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You’ll Pry Vista from My Cold Dead Hands

Talking operating systems deep in heart of Windows country.

I dropped my son, Alex, off at a LAN party this weekend and had to spend some time fussing with the NIC drivers on his PC (PC support being probably my most favorite thing in the world world1) before I could cut out of there. While I was fussing with the drivers, the organizers tried to strike up a conversation with Alex about Linux since he was wearing a shirt of mine with tux on it picked up at some long-forgotten tradeshow. Alex, naturally, punted the conversation my direction. Having done this awhile, I’ve noticed that Linux carries an odd cachet: Almost everyone thinks it’s interesting, statistically (less than 1%2) almost no one runs it.

One guy that was about my age (mid-30s) and had a rocketship for a computer — CPU heat sink about the size of a loaf of bread, SLI-bridged video cards, PC fans with enough kick to cool a small village in the Amazon, &c. — looked up from his BIOS screen and said, “I’ve messed around with Linux. It seems fine but it doesn’t run the apps that I need it to.”

“Mostly games,” I asked?

“Pretty much.”

“Well, I’m not much of a gamer3 but I think there are more games for Linux now then there used to be,” I said. And, speaking well above my pay grade, “I may have even seen Steam running under Wine or CrossOver.”

“Yeah, well, you’ll pry Vista from my cold dead hands,” he said and turned back to the task at hand; adjusting the CPU voltage so his PC would boot.

Vista? The much-maligned Vista? The “Microsoft is going to have to open source Windows if it wants to survive” Vista?

Clearly this group hadn’t received the memo, since an informal poll of the LAN party showed that 80% of the assembled gamers were running Vista. Those still running XP were going to wait for Windows 7 before upgrading. This kicked off a whole parallel discussion about how great Windows 7 was going to be and those running Vista planned to upgrade to 7 as soon as it was out.

When I asked what they like about Vista, the responses could be summed up as:

  • It’s pretty slick/Nice UI
  • It works out of the box
  • Doesn’t crash/Never had any problems with it

Oddly enough, if you added “It’s open source” to the list you would have thought they were talking about Ubuntu. Or OS X.

So what’s the point of writing about a brief conversation with a PC sub-culture? Well, I think it might be that the predictions of Microsoft’s demise or the twilight of the Windows operating system are probably very premature. While I think that the role of operating systems is gradually being diminished and that Microsoft bungled the Vista launch, Vista is ultimately a success for the company. If nothing else it forced the company to retool it’s direction for OS development with Windows 7.

Do I think that Windows 7 will be a bleeding-edge, net-gen OS? Probably not and it probably doesn’t need to be. It just needs to be shiny and work like the consumer expect it to. Why? Because the majority of people just really don’t care about operating systems. They care, really, about only three things: being able to find their files, connectivity and applications. Everything else, for the average user, is a shiny wrapper.

Do the people at the LAN party passionately care about Vista? Probably not. They probably care more about DirectX and the games developed on top of it. Vista isn’t even an all-that-great OS for gaming since the OS requires so much hardware it’s generally advised that you need to double the RAM requirements for any game you are running. And, oddly enough, no one at the LAN party seemed to mind this, perhaps proving my theory that all anyone is looking for in an OS is an excuse to purchase more hardware.

At the SuperBowl party I was at last night, the game was recorded on a Vista media center PC. As our host rewound the Santonio Holmes game-winning catch he mentioned to me that he had only installed Vista that morning. “How are you liking it?” I asked.

“It’s an operating system,” he replied, “Not something I think about all that much.”

1 This is a lie.
2 Source. We don’t call this “poor penetration,” we call this a growth market.
3 60 minutes of TF2 once a month is about my limit.

