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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

Windows: My eXPerience

Warning and Intro

In this ar­ti­cle I will not pre­tend to be stupid, mimic­ing those "my first week with Lin­ux" pieces. If I write some­thing about XP sur­pris­es me, it will be re­al, and if I seem stupid, that will be re­al, too.

First a lit­tle back­ground:

While I am nerdier than most com­put­er user­s, I am al­so un­usu­al in that I have nev­er used reg­u­lar­ly any Win­dows in the last twelve years.

Yes, I switched to Lin­ux from Win­dows. From Win­dows 3.11 for work­group­s, in 1995, be­cause get­ting TCP/IP work­ing on Lin­ux was eas­i­er.

I am not the guy Win­dows is aimed for. I am not like the av­er­age com­put­er us­er. I am about a bazil­lion sig­mas off the av­er­age win­dows us­er.

I skipped the whole Win­dows 95, 98, Mil­le­ni­um and XP. I have nev­er even touched Win­dows Vista.

I have used those Win­dows ver­sions (ex­cept Vis­ta), when bor­row­ing a com­put­er or on a cy­ber­cafe, but I have nev­er in­stalled any of them. I have helped Rosario with her XP box, but I have had no use for it my­self.

Un­til a cou­ple of days ago I checked the bot­tom of mynote­book, and there it was... a XP Home li­cense key. And what the hel­l, since to the best of my knowl­edge that li­cense is valid and mine, why should I waste it? So I de­cid­ed to get XP in­to a vir­tu­al ma­chine us­ing Vir­tu­al­Box OS­E.

I know I am in­stalling an­cient soft­ware but:

  1. It's not my fault if up­­­grades are not free. It's what I have a li­­cense for.

  2. It's not my fault if MS re­leas­es one win­­dows ver­­sion ev­ery 5 years and the new one will not work on my note­­book (P4 2.5Ghz, 512MB of RAM) even if I cared to buy it.

  3. I sup­­pose they have a long-life prod­uct with rolling up­­­dates. You know, like De­bian sta­ble or RHEL. So while it's old, it's al­­so sup­­posed to be us­able now. That's why they still sell it, right?

The installation

I have some ex­pe­ri­ence in­stalling op­er­at­ing sys­tems (most­ly Lin­ux) so I think I know what I talk about here:

The XP in­stall­er is ok-­to-­suck­ish.

XP has a text mode installer

It's not com­pli­cat­ed but it has a se­ri­ous de­sign flaw: you have to be there. Here's the time­line:

  • You ac­­cept the li­­cense, choose FS type

  • It starts in­­stalling

  • re­­boots (u­­nat­­tend­ed)

  • More ques­­tions

  • More in­­stal­la­­tion

  • Yet more ques­­tions

  • re­­boots (u­­nat­­tend­ed)

  • Yet more ques­­tions

  • Prod­uct ac­ti­­va­­tion

  • You are done

Since the ques­tions are spread all over the in­stal­la­tion, you ba­si­cal­ly have to sit through it. I sup­pose it's so you can see those weird ads for some­thing you al­ready bought like "If you want to use the in­ter­net it has nev­er been eas­i­er to get start­ed".

Then it gets graphical

I pre­fer the mod­ern Lin­ux way of "all ques­tions up fron­t, then go away un­til I pop the CD", but that's just me.

There are al­so prob­lems like it as­sum­ing own­er­ship of the MBR, but that's to be ex­pect­ed from the big dog in the area, the small­er dogs are the ones that make al­lowances like not mak­ing oth­er OSs un­bootable.

So, it's a sim­ple in­staller, but it has some is­sues. What­ev­er, in­stall­ers are not that in­ter­est­ing and ev­ery­thing can be worked around if you try hard enough (at least I ex­pect I can).

After installing

You can lo­gin with any of the users cre­at­ed on in­stal­la­tion with­out a pass­word. That's ok, I sup­pose, as long as I can lat­er change it. TODO: look for it.

I get a warn­ing about se­cu­ri­ty up­dates, and a red icon com­plain­ing, ap­par­ent­ly about my lack of an­tivirus.

So, go fetch the se­cu­ri­ty up­dates, and it seems to be work­ing ok, but I will rather wait un­til it ends be­fore ac­tu­al­ly us­ing it.

Since this is work­ing, I am guess­ing I am ad­min­is­tra­tor on this box. Is ev­ery­one else, too? That's not too cool, but I sup­pose it's a lin­ux­ism I'm hav­ing.

XP yay!

A restart be­cause of the up­dates? Mm­mmkey.

Strange: The re­boot is fail­ing. Ap­par­ent­ly Ex­plor­er.exe re­fus­es to die. Af­ter a few "End it now"s it does end.

