Today's topic: hardware vendors and their sycophantic adoration of Microsoft Windows. Yes, I realize I'm a Microsoft shareholder, and you'd think that it would make the most sense for me to support the obligatory installation of Windows on every machine created, since doing so would increase my shareholder value. But let's face it, they don't need me.
My birthday is coming up, and that seems like a good excuse to replace my aging and case-cracked Toshiba Satellite laptop. It's a ponderous beast, weighing in at about 75lbs and boasting a clock speed of about 15Mhz. It's so old that it sports stickers that say, "Designed for Windows XP (Windows Vista Capable)", and "Intel Celeron M inside". That's really something to be proud of, right there. Sometimes the power cord gets tangled and I have to unplug it to untangle it. Depending on how many seconds it takes me to do this, the laptop might stay on, or it might go into what I call Dirt-Hibernation mode. In this mode, it thinks it's hibernating, but it never comes out (making it more like a dirt-nap). It's a fun and useful piece of technology, especially for testing the effectiveness of rage management techniques.
I've been considering replacing the (no exaggeration this time) 40GB 5400rpm laptop hard drive with a 100-160GB SSD, figuring that doing so would still give me benefits when I eventually replace the thing. But SSDs aren't that cheap, either, and I hate the thought of buying more hard drive storage... didn't I just wipe 21 HDs so I could dispose of them? I think I did. What I really want is a sexy new laptop, something lighter, faster, more powerful, with a holographic screen that projects out to a 40" 3D image that hangs in space and lets me interact with it via telepathy. Failing that, maybe one of those HP Envy notebooks.
So after doing about an hour of research, I flopsied over to the HP Store to configure a notebook just to see what I could expect to pay for the closest (albeit very distant) approximation to awesomeness. Hoofah, this thing is pricey:
- Long string of i5-Qwhatever-the-hell processor - god, Intel, SERIOUSLY?
- ATI Mobility graphics - my only choice
- 6GB of memory - upgraded from 4GB
- 500GB 7200 HD, because this was the cheapest option and SSD was both $525 (omg) and whiteboxed (so it sucks)
- No office software at all
- Cheapest battery available
- Several lines of "options" which were the only "options" available, including the screen, the DVD drive, the webcam, the wireless card, and (yes seriously) the keyboard.
- Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium - cheapest option
- Adobe Suck-It We Own You Shop 8 Premiere
Total price: $1300.
Now, I'm a Linux guy. I run Ubuntu 64-bit on my desktop machine, and the current doorstop-I-mean-laptop has just had its Ubuntu replaced with Mint this morning. At the office I run a real-time variant of Red Hat Enterprise, and the file server in the house is running FreeNAS (based on FreeBSD). Why the HELL would I want Windows 7 on my new laptop? Is it because I like ad-ware like Norton Trial Edition popping up every few minutes to tell me that since I chose the most vulnerable operating system on the planet, I should pay an expensive subscription to protect it? Is it because I like bloat-ware like Microsoft Office that lets me do really complicated things like write text for the low-low cost of almost 500 dollars, and several GB of hard drive space, and several hundred MB of memory? Or is it because I want to respond to the daily Adobe pop-ups telling me I need to upgrade Flash, Streak, and Fondle, because this computer belongs to Adobe, after all?
No thank you.
I build my own desktop PCs so that I can put exactly what I want INTO the machine, and exactly what I want ONTO the machine. When I boot it up, it does what I tell it. I'm not naive enough to think that it does ONLY what I tell it - even Ubuntu has marketing-related goals that are not completely in line with my own. But the "partnering" level is low enough that I view it as an acceptable trade-off.
Let me get this clear in everyone's heads: Linux is like over-the-air PBS. It's mostly ad-free, although it has a few "brought to you by"s. It costs nothing to enjoy, but it's considered good form to donate time/money/experience to help others enjoy it too. And it gives a different, somewhat less accessible, experience from Windows; but for some people that experience is far better than Windows'. On the other hand, Windows is like Cable. It costs money, it has lots of options that all cost more money, it has a LOT more commercials than PBS, and the cable goes out a lot more than the transmitting tower fails. You can find the same level of programming on cable/Windows as on PBS/Linux, but you have to look harder through the gunk. It's extremely accessible - you can surf for hours without asking yourself a single thought-provoking question - but some people actually like thought-provoking questions. I don't know any people like that, but I hear they exist. They probably vote Green Party or something.
