Recently there has been a plethora of articles about Linux and the ever popular 75 cent question “is Linux ready for the desktop”. I had recently completed some house keeping and upgrade chores on two of my systems and what follows are my observations of the Microsoft experience.
First an overview: I successfully made the transition from Windows to Linux over the past two years. Prior to that I considered myself to be a power Windows user and not your average Joe Sixpack. Since I had not booted into Windows for some time, I decided now was a good time to remove XP from my main box and to upgrade my video card and hard drive. Other than finding out that my new hard drive was bad, the upgrade went smoothly and Windows XP was no more on my box. The time to install my Linux OS and my most used applications took lees than an hour and I was off to bed.
The next day the UPS man made a delivery with some new parts for my wife’s laptop. A PCMCIA USB adapter and a new PCMCIA wireless network card. My wife’s laptop is a slightly older Toshiba Tecra 9000 that had Windows 2000 on it. I had set it to dual boot Ubuntu 6.06 for me but still kept Windows on it for her and my grandchildren to play with. I had recently discovered that the USB ports on it had died and since the current wireless card would cover both slots, I had to upgrade.
Long story short, the new wireless card was junk and my Windows 2000 system was hosed. Not to worry since I had the recovery disk. A fresh install wouldn’t be a bad thing anyway but here is a big difference between Windows and Linux: Windows wants to be the only OS so the stupid recovery CD decided I didn’t need the Linux partitions and formatted the entire hard drive. The installer on Ubuntu sees any other OS’s and non destructively creates the needed partitions. Windows annoyance #1.
After the hard drive was repartitioned, it was formatted. The odd thing was that it was formatted in FAT 32 rather than NTFS. Later after Windows 2000 was first booted, the drive was converted from FAT to NTFS. This process just added to the time to get a working Windows OS. Why not just format using the file system your going to use in the first place? Windows annoyance #2.
When setting up Ubuntu, the installer just copies the files and when it’s done asks you to restart the system. With this silly recovery CD, I lost count of the number of times the computer had to reboot. Granted not all of them were for Windows, but nonetheless multiple reboots. Again more wasted time. Windows annoyance #3.
So after all the reboots, finally Windows starts for the first time, only to start a “tour of the New Features in Windows 2000”.
Then it was off to get all the critical updates and service packs. Ubuntu Linux does this as well and in my case all the updates were completed in under 15 minutes. Since the Linux kernel was updated as well, it was necessary to restart the computer. Windows was not quite as smooth however:
First I had to upgrade the Windows Upgrade program. Then I had to do a few critical upgrades and reboot. Then came upgrading to Service Pack 3 and reboot. Then I was allowed to install all the final critical upgrades and again reboot. I have no idea how long this actually took since I was so bored watching the painfully slow process that I left the laptop downstairs to do its thing while did some web surfing on my Linux box upstairs. By the way, did I mention that Windows needs to reboot? Windows annoyance #5.
After this was done I discovered that one of the “critical” updates had caused the login process to slow to a crawl. I am guessing that it was something in Service Pack 3, since the computer before had only been upgraded to Service Pack 2. In any event it was well past O’ Dark Hundred and my bedtime and so I left it at that. Windows annoyance #6.
What to do about the slow login. My wife was even complaining that it was taking forever to login (About a minute or so). Well I was no longer using XP on my box upstairs so I thought “Why not use my unused copy?” I was certain that it had been long enough since I had installed it on my old computer that I would not have any trouble with the product activation.
On that count I was correct and did not even have to call Microsoft. A couple of restarts and two hours later Windows XP was the laptop. But for some reason Windows XP had no clue as to what video card my computer had. Ubuntu picked it up OK but not XP. Fortunately the Toshiba website had an upgrade for XP so it upgraded smoothly. While I was there I downloaded some of the bundled utilities for the laptop and installed them. Again it was time to restart the computer. Mild Windows annoyance #7.
When it restarted, one of the programs was missing a dll file and was complaining that it couldn’t start the program. The problem was I did not recognize the program. Now if I could just remember how to find it since it was not in the startup programs tab. Oh that’s right – go to the RUN tab off the start button, type in msconfig and press enter. (Gee using the command line in Windows, Who would’a thunk it!!!) After finding the offending program, I was at least able to not load that program while I found out what happened to the dll file. Windows annoyance #8.
Later I was able to find the solution to that problem. After reviewing the XP updates on the Toshiba website, I found that there was one update that some of the other ones needed as well. In Linux they call that a dependency and sometimes it can be h%#l to work around that. Since part of the last problem was my fault, I should probably subtract from my Windows annoyance score.
Final total Windows annoyances – 7 ½.
This is not to say that Linux is perfect or better, as the simple fact is that all OS’s have shortcomings.
Previous articles here have mentioned them and I will not bore you by repeating them again here. It just happens that for me, that Ubuntu Linux is what works out best for me. As for all the Joe Sixpacks out there, installing a flavor of Linux will probably not be for them. The average Joe will probably never install Windows and will never experience the joy that comes from going though that process either.
So then the answer to that 75 cent question – is Linux ready for the desktop? Well yes it is ready. It’s ready for My desktop.