Ten min­utes lat­er, with no re­boot, I re­set the vir­tu­al box. I got in­to some se­ri­ous in­sta­bil­i­ty here re­quir­ing mul­ti­ple re­boot­s, "Safe Mod­e" and "Sys­tem Re­store" us­age. I'll as­sign that to Vir­tu­al­Box, not to blame XP with­out proof.

Ser­vice re­store is OK, it does some­thing akin to restor­ing a back­up, ex­cept you have no idea what it's restor­ing or why. But what the heck, it seems use­ful if your sys­tem borks like mine did.

And of course... an unat­tend­ed re­boot. This seems to hap­pen more of­ten in this side of the fence.

Now I am wait­ing to see if I can fi­nal­ly start a reg­u­lar ses­sion that work­s. I am in stitch­es here.

Ok, it work­s, but there are 11 up­dates. I think I had in­stalled those, maybe ser­vice re­store re­moved them? Let's try again.

On the oth­er hand, I am start­ing to un­der­stand why peo­ple don't like Lin­ux, if it feels as mis­te­ri­ous as this for them.

One does some­thing that seems rea­son­able, then some­thing hap­pens and then you do what­ev­er seems ok, and what will hap­pen? No freak­ing clue.

Maybe I like Lin­ux be­cause I have a patho­log­i­cal need to be told what's hap­pen­ing. Lin­ux tells you a lot. And there's a lot more on the logs. Win­dows? Well, in win­dows things seem to just hap­pen. It crash­es. It's fixed. What hap­pened? I don't even know where to look.

Ok, up­dates in­stalled... re­boot­ing.

Hey, for the first time it re­boots and starts nor­mal­ly and up­dat­ed! Let's use this thing!

Using XP

I know I will have some per­for­mance is­sues be­cause my com­put­er is not ex­act­ly pow­er­ful, and this is a vir­tu­al box so it will be slow­er stil­l, so I will not say a word about that.

Installing the VBox guest addons

This was veery sim­plle, even if it re­quires Yet An­oth­er Re­boot. In fac­t, it was sim­pler than on Lin­ux, which is sim­plish al­ready.

Seems to work ok, too. Au­to re­siz­ing the guest dis­play is neat.

Now, what is it I do on Lin­ux all day...

Using mail and RSS

The in­clud­ed mail client is Out­look Ex­press.

Easy to con­fig­ure, even if the word­ing in the di­a­log is strange. Like, guys, there is no HTTP in­com­ing mail pro­to­col, what's that sup­posed to do? Use a hot­mail ac­count and scrape it?

Configuring Outlook Express

Seems to be down­load­ing all the mail from the IMAP serv­er. That's re­al­ly not a good idea since there are sev­er­al dozen thou­sand mes­sages in there...

Ok, it down­load­ed all the mes­sages from the In­box and none on the oth­er fold­er­s.

Not so ter­ri­ble... ex­cept it does­n't seem to want to show me any mail in any oth­er fold­er. The prob­lem is that all fold­ers are set to "Don't syn­chro­nize".

Why on earth would I want not to be able to read my mail by de­fault­??? Why not fetch head­ers on back­ground, or at least on open­ing the fold­er?

It seems I need to go to each fold­er and right-click­->Syn­chro­niza­tion Set­tings->­Head­ers On­ly (or All Mes­sages) to make it be­have like a rea­son­able mail clien­t. And I can't choose more than one fold­er to make it faster.

Dear out­look ex­press.... I have over 200 fold­ers weeps.

All things con­sid­ered: the in­clud­ed mail client is pa­thet­ic for IMAP user­s.

It's prob­a­bly ok for oc­ca­sion­al users or POP3, but for me? It suck­s. I sup­pose I could in­stall some­thing else, Thun­der­bird or what­ev­er, but Lin­ux comes with much bet­ter tools for this task by de­fault.

Right now? I think I will use my web­mail :-(

Now, for RSS. I searched on "Win­dows Live Search" for "best rss ag­gre­ga­tor".

The an­swer:

  • Fire­­fox

  • Flock

  • Fire­­fox 2

  • Opera

  • Google Reaad­er

  • NetVibes

  • Blog­­lines

  • Sa­­fari

  • xFruits

  • Fee­­dRead­­er

The first 9 ei­ther work on Lin­ux or are we­b-based. So, let's try the ten­th, to see if it beats akre­ga­tor, which I pre­fer to the oth­er 9.

Sur­pris­ing­ly de­cen­t, al­though I can't find how to use it us­ing the key­board. If there is a key for "next un­read news item" it's not in the UI (clos­est is space, ac­cord­ing to the help).

