Hey, the title of this post is no joke. Bill G and company have been beefing up their arsenal even while their techies have been putting together Windows Vista, Microsoft’s new Operating System. Tipping Rs 200 to a maintenance engineer to install the latest version Windows and MS Office in your computer won’t be such a smart thing at all. Ol’ Bill Gates is watching and he will sneak quietly behind you smash your new computer to smithereens!

Windows Vista which is likely to hit the market in January 2007 comes bundled with anti-piracy technology that automatically shuts down the computer if the Operating System and presumably Office are not registered. You get 30 days to register from the first time you log on and on the last day, the system goes kaput.

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Knowing Microsoft there is no guarantee that even registered versions of Windows Vista and Office won’t conk out. What if your hard disk had crashed and you had to install WV afresh? Will the registration key work? And what if you had dumped the old hard-disk for a new one, will you have shell out a bomb to B. Gates once again for WV?

Looking at the track record of MS, any ten year old downloading computer games can send the systems crashing. No prizes for guessing why computer engineers in Bombay sign the most annual maintenance contracts in the months of April and May.

So should computer users shell out Rs 15-20,000 for the WV apart from a new machine since even computers bought in 2005 cannot give the necessary horse-power? Stingy old BG will never offer to upgrade WV for free even if he has to clean up a room full of bugs in Version 1.0. So there, save an arm and a leg to buy Version 2.

All this trouble when you can buy a genuinely free, that is un-pirated, version of Linux for just Rs 50. Most people have grown up in a Windows environment, so even a flavour of Linux like Ubuntu which comes closest to it faces plenty of resistance.

There is a whole Free Software Movement out there for honest people who want reliable software for free but won’t rob Bill G. They have made little headway though since Bill G didn’t break people’s computers yet.

But with the MS guys pumping iron in anticipation of the big fight against the pirates, its time computer users took a second look at Linux. Free Software gurus should ideally rope in the guys selling assembled computers as the first line of defence. They are the ones who proliferate pirated version of Windows. With the launch of WV however these assemblers stand to lose the most. Worse still big computer manufacturers aided by sweetheart deals with Bill G may start a price war against the assemblers.

To begin with, linux user groups must help assemblers acquire expertise in installing and running the Tux. Hopefully by the time WV strikes in the New Year, assemblers would be able to guide buyers in the use of different flavours of Linux.

So yes my techie friends, those of you who have a lot to say on Internet forums in support of the Free Software Movement, its time to walk your talk. The decisive battle for the Free Software Movement is at hand. Are you ready for the action?

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