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Contacts and Companies can force upgrades

Originally written 20060209 for ZDNet

I was forced to change from MSWord97 to MSWord2000 because my contacts had "upgraded", and MSWord2000 ruins the formatting of documents saved in MSWord97. If their software trashes my resume, they assume I am incompetent, and I do not get the job. I also could not edit documents they sent me, such as project specifications. ( did not exist yet.)

Either newer versions of MSWord are compatible with MSWord2000, nobody has upgraded from MSWord2000, or the documents are ruined so badly that anybody receiving them assumes I am so incompetent that telling me my resume was ruined would be a waste of time.

I run MSWindows98SE because, with very few precautions, it is much more secure and user-friendly than newer operating systems from MS. Except for a few server programs (WebSphere, PostgreSQL), it is also compatible with more software than the newer operating systems. (I use Linux when I need a better OS for server programs.)

I have upgraded several home computers from MSWindowsXP to (the older) MSWindow98SE. Forget using any program written for MSDOS on WindowsXP. Many educational games for children would not run on WindowsXP. WindowsXP is extremely prone to viruses, and even if the patches were available, I would need to visit everybody every month to run WindowsUpdate.

Every person who gets "upgraded" comments on how much faster their computer seems. Windows98SE flies on a 2.4Ghz Pentium with 512MB of RAM and a modern hard drive (after replacing two files so it will run on a fast CPU and with large hard drive.) Even a 500Mhz 512MB RAM computer with Windows98SE seems faster than a 3Ghz 2GB RAM computer with WindowsXP.

Windows98SE is great, but Microsoft could force us to stop using it. MSWord2003 will not run on it, so if we need to upgrade our word processor, we would also have to downgrade the operating system. Microsoft will end support for Windows98 in June of this year. We can keep using it, but there will be no new installations if the patches disappear from WindowsUpdate. I could work around the loss of patches if I could download them, but Microsoft makes many of them available only through WindowsUpdate.

So I expect another forced upgrade this Summer. When Windows98SE becomes unusable, I will start installing Linux on home computers. That means work deciding which is the best of the hundreds of distributions. (Last year I was planning to use SuSE, but Ubuntu is getting much good press.)

I was forced to "upgrade" Acrobat Reader from version 4 to version 6 because many documents on the web were unreadable. Reader 6 is incredibly slow, and completely locks web browsers while it is loading if you (accidentally) click a link to a PDF.

In the networked world, your software must handle the same file formats as your contacts. When enough people "upgrade", you are forced to upgrade too.

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