At least it im­port­ed my OPML with­out is­sues.

Dear read­er­s: what are the re­al, nice al­ter­na­tives for these tasks?

Developing PyQt applications

I do not ex­pect the in­stal­la­tion of the re­quired soft­ware to be as easy as in Lin­ux, since it's much more odd­ball for a win­dows us­er. But let's see how hard it is...

I head for the River­bank site, and... I get a di­a­log ask­ing me if I want to en­able the phish­ing de­tec­tion sys­tem on IE7.

I will but why is it ask­ing me now? I have been to oth­er pages, and it did­n't ask.

I need to in­stall Python 2.5 too, of course, so I get the Python 2.5.1 win­dows in­stall­er and PyQt-Py2.5-G­PL-4.3.1-1.ex­e.

Python in­stalls un­event­ful­ly. It seems to be work­ing ok from a ter­mi­nal, as well as IDLE. So, python is re­al­ly OK on XP.

Good old python

The PyQt in­stall­er in­stalls the Er­ic4 IDE which is nice, as it's a large ap­pli­ca­tion and if it work­s, you are prob­a­bly ok with PyQt.

I was ex­pect­ing it, but it's an­noy­ing me quite a bit that ev­ery pro­gram for Win­dows wants to in­stall its own way, asks you things, it feels so ... man­u­al.

Ok, first snag.

Er­ic does­n't start be­cause I lack MSVCP71.DL­L. This prob­a­bly would­n't have hap­pened with a de­cent pack­age man­ag­er. Googling it, it's not hard to fix. How­ev­er, the fix in­volves:

  • Find­­ing a copy of the DLL on the web

  • Down­load­­ing it

  • In­­stalling it man­u­al­­ly to win­­dows\sys­tem32

It's a bit scary. I don't ev­er man­u­al­ly touch sys­tem fold­ers on Lin­ux, and there's a good rea­son for it, which I bet ap­plies on win­dows, too: You WILL break stuff that way.

I will atribute this to a bug in the PyQt in­staller, but I am will­ing to bet these things are not so un­usu­al based on there be­ing full sites ded­i­cat­ed to giv­ing you back your dis­ap­pear­ing DLL files.

Al­so, the "This fold­er is mag­ic, you should not look at it" warn­ing for each fold­er is an­noy­ing.

The prob­lem is fixed, though, and all seems to work.

Eric works

Now, in or­der to ac­cess my source code, I need Sub­ver­sion. That mean­s... an­oth­er trip to a web­site, in­stalling man­u­al­ly an­oth­er pack­age. This is get­ting old pret­ty quick­ly.

I have been do­ing this for 45 min­utes al­ready. On Lin­ux:

# Red Hat clones and variants:

yum install eric4 subversion

# Debian and Ubuntu variants:

apt-get install eric4 subversion

# Arch and derived:

yaourt -S eric4 subversion

See a pat­tern?

Why does­n't some­one cre­ate a sofft­ware repos­i­to­ry or win­dows, andd make it very sim­ple for free­ware/share­ware/what­ev­er­ware de­vel­op­ers to use? Make it ad-­sup­port­ed with rev­enue shar­ing, you are bound to make some mon­ey.

How­ev­er, not to be repet­i­tive: Ev­ery time I in­stall a pro­gram from now on, as­sume I whine about how it's sim­pler on Lin­ux.

I in­stalled Tor­tois­eSVN which is nice enough. Re­boot­ing (sigh).

Now the first thing I must say I re­al­ly dis­like about XP that is not caused by me, the vir­tu­al ma­chine, my choice of soft­ware, or the phas­es of the moon: The "Open With" di­a­log is bro­ken.

The open with dialog

As you can see in the screen­shot, it won't let me choose the right ap­p. It's in the start menu (it would be Er­ic) but it's not on the list of "Pro­gram­s" and as far as I can see the on­ly way to use it would be find­ing where in the sys­tem the er­ic4 bi­na­ry is (I have no idea, and I should not have to know that).

This works way bet­ter on KDE and GNOME (and win­dows 3.11, IIR­C).

I man­age by do­ing it back­wards (open­ing from in­side Er­ic4), but it's just wrong.

I had some trou­ble mak­ing Python's easy_in­stall work be­cause it's not on the PATH by de­fault.

I have no idea how to change that on win­dows, so let's try to fix it.

On Lin­ux:

I would ei­ther put it on my ~/.bashrc or add a file in /etc/pro­file.d. and start an­oth­er shel­l.

On Win­dows:

Start reged­it and ed­it HKEY_LO­CAL_­MA­CHINE/Sys­tem/Cur­rent­Con­trolSet/­Con­trol/Ses­sion Man­ager/En­vi­ron­men­t, and re­boot.

