How to send a message to Mr. Gates

This is an email I wrote to a journalist who got hit with the Blaster worm:

In response to your article “Worms Shouldn’t Break Windows“ :

I am a young female computer professional who works with Windows, MacOSX, and RedHat Linux on a daily basis. The easiest to use by far is MacOSX, and Apple hardware is also well-designed (disclosure: I own some Apple stock). If you’re on a tight budget, RedHat Linux is a great choice. I have found that the funky old PC I put RedHat on runs faster, and the drivers support hardware better than Windows. The HP Deskjet output looks better, and my D-link network card actually works, which I couldn’t get it to do with Windows. For years I have been hearing complaints that there isn’t enough software available for Mac and Linux, yet I have never had an issue with finding tools or creating documents that could be shared with the entire world. Meanwhile, I see people using Word, a horribly monolithic and unusable excuse for a word processor, having trouble even sharing documents between different versions. In addition, I have never been infected with a virus, trojan, or worm and I generally don’t use antivirus software. The fact is, Microsoft tends to leave a lot of ports open and services running, and they don’t give you the ability to block pop-ups and third-party cookies with IE, but do let you download and execute all sorts of malicious code in email if you don’t modify default settings in Outlook.

I think the reason Microsoft’s software is so poor is because they have a development process not unlike an assembly line, they’re trying to build too many pieces of software into an obsolete monolithic structure, and they’re making a huge profit by not investing in security. Why do people take this? The herd mentality has forced many into the Microsoft corner, as everyone tends to use what they know from work or school environments. There is also not enough publicity for Linux as a desktop system. I think now is the time to spread the gospel, as people who are sick and tired of patching Windows every week look for an alternative.

Open-source software is “distributed in source under licenses guaranteeing anybody rights to freely use, modify, and redistribute, the code”. What this means is that I can download the source code that comprises an open-source software project, modify it to my heart’s content, build an executable program, and re-distribute the changes I made to the source. The whole point of this is that programmers want tools that work, so they built them. With proprietary software, if there is a bug or security hole you have to wait around until the company fixes it, but if it’s open source the community itself can address the problem immediately and without any obstruction. You can see how inherently democratic this process is. In addition, peer-review has led to almost bug-free pieces of software, like TeX and collaboration on a massive scale has led to viable competitors to Microsoft, like OpenOffice which rivals MS Office after only a few years of development.

The best part is that not only is open-source software more secure, it’s also free! Take one! If you have a PC with a CD burner, read How to Download RedHat Linux and follow the directions. If that’s too heavy-duty for you, there are numerous Linux User Groups that hold Installfests to put Linux on newbie’s computers and seminars to teach them how to use it. If you have any extra time to fiddle around, I highly recommend trying out RedHat, which is only one of the many flavors of Linux. Another piece of open-source software I highly recommend is Mozilla, which is an Internet browser that rose from the ashes of Netscape. It can easily be installed on Windows, Mac, or Linux. Mozilla lets you block pop-up ads and third-party cookies extremely easily, and it has a built-in mail client that isn’t vulnerable to the kind of attacks that Outlook succumbs to.

The reason I’ve spent so long on this to convince you to try something new is not because I’m making any money on it, but because I believe in it and I think it makes the world a better place. The best way to send a message to Bill Gates is to stop buying his crappy software.

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A prophet on the burning shore