Switching my dad to Linux - part one

If you choose to run Linux then I'll help you, but I'm not going to force it down your throat
  • (PC World (US online))
  • — 13 May, 2009 07:19

You might think that, as a Linux guy, I spend all my time converting friends and family to Linux. This is an epic cliche of the Slashdot-like Linux people, who will often post a comment like: "I switched my grandmother to Gentoo and she's never looked back! I had to teach her to use the optimization flag when compiling code, but now her system is running sweet!"

Mind boggling!

In fact, I take a live-and-let-live approach to computers that aren't mine. If you choose to run Linux then I'll help you, but I'm not going to force it down your throat. It's your computer. Run what you want!

But this changed a few days ago when my father got a new laptop that had Vista pre-installed. He asked me to set things up for him and, to cut a long story short, he got Ubuntu 9.04. This is simply because Ubuntu is a better choice in this situation. FWIW his old computer ran WinXP, and he was pretty happy with it.

There's two parts to my reasoning here, and in this two-part blog posting I'm going to first explain what's so bad about Vista, and then move on to explain why we've got to the stage now where Ubuntu in simply a better choice in many situations.

Honesty is the name of the game. I'm not trading in hype, or bullhonkey. I will show how Vista and it's software ecosystem works against users, but I also intend to be perfectly honest about what was a difficult Ubuntu installation -- about as difficult as it gets, in fact.

So first here's the problem with Vista.

Updates, updates, updates

Is it just me, or is Vista obsessed with updating itself? As soon as I boot a Vista machine it wants to immediately reboot to install some kind of update. This is extremely disruptive to workflow. The user has to start, and then stop instantly while the machine takes care of itself. If you ignore the reboot demand, it nags, nags, nags you to reboot, until you capitulate or throw the machine through the window in a fit of rage.

Back when Vista was still under development I seem to recall Steve Ballmer telling us that reboots wouldn't happen as much. You know what? I think he might have been hyping things up. The fact is Vista is even worse than XP.

On more than one occasion, I've rebooted to install updates, and then had to reboot again to install another set of updates! I suspect somebody at Redmond knows this and giggles like a maniac whenever they think about it.

Where is everything?

Not only do I think Windows XP is a decent operating system, but I provided support for an office full of XP machines for several years. I know XP backward. If XP is a storeroom with shelves full of goods, I can tell you exactly where to find an item.

Nothing in Vista is where it should be. The Microsoft engineers mixed up everything on the shelves, for no reason other than Vista is new and therefore they felt that's what they should do. I remember spending a few annoying minutes the first time I used Vista trying to figure out how to change the screen resolution.

Not only that but everything in Vista just seems to take longer to get at -- there's just more clicking around compared to XP, and more fuss. (That's a key feature of Vista they never mention in the ads--"100% more fuss!")

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Keir Thomas

PC World (US online)
Topics: Linux
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