What­ev­er, I am not judg­ing this one.

Any­way, I think I have turned this XP in­stall in­to a rea­son­able place to de­vel­op my hob­by PyQt project­s.

My first windows app

Let's try Some C/C++

It looks like some­thing called Vi­su­al­C++ Ex­press Edi­tion is free! let's try that.

Too bad the li­cense says I may not de­ploy or dis­trib­ute any pro­gram I de­sign or de­vel­op us­ing it.

Dear Vis­ual C++ Ex­press Edi­tion: Get the fuck off my HD. I am start­ing to hate the word "Ex­press". What's this garbage sup­posed to be use­ful for?

I am open to sug­ges­tion­s, but it seems the al­ter­na­tive is a GNU toolchain, just like in Lin­ux.

I think I'll stick to Python on­ly on My XP side.

This is as far as I got in one day. We'll see how it evolves (if it evolves) lat­er.

Conclusions so far

  • In­­stalling win­­dows soft­­ware sucks

  • Win­­dows is a very bare-bones OS

  • You can turn it in­­­to a de­vel­op­­ment box for Python at least

  • Things break for mis­­te­ri­ous rea­­sons some­­times but there are known ways of work­ing around the bro­ken­­ness

  • You re­­boot a lot.

Noth­ing I had­n't guessed al­ready, yet.

Lat­er on, I will try to work a full day us­ing XP, but not now, be­cuse I am rather an­noyed at it at the mo­men­t.

Jonathan / 2007-11-13 17:16:

Yawn.. Another Linux user who hates MS. I've used Windows for numerous years - I'm an IT Manager who oversees a whole company of MS products including sizeable Web and database servers with all staff on a mix of 98-Vista connected to an Active Directory network. I've never had a decent experience of Linux either at home or at work. (I use Linux and MySQL for logging and used it briefly as a media box at home) Its complicated and messy to use, its hard to get decent information on because there are so many flavours and when you go to forums to ask for help you get arsey rtfm type replies from pompous idiots.

I'll stick with MS thanks - just because you can't make it work doesn't mean that it doesn't work.

Roberto Alsina / 2007-11-13 17:27:

Wow. You are using officially EOLd products. And that's supposed to be something good?

I just wrote what happened. The ony thing about Windows I claim to be broken is the "Open With" dialog (and I dare you say it's not).

Other than that, I have no idea why you believe what you write to be related to what's on the post.

Carla Schroder / 2007-11-13 17:39:

Thank you Roberto, for writing the Windows review I've always wanted to write! I about died laughing- your review is right on. I've been administering both Linux and Windows since the mid-90s, and the more I learned about windows the more I loathed it. It's a horrible mess and a poor excuse- how is it that the wealthiest software company on the planet can't code its way out of a wet sack? It's pitiful.

Don't try Vista until you are seriously bored and really Jonesing for something to do. It's 15 gigabytes- no really, 15 gigabytes- of nothing. No productivity software, just a big fat mess that hinders its human user at every turn, but it still rolls out the welcome mat to any stray malicious executables.

My PCLinuxOS system, for one example, occupies under 5 gigabytes, and that includes rafts of productivity software, games, and a few test servers.

Do please publish a followup- trust me, you'll have no shortage of material.

Anonymous / 2007-11-13 17:45:

If the app Eric doesnt tell windows that it can be used to open those types of files, how can you possibly expect windows to know that by default??

I'm not a huge fan of windows, but I mean, come is this "broken" functionality?

Roberto Alsina / 2007-11-13 17:55:

Anonymous: the broken part is that I can't tell windows to use Eric to open those files either, at least without hunting down where the binary for eric is.

Turner / 2007-11-13 18:10:

I work at a Mac-centric dev house, I'm the odd man out because my home computer runs XP (for years it was 2000 but my install disc got scratched). I also have used Slackware, RedHat/Fedora, and Ubuntu (the second OS on my computer right now).

So in reguard to your problems, all your applications are in your Program Files directory (which should pop up when you click browse). How do you specify a file association on Linux? Even Mac you have to click a file, direct it to the Application folder and select the packaged app. And then apply it to all other files of the same type. (really annoying for me, I prefer Windows' method) The binary should be in a clearly labeled folder, if not, however, this is up to the developer, I lament.

Secondly, not a problem per se, but you used the registry editor to change your PATH, which is not the recommended or sane way of doing this. The much better way is to rick click on My Computer, go to properties/advanced/Environment Variables and use the variable editor.

Also, the only reason you can type "yum install eric4 subversion" on linux is because you already know and are familiar with those apps. Windows is a different ballpark.

