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Switching to Windows, Not as Easy as You Think 803

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the turnabout-is-fair-play dept.
rchapman writes "Mad Penguin writer Simon Gerber has published an amusing review of Windows XP as seen from a Linux users point of view. He really makes you feel like you are trying to use Windows for the first time after exclusively using Linux. The article covers everything from the hideous installer and its lack of partitioning/formatting capabilities to the utter wasteland that is the Windows desktop, devoid of useful applications and everything in between. A fun read."
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Switching to Windows, Not as Easy as You Think

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  • Flawed. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lostie (772712) on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:46AM (#14426428)
    How about doing a review from the perspective of someone who has never used a computer before - then lets see which one is easier to use (hint: the answer will be Windows XP by a massive margin).

    This "review" is flawed in so many ways it's not even funny - of COURSE a UNIX nerd is going to hate Windows, and vice versa. In fact it's even worse than the various Microsoft "independant" TCO studies, because at least they try to hide their bias.
  • by kalbzayn (927509) on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:49AM (#14426440)
    All you have to do to switch to Windows is buy a new PC. They all come with it installed out of the box. They also come with all the software most people need either already installed or available to buy at your local Best Buy/Circuit City. I set up my non-tech parents like this over a year ago and have only had to help them twice when my dad accidentally told his firewall not to allow his browser to connect to the internet.

    The only support I've had to do to my own computer is fix the bootloader everytime Ubuntu decides to override it and I forget to back it up. Sometimes I think we spend a little too much time nit picking things and tweaking systems to get that extra percent performance increase.

    Time for some coffee.
  • by Chicane-UK (455253) <chicane-uk@ntlworl3.14159d.com minus pi> on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:49AM (#14426442) Homepage
    The article covers everything from the hideous installer and it's lack of partitioning/formatting capabilities to the utter wasteland that is the Windows desktop, devoid of useful applications and everything in between.

    Someone has already mentioned the fact that you CAN partition and format drives in the installer, so thats wrong for a start.

    And what is Microsoft supposed to do about applications? If it bundled Microsoft Office in with Windows, the anti-competition people would be on their backs the day it hit the shelves. They have no choice but keep the OS relatively free of apps - too many partners they don't want to piss off and the anti-competition people just waiting with multi-million dollar fines! Look at the shit they are having to go through here in Europe with Windows Media Player for example!
  • XP is a bit older (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MancunianMaskMan (701642) on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:51AM (#14426455)
    I had a similar experience, and it cost me days to install XP on a new computer wher Ubuntu installed cleanly. That was about 6 months ago, and the Ubuntu disks had been fresh from my letterbox (fee & all!) whereas my "spare" copy of XP was already a few moons old. So maybe that's why it stymed an old geek like me about SATA drives. Still haven't got Internet going on this "XP" thing, since it can't find network card drivers (not sure I want to). Maybe the M$ release cycle is just uselessly slow for today's hardware market?
  • by jcaldwel (935913) on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:04AM (#14426525)

    If Vista is a marketing success, then MS will dominate for a long time on the x86 desktop.

    Seems like circular reasoning to me. Any operating system which is a marketing success should dominate the market.

  • Of course it's hard (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jarlsberg (643324) on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:05AM (#14426532) Journal
    Of course it's hard to switch operating systems if you've been using one type of OS for a long time and are switching to something completely different.

    I remember struggling with the inadequacies of Windows when I had to switch to that OS after Amiga went bust. It was hard and extremely annoying, but eventually I knew enough to administrate both Windows 95 and the Windows servers in the business I worked for then.

    I also found Linux hopeless to use and work with the first months after I installed it, but again, business dictated I learn it, so I did. I like Linux more than I like Windows, but it's apples and oranges, really.

