It seems that each time some Microsoft executive comes out with the usual "our software is more dependable than open source yadda yadda yadda," I'm stuck in Windows Hell.
This time it was a hard disk collapse on one of my local boxes. A week and some $600 later things are still not together. Many of my remaining problems, it turns out, are based on minor differences between Windows XP Home and Windows XP Pro.
It has been over 20 years since Steve Jobs bit the "compatibility bullet," orphaning users of his old Apple II OS for the new Macintosh. Apple has successfully forced upgrades several times since then, and its OS X is now based on FreeBSD. Microsoft, meanwhile, has built 10 generations of software on the dubious proposition that putting all your eggs in one basket (and watching that basket) makes sense.
But the real difference goes deeper, into the shared heritage of the Mac and Linux, which is Unix. Because Unix, unlike Windows, is server-based.
Server-based resources, which all Internet resources are, protect themselves through redundancy. Redundant links, redundant set-ups, and redundant servers mean that if something goes kerflooey nothing is really lost and users don't even notice. It's not so much that open source is inherently more stable, just that people running Web services understand Murphy's Law and account for it.
In my own case, I had multiple machines, I was able to back things up, and I've lost little data, few programs. After 20 years I had some of that Internet attitude and was able to avoid complete disaster. But I'm still out that money and that time, recreating what an older Windows machine had created, getting a client up and running again, because Windows remains, at heart, client-driven.
It's client-driven because that's what the business model wants it to be. Windows licensing, even for servers, is based on clients, and each client must be accounted for.
Rather than pushing desktop Linux as a substitute for Windows, maybe what everyone should buy is a home network server, with full redundancy for everything else they own. And the only way to do that economically is with open source.
It's the Windows business model, not the software, that is inherently undependable.