However, Windows has a glaring lack of a unified package manager. I'm not aware of one existing at all, unless you consider msi files. It is one thing I miss from Mac and Linux.

I recommend Sourceforge for finding open source apps that meet your needs.

Personally, I find advantages in every OS I've used, but for my everyday personal use I use Windows. If I could use my audio production hardware and software on Linux, I'd be more apt to consider it for normal use. However, Linux doesn't have commercial games, which is a great downfall. Linux does however have a lot of great indie games, some of which I have found Windows ports for.

I wouldn't tell you to convert to Windows, but if you just wanna play around with it, you can have fun. You can email me if you have questions, I don't know all, but I'll do what I can.

Also, most programs should install this by default if it's needed, but most don't (as evidenced by your missing DLL - bad programmer, bad! not including needed libraries or making mention of them)

Here's the link:

Turner / 2007-11-13 18:12:

Oh, also, I use Linux on all my company webservers. And Johnathan has to be the first guy I've ever heard make a positive remark about Active Directory. There are some things Windows should never do.

Roberto Alsina / 2007-11-13 18:19:

The registry thing was just the first thing windows live search returned. It was perhaps a naïve thing to do, but I am a naïve windows user.

As for "yum install ..." you can of course also click of "Package manager" in your menu and choose them from a nice list ;-)

On Linux (KDE, at least) to associate a file, you do it exactly the same way as in windows, except instead of a list you have the same tree as your "start button".

The same idea, only implemented (more) correctly.

Carla Schroder / 2007-11-13 18:56:

A couple more thoughts:

Running Win9x/ME clients on Active Directory is insane. Win9x/ME has even less security than NT/XP/etc. (the precise amount is zero) if you can believe that, so even allowing those on into an AD domain is asking for even more trouble than you get when you try to do it the right way. Which doesn't really exist; you merely have levels of "unsafe" and "less unsafe."

Because you have to dumb down the authentication for the entire domain to allow Win9x/ME to connect in the first place, and then you have all nice nice, totally un-secureable clients in your domain.

Windows, unlike proper Unix-type operating systems, is incapable of determining true filetypes. Linux/Unix et al don't even need file extensions- those are conveniences for human users and applications.

Vista's installer is virtually the same as XP- there is no unattended installation, but you must hang around to answer stupid questions, and it takes forever. 15 minutes for Linux vs. 90 minutes for Vista on the same dual-core PC with a gig of RAM. When it was over I had a Linux system (PCLinuxOS) that occupied under 5 gigs, and that included rafts of productivity software and games. Vista, on the other hand, chewed through 15 gigs just for its own obese self, plus the usual ration of crapware, nagware, and crippled trialware.

Don't worry Roberto, those of us who have extensive cross-platform experience and know what we're talking about appreciate what you're saying. The truth is that Windows is a steaming pile, and the only thing innovative about it is the level of bribes and bullying it takes to get people to use it.

Dave Compton / 2007-11-13 19:11:

Hi Roberto,

Nice review. I agree with most of what you say but here are a couple of comments:

1. Thunderbird works fine for IMAP on windows. Not the default app but if you want a standalone mail reader it is available.

2. Bloglines ( web based as you point out ) works well and has the advantage of working regardless of what OS or computer you are using.

3. Are you sure about the restrictions on Visual C++ Express Edition ? This is in the MSDN FAQ for
Visual Studio Express:

4.Can I use Express Editions for commercial use?

Yes, there are no licensing restrictions for applications built using the Express Editions.

Here's the URL:

- Dave

Roberto Alsina / 2007-11-13 19:31:

It turns out the problem is the license for the beta version (thanks to the reddit comenter that figured it).

I will correct the article later.

AmazingLarry / 2007-11-13 19:59:

My only arguments are: Linux programs crash just as mysteriously, I just installed Ubuntu on a machine and was required to reboot after installing a few updates, and then again for a driver (the OS told me to reboot, it wasn't me not knowing how to reload modules or X).

But yes, from start to finish, installing XP is a lot more work than Linux. But it's the same with Apple, since they don't include non-Apple software in the OS. It's the downside of proprietary OSs.

Turner / 2007-11-13 20:14:

A lot of the reason for annoyances like "this is a system folder - go away" is to insulate stupid users from their own stupidity. Disabling that crap is one of the first things I do when I install windows.

Actually I built an unattended installation for Windows XP with all my settings baked right in. It's like a custom windows distro. I put the disc in, let it boot and bam, it installs. However, Xubuntu installed in a fraction of the time, still yet, even though I removed oh, 300MB from my install.