Comments on "You’ll Pry Vista from My Cold Dead Hands"

bcspratt

I must disagree with you on at least one point Byran, the future of Linux. I expect substantial growth in the future of these reasons:
(1) people in 3rd world countries are just getting computers and even if someone gave them a copy of XP and they managed to get it activated they usually do not have an extra $1,000 lying around to spend on software. Linux being free, should penetrate deeply into these countries as their parents have not already drunk the Microsoft Koolaid.
(2) Linux is used greatly in super computing and should penetrate further into the business world just because it makes good business sense.
(3) I’m an IT geek with dual boots on all 3 of my PCs (Like I said, I am a geek). I religiously keep the anti-virus definitions and the Windows updates up-to-date and still got hit with malware about 3 weeks ago. Norton could not remove enough of it to keep the PC clean. I find that the difference between Windows and Linux comparable to the difference between a mine field and a corn field. If an IT geek can’t avoid the land mines, what chance do mere mortals have?

mnewberry

I have to agree, I run Ubuntu on my production machine and will not change back to M$, ever. My machine will run longer and require less hardware with my favorite “flavor” of linux. My son just recently started running linux on his older PC because it’s “geek chic” but spends a good bit of time on our XP machine because his favorite games are DirectX based.

Until the *nix OS gets more market share and/or more of the popular game designers see a reason to program for *nix M$ has nothing to fear. They have cornered the game market and if you’ve ever surfed for ‘how to build a game machine’ you will see that that market has a large and devoted following, much like your favorite “flavor” of linux does.

pogson

TFA article is correct on the observations and conclusions but one of the assumptions in the introduction is false: “almost no one runs it”.

The less than 1% figure often put forth to support this position is from NetApplications. These guys have clients who are strongly into North American business-to-business stuff. The clients of NetApplications are not representative of the global body of users of PCs. They have very few clients outside of USA/Europe. They get mostly hits from business to business sites and we know business in USA is seriously locked-in to that other OS.

If you look at web stats from BRIC countries you can find up to 20% use GNU/Linux even on non-techie sites. Brazil had a recent quarter where 20% of machines left the factory with GNU/Linux installed. China, Russia, India and Brazil are very friendly to GNU/Linux. National governments promote it.

It is hard/impossible to get good stats on usage because many machines are not on the web, using doctored User_agent strings, and how do you weigh the various language/region/habit barriers? One would need stats from each region with wide popular appeal like Google to give out stats to have a real feel for popularity. Even then, we are not sure how many on-line users there are or on-line machines so every number is suspect.

We do have some hard numbers. If we take NetApps number for that other OS as the high-side/upper limit for that other OS and published unit sales from Apple (3% of PCs), it is pretty reasonable to ascribe the missing units to GNU/Linux. 100% – 88% – 3% = 9%. That is a small fraction but well above almost no one.

IDC and others have surveys but they sell the information at a high price so I have no access.

If the authour had gone to a high school classroom and asked for a show of hands, one would have found about that number, around 10%, use/have used/have seen GNU/Linux. It is happening, but slowly, so I do not disagree with the conclusions of TFA. The fall from grace could continue to be slow in many niches: business, gaming, and a few others but the fall from grace could have a domino effect. When a critical level of ubiquity is reached, barriers to adoption in other niches will disappear. We are pretty well done with hardware barriers now. We are pretty well done with hiding the price of that other OS in the price of an expensive PC and we are pretty well done with no one knowing about it. What is left? The retail/OEM sector has only to push GNU/Linux and it will fly. That started to happen with netbooks and M$ responded with sweet deals. They cannot do that indefinitely, so the end will come sooner or later, but it will come.

dj13241

You should change footnote 1 to “sarcasm”

kpneil

I think your argument for 3rd world countries has a big hole in it. The last Windows I used was 98 and all the boxes on this LAN are Ubuntu – everyone seems happy.
However, most of the people I know use XP and I’ve never heard or seen anyone having to “activate” it. The copies of XP or Vista people use tend to be unofficial, shall we say, and I suppose they’ve been hacked. Applications likewise, I assume.

