In all the magazines and web articles I’ve been reading, there has been a call to arms in the Linux camp. Microsoft is going to be innovative, for once, and we’re going to take advantage of it. There will be significant interface changes for Vista and MS Office 12. According to Linux Format Magazine issue 73, there will be major changes to the way Office looks. Why does all of this matter? Well, one of the complaints leveled against Linux time and again is, “it may be simple, but I already know how everything works in Windows. Why switch and waste time relearning it?” It’s the whole gist of Microsoft’s campaign that it costs more to switch to Linux than remain with MS. It’s not cost as Linux is free as in beer and freedom, but because we have to retrain the workforce, they claim. So, the logic amongst Linux enthusiasts goes, if MS is going to overhaul things, why not give us a shot? I must say this viewpoint appears to have some merit.
The second reason people are claiming that the Vista upgrade time is an important one for Linux is that MS is going to once again raise the bar on the minimum system requirements. Although Windows XP says the minimum requirements are 256 MB RAM, it’s daft to try and run it on less than 512. And if you intend to do serious gaming, video editing, or image editing, you will need at LEAST 1 GB. Obviously no figures have been released, but the rumour mill abounds with people saying that most of the current PCs that people have will be rendered ineffective when Vista comes out.
Now, with some modern Linux distros like Fedora, it can be important to have at least 256 MB (although my Linux laptop has 128) and really 512 is essential to enjoy Gnome and KDE. That is to say, you can use them with less RAM, but you won’t be able to have all the glitter like transparent menus and the like. However, there are many distros like Damn Small Linux, Feather Linux, and others who intend to make sure that Linux will continue to run with as much of the newest software as possible while running on the oldest of software out there. The minimum requirements for the Fluxbox-sportin’ DSL include 64 MB of RAM.
So, while some distros continue to trudge onwards, we can be sure that users will be able to continue to get new software and run it on their aging PCs. So someone like my uncle who doesn’t have the resources to always be purchasing new hardware, doesn’t have to be stuck with Windows 98. He can switch to Linux and continue to benefit from upgrades to his system and always use the latest software his hardware will support.
There are, of course, other issues such as MS Vista requiring a new monitor which supports some sort of DRM and new graphics cards. Linux, on the other hand, will work with nearly any monitor.
So maybe this is a time to tell your friends who wish to upgrade, but can’t afford the new hardware and will have to learn a new interface anyway that there is a great FREE alternative called Linux. Only time will tell if the Vista release truly is the time Linux takes off or if it is just another false alarm. I hope that Linux would reach the prominence necessary to get hardware driver writers and game designers to take note. We don’t have to kill Microsoft and we certainly don’t want to be a new monopoly as that would be like the rebels becoming the new Emperors – replacing one dictatorship for another.