And in a truly meaningless coincidence, in addition to being the sixth birthday of Windows 95, today is also the tenth birthday of Linux. I know this is a truly cruel critique, but for all the hype paising Linux and damning Windows 95 (some of which I also partake in), Linux powers less than 5% of the world’s computers, whereas Windows 95‘s decendants power over 90% (5% of the world runs a Mac). Looks like MS uses it’s time better.

Oh sure, you can make the argument that the reason Windows powers 90% of the market is because it’s a desktop OS aimed at the mass consumer, and that were you to look at the number of non-desktop applications Linux would hold an advantage. Well while Linux has more than 5% of the server market, the lion’s share still goes to Microsoft. You could also argue that Linux also had to not only convince others to chuck their current operating system for a free unsupproted one, but that it had to more or less single handedly create the open source movement. True, but look at what Windows had to do. First off, they had to convince all the users out there to run their DOS programs in Windows – not a small task. Also, they had to convince all the programmers out there that development of software, especially games, was better in Windows. They did this with DirectX which took four versions to hammer out but they got there. Then they also had to convince the users of the world to buy more powerful machines to run this whole shebang in the first place.

Did it work? Well, I’m not writing this on a Linux box. The developers ultimately decided that DirectX was better (Carmack notwithstanding) – rather than code for 50 different video cards, program for one standard. Let the driver makers do the rest. It doesn’t work that way 100% of the time, but most developers like it. Even the ones who use OpenGL use DirectX for the non-graphic sections. The end users went for the platform which runs everything. And the fact that people have to upgrade their systems periodically stimulated the economy (though this last point is kind of rude).

All was not roses and sunshine however. The marriage of 32 and 16 bit code was not a perfect one, as anyone who has experienced the “Blue Screen of Death” can attest to. The inclusion of legacy code (to run DOS and Win16 programs) neccessitated that the kernel was initially unstable. Windows XP looks to do away with this entirely – which will no doubt break any 16 bit drivers still bouncing about after six years – as it completes the graft of the NT based kernel into the desktop Windows OS. Additionally, every time a major OS revision rolls around, many vendors jump on the opportunity to charge full price for an “upgrade” (though this is less prevalent now that the mass distribution of the Internet makes casual patching a way of life). And don’t even get me started on what many computer manufacturers will do if you “break” your system with a new OS upgrade. Some will offer advice on how to get the new OS working, others (Best Buy) will act like you just tried to put NEXTStep on your system and tell you to go fuck yourself.

Linux has its supporters, and their merits are not lost. True, Linux is “free”. Linux patches take hours, not weeks. Linux likely runs faster. However, picture if you will that your house needs a new roof. Who are you going to have roof your house – a ragtag bunch of persons who have never met each other in person and don’t do this sort of thing for a living, or are you going to hire a team of paid professionals. Sure the last one costs you more up front, but the first one ultimately costs more in the long run, and not just in terms of money.

I have to hand it to the Linux supporters, though – anyone can bitch about Windows, but it takes someone really dedicated to run something else. If you gripe incessantly about how much you hate Windows and Microsoft but continue to run Windows and Office then you’re a hipocrite. Most of us dislike many things about Windows and Microsoft, but we just grunt and bear it. I’d rather have a flaky OS that can do anything I want it to than an OS that is stable but can’t run anything.

So happy birthday to Windows 95, Linux and R2-D2.