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Welcome From The Chief Editor

With the exception of that which is running in VirtualBox, my home is a "Windows-free" zone. As much as I wish I didn't have to run Windows in a virtual machine, that is not reality. Thanks to the shortsightedness of many software vendors, I (like many other Linux users) must keep a copy of Windows around, regardless of how much I think/know that it stinks.

For example, most of the income tax software to file your income taxes runs only on Windows or OS-X. Sure, there are some free, web-based income tax software tools around, but their abilities often fall short of meeting the needs of all but those users filing the simplest of returns. As a result, running a Windows income tax filing software bundle is often the only choice.

Why am I picking on income tax filing software vendors? September and October typically are the months when those software vendors ramp up their promotional e-mailings, with offers of discounted prices to "early bird" purchasers. Sometimes, their offers allow customers to buy or reserve a copy of the software at last year's prices, before price hikes occur. So, as you might imagine, my email inbox has seen a steady increase in promotional emails from these companies.

What I cannot understand is why software vendors would willingly limit their market to Windows users only. It seems to me that it would (or should) be a simple task to create software that is capable of running on all platforms - and not just one that is losing market share every year. Meanwhile, Linux's market share continues to grow year after year. Some surveys estimate that Linux's market share is higher now than OS-X's market share. You would think that software vendors would jump on being the first to tap into a previously untapped market.

Perhaps when Windows market share has dropped to a hidden "critical level," we'll see these software vendors support cross platform solutions. Java and Python immediately come to mind as cross platform solutions, although the former has been plagued by security issues for what seems like forever. PHP also seems like a viable solution, allowing users to run income tax software in their favorite web browser.

So, I keep a copy of Windows around in VirtualBox, ready to run the software for which there really isn't any alternative. I can remember six and seven years ago, when I switched to using Linux. Back then, I would only set up my Linux installations as a dual boot with Windows XP. Unfamiliar with the Linux landscape back then, I was afraid of not being able to run my favorite Windows programs that I had come to depend on. It was all I knew, and Linux (at that time) was the unknown. What I failed to consider or focus on was the tasks that I was needing to do on the computer. Focusing on the programs left me blinded to finding alternatives to get those tasks completed.

Eventually, as I became more and more accustomed to Linux, I found alternatives for every Windows program I used to use - except for income tax filing software. As time went on, I found myself booting into Windows XP less and less, with months often elapsing between Windows logins.

I eventually eliminated my dual boot installations, and reclaimed the "wasted space" that was formerly consumed by Windows. Instead, I migrated to running Windows XP (and more recently Windows 7) in VirtualBox. About the only thing that I regularly use my Windows virtual machine installations for is - if you can't guess - running income tax filing software. The bonus is that Windows now runs better in VirtualBox than it ever did when it was a bare metal installation.

It's rare that I even boot into my VirtualBox copies of Windows. Linux, and particularly PCLinuxOS, has fully replaced Windows as my daily operating system. For me, the only "holdout" is the income tax filing software. Other users may have other Windows-only programs that they cannot live without, and that don't have a suitable substitute for under Linux.

Running PCLinuxOS, and then Windows in VirtualBox, provides me a perfect solution. I get the security and stability of PCLinuxOS for meeting all of my other computing needs, and I still get to run those few Windows-only programs when I need them (although, that need has dwindled to only one case).

Until next month, I bid you peace, happiness, serenity and prosperity.

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