  • by jacksonj04 (800021) <nick@nickjackson.me> on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:45AM (#14426767) Homepage
    I had some randomly bad RAM not long ago, and both Windows and Linux failed with it at totally unexpected times. It may be an application crash, or the whole system may go down hard. The day when software can ignore dodgy hardware is still a long way off, although it is getting better at spotting it (SMART for HDDs is wonderful, saved my data twice by warning my prior to a disk crash)
  • Re:RTFA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fmobus (831767) on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:46AM (#14426769)
    Ability to partition your hard drive is important. I've seen brand new PCs coming out with 120+Gb HDs with a single windows-already-installed partition. This is utterly idiot. All stuff (system, apps, data) packed together in C:\.

    Should the system go bad (virii, etc), which happens often, the most used solution is to format. Hmm so, where do I backup my data before formatting when this data is in the same partition as the system and the apps... Not that joe-six-packs are organized enough to separate data from apps and system, thou.

    And I guess there is some slight performance boost in working with smaller partitions.

    Some Windows zealot once said me there's a good reason for this: most users won't even see they have another partition (usually D:\) with the remaining space for data and are likely to complain and annoy the vendor about it, saying "but I bought a 120Gb drive!!!!". This is utterly weak reason too: an user stupid enough to not notice the existence of D:\ is the same user who use his PC to play solitaire and read mail and is not likely to need 120Gb anyway...

    So, IMHO, windows installer should have a decent partitioner... And brand new PCs should be sold with a reasonable partition scheme. E.g: a 120Gb should have about 20Gb for system and apps and 2x50Gb for data.
  • Re:Flawed. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WhiteWolf666 (145211) <sherwin AT amiran DOT us> on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:57AM (#14426851) Homepage Journal
    That's just me trying not to be biased :)

    Straight up opinion? Ditch all the other distributions, and go for the latest OpenSuSE.

    If you are the cutting edge type, go for SLICK OpenSuSE, which is a one-cd install, utilizing all the latest tricks I talked about.

    Klik:// is still experimental software. You can use it on the regular OpenSuSE, but SLICK (and experimental version of OpenSuSE) has it out of the box.

    I haven't used another linux distribution ('cept Knoppix as a rescue disk for Windows) in years. I think SuSE hits all the targets. Debian is more free, Gentoo is more, uhh, optimized(?), Fedora has better geek cred, and Mandrake is supposedly more userfriendly, but I think SuSE (especially with the new OpenSuSE setup) hits these targets best.

    Boxed set retail SuSE also comes with fantastic manuals, easily readily by computer novices. My parents refer to them when they want to burn a CD, or edit a photo.

    I try to stay informed about other Linuxes. Every once in a while I'll install one in a virtual machine. But don't get me wrong; I'm a SuSE hack. SuSE got me off Windows 2000, and I've been a full-time linux user ever since.

    A large part of it was the working Java/Flash and properly configured hardware out-of-box, including Nvidia binary drivers. SuSE is a polished, professional, well-maintained distribution that stays near the cutting edge, while nodding its hat towards 'proprietary' solutions (Java, Flash, Nvidia drivers, Acrobat, and other non-GPL non-BSD stuff). Give it a whirl, you won't be disappointed.
  • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by l3v1 (787564) on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:59AM (#14426875)
    If you want full Linux-installer-style partition and format control over a Windows install, it's there, and it's not that hard to find.

    I call BS, and big time. Let's see some crapness in the windows installer:
    - no sata or raid support (wait, see next line),
    - you can have sata and other "exotic" hw support with third party drivers on a floppy disk, and nothing else (just think of people like myself who doesn't even buy or have fdd for about 6 years now), which leads to
    - you can't use, mount, read, ... no media under the installer, can't use drivers from another optical drive, external drive, network share, nfs, and I could just go on
    - you have only two choices for partition format, fatxx or ntfs; besides the goal for monopoly, how can one explain the lack of native support for other, high quality journaling filesystems
    - no support for defining separate partitions for swap or user homes (that is Documents and Settings) - I know you can make these steps after a finished install, but why not during install ?
    - network will be about the last things activated during the install process and still no use since you don't have no other terminals or guis or anything, you can't do anything but wait
    - the installer gives you about 0 amount of information about the status of the install, in a lucky case you can see some filenames of dlls being copied, other than that nothing but some crappy images and blinking pixels

    Don't get me wrong (I suppose you already did), I'm not saying the way the installer works is bad for the average user, I'm saying you have no other option, which is bad. Sometimes very bad.

