When I talk about upgrades, I have the home user in mind. When it's a company or police network, that's an IT decision and individual users don't have a choice. Actually, enterprises have been slow to move to Vista, just as they've been slow to move to any new MS or Macintosh operating system. It's too expensive, as the new OS nearly always requires better hardware than the old OS, software may have to be upgraded or replaced, and there are personnel issues as well (retraining users and facing the unhappiness that always accompanies any change in "the way we've always done it").
Certainly, many people can't afford to replace computers and it's important for them to have an affordable way to be connected to the rest of the world. It's a good niche for Linux. By all accounts, piracy is rampant in many parts of the world and what happens is that people get a cheap Linux computer, remove Linux, and put some version of Windows on it--not a legal copy and certainly free or very cheap. Linux offers people a way to be legal and not use pirated software. But you have to convince them that they want to use it and not Windows and Windows software, and therein lies the rub.
I have a cyber friend who refurbs discarded computers and installs Linux on them. He sets it up to be easy to use. He sells the computers for a low price and gives the potential buyer a trial period (two months, I think). If they like the computer, they pay him the low price. If they're not happy with it, they return it and he refunds the deposit. His hope was not only to provide a low-cost way to acquire a computer but also to give exposure to user-friendly Linux. That's his hope. In practice, though, he says that most of the people who buy the computer remove Linux and put Windows on it. I know we have people on this board who have the opposite experience, but I wonder how closely and how long you follow up on what happens ultimately to the computers you've refurbed. I've found it extremely difficult to convince the computer users I know to give Linux a try. Believe me, I try without going to the point of obnoxiousness.
The idea that getting a new computer in order to run more powerful software means the old computer goes to the dump is false. I've never thrown a computer away. I've always passed it down the family food chain to someone who doesn't have a computer or have given it to a nonprofit organization that needs a computer. If something no longer works, only then does it get discarded--and not to the landfill, to computer recycling. It is illegal where I live to discard things with circuit boards or that contain hazardous materials, which is just about everything in a computer. So it goes to computer recycling. We're in the process of getting together a big pile of computer stuff that no longer works and can't be repaired, or is so old that nobody wants it (as in a 2400 modem, 486 VL-bus motherboard that is huge and wouldn't fit into any case today, a broken monitor, a couple of 200-meg hard drives, two ancient laptops that don't work due to motherboard failures, and stuff of that nature). We have to *pay* for recycling, by the way. But it's the law that you can't just throw these things in the trash.
>> I want to point something else, Linux can be interpreted as a realization of a science ideal, about sharing knowledge, mutual collaboration, seek of improvements, etc. MS is trying to hide any good thing they could make (and I am sure they really can do good stuff). >>
Well, here we get into Free Software ideology and I'm not a Free Software ideologue. I know many people on this board are, but I'm sure I'm not alone. I think Open Source is a good way to develop software and when it's free of charge, who doesn't like that? However, I'm willing to pay for good software if it meets my needs better than a free program that does similar things. Why blame Microsoft for following the same business model that has prevailed since before Linux was a gleam in Linus Torvalds's eye? Other companies do the same thing: Apple, Adobe, IBM, others too numerous to mention. As Apple a monopolist with regard to the iPod? Is Apple evil for dropping legacy support as new versions of the Mac OS have come out? In fact, Microsoft has been roundly criticized by many computer experts for including legacy support in new versions of its OSes. It's not until 64-bit versions of Windows that support for 16-bit applications has been dropped. My 1994 16-bit word processor and little 1993 database program and early '90s DOS Correct Quotes are all working under 32-bit Vista. What about Google? Is it poised to take over the world from Microsoft? What about RedHat and Novell, which charge a large bundle for technical support for their enterprise Linux versions?
Like it or not, greed is a large motivating factor in business. It certainly is both remarkable and admirable that so much Linux development is done by unpaid volunteers. That's one of the aspects of Linux that makes it both satisfying and fun to use. However, there is a down side to this model, too. Many very promising projects are abandoned because their developers run out of time, lose interest, or need to earn a better living from their labors. Projects like the Gimp and Scribus would be much farther along if they had enough full-time (and therefore paid) developers working on them instead of a few people working in their evening and weekend free time. This would definitely apply to Scribus, a program I follow quite closely and occasionally use. The reason I use it "occasionally" instead of "often" is that there are severe deficiencies in text handling that are on the roadmap to be rectified, but my, it takes a long time! I've been using Scribus for at least two years and this would-be professional level DTP program still does not have proper hyphenation and justification controls. They'll come in a future version--in how many years?
>> I am sure Bill will be bored of all that money, and perhaps could share or spend it in something really funny, adventurous, exiting and useful. >>
Well, Bill gives away multimillions for education, AIDS research, and childhood immunizations in the developing world. I'd say he shares it and spends it not on something funny, but on vital needs that benefit millions of very poor people. I wish more billionaires did the same.