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The simplest reason that your computer probably has Windows on it is because everyone else’s does, too. It’s called ubiquity. And Microsoft has it. I do not think Microsoft is inherently evil. I do think it is a monopoly. But, in a way, that is to be expected. If a kid is out selling lemonade on the corner and starts making some money, other kids are getting to gradually pop up and sell lemonade, too. That first kid is going to try to keep making at least the same amount of money, but pretty soon, he realizes that with so many other kids competing with his lemonade stand on this corner, his profits are going to fall. He then has two choices. He can pack up his lemonade stand and give up or he can try to dominate the market. He starts chasing other kids away and copying some of the good things other kids are maybe doing to make their lemonade better, which makes his competitors redundant even if they stick around. It’s not right, but it is logical. You don’t play a sport to compete, you play it to win. If you want to be insanely rich, you have to win.

So Windows is on your desktop. It is a good operating system. It has quirks, problems, and a lot of bugs and security holes, but it’s good. It works for you. You’ve heard that there are other operating systems, some of them free, but you can never find them at the store, and the computer store where you bought your computer only offered Windows. There are a couple of reasons why. The reason why you may not see some other operating systems in stores is because of interest. Many stores now, including Staples, CompUSA, and OfficeMax, are actually starting to carry various other operating systems, but many stores don’t. Even though you’re looking for them, most others in your town probably are not. The stores know that most people “want” Windows. This really means that given a choice between Windows and nothing, most people would take Windows. What people want is not an operating system. They want to use the internet and type things and e-mail or instant message their friends. Windows can do those things. But so can most other operating systems. E-mail, the internet, documents, and even early instant messaging were invented long before Windows.

Or maybe you have a Mac, a special case in itself. Apple decided long ago that they wanted to control the whole experience- the computer itself and the software that runs it. So don’t ask someone at an Apple store if they can point out some Linux software to run on your Mac. But I sit here (re)writing this on my Mac using Linux- it wasn’t that hard.

As for why Linux wasn’t an option when you bought your computer, that too is changing, but is still normal. For many years, Microsoft made computer makers use only Windows. You’re probably thinking, how did Microsoft make them do that? Well, computer makers were given a choice. They could use only Windows on the computers they made, or they could use a different operating system and not have Windows on any computer they made. Because Windows was so widespread, though, most computer makers didn’t feel they had a choice. Due to the legal battles Microsoft has lost, they appear to have stopped illegally manipulating computer manufacturers like this and today most computer manufacturers support and even offer Linux on some of their models.

As I have mentioned, things have changed. I’m updating this post now in 2009, and if you do some digging now, you can get a computer with Linux on it, and you can definitely find it in several stores in a box. Download it free online. The time has come. Try it out.