You might not believe it, but I'm not really a GUI guy, I'm one of those weirdos who loved DOS (Dr-DOS + 4DOS shell was awesome, multiuser, multitasking command line interface with all the programming power of bash). So I like to keep thing minimal. I use Xubuntu for that reason.

Interesting that you're using Live search, I think I puked a little in my mouth when I went to the website to see what it was all about. Even though I use Windows, I'm sure as hell not Microsoft's biggest fan.

Defaulting to the programs menu is a much better way of finding the program you want, I agree. I wonder if that could be hacked into Windows..

Roberto Alsina / 2007-11-13 20:18:

I used Live search because it's what's in the search thingamajig in IE7.

Phu5ion / 2007-11-13 20:25:

Hi Roberto,

Nice review, I'm enjoying seeing the viewpoint of a long time Linux user trying out XP. You are pretty much spot on with your observations so far and I do have a few ideas.

If you are absolutely dieing for a package manager, the only one I know of that has bears any resemblance to yum or apt-get would probably be win-get. This ironically enough is a sourceforge project: http://windows-get.sourcefo.... I haven't used it personally, but I doubt it is as robust as the Linux contemporaries.

Second, forget about using Outlook Express and go get Thunderbird, Outlook is a horribly archaic application with more holes than swiss cheese. I would also suggest getting Firefox, but from what I've heard IE 7 is a lot better than the previous version.

Third, the audience that Windows is geared towards doesn't want to know what is going on with their system when it breaks. The closest thing you will find is by right-clicking on "My Computer" and selecting "Manage". This will bring up "Computer Management" and from their, you can go to the "Event Viewer". Of course, what is listed there is generally cryptic and useless. You can also setup your users from "Computer Management"->"Local Users and Groups"; make a root user and a regular user, create passwords, etc. Unfortunately, you will probably find that a lot of your applications will not function properly if you are not an "Administrator".

Finally, rebooting is a way of life in Windows land. Nothing you can do about it.

I'm looking forward to the follow-up.

Nebu Pookins / 2007-11-13 20:59:

Hi Roberto, I found your post very interesting. I wrote a reponse, but it got pretty long, so I moved it onto a post on my own blog at I tried to post a trackback to your entry, but I got the following error:

Error code: 11
Problem saving. Please contact Haloscan

Roberto Alsina / 2007-11-13 21:16:

Nebu: Haloscan does that kind of things sometimes. Don't worry, nobody ever looks at trackbacks anyway ;-)

katie / 2007-11-13 22:32:

I just tried linux a few days ago after installing an ubuntu operating system from a CD from my friend.

How do you figure out what the program is called? I type "apt-get install latex" and it can't find it. Now what?

I think it's even worse because I have to go and search for an hour of what that package is really called. Also, after it's installed, how do I know what to type to run it? It doesn't get put into my KDE menu.

So then I have to search for a while to find out it's called pdflatex.

And some programs I install say that can't find

I don't see how this is easier at all...

Let me know if I'm missing something. But it seems like if you don't memorize the codename for the program you want to install, and you don't know the exename for the program (both by heart), you have to spend time searching for it online.

katie / 2007-11-13 22:37:

Also, now I want to install a scientific programming library, and apt-get only installs an old version. This doesn't have the features I need to sparse matrix multiplication.

When building from the source, it gives about 1,000 errors, saying certain things are undefined and certain libraries are missing. Arghhh

Aaron Griffin / 2007-11-13 22:48:

Just a minor correction, if you please. yaourt is an unofficial package manager for Arch. The "proper" way to do it would be:

pacman -S eric4 subversion

Still, yaourt is a nice wrapper around pacman.

Roberto Alsina / 2007-11-13 22:53:

katie: you probably need to pin it to a newer version of Debian.

But I am no Debian expert.

Elaine Normandy / 2007-11-13 23:07:

Four years ago, I went from Windows 98 to Red Hat 9, and currently run Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon on a home-built AMD 64 machine.

This summer I started working as Office Manager at a small office which required me to use Windows XP. I had sometimes wondered if I found the modern versions of Linux so superior to Windows because my last familiar version of Windows was so old. Working with XP disabused me of that notion.

One thing I noticed is that I will find something particularly annoying, search and find a utility that purports to fix it, and it always costs a minimum of $20. One gets awfully spoiled with free as is beer, free as in free, software.

Reader / 2007-11-13 23:21:

The closest I came to a decent repository when I used Windows what CNET Downloads. You still have to install the programs individually, but I found it was the safest easiest way to find Windows programs.

Now I only run macs & linux boxes, but that's another story.

dinotrac / 2007-11-13 23:41:

Katie -

I feel your pain with apt-get. When you know what your are looking for it is the Cat's Pajamas, but, when you don't --- Argh.

