Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Why I can't switch to Windows Vista...ever!

It just occurred to me how alien Windows has become to my way of working. The trigger for this realization: Windows Vista Ultimate, A Hands On Diary by Barry Gerber over at Tom's Hardware Guide.

Barry was one of the fortunate few to receive an Acer Ferrari laptop preloaded with Windows Vista Ultimate from Microsoft. If the Ultimate tag still isn't enough to clue you in, it's the version of Vista that has every feature of the OS loaded in.

As a Linux bigot, it's in my interest to see what the competition is doing. As it is highly unlikely that I will ever get my hands on a similar rig, I can only experience Vista vicariously through reviews like Barry's.

But as I read through the article, I was already thinking: "What the heck is this guy talking about?"

I'm not quite sure I still know my way around Windows anymore. After switching my home computers over to Linux seven years ago, I haven't really looked back. Oh, sure, I can still work my around its desktop, fire up a web browser, even type up simple documents on Office. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty system admin stuff, I already feel lost. Worse, a lot of things would just bother me.

For instance, Barry says:

The first thing that struck me was the way Vista's User Account Control dialog box asked me for permission to continue each time I ran any code, such as when I tried to install Adobe Acrobat Reader v.8. It's trying to protect me and my computer from an evil doer attempting to mess up my computer. The dialog box tells me that, if I started the program, I can comfortably click Continue.


Isn't that a rather annoying, er, feature? On Ubuntu, I'm prompted for my password when I run Synaptic, not for each and every time I install a package. That's about as reasonable as it gets. The prompt is important for security, but prompt me too many times, and it just becomes an irritant.

Next, Barry talks about the Services applet, and how he likes it better on Vista than on previous versions. I'm happy for him, but looking at the screenshot of the applet gave me the heebie-jeebies.

I'm not unfamiliar with the Services applet. It has just been such a long time since I've seen it. And...good golly! were there really that many services that Windows needs to run? It looks like it's got over a hundred services, most of them unfamiliar to me.

To be fair, the top command on my Xubuntu machine shows 87 running processes. But that at least looks familiar. More than that, it's more useful as I know which processes are eating up the most memory and CPU time.

And then Barry talks about networking. I'm sure something like that is as easy as pie to someone who's already well-versed with Windows. But...even Barry has some trouble, apparently:

Follow along on the three screen captures below. After floundering around for a while, I went to the Vista Welcome Center, which by default opens when Windows starts up. I clicked on Control Panel near the top left side of the Welcome Center Window. This took me to the Vista Control Panel Home window. Clicking on Network and Internet took me to the Network and Sharing Center where, after clicking Connect to a network, I was able to set up my wireless connection pretty much as with XP.

Actually, I'm more concerned with the fact that it takes three screenfuls of information to set up networking. On Ubuntu, it's only two successive dialog boxes, initiated from the System menu on the task bar.

It becomes more apparent to me that this complexity is unnecessary when Barry attempts to install his screen capture program:

Everything was fine until the Snagit installation program tried to install a printer driver, UNIDRV.DLL. It wanted me to browse the Vista CD, which I didn't have, the essentials needed for a Vista re-install being on a hidden partition on the Ferrari's hard disk drive.

Is this normal procedure for installation of Windows applications? After two years of one-touch installations via Synaptic, the Windows installation process just sounds so tedious and daunting. What's more, Barry goes on for another two paragraphs talking about DLL files and folders with names like C:\Windows\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository\ ntprint.inf_d8dddb2bf.

I completely agree with Barry when he says:

With so many third party applications yet to be tested and, if necessary, modified for Vista, installing some apps on Microsoft's new Windows OS is going to be a bit nerve-wracking.

Nerve-wracking, indeed! No Vista for me, thank you very much.

In IT, complexity is quite often a matter of perception. It might simply be that I've been sitting on the Linux side of the operating system divide for too long. God knows I have plenty of my own blind spots when dealing with new user ("Oh, that? It's so easy! You just do steps one, two, three, and four, and you're done!").

Yet here you have a strangely similar case of a Windows-savvy tech writer blithely ascribing his difficulties with Vista as par for the course.

As a Linux user, these complications are simply unacceptable. As I said, Windows has become far too alien.

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat!


  1. We are talking about a brand new operating system. Certainly we expect some changes and expect it to take a few weeks to get used to it. Same when Mac went to OSX and when Fedora was born. Don't be afraid of change.

    User Account Control is a good thing in Vista. It can be controlled automatically across your entire enterprise with Group Policy (along with every other setting and feature in Vista). Certainly I think it is a great thing to enhance security when possible and provide additional security layers.

