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Dissin' Windows

Every now and then I try Windows. Why? I don't know.. maybe it's unconscious guilt: am I really being fair to the little guy? I mean, I barely give it a chance, always putting it down, making fun of it. Is it fair without giving it a fighting chance to impress me? After all, most of the immediate dislike I experience is just the normal uncomfortable strangeness of a different environment: the keys I am used to for searching, for cut and paste and so on don't work, or do something unexpected. A Windows user switching to Mac is going to have the same problems; heck, my wife showed me that. That's all cosmetic and what we are used to.. it's not right to dislike Windows just because it's different.

Well, yeah, there is that virus stuff. Windows has a pretty bad rep there, and it is well deserved. While Symantec recently reported another Mac OS X Virus, that's only the second reported so far, it's extremely low risk, so the whole subject of Mac OS X or Linux viruses is very much a non-issue.

But let's ignore that. We'll load up with A/V products and pretend the issues and annoyances they add aren't part of Windows. Is there anything else that ticks me off and keeps me running on Mac and Linux?

There is that command line. That's the biggy. DOS is pathethic, and Monad seems like a horribly bad joke. A lot of Windows folk just can't understand why this is so important. Part of that is simple ignorance: if you've never had a good command line, you don't know what you are missing. But there may be more: almost a decade ago, Thomas Scoville suggested that general reading and writing skills had influence here. Whatever the reason, I can't stand not having a strong command line shell.

Hardware bloat definitely causes part of my distaste. The bigger and badder your hardware, the better Windows runs. Of course that's also true for Mac and Linux machines, but Windows appetite for ram and cpu cycles seems to be much worse. Tangential to this is the gaggle of mysterious processes running. OK, you could argue that any Unix or Linux machine has its own mysteries in a "ps" listing, but it's not quite the same. First, there's the immediate separation of "my" processes: "ps" by itself doesn't show all the system activity. Second, there's the aspect of openness: I *can* track down information, man pages, and probably source code on everything I see in a Mac/Linux/Unix ps listing.

And then there's that damn Registry. Of all things Windowish, that's the most galling. Configuration data should be text based and if binary data is absolutely necessary (which it seldom is), that part should be separate and pointed to by the real (text) configuration file. But again: if you don't understand the value of text tools, you won't grok the value of text configuration files.

I can't leave this subject without mentioning my disgust at Microsoft's predatory business practices. That doesn't have any direct relationship to disliking Windows, but it does affect my attitude in general: I don't like their morals. No, I'm not saying that Apple, RedHat, IBM or anyone else is pure of heart and beyond reproach, but I do think Microsoft has taken dirty business to new heights (or lows, if you prefer). I simply find it offensive, and more offensive than anyone else in the same market space.

What about you? If you aren't a Windows user, why? Is it just the viruses and bloatware or is there more to it? Do you have your own list of reasons not to like Windows?

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© Anthony Lawrence

Tue Nov 7 22:46:58 2006: 2591   drag

I started using Linux when I was talking networking classes long ago.

In classes they most centered around step by step screenshots with notes on how to do things like setup DNS or mess around with arp tables on the command line with Windows 2000 server. There was a few in-depth things, but the class tests didn't expect you to actually understand that stuff, the teacher would just mention it 'so you know it's there' sort of thing.

At home I had gotten a bunch of old PCs from my Dad's office. Most were stripped down things, but by picking peices of them and building machines I ended up with 4 or so that actually worked.

I made networking cables and bought a little hub and installed the only operating system I had; Windows 98; on all of them by making a Dos boot disk with network support and copying over the cab files and setup.exe.

Now at the time all I had was dialup and I wanted to share that not only with my little network, but also my roomate's machines. Trying to do that with Windows 98 was a horrific experiance. There were oddball shareware programs for setting up socks proxies and doing things like that. There was some connection sharing thing built into Windows 98 SE, but all I had was the first edition so I couldn't upgrade. I couldn't afford W2k either as it had just come out and I was working part time, paying rent, and going to school so I could barely afford a burrito, much less a Windows server edition.

The solution ended up being a sort of socks proxy with VNC for remote access (since I realy only had one monitor) but the thing was unstable and sucked and my roomates weren't computer literate enough to figure out how to operate it.

Surfing around the net looking for documentation and howtos I started learning a bit about Unix and especially how Linux was this networking powerhouse. So since I was trying to learn networking then trying out Linux seemed like a great idea.

So I saved up my money, drove down to the bookstore, bought a big book on Linux that came with a copy of Redhat 7.0.

Took me few weeks, but I got the system installed, got the linmodem drivers working for the internal modem. Got a decent connection speed. Setup a simple 'masquerading' nat routing system. Setup masq dialer.

It 'just worked'. On the desktop I could remote shell into it, which was nice. I setup a little icon on my roomate's Windows desktop. I had a little icon on my redhat desktop.

So now instead of a painfull ordeal with VNC and some nasty shareware proxy software.. I had a proper router/firewall with near perfect application compatability (with the proxy some network protocols wouldn't work). My roomates had a little icon that was red when the network was down, green when it was up. They could remotely turn off the internet connection when they wanted to make a phone call (which saved me a HUGE amount of agrueing and aggrivation fighting over the phone line) and it would connect autoamticly when they tried to access the internet.

It was cheaper. Easier to work with. Had much better networking solution then anything Microsoft could come up with. And was stable.

Also with the openness of the platform and with scripts and dealing with actual networking issues rather then something that tries to make it 'easy' by hiding the complexity from me (which didn't work) I was showing the teacher and the classmates how to do stuff with Windows 2000 before long.

So I figured why the hell am I mucking around with this shareware hell and pirated versions of Windows 98 when I can get a operating system that is more powerfull and stable then Microsoft's most expensive software.

Also all of this for FREE and 100% legal and they actually WANT me to download it and give away.

No contest.

Now of course since then Windows has gotten better. Windows 2003 is much more secure and stable. Windows XP is fairly usable and is relatively stable. But Microsoft still has a ways to go before they would be able to convince me to start pirating their software again. :P

Of course that is probably another major reason I like Linux. Everything is on the up and up. (I wouldn't realy pirate Windows anymore, now that I make enough money to afford whatever), but with Linux I get so much stuff and it's all affordable and it's all realy quite nice. I like the openness, I like the security, and the whole thing seems much cleaner and more honest.

Thu Nov 9 16:04:04 2006: 2598   TonyLawrence

I totally forgot about Windows awful multitasking. John Dvorak didn't though: (link)

I hate that I can't do a thing until Windows finishes doing its startup stuff..

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