A Not-So-Quick Comparison

Mrs. G and the kids use a different computer than I do, and it runs Windows 98. Yesterday the hard drive decided to finally stop fighting the inevitable and gave up the ghost. Nothing could be done to salvage it nor the data on it (and boy are my wife and daughter pissed about that). I was forced to buy a (moderately) new hard drive for their machine.

I tried hard to convince Mrs. G to let me install Ubuntu, but honesty forced me to admit that Linux sometimes has trouble with webcams, and even when it doesn't the chat programs that run on Linux don't fully support them. Okay, that's not completely true: there's a chat program called Mercury that does a good job, but it's a Java app which would run slower than molasses on their PC, and it seems a bit buggy.

Anyway, a webcam with my daughter's name on it happens to be sitting under the Christmas tree. She'll use it primarily for chat. So no Ubuntu for them.

To make a long story short, I had to rip out the old drive, install the new one, reformat it and install Windows from the ground up.


Guess how long it took to get the family PC running with Win98 plus the few programs for it everyone considers necessary--like Word, Mailwasher, Irfanview, Winamp and TextPad--starting from the fdisk stage (because the used drive needed to be converted to FAT32 so Win98 would see it).

You can safely assume I'm comfortable enough with fdisk that I don't have to sit there for an hour deciding what to do with it. You can also safely assume I've reinstalled Win98 on that machine a zillion times before (because a Win98 installation only has a half-life of six weeks) so I don't lack practise. You can further assume that I long ago burned a CD full of drivers and whatnot for that specific hardware configuration so I don't have to go hunting all over the net for them every time. You can also assume I had a box filled with MS-Office, Wacom, and HP printer disks, etc., within easy reach.

Have you made your guess as to how long it took yet?

It took seven friggin' hours to reinstall Win98. SEVEN! FRIGGIN'! HOURS! And it would have taken longer if I'd had any backup data to restore.

Granted, I could have chosen not to install Diskeeper, AVG, AdAware, and SpyBot. It would have saved 40 minutes or so. But sane people don't skip those steps on a Windows machine, especially a Win98 one.

Wanna guess how long it took to install Ubuntu a few days back, plus the programs I consider necessary--like OpenOffice.org, Opera (whose mail client is pretty good at filtering spam), picture viewers, XMMS (a Winamp work-alike) and a bunch of text editors, plus a crapload of games, media players, graphics editors, database managers, chat and IRC clients, programming tools, etc., which are good to have but not, strictly speaking, necessary--starting from the partitioning stage?

You can safely assume I've never partitioned a Linux disk before, so I stumbled around some while trying to decide how to go about it. You can also safely assume I've installed Linux only twice in my life, once many years back and once in August, so I seriously lack practise. You can further assume I don't have a disk filled with drivers, nor any disks filled with office-suite software, printer disks, etc., within easy reach*.

Have you made your guess as to how long it took yet?

It took about two hours (counting the time it took to restore from my most recent data backup). ONLY! TWO! HOURS!

Granted, I could have spent more time looking for the Linux equivalents of programs like Diskeeper (Linux doesn't need a defrag program, so it would have taken a bit to find one), AVG (I hear they have a Linux version, though I doubt many people bother with it.), AdAware, and SpyBot (I've never heard of spyware on a Linux machine, but I'm sure it'll make the news when it happens). If I were so inclined, searching for them would have added a few hours until I gave it up as a fruitless waste of time because there's no need for things like that in Linux.

Huh. 2/7 the time to install an OS which is rock solid stable and secure. Funny, that.

I hate Windows with renewed, flaming passion.

I hate that I can't update a Windows98 system without first updating the browser, unlike Linux. I hate being scared to connect to the Net in order to download said browser updates because the only way to do that is with my not-yet-updated-and-thus-insecure browser (see the vicious circle there?), unlike with Linux. I hate that I must seek out updates for every installed program individually rather than having one small always-running program keep track of everything on my system, which notifies me when updates are available. Like in Linux. I hate having to search the Web for a program rather than having a trusted central repository filled with tens of thousands of them, one that I can access with one mouse-click, like in Linux. I hate putting my trust in some dork/corporation that might be able to program, that releases an application riddled with holes which nobody but the Black Hats know about, because the dork/corporation won't share the source code. I hate that a hole in any program exposes the entire system to abuse, unlike with Linux.

I hate that little pop-up with the checkbox beside "Always trust software from Microsoft."

Yes, I've gone from a rather strong dislike of Windows to outright loathing.

For what it's worth, though, I don't much like the fact that I sometimes forget I have to click an icon to eject a CD with Linux instead of just reaching for the button on the case.

Somehow I manage.

* Actually, I lied. 95% of that stuff is already on the Ubuntu install CD. What isn't is grabbed from the net automatically.

If you're thinking "But what if I don't have a net connection, bucko? What then? Aha, I've gotcha there!" then realize the situation is no different than it is with your Windows CD. 95% of the generic drivers you might need are on it, too. It's the specialized ones that aren't. Because of that, installing either OS without Net access is a potential pain in the ass.

The difference, however, is that Linux will fetch those specialized drivers from the central repository as soon as it realizes it needs them. Windows makes you go online to Google for them. How did people install Windows before search engines were invented?
While some might say that I am a Microsft fanboy, that's really not accurate. I can admit when Microsoft does something bad. Windows 98 is bad. Although its the most stable Windows platform on the 9x kernel, there's a reason MS won't support that old stuff any more. I'm sure you've installed XP on a machine before but if you haven't try it sometime. The experience is 5243% better than Win98. It does a wonderful job detecting devices and runs beautifully.
pfft. Fanboy.

Actually, I haven't installed XP before. It's good to know that it's easier. That should be a given, but it isn't. MS-DOS was easier (to run and to install) than any version of Windows I've ever used, so the curve doesn't move inevitably upward.

(They oughtta still support DOS. It worked just fine.)
...and DOS still comes in very handy when XP decides that a file is in use by another program or just won't let ya delete something.

Yes, XP is easier and quicker to install. XP also makes you "phone home" to activate it when you install it. It phones home when you want to change hardware around. Hmmmph... No thank you! XP is still riddled with problems and vulnerabilities. MAC and Linux... not so much.

I'm still keeping XP Pro on my computer for Cyn's sake, but this ol' Dell laptop I'm typing on has been running Linux (Mandriva 2005 LE) for months now without problems. Cyn finally realized that this computer is running Linux about three weeks ago! LOL

Windows XP Pro -- $299.99US
Mandriva Linux 2005 LE -- $0.00
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