The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Of Operating Systems and Oil Companies

A recent 3 part guest article by chikauuna did an outstanding job of showing us the bread crumb trail she laid between using Windows and converting to Linux.  I want to personally thank her for that contribution and the time it took to write it.

It gave many of us some things to think about.  Or if you are on the development side, things to further ignore.

Either way, what is written is written. reading her work, I was reminded that human behavior of the universal type comes into play here much more than many of us might think.

I believe one of those Universal Truths is that the majority of us resist change.  We have our habits and routines, and you dare not stand within arm's reach while suggesting to someone they change them.

Here let me offer an analogy...and yes, it's the best way I know to illustrate the point.  (1) Because it's an analogy and its function is to illustrate a point and (2) I'm pretty much a hack. I have neither the writing skills or the desire to obtain those writing skills in order to more creatively express my point.

Gas prices here in Central Texas have, for lack of a better word...plummeted.  Three weeks ago, I was paying $3.88 per gallon of gasoline.  Yes I know, people in other parts of the country were paying more.  I get that.  And should it be a temptation, let's not let this digress into a gripe session over the child-eating oil companies or the Evil Rich that do their food shopping for them.

The price of gasoline is just a bit player in this thing.

As an aside, I will ask you to gaze intently at the price per gallon sign at your local gas station and together we'll come the realization that this is probably the first time in our lifetimes that the price of gasoline has not shot up 6-8 percent in anticipation of a major holiday.  Instead, it continues to go down.

It's the 4th of July for us in the US...not such a big deal for you elsewhere.  Allow us our over-indulgence in alcoholic beverages, over-exposure to UV rays and rare meat while we pretty much ignore the actual reason for the red number on the calendar.

So, I'm on my way to fill the belly of the beast.  I have my favorite place to buy gas and the few "quick stop" items I may need at the time.  On my way there, I passed a Shell station and noticed that they were charging $3.49 a gallon.

In itself, that price wouldn't make sense.  Two blocks down the street, my place was pumping gas for $3.12 a gallon.

How does that work out for them?

Quite well as it turns out.  With a little thought, it became clear.

The major oil companies spend millions in mail costs each year, in order to tempt you into applying for one of their branded credit cards.  Even with the economy in the crapper and many of us with suffering credit scores, they are still offering many of us a piece of the American Dream.


Once we get the card, it becomes too easy to pull into the Shell, Chevron or Texaco that issued you the card.

After all, it's pay at the pain, no cash exchanged and the upcoming billing statement is just a vague promise in the future.

Sure gas across the street is .25 cents cheaper, "But I've got credit!"

Interpret that as meaning I don't have the cash equivalent of that purchase in my pocket.

Not only can you purchase fuel at an inflated price on your credit card, you can buy all the handy little incidentals you might need at home.  Milk, bread, a jar of peanut butter...

At about the same markup.

The oil companies, and probably to a larger degree, all businesses that issue credit cards, count on building "customer loyalty" in this manner.  Soon, you stop looking at the price. Yeah, you'll pay for it soon but for right now, this is just so convenient.

Are you getting where I'm going now?  I hope so...this analogy is getting wobbly legs.

Over 90 percent of the people who sit down at a computer do so using Microsoft Windows.  Sure they didn't apply for it, but they sure as heck pay for the "convenience" down the road.  As chikauuna pointed out, she suffered the same "inflated prices" every Windows user suffers.

The bill often comes due with the same inflated price tag. Computer repair shops more and more choose scorched earth methods to fix an infected or broken system.  Being a person who partially makes their living from the same pain, it is much, much cheaper to recover data and reinstall than it is to untangle the tentacles of a rootkit or sophisticated virus from the registry.

Even when things are running smoothly, the Windows user pays for the "convenience" by updating virus software, tolerating Windows updates and suffering sluggish behavior from a system that is six months or longer installed.

Still, every now and then, someone will look at the price posted on the sign and simply say:

"Screw that."

But it doesn't happen very often.

It's too convenient to pay the inflated bill every now and then.

All-righty then...


Anonymous said...

I have a Windows 7 computer at work and everyone thought that this time, Microsoft would get it right. Of course, we've been hoping that every time we upgrade.

Same intermittent stalls for no reason, RAM use spikes and Cntl alt del takes over two minutes to come up and then it shows nothing wrong in the processes. This system has been on my computer for 5 months and I am already experiencing "Windows creep".

Trouble is, my boss thinks its just the cost of doing business via computer.

Paul Sams said...

Anonymous really opened a window(no pun intended) with his statement that "Windows Creep" is just a cost of doing business.

New paragraph so hopefully it doesn't look like I'm claiming his words as my own. I'm 58, so I'm set in my ways. I'm also low income because of disability so by necessity I'm also open to change! In the US we keep hearing the arguments of what we can't do in the future. But what if we had more adoption of linux and other free software. A savings of one software license would pay for a medical visit for someone who would not otherwise be able to get help. Fewer software license cost could be used to pay teacher salaries, better educated children can contribute more to the world. This is a small analogy from someone who is not that smart, but those software licenses take money that could be used elsewhere. Tax payer money, corporate money, both could benefit from a change in thinking. Thanking all of you for your patience for my rambling.
Paul Sams

Gavin said...

I think people resist change more because they need something, anything, in their lives to stay the same so that they can concentrate on "more important things". Like beer or football or fireworks. Human nature, really. We are as lazy as they come!

I can only imagine the first conversation related to optimization:

"Hey, why should we BOTH climb that tree for a piece of fruit? That is silly! How about you climb that tree for TWO pieces of fruit while I go start collecting wood for a fire."

"Dude! You just blew my mind! We should totally try that!"

I think most people just assume that we already have people in this world dedicated to computer stuffs, so why should they bother? I do my thing, you do yours, and we both benefit.

Except, we are not in that world anymore. Some pieces of fruit are better than others. How are you supposed to know how good your piece of fruit is compared to someone else's? And where do you stop?

It is far easier to deal with Windows than to devote time to changing the problems if you have no idea what you will gain. To most people, ALL computers have problems, so what is the problem?

Anonymous said...

Computer repair shops more and more choose scorched earth methods to fix an infected or broken system.

Yes we do. For the hourly rate to completely remove the latest rootkits from the bios and registry, they can go out and buy a decent computer.

Anonymous said...

One of the things that ultimately (thankfully!) made me switch to Linux was the first time I realized what a LiveCD could do. After several "computer professionals" took my money, wrote over my files (because they couldn't be saved), and re-installed the same broken software again -- I learned that I could have saved my files myself with a free disk called Linux (even if I wanted to keep using that other OS). Converted forever. It's been a great 3 years so far.