graemeharrison

Personally, I still think that the ONLY things holding Linux back is need for Canonical, Sun & Novell to ‘heavy’ Broadcom (www.broadcom.com) to make available to the wireless drivers for bundling with Linux distros. Hell, Broadcom make the code available for M$ to bundle, even if target machine does NOT contain a Broadcom WiFi card, yet Broadcom’s refusal thus-far to allow its driver code to be bundled with Linux is a huge headache. I’ve found Ubuntu ‘finds’ more/better drivers than XP for a whole range of PC manufacturers, resulting in a far easier install/reinstall user experience… EXCEPT when it comes to wireless devices. And on that issue, Linux is a nightmare for average users. The major Linux distros need to say to Dell, HP et al that their PCs will be listed as ‘Linux-ready’ IFF driver support for the mini-cards included (eg wireless) is provided. That way, Broadcom’s customers (the hardware manufacturers) will insist that Broadcom ‘play ball’ on the Linux front.
Except for the lack of in-built wireless support, Ubuntu beats the hell out of any M$ OS, in terms of ease of use/install.
And if you want to help yourself, go to http://www.broadcom.com and put in your own feedback to say “Please provide the code for inclusion in the major Linux distros” or words to that effect.
Graeme (prof at-symbol post.harvard.edu)

janaka

Use Vista and you’ll be cold and dead in no time because of the frustration!!!

karnbo

Hm. Yes. Think Ubuntu is more user friendly than Vista. However, your friend at the SuperBowl party, who had the Vista media center PC installed last night sounds very… nice:)
When it comes to linux, feels like the biggest problem is still that the HW suppliers often gives out drivers to Windows but not to Linux.
Helped a friend to install Ubuntu a few weeks ago. It took days to get the sound working… the sound via the HDMI cable still doesn’t work:(

arajeev

bcspratt & kpneil:

Coming from a 3rd world country myself, I have to agree with both of your comments. Very few in India would pay standard prices for a Microsoft OS. But this doesn’t mean Linux is taking hold: almost everybody uses a Microsoft OS. I think Microsoft allows the piracy to continue in the interest of market share.

Second, I have to disagree with the ubiquitous statements about the stability of Linux. It’s become something of a cliche and it’s not really true. I’m a longtime Linux user myself and haven’t used Windows for several years. But I have to say that I’m a little envious of the stability of Windows XP and up. (Yes, you read that right.)

The Linux kernel itself is mostly stable. But let’s take, for instance, Ubuntu. Running 8.10, the sound, wifi and X subsystems seem to have problems constantly. I have to restart those subsystems about once a week. Hibernate sort-of works nowadays, but if I use hibernate I know it’ll destabilize and I’ll have to reboot my computer every week or so. Windows may have started off flaky but 4 years ago when I used Windows XP (on my work laptop) I could go without a reboot for a month. The network and sound never gave me a problem. Currently I’m dealing with a kernel bug in Ubuntu which causes it to fill up my root partition with several GB of messages in /var/log.

You could argue that the problems stem from lack of 3rd party support but that’s not the only reason. What happens very often is that a system that worked perfectly fine will begin malfunctioning once I use the online update tool (as with the kernel bug).

The great thing about Linux, of course, is the online community. I am usually able to fix most of the problems that crop up because some smart person has figured it out. But it does take up a lot of my time, several hours every month fixing this problem or that. I think that is the real problem for Linux: stability.

bobberm

Bryan: interesting article indeed. The “Lan Party” for your son was clearly hosted by a delusional psychotic, he had no idea what “Vista” you were talking about. He probably thought you were referring to his own internally generated psychotic delusions. After talking to hundreds of folks who bring their Vista PC’s to me to clean up the mess that M$ has made of their computers I have yet to hear the sort of comments that you related! Maybe you better take your kid to our local Linux group for some therapy! Dr Bob

robsku

@arajeev
You say:
“Second, I have to disagree with the ubiquitous statements about the stability of Linux. It’s become something of a cliche and it’s not really true. I’m a longtime Linux user myself and haven’t used Windows for several years. But I have to say that I’m a little envious of the stability of Windows XP and up. (Yes, you read that right.)”

