Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog
Jul 20, 2021 GMT
Jon maddog Hall
There is a virus going around. We thought we were winning the battle against it, but powerful forces and events have allowed it to raise its ugly head and cause unforeseen additional hardship.
People thought that it was not so bad, they did not listen to reason and take the precautionary measures necessary to protect themselves. In letting down their guard they were unprepared and unprotected.
After months of machines being turned off, software licenses (with their expiration dates never “dormant”) are up for renewal.
Many companies, educational institutions and public buildings (like libraries) are turning on their Wintel PCs for the first time in over a year and finding that they need to renew their licenses, not only for what is called an operating system on their computer, but also for many of the closed source, proprietary add-on software packages that owners purchased in a wild attempt to make their hardware somewhat useful.
It is one thing as an individual to pay for an operating system license, virus scanning licenses, an office package license, some graphical software licenses, a database license (especially a database license) and much more, but to pay for hundreds of systems at the same time that you are trying to put in protective equipment for another type of virus….it may be outside of your budget.
I remember in the early days of Linux there was a school system in Oregon that had received a “grant” of gratis software from a large software company, and they were very grateful….until the next year when they had to renew the licenses.
Of course you may have have heard of the more dangerous variant of this virus. It comes in the form of a promise to “make things better”. This variant not only may require you to get new software and licenses, but may affect your hardware too. You have heard of this variant, but you did not believe the people warning you….that anything could be that bad and spread that fast, but it will.
This variant is called “Windows 11”, and the creator of it seems to be unable to tell you how much havoc it will create for you. Does it run on your otherwise great hardware? You have a decent processor, a lot of RAM, and you bought it just two or three years ago….but it might not run Windows 11.
Will all the applications you purchased for Windows 10 also work for Windows 11? Will you need an upgrade in applications software?
So you may have to buy a new desktop….or a few hundred if you are a school, library or government. These groups use modern, up-to-date hardware, right?
So how do you fight this virus?
You have to take direct, forward looking steps.
First of all, quarantine the virus. Try to move all of the closed source proprietary software onto a few systems, hopefully of newer hardware that might possibly run Windows 11 when it ships.
If you have printers, scanners and other hardware that needs closed source, proprietary drivers (library copying machines may be in this category) move them to those same machines. If employees and customers need these proprietary software and hardware systems they can use those machines.
And it will reduce the number of licenses you need to upgrade.
This will free up other, perhaps older. machines to be reinstalled with Free and Open Source Software. Install Libre Office or some other FOSS office package on the systems. Install a wide range of freely available fonts as well as design software like GIMP and Inkscape. Install a good FOSS browser.
Once you have one machine set up, you can “clone” it to your other machines. That is ok. Your FOSS licenses allow that. It does not cost you any more than the first machine did.
As you start to breath easier, not having to buy a lot of software license upgrades and new hardware, think about buying printers that are well-supported by Linux.
Think about hiring an adviser to help you make your choices. Perhaps a local university has students or teachers who know Linux and could guide you in this, and of course there are commercial companies that sell support for Linux that may be much lower in cost than the licenses and hardware you would have to purchase.
Finally, you will be “vaccinated” against future outbreaks, the non-free systems surrounded by systems running fully virus-free software, your own form of “herd immunity”.
Funny, after all these years we finally understand about the “virus” that certain people at Microsoft talked about so many years ago….but that it was a projection on their own software, not Free Software.