Just Say No to Microsoft: How to Ditch Microsoft and Why It's Not as Hard as You Think

Posted on by Ben Rothke

Just Say No to Microsoft: How to Ditch Microsoft and Why It's Not as Hard as You Think is a good book, but has way too many anti-negative Microsoft stories.  While the book is about 4 years old, it is still relevant. 

Load up a computer today with a basic set of applications software, and there will be a de facto Microsoft tax on that computer. Add roughly $100- for the Windows XP operating systems and $350- for Microsoft office, and you have a significant initial financial outlay. If one would use an open source operating system and set of office applications, the cost savings would be enormous. That is why the option of open source is so financially compelling to the both the consumer and organizations have thousands of computers. And open source is correspondingly such a threat to companies such as Microsoft. The idea of saving money and never having to worry about a blue screen of death is the proverbial win/win scenario. 

With that, Just Say No to Microsoft: How to Ditch Microsoft and Why It's Not as Hard as You Think would seemingly be a most valuable book in helping consumers and corporations rid themselves of the Microsoft tax. Unfortunately, the book spends far too much time slurring Microsoft and Bill Gates. 

The books main charges are that Microsoft has been far too predatory and that Bill Gates is not the technical genius that he is made out to be. Microsoft's questionable business tactics are not without ethical lapses, but it must noted that Microsoft is simply one in a long line of companies that have used their size and deep pockets to quash the competition. Microsoft is not alone and joins companies such as American Airlines, Ford and General Motors, Wal-Mart and more that have engaged in practices that while good for their stockholders, have not been good for the competition. 

Bove is correct that Microsoft's practices over the years have discouraged innovation and stunted competition. But then again, that is true of Ford, GM and other such companies. The innovations of Ford and GM for example have been mostly superficial, without any significant improvement into crucial issues such as gas mileage and more. 

Two of the companies that Microsoft has been accused of destroying are Novell and WordPerfect. Yet much of the blame for the demise of these two companies goes to their management that did not know how to properly market their products nor deal with a competitor such as Microsoft. This is not meant to imply that Microsoft is blameless; rather that Novell and WordPerfect had plenty of opportunities to fend off Microsoft, yet did not rise to the challenge. 

Aside from the pervasive anti-Microsoft tone and style and the book, Just Say No to Microsoft: How to Ditch Microsoft and Why It's Not as Hard as You Think provides a good starting point for those that are looking for a cheaper and safer alternative to Microsoft products. 

Chapter 1 start with an overview of the history of Microsoft and how it grew to be the largest software company in the world. In chapter 2, All You Need is a Mac; Bove feels that the quickest route to Microsoft freedom is by purchasing a Macintosh. While a Mac is not necessarily cheaper than a Wintel system, the Mac OS X is considerably more resilient against attacks. In addition, the concern of malware such as viruses and spyware are much less of an issue on a Mac. 

Chapter 3 deals with what worries Microsoft the most - Linux. Bove notes that large companies that deal with thousands of end-user desktops are discovering the advantage of migrating to Linux in a big way. 

Chapters 4 and 5 deal with Microsoft Word and Excel. Word documents have become the de facto standard for document exchange and are what has locked many people into staying with Microsoft Word. Excel has a similar power in being the de facto spreadsheet. Most people think that the only alternative to Word is WordPerfect and simply don't know about OpenOffice Writer and Calc or other open source alternatives. The two chapters show how it is possible to effectively collaborate on documents without having to use Word. 

While the book does not get into every open source alternative to a Microsoft product, Bove's web site has a comprehensive list of open source alternatives to Windows products. 

Chapter 4 concludes with a look at the technical and practical problems with PowerPoint. Bove notes that the corrupting power of PowerPoint is so strong that otherwise normally articulate speakers turn into zombies mumbling the bullet points that appear on the slides behind them. It is not clear though how Impress, the open source alternative to PowerPoint is necessarily better from a presentation perspective. 

The next few chapters deal with Outlook, the application that has launched countless viruses and worms, and also detail other network-based problems with Microsoft protocols and applications. Issues such as the never enduing cycle of Microsoft patches are also discussed. 

Chapter 10 provides a 10 step program (fashioned after the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step program) to free the reader from their Microsoft addition. While the steps are brief and effective, it would have been better had there been more technical details on how to migrate out of a Microsoft environment. For the person with thousands of documents and files in various Microsoft formats, it is not as effortless as to simply copy your old files onto a USB drive and move it to the new open source based host. 

The book contains four parts, and there are four cartoons at the begging of each part that Bove wrote. The cartoons are quite funny in their own right and Bove should also consider a career as a cartoonist. 

Ned Ludd said that the machine was the enemy, and Tony Bove feels the same way about Microsoft. For evidence, check out his campaign to stop the spread of Word documents at his web page. 

The only negative to the book is that there are far too many anti-negative stories of Microsoft's predatory practices. A few stories would be adequate, but there is no point in belaboring the issue in a book that is meant to be more technical and practical, as opposed to political. 

For many people who don't know better, they expect that a blue screen of death and monthly patching is part of a standard computing environment. Just Say No to Microsoft: How to Ditch Microsoft and Why It's Not as Hard as You Think is an interesting read that will open the eyes of those users to a cheaper, more secure and robust open source solution.

Ben Rothke

Senior Information Security Manager, Tapad

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