||Its easy to point out what's wrong with Microsoft (really, really
its kind of pointless if there are no worthwhile alternatives.
So I have
listed some of the ones that, in my opinion, are worthy of mentioning.
- Windows 95/NT
The obvious choices of Linux (with KDE!), FreeBSD, and QNX come to mind. Taken
on their own merits, each is as good if not better than Windows in
one way or another. Unfortunately, QNX is very expensive
(update: I take that back,its actually *free*), the
UNIXes have skill level entry barriers, and OS/2 simple has too
small of a software base. Its clear that this is where Microsoft is
the most deeply entrenched and that the OS vendors have a lot of
work ahead of them if they have any hope of taking a fair share of
For a view of more experimental, leading edge operating systems be
sure to check out my OS
- Microsoft Office
Office, Corel's Word
Perfect Office, Lotus'
SmartSuite and Software
602. All of these run on Windows, and Smart Suite will run on
OS/2. This is where Microsoft makes all its money, by the way. This
is a good place to try and hit Microsoft in the pocket book, but
they are almost as well entrenched here as they are in the OS
market. BTW, the SCO Unix version of Word Perfect can run on
FreeBSD with some assistance.
For people considering a commitment to Linux, StarOffice, KOffice or Applixware will be the
way to go.
I am currently evaluating StarOffice. Its pretty competent. I don't
see any reason to use Office.
- Internet Explorer
Netscape of course, and Opera, look like the most
serious alternatives. Each has features that put IE to shame.
Netscape runs on a variety of operating systems. Opera currently
runs only under Windows however it appears as though it will be
ported to the MacOS (not a serious consideration) OS/2 (ho hum) as
well Linux (cheer!) and possibly the Amiga (ok, that's pushing it I
Of course, as is well known, Microsoft has made the status of IE
as an application or integrated feature of Windows a subject of some
debate (mostly them claiming its integrated, while everyone else
knows its not.) If you want to use Netscape, be sure to follow
their instructions on how to disable Internet Explorer. If you
want to use Opera (my recommendation) be sure to heed their warning
|WEB SURGEON'S WARNING: continuous use
of bloatware browsers can result in >excessive hard disk
wastage, prolonged document loading time, severe user
frustration, and decreased Web satisfaction.
THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNET HEALTH SUGGESTS: Practice safe
browsing! Always load Opera! Support Project
I use Opera. Version 3.60 absolutely kicks some major ass.
(like version 2.11), its fast (like nothing I have seen from
and it supports SUN's Java VM plug in (which is not nearly
as slow as I was
originally lead to believe.)
- Microsoft Exchange, Outlook
Eudora, and Pegasus.
These are excellent packages that already have well deserved success
in the market place. While I am here I just want to go on record as
saying that "OutLook" and "OutLook Express" are far and away the
worst software packages of all time. They are exceedingly slow,
totally unituitive, lack functionality, a disk hog, and very
non-standard. I mean they are is far worse than a typical Microsoft
1.0 application -- the incredible uselessness of Microsoft's OutLook
is incredibly dramatic when you compare it to Pegasus (which is
superfast, simple, and very easy to understand.)
I have been put in the very unfortunate position of having to use
this at work, since its one of the those Microsoft standards that
doesn't work with anything else (I don't have enough pull at the
company to convince our IS department to switch). Its a daily
reminder of just how crappy Microsoft software really is.
I use Pegasus. Its stable, super fast, and has programmable
filtering. Pegasus is exactly what I want in a mail
- Microsoft Network
Anything is better than Microsoft Network. Even a shell
account on a UNIX system that is down for half the day is better
than Microsoft Network. There's no point in listing the millions of
When I was on dial-up I used to use mindspring, which is a
very competent, reasonable cost service provider. With high speed
broadband, this doesn't seem to be an issue. Lets hope Microsoft
never wises up enough to realize that they should be acquiring
- Microsoft Visual C/C++
Code Warrior, LCC,
Mingw32, and DJGPPcome
to mind as being
good alternatives to the Microsoft offering.
I am well known for my support of WATCOM C/C++ but they
- Direct X/Active X
Java, OpenGL etc. Basically,
the Microsoft native API technologies are platform specific and can be very
hard to use (not so much in terms of difficulty as that they require expensive
compilers, documentation and usually a subscription to the very expensive
Microsoft Developer Network). The more open standards that are emerging are,
in general, based on sounder more accepted technology.
This is one of those things that is impossible for an end
user to make a
choice about. However, I do not visit web sites that require
ActiveX if I can
help it, I use Sun's Java, and I play Quake II (which uses
- Visual Source Safe
or PerForce come to mind (from
opposite ends of the price spectrum.) Both are excellent for what
they are designed to do. CVS does not have the scope of PerForce but
is a hell of a lot better than a product that lets "Users lock files
when they wish to work on them." with the lame reasoning that "This
version control method insures that Visual SourceSafe users will not
accidentally overwrite another users changes."
Anyone who has tried it both ways knows that locking other users
out is NOTthe way to do version control.
Here are some quotes from the Perforce
versus VSS competitive analysis page:
- Sourcesafe has earned its nickname of Source-Unsafe. Corrupt
databases are not unusual. These quotes are from Perforce
- "We're really anxious to drop SourceSafe, since corrupted
databases aren't anyone's idea of a useful development
- "Database became corrupted several times and sometimes the
'Analyze' utility didn't show any problems"
- "File locks were frequently left behind and had to be
- "Large binary files OFTEN had to have their version
history cleared with 3.1"
I use CVS just for my little personal projects. It is
straight forward to use and is very much in line with my preference
for exposed data types (the repository data is clear text) and
command line control. For more serious work I've heard nothing but
praise for PerForce.
Other notable non-Microsoft technologies and Technology companies:
- Real Player- Internet based
streaming audio and video available for a variety of platforms.
(actually 10% owned by Microsoft; very unfortunate -- update Microsoft
has decided to sell its 10% stake in Real Networks since they have
ended up as competitors)
- SciTech- Makers of
graphics interface libraries and drivers for the PC.
Wave - High end graphics rendering package. (TV and movie
- Even higher end graphics rendering package. (Movie production
- Logitech - Makers of mice,
game controllers, and scanners.
- Intuit- Makers of Quicken and
- LiteStep- An alternative
desktop interface for Windows users.
(Please note that I have removed Symantec's products, since they are
But, you ask, by listing so many Microsoft alternatives, am I not
just validating Bill Gates' claim that the software market is already
free and very competitive? No. Bill Gates wants to kill or consume
every one of the companies listed above in order of market share, and
spends every waking moment on trying to do just that.
The companies I list above are nothing more than a cross section of
companies willing to build products based on technology who are alive
now only because Microsoft has not yet gotten to them. In a few years
time, I'm sure the list will shrink considerably, due directly to lost
market share to Microsoft's monopolistic practices, not fair