Let me tell you something: One day at school I unplugged my USB memory stick (the correct way) and the fully patched WinXP blue-screened from that. Currently my desktop computer, running Debian 4 (Etch) has 75 days uptime and the last reboot was because of new hardware. WinXP stable and Linux not? I cant, with the best will, take this one seriously. I wont even talk about the uptime of my server (running Fedora 7) but I tell you, I’ve never seen uptime like that with Windows – not even Win2k, which I still think was the most stable Windows made up today.

arajeev

Robsku:

I’ll be one of the first to jump with glee if it’s indeed true that Linux is more stable than WinXP. I’ve had some uptimes like yours back in the day (running OpenSUSE on a desktop about 4-5 years ago) on a desktop.

My current setup is a Lenovo T61 laptop running Ubuntu 8.10. Almost everything is straight out of the Ubuntu repositories; I prefer not to tinker too much. It works, it’s got more and better features than WinXP, and I imagine I’m mostly more productive than I’d be with XP.

By unstable, I don’t necessarily mean that it suffers a kernel crash (though I’ve had the flashing CapsLock a couple of times). But sound or fonts or X crashes happen very often, and these occasionally necessitate a reboot.

robsku

X crashing would not need a reboot at all but still I cant remember the last time I had it crash – one windows game, ran under wine, got so stuck few days ago though that I decided it to be easyer to just restart X. No biggie. Sound? Never had problems with sound myself.

okrap

This article makes some good points about Linux from the gamer’s point of view. I have used Linux quite a bit over the last couple years, but my primary desktop is Windows XP (and I am currently testing Vista as a replacement). The reason for this is games. Yes you can say Linux has more games, but I am talking AAA blockbuster games like Bioshock, Fallout 3, Half-Life, etc. Some companies have been very Linux friendly (id, Epic Games), but most use DirectX. The end result is that I must use Windows. Getting all the games I play to run under Linux would be difficult to impossible. If Linux was able to overcome this, say with a native implementation of DirectX, then many of those gamers could and would switch for the reasons mentioned in the article.
I think the gaming market is huge, and any company looking to break MS’s grip would do well to gain penetration here. I think progress here would do more for the adoption rate of Linux than anything else, except maybe better wireless support.

Oh, and regarding Vista: It is fun to bash, and has several shortcomings, but it is not as bad as anyone has said. Performance is lower and resource use is higher than previous Windows, but name me a version of Windows that that wasn’t true for.

robsku

Half-Life, eh? Funny that you should mention because just yesterday I installed Half-Life on my debian GNU/Linux system. Yes, with Wine, after checking from http://www.winehq.org application database that it was listed with platinum rating (on wine compatibility).

Sure, there still exists too large (though shrinking) number of Win games that cant be ran with Wine but personally I can live with some level of compromise – it has so far succesfully ran almost every game that I have tried so I’m happy :)

Oh, and Wine in fact has (mostly functional) DX implementation and support up to DirectX 9. So maybe *nix/Wine might be enough for your needs too? Or maybe not – but the development goes on so I’m pretty sure that if not already then at least in future it will do the job for you too :)

okrap

Excellent point. I see that Wine’s compatibility has improved substantially since the last time I looked. That said, the few games I had previously looked for did not work (Sims2 and Civ2, dealbreakers for my wife). Also, while the wine guys have done excellent work, compatibility (for games) still is pretty hit or miss.
Though, my point still stands. Linux will have difficulty breaking MS hold on the gaming community until one can buy (nearly) any game on release day and have it run under Linux with a minimum of fuss. I realize that is a tall order, but think that it may be key to any major increase in market share. Remember that gamers are frequently the geeks of their families…

nemesis

Maybe “you” will be, but I won’t. On my desktop, I run a dual-boot with Fedora Core 9 and XP. On my laptop, I run Vista. Before I got my laptop, the only exposure I had to Vista was through the press. When I finally used the OS, I became convinced that the bad press about Vista was the result of a feeding frenzy of sorts. It was built up into this huge monster. I majored in journalism in college, but even I need occasional reminding that not everything that appears in print turns out to be true.