Fortunately, Ubuntu provides a far superior alternative for those of us who are not experts on every freakin' software package in the Linux universe.

Ubuntu provides a very nice GUI alternative called Synaptic, although they don't point you to it as nicely as, say, SuSE points you to it's YAST tool.

It's under System->Administration.

You still have to have some idea of the software name, but, for example, you could enter "ate" into the search box, and it would find a number of things, including pdflatex.

PS -- a great place to find Linux software by using "does this" notions is

Alex Chejlyk / 2007-11-13 23:50:

I've been working with Windows since 1991, and I've been using Linux since 2001. I perform IT duties for several companies and can say that Linux is much easier to deal with day to day when compared to Windows.

Windows XP isn't all bad and is quite useable but it still does odd things for no particular reason. If something crashes I want to find out why. If an app or driver crashes in Linux, I can find out why and fix it. Windows crashes and I have no idea why. A reboot sometimes 'fixes' it, but usually only temporarily.
The biggest problem is that when Windows starts behaving badly, it is often less time consuming to rip and replace the OS then to track down multiple problems.

I enjoyed the article,


Alex C.

Simon / 2007-11-14 01:32:

You are far braver than I am!

Sandy McMurray / 2007-11-14 01:48:

Note that Outlook Express has a 2 GB limit that can bite you if you're not careful. It's not a real mail client; it's there to upsell you to the full version (Outlook) in Office.

Edward McCain / 2007-11-14 04:07:

As a Linux guru, I'm sure that apt-get install eric4 subversion and adding a file in /etc/profile.d. and starting another shell is second nature to you.

As for me, if I want unattended installation, I just crank out a WINNT.SIF file, put my proggies in a $OEM$ distribution folder and create a batch to install them. Then I burn a copy of the CD, insert and walk away.
Simple, eh?

It's just as simple as bash shells, sudo, and /dev/cdrom/cd iso9660 ro,user,noauto,unhide

Edward McCain / 2007-11-14 04:11:

Oh, and btw, there are 541k pages on google devoted to "windows freeware" - and there are lots of very nice freeware programs out there.

Jeffe / 2007-11-14 04:57:


Active Directory with a mix of 98 and XP? WOW, are you running a hybrid or what? If you are running win98 then you ain't running AD. THe machines can't be managed properly, nor was AD ever meant to manage those DOS clients. I am a Network engie, helping to support a Win 2003 Rc 2 based Forest composed of 120 sites, 27000 machines all running Win xp, and I can tell you administrating it is hobbled by continuous hangs, schema screw-ups, and issues with accounts. I can put an openLDAP, FedoraDS, or an eDir online and fully support any clients that I hook to it. On my AD structure, nothing works as it should, and I have to Kludge things together to get any other OS's to work on it. there are no true POSIXs attribs on it (Oh look what happens when MS Licenses UNIX code). No Anonymous bind, due to security issues dealing with Guest.. boy is that a joy.

I've been supporting Windows since Windows 3.1, yeah back when MS had to 'borrow' LanMan from IBM to make it talk.. The Best OS Microsoft ever created (read: lifted) was DOS. No Security, but atleast you could get into the nuts and bolts without having to pay MS tech support to allow you to gain the knowledge.

I'll Keep my Fedora, SUSE, Ubuntu, and FreeBSD boxes. You can have you;re AD. Good luck on Patch Tuesday!

terri / 2007-11-14 05:55:

This reminds me of good ole days when I was working as sysadmin for a cheap place that won't spend much on expensive admin tools for windows.
Imaging sitting through for 1 hour, installing windows, apps, and multiply that by 20. And you do that everytime someone messes up their PC and the best you can do is re-install (1 hour re-install vs 1 hour trouble-shooting.)
My emotional scar due to that job nauseates me whenever I see a windows running.
My home and work is completely sanitized with linux for the sake of my sanity.

Anon / 2007-11-14 08:25:

A few quick notes:

You're obviously a 'power user'. That being the case, it's just inappropriate to use IE7, Live Search, etc. That's for average users who want Avril Lavigne's latest album and cookbook recipes and basic web use like MySpace. Just because you're using windows doesn't mean you shouldn't install Firefox (or Opera, if you like) and use Google from square 1.

As others have said, the issues with 'Open With' are the fault of the Eric installer. As for your complaint about not knowing where it is, it's almost certainly in 'C:Program Files' in its own folder. That's a pretty obviously named location. If it's not there, again, it's the fault of the installer for not complying with the OS's standard way of doing things.

C/C++: Check out Bloodshed Dev C++. I remember it being a top result when I was looking for a free C++ compiler for Windows probably 6 - 8 years ago, and it's still popular today. It's based on Mingw (a GCC port to windows).

