, likens desktop advocates to "the Japanese soldiers on Guadalcanal who refused to surrender years after the bomb ended World War II," touches on more abusive zealotry, gets opinions from Alan Cox and Rob Malda on flamers (they're against them), and then moves to the core of its thesis: the Desktop War (against Microsoft, not the intramural one) is doomed:

"Here's one way to coax desktop computer users away from Microsoft Windows and over to Linux instead: Wait until they're not looking, strip all Microsoft programs off their hard drives, and leave them to ponder the error of their ways. Lost data? Too bad, baby. The open source revolution has arrived, and you're part of the problem. Deal with it.

That's exactly what happened to Anne Speedie, then an editor at Wide Open News, a Web site owned by Red Hat, the best known of the 140 or so distributors of the open source Linux operating system. Speedie needed to use Microsoft Word because the Linux word processors at her disposal were saddled with spellcheckers so abysmal they caused more problems than they solved, skipping over misspelled words and offering bizarre alternatives for words spelled correctly. One program, Applixware, stumbled on Web site. Fair enough - the term can be spelled several ways. But Applixware offered none of them. Instead, the program suggested podesta. Yes, podesta. Look it up.

Clearly, Speedie couldn't depend on such software and expect to maintain a high-quality Web site. While Red Hat management had asked employees to use Linux programs when possible, it did flash the green light on any software essential to getting the job done. But this didn't sit well with computer support, or with many of Red Hat's software engineers, who, like much of the Linux community, share a monomaniacal antipathy toward all things Microsoft. Speedie, preparing for a business trip, turned her laptop over to a technician to get some dialup software installed. When he returned the machine, Windows was gone - along with all Microsoft applications and Speedie's work files. Outraged, she complained, and when her boss (that would be me) confronted the technician - a stringy little guy in a black trailer-trash T-shirt - he simply stared back and smiled."

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