I’m in the IT field. I’ve supported Windows (2000/XP/Vista), Linux, and OS X. Which one caused the most problems for my users? Not the supposedly “poorly designed” Vista. Not the supposedly “not user-friendly” Linux. No, the product put out by the Steve Jobs publicity machine was the biggest nightmare. Without a single hesitation, I answer that question, “OS X.” From the fact that it won’t run a lot of software that is supposedly “Mac compatible” (and you can bet that Microsoft would get blamed if software that was supposed to work on their OS didn’t) to the poor implementation of IPv6 to difficulties with its wireless networking capabilities to the claims that you can run Windows programs on it. (If anyone ever even suggests to you that Parallels is a functional product, cut that person out of your life immediately. S/he is leading you down the road to a nightmare.)

Count me as someone who uses Vista on a daily basis, both in my personal life and my professional life; I have had zero problems with it. I even run programs on it that came with my Windows 98 (first edition) computer. I think the UAC idea is a sound one. People whined that Windows was not secure enough; now they whine that it requires them to authorize actions all the time. (Which, in actuality, is no different from a Linux distro asking for the root password before performing certain actions.) They whined that IE was insecure and too integrated into the OS. Changes were made, and they still whine about IE –despite the fact that Microsoft has been ahead of Apple in introducing security features into its native browser. (Safari was dead last in line for anti-phishing measures.) Even worse, when a security problem with Firefox’s password manager was uncovered that allowed users of so-called Web 2.0 sites to post hidden code that exploited the PM, some in the open source community wanted to write it off as a problem for the sites to deal with; they did not want to make changes to Firefox to protect the users. Do you think that kind of response would fly if it came from Microsoft?

I love Open Source as much as the next tech nerd. However, I see the value of Windows, and I think the hysteria over Vista was just that–hysteria. It grew to incredible proportions as it was stoked by the Mac fanboys and marketers. As for the Mac OS, I don’t really care for anyone who takes Open Source software and makes it proprietary–especially when they charge obscene amounts to sell it back to the willing dupes and ask them to pony up yet more for an extended warranty. (I won’t even get into the users of that OS who act as if they’re taking a big stance against the corporate evils of Microsoft. Do they really think Steve Jobs is running that company out of his mom’s basement? Don’t they remember how much they spent on his over-priced products?) If people want to use a *NIX variant, there are plenty of them out there. Show some commitment and learn to use them.

nemesis

One day at school I unplugged my USB memory stick (the correct way) and the fully patched WinXP blue-screened from that.

That is certainly odd. I’ve never had a problem after removing a jump drive from a Windows computer (or any other computer, for that matter). In fact, I’ve yanked jump drives out of all my Windows computers without bothering to stop them first. Never lost any data from the removable drive. Never had a problem with the computer. (Although I don’t recommend that; I only do it if there are extenuating circumstances.)

xad

It’s hard to admit it, I’m sure… But the truth is as karnbo says that Vista really isn’t a terrible OS.

I think we tend to forget that there are people out there who are comfortable growing up with MS, IE, Outlook, etc.. and that short of Vista setting your PC on fire, people will continue to use MS based products.

My wife is not super savvy on a PC, and she has not interest in learning another OS because of reasons she has either yet to experience, or have been greatly exaggerated.

xad

I would like to add we can’t quantify the success of either OS on gamers. Console systems have got both beat in stability and support, be it PS3 or 360.

I like the fact that I don’t have to upgrade my video card and read forums on how to get a bleeding edge game up and running. I just wanna play man!

I think that it will be a collection of ‘little’ things that may propel Linux over time, such as people getting tired of spending money on a new PC just to support a new OS and such.

gerlos

Yes, after 7 years (SEVEN!) of patches Windows XP is actually very stable, and runs fast, really.
But when you speak of Ubuntu 8.10 remember that you are comparing two things that’s really different: in Ubuntu 8.10 there is lot of more recent features! It’s a different technological era.