I think it's pretty unfair to bring up issues like Outlook Express in lieu of Thunderbird etc. The shipped software with Windows is geared towards 'common denominator' business users and, more importantly, is essentially Microsoft only. Install a linux distro and chop off everything that wasn't actually made wholly by the same people that made the OS. Pretty lacking.

Otherwise, it's a fair report. :) The intarwebs and blagospheres are flooded with negative reports of linux / BSD from first-time users, and Windows is much deserving the same treatment. I especially laughed at the issues with the installation process. I have to clean-install an XP box at least once a month, and it's a horrible timesink to have to sit there waiting for the next round of questions that could just as easily be handled at the start or the end.

Anon / 2007-11-14 08:32:

Code mangled my slash mark. C:\Program Files

Perry / 2007-11-14 12:31:

Roberto must not be a gamer. If he was, he wouldn't have stuck with Linux for so many years. I have to use UNIX at work, because that is what is installed on our testers. UNIX is very reliable and we have very little issues with it. The commands are even very similar to DOS (ll replaces /dir and cd is the same, for example) and the things that are different are fairly easy to learn. But if Linux can't play the latest and greatest games, it is worthless to me.

You might wonder why games are important. Well, games are what has driven my passion for computers ever since I was a child in my father's classroom and discovered my first text based adventure on the Apple IIs. If it wasn't for the games, I wouldn't be interested in computers at all. I wouldn't have spent so much time voraciously consuming any text I could find that explained how each part of the computers worked and more importantly, as the years went by, how to tweak it's performance. It's that same passion that keeps me interested in current technology and has me gladly spending $2000 for the latest hardware and hand building my own gaming systems.

A few of the engineers at work will spend half an hour espousing the virtues of Linux and brag how they download a free operating system for their daughter's computer. They think they have me convinced, because I'm polite and listen attentively, but at the end I only need ask them one question, "Will it play the latest games?" They kind of stutter and reluctantly admit that it is a short coming of Linux. Then they become dismissive and say things like, "Well, that's if your into that sort of thing."

I am into that sort of thing and it's a hell of lot more stimulating than swinging sticks at balls on a golfcourse. I say the same thing to fans of Linux that I do to fans of Macs, I'll be the first person to convert the day they make an OS that is compatible with all the games I love to play. Until then, live, die or BSOD, it's only Windows for me.

Roberto Alsina / 2007-11-14 12:52:

If what you want is a game console that can run Excel, by all means, Linux is not that.

Roberto Alsina / 2007-11-14 12:53:

Something more: I find programming more fun than any game I ever played on a computer.

Hell, writing a game would probably be more fun than playing it, for me.

Turner / 2007-11-14 17:32:

For those of you who hate attended installs, get nlite ( ), you can change almost everything about your Windows OS before it even installs, burn it to disc and go watch a movie.

As for the Excel comment, Open Office runs on Windows too. Though unless I'm doing something "hardcore" I use Google Docs.

Windows is good for gaming and music production. OS X is good for music production and graphics and programming. Linux is good for programming and system administration. They're all fine for checking your email and productivity software.

Perry / 2007-11-14 17:42:

When we break it down to the simplest level, what are computers used for? Work and Pleasure. I already mention I use UNIX at work and it does a great job, even better than the buggy and prone to crash/freeze up test systems we use that run Windows XP.

However, when it comes to pleasure, UNIX based OSes fail to compete with both Macintosh or Windows, with the exception of a few gentlemen such as yourselves who have hobbies such as programming. All three OS types will allow users to watch movies, send email, surf the internet, etc., but the one glaring advantage that Windows has over everything else, is that it is compatible with all the latest and greatest games.

Surely, you can objectively admit that before any Linux system becomes a viable contender against Windows amongst the general populace, it must be able to close that gap. Until that happens, Linux will be a great OS for some people, especially for doing work, but a poor choice for most people who also like to use their computers for entertainment.

Other than that, I found your article interesting and found myself agreeing with many of your points, especially the Windows installation process that requires you to babysit it. I always like to hear or read different perspectives on things that I take for granted from day to day.

Perry / 2007-11-14 17:55:

One last side comment... computer gaming used to be an eccentric hobby that was synonymous with computer nerds. The very first games were made by computer geeks at MIT or by a couple of guys working out of their garage. What is it about Linux fans that makes them different, do you think?

Roberto Alsina / 2007-11-14 21:09:

Perry: my computer amuses me just fine thank you very much. Your needs and my needs are not the same.

OTOH, I don't give a damn about your needs :-)

OTOOH, unix was created in order to play "Space Travel".

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