    Instead of wasting your time writing up a review of an operating system that you've never seen - how about downloading the free BETA version and giving it a try? Until then, your opinion is truly worthless.

  2. Thank you for pointing that out. That's fair. Unfortunately, all my systems are at least two years old, and incapable of running Vista.

    On the other hand, what I was trying to point out was the divide between Windows and Linux is significant enough that someone who spends most of his time with one is bound to think strangely of the other.

  3. I can agree with you there. Vista takes a ton of power - I'd recommend 2GB if you want to run it fully featured. I'm running it with 1GB with the eye candy off and it is a bit slower than XP with 512MB of RAM.

    There truly is a divide between the two camps (Linux/Windows). I recommend everybody spend a little time in each camp to appreciate the positives both sides bring to the table.

  4. Wow, lucky you. Maybe you can post a full review of your rig.

    No argument about spending time in each other's camp to learn what's good and what's bad. Vista will have plenty of its own plus points. But...will those points be applicable to Linux/Ubuntu/Gnome/KDE? Or will they be Microsoft-patented?

  5. lesseeee.... ton shows 50 'processes' on my OS X 10.4

  6. I use Linux everywhere even at work, but I support (for my company) Windows XP SP1. We are not moving to SP 2.

    I had the chance to review Vista beta, and found that it would not work on the older P4's that we have, this one had a gig of mem, that did not recognize the video card. It would have went better with a newer machine.

    We are getting the new Office 2007 Pro suite, (which won't install on XP without SP2) and am told we looking to Vista this year.

    I shudder at the concept.

  7. I agree with your point that Windows seems alien. I started using Linux about 6-7 years ago, just before virus scanners, spyware scanners, and firewalls were common place. I always get people who want me to "fix" their computers due to viruses and spyware. I've *never* had a virus or spyware. I barely know what they am I supposed to fix it !!!! I mean I *can* fix your installing Linux!!!

    I can barely figure out the Windows XP Control Center. I've barely started to remember that the *Printer* control center icon has *all* hardware settings such as sound, gamepad calibration, etc. In SuSE, it is intuitive: Hardware->Sound for soundcard and Hardware->Joystick for joystick.

    The *only* time I spend administering Linux is installing the ATI or Nvidia proprietary drivers. Unlike Windows, installing hundreds of applications in Linux can be done in a few minutes: 1. Add Repository (if necessary) 2. Search for Programs 3. Install Programs

  8. Your article touchs on several things very familiar to me as well as some of the other posters comments. I too moved to Linux around the same time. I have a small computer sales and support business and many of my customers use Windows. I also have a growing number of Linux users as well but the Linux users rarely require any help after initial setup, mostly minor questions etc. On the other hand, Windows users need help ALL the time. Things have gotten pretty bad for the average Windows user out there. The OS is a plain mess and is costing these folks some major dollars. From what I have seen and read about Vista, its only going to get worse, MUCH worse for these people.
    As for myself I can barely stand to work on current versions of Windows. It is such an incredible kludgefest and so frustrating that it takes all of my will power to not go start screaming raving mad everytime I have to work on it. I am nearing retirement age and while I plan on continuing to work on computers for a while longer, I have NO plans to sell or support Vista. Customers are welcome to bring their Vista systems to me but if I have to spend 4 hours working around some WGA, DRM inspired nightmare of registration schemes and other stupid Microsoft licensing crap, the unfortunate sap that bought the behemoth known as Vista will have to pay,...dearly, for each and every moment of my wasted life.
    Currently I have both Linux (Xandros) and WinXP copies in stock for customers systems. Once I run out of WinXP copies and can no longer get copies, likely due to Microsoft "drying" up supplies artificially, I will cease using any Microsoft operating systems and certainly won't be selling Vista to anyone.

    I'm just not that cruel.

  9. The problem with comparing Windows (whatever version) and Linux (whatever distro) is that the people in either camp have little idea of how the people in the other camp do things.

    The Mac/PC commercials are funny.. but as a PC user (for most of my life) I know they are not based even remotely on truth.

    Their are several things that Linux just plain does better than Windows. But there are many things that Windows just plain does better than Linux as well.

    Linux wins the installation of distro-supported software. Open whatever interface Adept in Kubuntu is what I use, search install use...

    Windows.. you must purchase/download the installer. Install, over come whatever problems may happen (though they are seldom there in supported software) and then use.

    However, if you want to use a linux program that your distro doesn't have a package of already... WELL... then you have to learn how to compile the source.. then install it and figure out how to make shortcuts...