I think you should compare Windows XP with the last LTS release of Ubuntu, 8.04.2, or maybe to Debian etch, or at least to a distro that has almost one year of patches and updates.
These distros run very smoothly, and are incredibly stable in my experience (I love to speak about an old notebook of mine with Debian etch that never gave me any problem, and I never reboot, just suspend).

In my opinion, distros are always giving you the choice between the latest technology and stability, and I think that this trade is fair, and good for everyone.

rmarc10ngc

Bryan – I think you’re accurate in your observations. IMO, I think the most important thing for users is applications. I don’t run Vista, but do still run XP at home as primary since I run Quicken. I’ve tried it under both Wine and Crossover, but it was dogged slow. Like most, I’d love to try the Mac (since Quicken’s supported), but like most, I already have a heavy investment in x86 and dont have an extra $1300 and up to test with. For my remaining apps, I run OO, Firefox, Thunderbird and a few other oss apps. My home server is Opensuse 10.3 with Samba, bind, dhcp and NFS primarily. There’s nothing remotely close to Quicken in the oss world. And I’m not ready to put my data online.

Folks often talk about linux requirements being low, and mostly they can be depending on what the user wishes to do, but remember, desktops and tools do require a substantial amount of system resources so this argument that you can use a “smaller or older” pc to run linux may be technically true, but at a horrible experience causing many to toss it aside. And if they buy that NEW PC, why not windows since there’s FAR more applications available.

bryanjrichard

And if they buy that NEW PC, why not windows since there’s FAR more applications available.

Hersey! Burn the witch! ;-)

I’m inclined to agree with you. I’ve run Linux desktops on some really dog-slow systems — using FluxBox as the window manager — which is a positive from a geek cred standpoint, I guess, but there are limitations to what you can do with a 333MHz Thinkpad running Debian unstable.

Not only are there more applications available for Windows but a great many open source apps are will run on Windows than there were five or ten years ago. Ideology aside, if you’re an FOSS developer, I think you would want to hit as many platforms, and reach as many users, as you possibly could.

25 years from now this Windows vs. Linux nonsense will probably be moot because your “operating system” will be a web browser and some OpenGL/Direct X APIs. In the meantime, everyone should just use what works best for them.

sargenthp

I am a Linux advocate, but I have been sooo frustrated lately. We NEED to get the hardware vendors on board.

I am working with Alltel to get broadband, and all of the cards do not support Linux directly. So in order to get things working I needed to download offbeat software such as usb_modeswitch (Distributions – PLEASE ADD TO YOUR SOFTWARE PACKAGE LIST) to switch modes on the USB Datacard between the storage component and the modem, and then do some more config tweak to get it to work. Luckly I am an UNIX/Linux Administrator and was able to get everything working, but Ma and Pa would have been totally lost!

A 2nd project that I am working on is getting an interconnected Home Media Center setup running Linux. Been trying LinuxMCE and Mythbuntu. Still having issues with remote controls not mapping correctly and getting the Video Capture cards working right. Soo frustrating!! So I did load *hack, hack* Vista to test out. The computer that ran so smooth under Linux starting choking on Vista and it wasn’t doing much yet and I didn’t like the interface for Media Center any better. Linux is back on it and now I am going to have to start hacking to get everything working the way I want. Once again something that a normal user will not want to do.

If Linux is ever going to be mainstream we NEED to get the following accomplished…

- Get the hardware vendors involved. They need to support Linux & the product needs to work out of box. No config tweaks, kernal rebuilds, or loading of modules.
- Clean up the GUI. Some of these apps look like a 6 year old drew them.
- A centralized GUI admin console. Most Windows people just can’t handle having going to the console.
- Support more GAMES! If it wasn’t for games and needing Outlook for work I would have already dropped the word “Windows” from my vocabulary.

