Friday, November 06, 2009

Windows 6.1: You're gonna hafta pay for that!

A few days ago I remarked to a friend how strange it was that Microsoft had come out with a new monolingual operating system in 2009, ten years into the age of multilingual operating systems. But after that I wasn't so sure if it had been 10 years --or more like 8 or so. Was I exaggerating?

Then I stumbled across a multilingual version of Windows 7 that only costs $219.99. OK, Windows IS available in a multilingual edition for a price. I suppose that's only for a single license, so if you had a few computers lying around, you'd need to multiply that by 2 or 3. Or by 20 or by 500 if you are a school. Too bad that most of the teachers in most of the world's schools barely make that much in a month--or a year.

Designed for people who want it all
Windows 7 Ultimate is the most versatile and powerful edition of Windows 7. It combines remarkable ease-of-use with the entertainment features of Home Premium and the business capabilities of Professional, including the ability to run many Windows XP productivity programs in Windows XP Mode. For added security, you can encrypt your data with BitLocker and BitLocker-To-Go. And for extra flexibility, you can work in any of 35 languages. Get it all with Windows 7 Ultimate.

$219.99 also doesn't compare very well with the $29 Snow Leopard which you can slap onto as many of your Intel Macs as you like without much bother (just keep buying Apple hardware and they won't mind). It compares even less favorably to free Linux or BSD.

So how long have most operating systems been multilingual? A quick google at Apple Mac OS X in Wikipedia shows 10.0.0 was multilingual, released on March 24, 2001. Well, excuuuse me, that was only 8+ (but almost 9) years ago.

Mac OS X version 10.0, code named “Cheetah”, is the first major release of Mac OS X, Apple’s desktop and server operating system. Mac OS X v10.0 was released on March 24, 2001 for a price of US$129.

What about Linux? Distrowatch records Debian 1.1 as a multilingual operating system at the time it was released: 1996-06-17. So in this case it was over 13 years ago. Split the difference, and we're now roughly a decade into the multilingual OS era--with the exception of laggard Windows. Other Linuxes such as (Open)SuSE 6.0 was multilingual as of 1998-12-21, Mandriva (Mandrake at the time?) on 2000-01-14, and YDL 2.0 as of 2001-05-17, just behind Apple. As far as I can tell, BSD was a bit slower to catch up, but a multilingual FreeBSD 4.9 was out on 2003-10-28. These are just a few popular and older examples I picked at random.

What's more annoying about MS is that they market it as some kind of high-end luxury premium purchase, rather than a free and natural choice to use your own language(s) with no fuss. "Hey there, big spender!" "Yo, fancy pants, you want to pay for THIS!" The caption is "Designed for people who want it all". It's bundled with encryption. Right. Of course, people who want to use another language or more than one language must be arrogant, epicurean, big spenders, AND encryption freaks. Probably spies.

If you really "want it all", the ability to compute in your own language (or two), encryption, compatibility, interoperability, and your money and self-respect, get Ubuntu, Fedora, or one of the (gnu)Linux (or BSD) operating system software distributions referenced above. As always, I'd recommend a major distribution which is free and which supports a wide variety of processors and languages, and which has a user-friendly desktop environment. These conditions are not met by the Bills and Steves of the world who did us the favor of bringing personal computing to us from their garages in the 1970s and 1980s (and who reaped the rewards in the 90s and n00ties). We're grateful for that, but it's time to graduate to Linux.

Walking through Akihabara today, I noticed how the place is changing. Although there are bigger, newer buildings and train lines, the electronics stores are being replaced by more places to eat and stores selling anime-related items, game software, and kiddie-oriented stuff. It didn't look high-tech to me at all today. I could see it as more of an old, baroque Turkish market or something taken from the pages of a 19th-century Sears catalog. Here and there were computers advertised as having English (or sometimes "Enblish") installed. One store had a wordy, crowded signboard advertising its English computers. Another annoyance was the iPods everywhere. Shopkeepers, it doesn't distinguish your store if you have the same iPods in the window that the other 500 stores have. I was looking for a SanDisk player and would have spent time and money in any store that had one, but I guess I'll just save time and buy it on Amazon without checking it out in the material world first since the time I spend walking around looking for one to handle is getting to cost more than just buying one to try out. ThanXmas is on the way, so one can always give it away in the spirit of the seasoning. As twilight fell, the harsh ugliness of the city faded and the beauty of the contemporary and future e-waste and its fetishists in the city's autumn air began to emerge as the anthropogenic lights began to shimmer. I JRed home.

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