27 July 2005

Microsoft gives Linux a boost in the developing world

It's now official people running bootleg copies of Windows will no longer get anything but security updates. Other Windows and application updates will not be available. When you run Windows Update now (I just tried it), a program is downloaded onto your computer which checks to make sure you're not using a pirated copy of Windows.

If yours turns out to be pirated, Microsoft will give you a free or cheap legitimate copy of Windows — but only if you're in the UK (other restrictions apply). Everyone else is SOL, especially in places like Cambodia where consumer legal protections are a total joke and reporting pirates to the police is most likely to land you, not the pirates, in trouble.

So what do you do if you've got pirated Windows, can't afford to buy it, and your market is too small for Microsoft to create a cheap localized version just for you? This is the situation that Cambodian businesses and many NGOs — not to mention all individual computer users here — find themselves in.

I think the answer has to be Linux. It runs on existing hardware, is likely available in your language (the Khmer version of Linux is expected in 2007, but the localized versions of Thunderbird, FireFox, and OpenOffice can be downloaded now), is supported by an army of developers doing their best work, and is, and will continue to be, free.

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