Tuesday, 11 January 2011

I feel ashamed and dirty about it

A post about Windows 7

I've been an ardent user of Debian, a linux distribution, for a long while.  This decision was backed up quite well when I was greeted at a job with a Windows Vista desktop.  Back to that in a little while, first - why the hell would I use linux in the first place?

Well, the main reason was that I'd been using Windows XP for a long while before that and had become fed up of the niggles that crept into annoyances, the annoyances that crept to unworkables, and the unworkables that crept to why the hell doesn't this pile of shit works.  I'd had a reasonable history with Debian, a linux distribution I'd had experience with from jobs at web-development companies; I discovered it was a snap to install and on the whole, it did what I was after.

I installed it permanently on my netbook (EeePC 1000) to replace a very hobbled XP install it came with - longer battery life, better security (somewhat through obscurity, I suspect) and free software were obvious advantages.  It did take some command-line jiggery-pokery to get all the features working as expected, but by jove, I got it all working and working it did, well.  Almost.  You see it had a few crazy oddities thrown in to keep me on my toes, like the fact it crashed randomly while connected to UCLan (my University) wireless access.  When I say crashed, it either threw a Kernel Panic, or locked up totally, running 100% CPU.  No rhyme or reason why, but I pretty much avoided being connected to the university network while working - kind of annoying, but made it that I could type up some lecture notes or do a bit of essay writing between lectures without entering the open access PC mêleé that happens here, so useful.  I put up with that situation because I hadn't paid for Debian - you expect mileage to vary in free, open source software.

Similarly, I installed Debian on my desktop, a dual core, dual screen set-up that ran like a dream - and while I got wireless working (wireless network adapters are almost always Windows-only devices) via some more aforementioned command-line jiggery-pokery, it all worked stunningly.  Except it was absolutely abysmal at playing full-screen video.  And online-banking was impractical as the nazi programmers at banks seem to check what operating system you are using and refuse you access.  Why it matters, I have no idea.  Anyway, I started using Windows 7 on the university machines and it was quite nippy, in comparison to my experience of Vista.  So I took the plunge and installed it on my desktop.

It took a while getting used to, it is now (almost) second-nature to double click an executable in order to install software, even though the first few attempts saw me open a command-line and type "su" followed by a return, my root password, with a return and "apt-get install.." before looking at the screen.  I liked the fact I can now use the BBC iPlayer App, to watch programmes when the TV is in use and I've rediscovered the joy of computer games.  Nothing eye-gouging HD, mainly games I last played back when I fell out with Windows XP: SimCity 4, Command And Conquer Generals to name two.  However, time-vampires these are, and I can't blame Windows 7 enough for making me take forever to complete essays over the Christmas break.

So, earlier this week, I installed Windows 7 Home Basic on my netbook, to see how it would run.  It was simple to install, all necessary devices worked "out-of-the-box" and I'm now connected to the UCLan wireless network without a single spazz-out.  Similarly, it's nippy,  light-weight feeling and manages "power-saving" better than I could get linux to do.  My extra function keys appear to be a lost cause, while I managed to get them to react, Windows 7 doesn't quite do what I expect them to.  Maybe a couple of hours forum-searching could solve this.  I'm avoiding installing too much as I don't need anything much on it, plus the after-market installed solid-state disk isn't epic.

Therefore, I, a former linux zealot and full-time Microsoft basher likes Windows 7.  I feel ashamed and dirty about it, so I presume I feel the same emotions as Nick Clegg et al should have experienced these last few months, but I'm convinced it's a good product.  I still remain to be convinced about Windows as a server platform, I'm out of the loop with all things system-administration, but as a desktop or netbook platform, Windows 7 works.

I'll go bleach myself now.