Thursday, 24 June 2010

Moving the Other Way

There's an uncountable number of blogs and posts and articles about how easy/hard/different the process of switching from Windows to Linux is. Usually the distro of choice is Ubuntu or one of its variants and sometimes Fedora. Nobody ever talks about how hard it is moving the other way, about how difficult moving from a Linux environment to a Windows environment is...

I recently bought a new hdd for my laptop because I was running out of space. I used to have an 80GB drive which I then partitioned and dual-booted Ubuntu 9.04 (my distro of choice for laptops) and a Hackintosh distro. So you can imagine I was low on space.

After the new drive was installed I decided what would be nice is a triple-boot system, and since I'd no idea how to make Linux recognise BSD partitions, or even how to install them side-by-side I thought a Linux, Mac OS and Windows setup would do the job nicely. I installed Hackintosh with some difficulty, installed Windows 7 (from a legitimate source I can assure you) and then installed Ubuntu to the rest of the drive (which happened to be roughly half of it). After I got my Ubuntu partition looking how I like it, with themes etc. I went into GRUB and added entries to point towards my other two systems. Hackintosh still wasn't working at this point due to a graphics error so I went in to explore Windows 7 for the first time.

For the last two years, roughly, I've been Windows-free. I've installed it on other people's machines but my computer has remained an anti-Microsoft zone for a long time now. This was an extremely disorientating process moving back to Windows and one that was not entirely pleasant. Firstly, there are several distinct features that had become staples of my life as a Linux-user that Windows 7 lacks. Here's a quick list of things that I feel are missing or done badly in Windows 7:

  • Virtual Desktops – Linux has them; has had them for a while. BSD has them. Even Mac OS has them in the form of 'Spaces' now. Windows doesn't. I'm a multitasker by nature. I'm used to having at least four virtual desktops open and being able to switch between them with a quick keyboard command. Windows 7 doesn't do that. I'm stuck with one desktop and this fills up and become cluttered extremely quickly, if I minimise everything its annoying to have to click on it to bring it back into view because this takes up my precious time. If Windows 7 was your idea you must be agoraphobic; because its a small enclosed space that prevents me from doing my work quickly.
  • Customisable Taskbars – OK, you can pin things to the taskbar. However, if you pin as many of the programs as I'm used to having in a dock or on a toolbar in Linux you run out of room fast. I was left with about half of the space I had originally once I had pinned everything I needed to pin. I'm used to being able to create a new toolbar (GNOME Panel) and being able to add whatever I want to it, being able to place it wherever I want within reason. With Windows 7 I can choose the orientation of the taskbar.
  • No Office Suite – When I first installed Linux I was amazed by the fact that OpenOffice had been pre-installed for me; this was a familiar software suite which I used almost daily and some lovely people at Ubuntu HQ thought “Ooh, lets install it for them”. Now I'm pissed off that my Windows 7 didn't even come with MS Works. Mind you, OS X doesn't come with an Office Suit either.
  • New fears – As a Linux user I didn't have to worry much about viruses/spyware. You can argue whether this is the lack of sheer market share that Linux possesses or the way its structured or how the users run it. I don't mind. Point is Linux is a hostile environment for most viruses. That being said I only ever encountered a virus once in my entire three years of using Windows XP and that was without any form of protection (Insert your own pun). Windows kindly reminds me every time I login that I need to download AntiVirus software. I think my time as a Linux-only guy has rubbed off because I run my system in a more Linuxy way, setting specific permissions for programs etc. but I've a nagging feeling every time I log in. Maybe I should download the free security software out there...but that would take up disk space.
  • Can't Read/Write to file-systems other than NTFS and FAT## - OK I know Linux requires NTFS-3g but that's bundled with most distros. I would like to be able to see my other partitions (for Linux and Hackintosh) in the My Computer screen but no. I can't. Meh.

There are several other things that bug me, but they're just little things about the usability and I'd be complaining for the sake of complaining. All in all Windows 7 is a good Operating System, whether its worth the money you have to pay for it is a different matter. Its easily the best Windows yet and MS actually outdid themselves on this one. It runs on relatively low-spec hardware with ease, looks nice, UAC isn't set into overdrive and its fairly secure from what I've read/seen.

I just prefer Linux.


Revias said...

Also another acceptable answer for what Windows 7 does badly would have been "Windows 7".

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