  • Re:Flawed. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by orasio (188021) on Monday January 09, 2006 @10:05AM (#14426921) Homepage
    My girlfriend uses Slackware 9.1, with Gnome 2.4 (old stuff, around 2001).
    She had used some Windows 98 before.
    I have an old windows 98 installation, so we can play FIFA2005 (the game doesn't run anymore, so I guess it's bye bye to that partition).
    She knows how to select Windows at boot time, and she only uses Slackware, because it just works. Mail is easy, word processing in openoffice is easy, Nautilus is real good for organizing pictures. The whole issue of downloading digital pics from the camera, and later recording a CDs is just too easy.
    And I'm talking about software from 2001 with two or three scripts I wrote myself. The catch? She uses it, I administer it. And it's zero effort to administer. I could even ssh from work.
    That what happens to people who use Windows. They like it, because they can ask or pay somebody to install it and administer it for them. After those issues are gone, mswindows has no edge.
    Plus, any GNU/Linux based distribution has an advantage in that it's much easier to administer for me than WinXP.
    I didn't get a lot of exposure to XP, but with just a glimpse I can see the same flawed design I had learned to hate since windows 3.1 through windows 2000 : I was showing MSN messenger to my father, I used my account, and after that I got him one, and logged in. After I left, my father was connected as myself. And no dialog told me that the first account would become the default. That's a big usability issue I have always had throughout mswindows, and doesn't look as it's going to be fixed: it guesses arbitrary settings, doesn't tell you it does, and fails to guess what you really wanted. Total failure.
  • by CoderBob (858156) on Monday January 09, 2006 @10:07AM (#14426931)
    Windows automatic updates on

    That might be the problem. I've seen quite a few instances where auto-updates applied an update that then completely takes a system down. I've seen systems come up but fail to ever get past a login screen. Hell, I've watched servers that were updated manually get severely messed up and cause downtime thanks to a Windows "Update".

    Long story short- Automatic updates are just asking for trouble. I use auto-download, but manual install. At least that way I know if I'm getting a stupid Windows Driver update, a system update, or some other piece of junk update, and if the system bails on me I have a baseline to know if it was from an update or not.

  • by l33tlamer (916010) on Monday January 09, 2006 @10:10AM (#14426963)
    Switching to Windows: Intended for the average computer user:
    1) Get a blank Hard Disk or create a new partition. Use partition magic or get a friend to do it
    2) Boot the windows CD and install
    3) Install firewall software
    4) Get updates from Microsoft or a friend
    5) Install other programs

    Its not that hard. I run a tri-boot system at home, with Windows-Work, Windows-Gaming and Linux. If I had to switch over from Windows to Linux, the main issues is not just the changes in interface, configuration style (init files etc), but finding replacement programs for things I am using under Windows. Like all my games, EndNote, Wakan/KanjiQuick(Japanese Writing), RatDVD and CDisplay for my manga viewing. Sure, there are similar tools available under Linux, but some features are missing, especially for rare programs like CDisplay. One can see that this reverse situation is arguably worst than going from Linux --> Windows. Sure, you may have to pay some money to get the software you need, but, at least they are available.

    It all comes down to a popular OS always having more variety of software, paid or open source, being developed for it. Personally, I think most computer users will end up dual-booting Windows (Vista) and Linux as time goes by, unless emulation becomes easy enough (for the average PC user) and fast enough to be a viable option.

    Now, let me go play som WoW, followed by a reboot to do some programming in Visual C then another reboot to start up my FTP server under Linux T_T
  • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Monday January 09, 2006 @10:41AM (#14427168)
    The powerful partition tools are there to allow easy operability with windows. When windows is no longer the main concern in peoples minds as they switch to linux these tools will be hidden and streamline.

