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Editor's Note: Windows is Easier, Just Like Stabbing Your Own Eyeballs is Easier

Mar 06, 2010, 00:03 (59 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)

by Carla Schroder
Managing Editor

Lately I've been breaking my own "don't help friends with their Windows PCs" rule. Now I remember why I made that rule in the first place.

You know what the worst part of trying to troubleshoot and fix any Windows PC is? The endless waiting. Waiting for it to reboot. Waiting for hung processes to finish whatever they are doing. Waiting for apps to install or uninstall, and why is that always so dog-slow? For extra amusement, hook up a sniffer like Wireshark or tcpdump just to watch how many Windows apps phone home.

On a nice sane Linux box there are many ways to do things. This is great when something doesn't work and you need to try something else. Let's say X is all horked, and screen redraws are taking forever, and the cursor is stuck in compound low, and the CPU is in the red zone. Usually you can still get to a command prompt, and find and kill offending processes. There are keyboard tricks like Ctrl+Alt+Backspace to disconnect an X session, or the Sysreq key for fancier rescue tricks. If your local access is too messed up to use you can try remote administration. If those are hopeless, boot a rescue CD or DVD. If that doesn't work pull out your hard drive, stick it in an external USB enclosure, and hook it up to a working PC. There is always a way.

If your Linux is broken and you're in a hurry, boot a live Linux CD, DVD, or USB and finish your work.

Worse-case scenario, blow away Linux and reinstall it. If your home directory is on a separate partition, no sweat. You can plan ahead and have some shortcuts in place, like maintaining a package list and keeping configuration backups so you can quickly reinstall all of your applications, or roll your own custom image, or use something like Clonezilla to keep an exact duplicate of your setup, or setup a customized network installer...there are many ways to restore a Linux system.

Windows? Don't make me laugh. The worst of all worlds is being stuck with a Home edition and a special "restore" disk that is not a "full" Windows version, but a crippled one keyed to your PC. You can't move it to another machine. There is no such thing as a surgical repair, it's reformat and reinstall or nothing. There is still no live bootable Windows, except for some unreliable third-party efforts that may get you in trouble with the license police. (Though the reality is everyone is in trouble with the license police from birth, that is their default policy.) The default installation still dumps everything into a single partition. Windows 7 is far behind Linux in speed, flexibility, and ease of installation.

Windows 7, depending on which edition you get, weighs in around 13 GB. That's just Windows and a few apps like Minesweeper, Notepad, a nice screenshot program, and Paint. No real productivity apps, and it's still a security joke. Installing Windows is just the beginning, you still need real productivity applications and security software. The various Windows editions are crippled in various silly ways to justify different price tags.

My fattest Linux system is Ubuntu Studio with all the bells and whistles. A little over 6 GB, and that includes OpenOffice, Abiword, Gimp, Tuxpaint, Audacity, Ardour, JACK, Hydrogen, and bunch of other audio production software, a bunch of games, multiple Web browsers, FTP, instant messaging, email, text editors, a huge set of networking tools, KDE, GNOME, Fluxbox, IceWM, Digikam, a complete build environment, file managers, spreadsheets, partition editors, cloning tools, astronomy programs, and on and on, I think you get the idea. It's a feast.

Windows is all about walls. It's nothing but barriers. Want to do something? The answer is no. The best way to diagnose and fix Windows problems, other than the reformat-and-reinstall dance, is to use FOSS tools like bootable rescue Linuxes, Cygwin, and VNC.

I suppose you could call Windows easier if you believe that reformat-and-reinstall, or throwing everything away and buying a new PC, is easier. If that is what "Windows is easier" means, then I accept that definition.