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A luser`s confession

It`s almost too embarrassing to admit to in public, but I am Microsoft`s ideal customer... or I was, until last week.
Read time 2min 50sec

It was only a tiny transition that brought it to light, but once it was out in the open, there was no denying it - I`d been had.

Allow me to set the scene. I`ve been using MS Outlook 2002 at home, and it has served me well. The upgraded functionality allows for better integration among e-mail accounts, which suited me down to the ground. It meant I could retrieve my Hotmail without firing up a Web browser, and better still, keep closer track of my correspondences.

In fact, it was so useful that I`d forgotten just how much of a schlep it had been to manage e-mail on the move using previous installations of Outlook. That memory was brought back to life this week when I was provided with a company laptop - running Outlook 2000.

And with that, I realised the true power of the Dark Side. Suddenly I had to use Outlook Express if I wanted to emulate my previous satisfactory e-mail management, and even then, it wasn`t anywhere near as easy as it had been using Outlook 2002.

I had grown comfortable with Outlook 2002`s e-mail integration, and I`d grown dependant on the contact management feature of Outlook in general.

Basheera Khan, editor, itwales.com

Still, I thought I`d prevailed - until the issue arose of satisfactory contact management. I did the software-hopping equivalent of jumping through hoops until a colleague remarked quite offhandedly that in my case at least, Microsoft had succeeded in its end goal.

I had grown comfortable with Outlook 2002`s e-mail integration, and I`d grown dependant on the contact management feature of Outlook in general. Even though Microsoft had let the user down, creating a situation where its own products are largely incapable of sharing information between each other, there went the user, trying to bend over backwards to accommodate the program limitations.

It was a startling realisation - that even as I read with increasing disquiet of the aims of Palladium and the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance (TCPA), I had been an unthinkingly willing victim to the games vendors play in their overarching bid to capture a market, and beat all sensibility out of it.

It`s no wonder that Richard Stallman has coined the term "treacherous computing". All I can say is, thank goodness for open source, and for projects like the OpenCD.

TheOpenCD is a collection of high quality open source software which aims to be a comfortable introduction to open source for non-techie users; these programs run under Windows, are said to compare favourably to proprietary competitors and are reasonably easy to use.

It`s hoped that encouraging people to adopt open programs in the familiarity of their existing operating system will help persuade them that open source programs are just as good as the ones they already use. Once they`ve seen how well it works in their current environment, switching to a totally open environment later on will be easier.

Nevertheless, it might only be when end-users realise the full impact of the TCPA and Palladium on their businesses that they begin considering the alternatives. Let`s just hope it happens sooner rather than too late.

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