    Like hell. On a Linux-only machine, they're also there to separate /home from the main distro so that if you have to reinstall it's a piece of cake to re-link the home directory. Obviously, there should be a swap partition too. Anyone installing a linux distro should be doing this.

    Depending on the situation, splitting off /var, /usr/local, and/or /etc can make sense too.

  • by isolationism (782170) on Monday January 09, 2006 @10:52AM (#14427243) Homepage
    I have a friend's elderly 3U server here -- The goods inside are probably about 5 years old (and it's all desktop-class hardware, not server hardware -- he was just sick of having boxes kicking around the floor and bought a small half-height rack and a couple 3U boxes and consolidated his footprint).

    Long story short, I've been running Gentoo on it since it showed up at the house some time ago. Now, there was some drive weirdness -- I think the boot drive was actually hdd with another drive present but unused on hdc, and the CDROM was on hdb with hda empty (??) but the point is, Gentoo installed and ran just dandy.

    For work reasons I now need to install Windows 2000 on the box and I've now rebooted half a dozen times, reformatting drives all over the place and still haven't managed to get the damn thing to boot. Why? Well, it looks like the BIOS is toast because it keeps reporting different sizes for hda (I've changed the cables to where they should be) every time I boot, and -- not surprisingly -- the drive is just totally useless to boot from. Windows won't install unless it can write an MBR to the drive, it seems.

    So -- even though I know the hardware isn't working quite right, at least Linux could work with (or, more to the point, around) the problem whereas Windows just pulls up a blank. Nothing I can do about it, either -- I've tried all the configurations that were worth trying. Next, it's time to try using a separate PATA controller card and spend another hour or so to see if Windows likes that any better ...

  • by dc29A (636871) on Monday January 09, 2006 @11:04AM (#14427314)
    You obviously don't support Windows systems for laymen.

    In every instance that I've replaced someone's Windows-only system with a dual-boot Windows/Linux install, they've thanked me.


    I didn't install Linux to computer illiterate family members but I did install Windows XP without any problems and they have no viruses, spyware, scumware, whatnot, to this day.

    I usually have a "nazi" checklist like this:
    - I am admin on the machine. No one else is. Yes it's a very severe limitation but it's worth gold. Before switching to these "nazi" rules, every month or two I had to clean up myriads of spywares and viruses. For the last 2 years, not one single virus, adware or spyware.
    - Only root has execute rights on iexplore.exe.
    - Firefox is default browser (thank $DEITY$ my mom's and sisters' banking sites support it well).
    - Thunderbird is default mail client.
    - OO.org installed (so far no complaints!)
    - Autoplay disabled.
    - SSH installed.
    - Router used as firewall.

    There are limitations like installing software, but I can connect remote to the machine and do maintenance and/or installs if needed. There was no antivirus nor antispyware installed, and for shits and giggles I did install one of each and no scumware was found on the machines.

    And referring to BSODs, I yet have to see Windows BSOD on about 7+ PCs in my family that wasn't related to some goddamn piece of shit ATI video driver. The only other BSOD I had on one of our PCs was because of a bad memory stick.
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Monday January 09, 2006 @11:06AM (#14427322) Homepage Journal
    I've been using Linux at home since the mid 90's and at work for almost as long. Although my current job involves mostly Java development on UNIX, the company has a couple of applications which require Windows, so I run Windows on my desktop. It's a constantly frustrating experience. Everything from having to hit keys to cut and paste (And it's worse in command line windows) to the constantly crowded desktop. I can't alt-drag windows the way I can in my favorite Window manager, and if an application freezes up (Outlook is a big offender here) I can't minimize it because in the 80's era Windows design, the application handles messages to the window frame. Modal dialogs piss me off too -- I've lost track of the number of times I've wanted to read a setting out of an application while working on the application and been unable to because the setting dialog was modal and the application refused to work while it was up.