Anyway, I prefer Linux, and this is what I install into my home-built desktop machines (unless the bintgoddess requests otherwise, obviously). But a laptop is tougher to build. To make it all work together seamlessly, to keep it light, and to keep it from overheating, a lot more engineering goes into it from the hardware integrators. I can't go buy a bunch of laptop parts from NewEgg and end up with my perfect laptop, so that means I have to go to the car dealership - er, I mean, computer retail channels. There, I assume the position and start sucking down the "partnering", the "up-sells", and the "value-adds", just like everyone else. Ugh.
My first action with this laptop would be to wipe the hard drive of all the crap-ware, and to install a nice clean Linux variant (probably Mint, since that's what I'm playing with at the moment). Of course that means if I ever need service, I'll need to reinstall the Redmond Mothership because, obviously, anyone using Linux must be crazy. But let's face it - the probability of being able to get laptop hardware serviced WITHOUT losing the contents of the hard drive is about 0.00004% (this is an actual statistical figure based on 15 zillion studies, not an exaggeration). And barring actual hardware failure, there's very little that an HP-authorized service technician can do (other than screw up my computer) that I can't do just as well. On second thought, I can screw up the computer about as well as him, too. You're not skiing hard enough if you don't fall, and you're not really using the computer if it successfully boots every time.
But on a $1300 laptop, WHY am I being forced to get Windows? I know it isn't free - Microsoft is charging HP a super-low OEM price, and HP is wrapping a profit-generating higher price into the price of my laptop. Accepting a laptop with this operating system on it feels to me like taking out a $100 bill and setting it on fire. I don't like that feeling when I'm in a casino, so I play poker, and I don't like it when I'm configuring computer hardware.
Let's be really clear here: I am being charged money for something that I actively do not want. I do not want it so actively that I am willing to spend my own time and effort to remove the offending product, assuming risk of loss (via supportability) in the process. What kind of reasonable consumer would enter into a transaction like this? What kind of reasonable retailer would EXPECT a consumer to enter into a transaction like this?
Wasn't there a big lawsuit recently about hardware vendors being required to give rebates to consumers that chose not to have Windows pre-installed?
My coffee is running out and my rant is running down. Let me close with the chat transcript from my Live Chat support session. It's not that exciting, but I feel like I need to have something other than my own prose in here to liven things up.
|11/07/2010 04:56:09AM||Session Started with Agent (Rachel P.)|
|11/07/2010 04:56:09AM||Mark: "Configuring an Envy 14 notebook"|
|11/07/2010 04:56:15AM||Agent (Rachel P.): "Thank you for contacting the HP Home and Home Office Store Chat. My name is Rachel."|
|11/07/2010 04:56:20AM||Mark: "Hi Rachel."|
|11/07/2010 04:56:37AM||Agent (Rachel P.): "I'm sorry. Can you please elaborate on your question so that I may better assist you?"|
|11/07/2010 04:56:38AM||Mark: "I'm planning to replace Windows with Linux on this machine. Is there any way I can avoid buying Windows?"|
|11/07/2010 04:57:32AM||Agent (Rachel P.): "I understand that you want to take out the Windows 7 from the configuration on the HP Envy 14 notebook, right?"|
|11/07/2010 04:57:41AM||Mark: "right"|
|11/07/2010 04:57:49AM||Mark: "I intend to install Linux."|
|11/07/2010 04:58:02AM||Agent (Rachel P.): "I am sorry, Mark, but there is no option for you to take out the OS."|
|11/07/2010 04:58:23AM||Mark: "OK, thanks. I will look at other companys' notebook options, then."|
|11/07/2010 04:58:46AM||Agent (Rachel P.): "Do you have any other questions that I can help you with? I want to make sure that I have completely addressed your concern today and are satisfied with my service."|
|11/07/2010 04:59:10AM||Mark: "Well since I am no longer buying an HP notebook, I can't imagine what you could help me further with."|
|11/07/2010 04:59:20AM||Agent (Rachel P.): "Since you don't need any further assistance, would it be okay if I close this chat?"|
|11/07/2010 04:59:26AM||Mark: "yes, have a nice day"|
|11/07/2010 04:59:28AM||Agent (Rachel P.): "Thank you once again for using HP Home & Home Office Store Chat. Please sign up for our award-winning e-newsletter which features the latest products and promotions for our store. Visit our website at: www.hpshopping.com/newsletter"|
|11/07/2010 04:59:29AM||Session Ended|