Monday, March 10, 2008

How to waste a day

That Microsoft "flag" image has probably already given you a pretty good idea where this entry is going. I know it's almost cliche to hate Windows (and by proxy hate Microsoft and Bill Gates since they unleashed the bastard child upon us). But, seriously, I have my reasons to dislike Windows, and desperately want to get the hell away from it - but like that line in the movie says "everytime I think I'm out, they drag me back in."

But this post isn't going to become an enumerated list of Windows' litany of evil wrought upon my computers over the years. It's about me trying to break the shackles and move to something better.

I'll just get this out of the way up front - my problems would easily be solved by getting a Mac. I've owned Macs before, still have a few old junkers around, and I like the OS a lot more than Windows, always have. I absolutely need to be able to run Adobe software, which is also available for Macs, so I'd be covered there (of course I'd have to get the Adobe software I have on my Windows machine all over again for Mac). The problem? Making the jump BACK to Macs would not be cheap. I already have decent PC hardware, it's the OPERATING SYSTEM that I don't like.

Now there were a bunch of reasons (mostly tied to the workplace of a job I no longer have) that got me to switch from Macs to Windows in the first place. But money was as much a factor then as now (I built up a pretty respectable system from components for under $300 - similar specs in a Mac would run me 5x that). So, if I can get something better running on my hardware that's the best solution. Enter Linux.

My HP Laptop, running WinXP, was always slow. I could make a meal waiting for it to boot, and refresh my coffee while it opened most applications. It wasn't much better even after I tripled the memory in it. Most people would probably be dissing the underpowered hardware - and my laptop HAS been characterized as a "brick" and a "doorstop" before. Well, then I partitioned the drive and installed DreamLinux 2.2 MMGL on it. It was like I had a brand new computer! Boots fast, has a classy looking "Mac-esque" GUI and my apps popped open on command. So what does that tell you? Same hardware, different OS and suddenly my almost "uselessly slow" laptop is the fresh faced new kid.

With that in mind I solved my brother's problems with his computer in a similar fashion. All he does is surf YouTube and read stuff anyway - Windows 2000 Pro was overkill for his needs, and his older hardware was struggling to run it. So I partitioned his drive and installed PCLinuxOS on it (which, with the proper theme applied, looks enough like Win2K that it wouldn't scare him). Haven't heard any complaints lately about how his computer runs. Again, same hardware, different OS, and it's got more life in it.

So I installed Ubuntu "Gutsy Gibbon" 7.10 (yeah, who comes up with these names?) on my main desktop with "wubi" (which lets you "test drive" it without actually partitioning your drives or using virtualization). Runs great and I get all those fancy Mac Leopard-ish/Windows Vista-ish desktop effects, and with AWN installed I even get a clone of the Mac's dock at the bottom of my screen. I also like that it's the 64-bit version of Linux, so it's pretty peppy on my hardware. But my TRUE motivation was to try and get WINE and WINE-DOORS installed and running Windows applications in Linux WITHOUT having to use Windows itself. Sounds great huh? Yeah. Until you actually try it.

(continued in the next blog entry)

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