    I have at least managed to enable focus follows mouse, although I've scrapped window managers that have handled it better than Windows does -- a lot of applications can and do grab the focus out from under whichever window I was working on, usually while I'm in the middle of coding something. You can also find a marginally useful virtual display manager for Windows, though I don't tend to find it to be as useful the UNIX ones I use. Windows on the other displays still clutter up the task bar and tend to raise when you're looking for something else.

    Ultimately I realize that it all comes down to what you're used to, but I know for a fact that many of the things that frustrate me about the Windows UI experience also frustrates Windows users who I interact with on a regular basis. Unlike them, though, I know that using the computer desn't have to be like that, which makes it a lot harder to simply grin and bear it.

  • Re:Wow. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by oscartheduck (866357) on Monday January 09, 2006 @11:07AM (#14427329)
    Thank god someone said this! I go into gnome or KDE and have things sensibly subset into various usability categories like "Office" (which stores word processors etc) or "Internet" (which stores messengers or file sharing programs or browsers), and there's a clear distinction between the administrative menu and the programs menu. I don't understand how this isn't a very clear, well organised system that anyone can use, as opposed to "let's dump EVERYTHING under weird names in the start menu!".

    I installed Adobe CS2 the other day and had to spend five minutes working out how to reorganise everything into one folder. Because there's actually several subsets to the start menu: there's the global one and there's your personal one, and you have to learn how to navigate between the two within the filesystem to be able to reorganise the menu effectively. But there's no HINT of that being the case until you start to wonder "Huh, why does the start menu folder in the file browser only have four programs in it?"
  • Re:RTFA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MrFrank (261142) on Monday January 09, 2006 @11:56AM (#14427701)
    I have to disagree with you. I recently (18 months ago) got a Dell 8400, nice system by the way. The reinstall disks (WinXP SP 1a) did not see the SATA drive, I believe the 8400 has the Intel 925 chipset with SATA support. My neighbor who purchased an 8400 several months after me got install disk (WinXP SP2) that do see the SATA disks.

    At fist Dell would not replace my reinstall disks, their argument was since the hardware was no longer under support they didn't need to provide a new reinstall disk. The first guy I chatted (on-line chat support) wouldn't budge. All I wanted was a reinstall disk with WinXP SP2. I guess I should have wiped it clean before I used it and then had to wait for Dell support to get me a new reinstall disk before I could have used my new PC. The second guy (Bruce) I talked (actually called support) agreed to send the disk out right away.

    So no WinXP does/did not support SATA straight away. Dell's initial solution was to use a floppy to load the driver. When I asked them to provide me with a free floppy dirve they then suggested a USD pen drive.
  • by Bake (2609) on Monday January 09, 2006 @12:14PM (#14427865) Homepage
    What good does having /var on a separate partition on a webserver do when every single Linux distribution I've seen for the past years has used /var/www for storing web pages?
  • Give me a break. Microsoft provides a default install location. If you don't like it, you're most likely a power user and can manage to change it yourself.

    Yes, but don't forget that the "common files" folder (which stores many installed-by-default DLL's) is located below "Program Files". Moving them is a pain in the ***, because their registry entries are NOT affected by TweakUI.

    When I installed WinXP in my 2GB C:\ partition a few years ago, I had never expected that this folder would grow and grow. I had to repartition because everything i installed kept putting things in this common files folder.

    When Microsoft had released Windows 3 and 95, the installation asked if you wanted to install in another directory. I used C:\WIN31 and C:\WIN95 (and later, C:\WIN98) so i could uninstall if i ever wanted. This spared me from reinstalling Windows once after a trojan had tried to delete my unexisting C:\WINDOWS folder.

    But now that's gone, it's "Microsoft's way, or the highway". (Users who want customization have to depend on third party tools, either expensive or unverified).

    And that's something i absolutely hate about Microsoft. First they offer choices, then they don't respect them, and finally they don't offer choices AT ALL.