    Linux is FABULOUS when it works.. but it only works in specific instances (for the average know very little user).

    Windows.. you can download just about any Windows program and install it.

    Without getting into the politics of things, and just being concerned with the end user's experience. Setting up hardware is MUCH easier in Windows.

    I go to the store, buy something that says it supports WinXP go home plug it in.. put the driver disc in.. install reboot (sometimes) and use.

    With linux, I must research to see if something works with Linux. But it doesn't end there. My Printer "works" with linux so I bought it.. I get it home and I realize in linux there are "levels" of how well things work. My printer sort of works... Putting the "behind the scenes reasons" for this, the end user has to do WAY too much work before he spends his money, and after.

    These aren't things we haven't all read and said...

    The thing is when we compare Windows to Linux we need to remember, we don't always see the other guy's point of view.

    Also, just because a tech savvy guy is willing to show that he actually had to figure out how to do something that had been changed between versions of an OS doesn't mean that windows is harder to use than linux is.

  10. Hi, Kev: point taken. Thanks very much for posting.

    The hardware issues stem more from the manufacturer's willingness to develop drivers for Linux (or even just to open firmware code) than it does from the OS itself. That ultimately derives from the installed base of Windows, which admittedly has the lion's share.

    On the other hand, what's interesting to me is the sea change in ease-of-use perceptions. Some of the feedback that I'm getting (including from you) already state that Linux is easier to use than Windows in some cases. A few years ago, this wasn't so.

    And maybe that's progress.

  11. As a Linux user since 2004, who is forced to support Windows, let me throw my two cents in here.

    Windows is not all that bad, if you know what you're doing, when it comes to securing a system. However, where one runs into problems is when you have the average Joe out there, who knows nothing about firewalls, etc. getting a new XP system, and it's loaded down with spyware within a few days.

    As far as Linux goes, I've run several distros, from Ubuntu to Gentoo (Kubuntu being my current pick), and I find life much easier for myself with my Kubuntu setup, than when I boot my laptop into Vista RC3 for testing purposes. I admit that there is a long way for Linux distros to go, in order to catch up to OS X, but usability is already ahead of Windows, in my opinion.

    Just my two cents,
    C. Cupples

  12. This isn't anything to do with change folks, but its a thing about Microsoft itself.

    The ideas they have or get from others, are pretty good...But when they implement it, its like they live on another planet. (I highly suspect its some moron in management pushing how they implement something).

    It makes the user ask: "WTF? Why did they do that? Its stupid. Why did they change that?"

    Take for example, the UAC implementation. How the heck did Microsoft turn a sound security concept into nag-ware?

    Another one: I recall in Windows 2000, to clear Documents history, it takes 4 clicks. For some reason, this was changed in WinXP, such that it now takes a few more. Why did they change that?

    The end result of such changes seem unnecessary and brings irritation and annoyance. (which results in the PC getting a bad name!)

    Linux on the other hand, once you get over that initial learning curve, (and get things the way you want): you get why everything is laid out in a certain way. It makes sense. It doesn't get in your face or makes you want to punch something.

    Even when I'm setting up an Arch Linux box, and I run into an issue. I know where to look, to point me in the general direction of a solution.

    I guess that's what it is about Linux. If anything fustrates you, you can do something about it.

    You can't really do the same with Windows. You sit there, curse about it, and carry on. When you get off your PC, you feel utterly annoyed.

  13. Okay, I've heard they've started rolling out tht TCIP/Palladium features with VISTA, and okay, that's it, no thank you, no Vista, no fucking way. I'm not paying for it,not installing it for free, nbot installing it if you pay me.

    But really, who needs it? Over the past four years of Linux I've gradually lost my addiction to every windows-based application I've ever known, and I'm totally happy with that. It's honest, straightforward software with no hidden agenda that develops rapidly from year to year. People will tell you that the Gimp isn't as good as photoshop, but once you've gotten used to the Gimp, it's the other way around.

    I suppose this makes my opinion also worthless, but Jesus, I've run three different versions of Windows, and don't you think that qualifies me to decide whether I have the slightest interest in version number four?

    My opinion of Vista is worthless because I have none. Sure, I don't trust the trusted plaform, but that's a judgement call. Windows just isn't sexy, and I don't out think about using it any more than I think about having an affair with Helen Thomas. I'm having too much fun being married to Catherine Zeta-Jones.

  14. Sorry can't afford the hadware dude. I can't afford to do a test drive...i may as well believe you guys.