  • by ratboy666 (104074) <fred_weigel&hotmail,com> on Monday January 09, 2006 @05:00PM (#14430582) Homepage Journal
    My experience (not that it is typical, I would *hope* it isn't):

    1 - I want to make a PVR (personal video recorder). Aquire the following components:
    (A) AMD 1700+ mainboard, 2 PCI slots, 1 AGP slot (B) NVIDIA 5200 graphics card with s-video out, (C) Mercury TV tuner (D) 256MB RAM (E) Memorex DVD burner.

    Note: Choice of components is for price. Noted that mainboard documentation states that WINDOWS XP is needed for "USB 2.0 Function". Borrow a copy of WINDOWS XP for initial installation (going to spring the $140 CDN the next day IFF it works).

    Assemble hardware. Install WINDOWS XP. After initial boot, note that the optical drive it installed from IS NOT PRESENT. Of course, no network access either (given that WINDOWS XP doesn't recognize the onboard ethernet. Apparently (according to a local Windows guru) I need the drivers... PS. Installed XP a second time, to be sure that I was not hallucinating.

    Installed Windows 98SE (for which I had a license). And there you go. Seems to work. Except that when the recommeded drivers are installed, the optical drives vanish yet again. Weird. And, I can't get the network going. But, able to put the contents of the motherboard CD onto the hard disk, to try XP again... Installed XP again (really, I know this is a dead horse, but I can't help myself), and loaded the drivers, and: TADA! it still doesn't work.

    Give up on Windows XP. Installed Fedora Core 2. Network, USB 2.0, sound, works. Just works. Added the NVIDIA driver, and the Mercury tuner. Install MythTV - and I have a PVR. WAF (wife acceptance factor) is 6 -- because it isn't Windows, and doesn't run games on the big-screen.

    Back to Windows 98. Try the Mercury tuner PVR application. Doesn't work (later, Windows guru tells me that one of the files that SHOULD have been "expanded" from .EX_ to .EXE wasn't, don't know why - but this comes back later). Increase memory from 256MB to 1.2GB to accomodate Apache and some other stuff.

    Windows 98SE no longer boots. After some web searching, find out I need to reduce "physical pages" because it crashes with that much RAM. Mercury PVR application *still* won't run. Oh well. Try some of the games (freebies, mostly from cereal boxes). Sound is marginal - sometimes works, sometimes doesn't. For instance, Atari Classic Games collection - no sound, messed up main-screen. Individual games, work, but no sound. Works PERFECTLY on the kids Pentium 166 with Soundblaster, and on our Compaq Deskpro Pentium II 400 with 128MB (Windows 98SE). Why? Maybe the sound drivers?

    Anyway, that's my latest Windows experience. Go figure.

    And I *still* don't have Windows XP at home -- not from lack of trying, mind you. It just won't run on what I have. Yes, the above is a VERY NEGATIVE Windows experience. Namely, IT JUST DOESN'T WORK. I guess I *could* buy a brand new box, but that just isn't going to happen.

    YMMV
    Ratboy
  • by mtxmorph (669251) on Monday January 09, 2006 @06:19PM (#14431336) Homepage
    One of the points the article makes is how Windows doesn't have a true package repository in the sense that Debian does (or Linspire). Perhaps this might be a good way to get Open Source software onto Windows machines -- if the OSS community can develop a common package format for Windows (or use something like MSI) and have a polished, easy-to-use repository system, maybe Windows users would be better exposed to free software.

    The process would be like this (like apt):
    1. User downloads package manager and installs it using traditional Windows method.
    2. Package manager runs, connects to repository, and downloads information about all the precompiled Windows apps in the repository.
    3. User can browse app categories, and choose apps to download and install. App info could include screenshots and a link to the app's homepage.
    4. Package manager and package system handles all the dirty work - downloading the package, satisfying dependencies, updating, and tracking package files so they can be completely removed later.

    Does anyone know of anything that exists currently? Cygwin is sort of like this, but doesn't include near the variety of apps available in a Debian repository.

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