I am hoping that Linux will be able to someday be the choice OS for the Desktop, but we are still not there.

pbarry99

We use Linux at work, and it makes a perfect workstation – free office applications, good IBM emulators, and virus free email. We also use Linux to host databases and web sites, and use RF linux handheld devices (without paying for the OS) – can’t be beat for these applications. I think this is where Linux really excels – in the office work environment. I even run Linux at home on a desktop, with my own webmail server, calendars, etc.

But I must have Vista on my laptop – nothing else will do. Too many apps I cannot do without that just will not run on Crossover yet. I really enjoy all the neat features and apps for my personal life that Linux does not offer.

graemeharrison

In 1982 DOS 1.1 handled removable media well. The only removable media then were floppy disks, but if you copied files to the floppy drive, after the screen showed the files had been successfully copied, the floppy drive light would run for an extra second or so, and the FAT16 directory and file allocation table were both updated. So, provided only that you waited the second till the red light went out, you could remove the removable media, without pre-warning the OS of your intention to remove.
Fast-forward 25 years and M$ treats all hard drives as hard drives, and does not expect them to be hanging off Apple-standard (USB) cables. There is a config item very deep in WinXP that allows you to set removable drives to update NTFS directory entries (master file table hidden/system file) after an update of a drive… but the real problem is that the WinXP default is ‘NO’. This means that if you have written to the removable USB drive, you need to do the ‘safe eject’ before removing, or wait till the OS is shutdown before removing. A related ‘bug’ in WinXP is that if you have Windows Explorer open on the drive, it will not shut down, and it takes time for the average user to figure out this bug, that even Windows Explorer having the drive open (ie no operations in progress) will be treated as an ‘exclusive open’ in terms of trying to flush the masterfile table (though there is no sense in that prohibition).
BOTH M$ and Linux OS developers OUGHT shift to the standard that, if you have written material (changed in any way) files on a removable device, then if two-seconds or more have passed since then, and CPU utilisation is less than 25%, THEN update directory information on that drive and display a different background colour for that drive in ‘Windows Explorer’ (Win) or ‘Nautilus’ (Linux) confirming that the device can be safely unplugged, or that the computer can be turned off without causing any loss of data on that drive.

robsku

@Xad
As a firm believer in computers as gaming platform and a person extremely fond of 3D games I have to disagree.

The main reason for me is controls. Sure, the controllers for consoles are great for many games but 1st you can get those for computers too. More importantly there is no controller for consoles that comes to even close to mouse+keyboard in serious 3d-gaming. The analog “mushrooms” on todays controllers are improvement but still far away from extreme control the mouse gives a hardcore fps player. Mouse has it’s merits on some other type of games too, though not as large as with fps’s.

As for hardware upgrades – well, with consoles you cant upgrade a single component, eventually you will have to buy a new console anyway… I’m willing to deal with hassless there are with computers as gaming platforms because the avantages for me are bigger than the cost. But it’s a matter of opinion really and I’m not saying that I have never planned to possibly one day to buy a console – however I cant see one ever becoming my main gaming system. And on many consoles old enough I’d be just as happy with emulators – even though I have to usually pirate the game (I do buy them but I can use the original only if it’s on CD so with some systems the only option is to download a ROM copy of game I already bought – still I rather usually use the emulator). And as side note console games often cost more than computer games because they can ask more of them as most people wont wote against high price by pirating instead, thus I rather get native PC games anyway.

Still I do get your point – except the one about need for hardware upgrades because consoles dont eliminate that.

robsku

Linux is lighter often with same software or same level alternatives. Both, my desktop and server computers would choke down if I tried to run all apps I use the same way I use them (specially desktop where I multitask even when a program might sit days on background before I use it again) if I switched from Fedora & Debian to XP – let alone Vista. This is largely because of much more efficient memory & task handling of Linux system itself, not because I would use lighter software with lesser functionality (higher level of functionality is something I chase all the time even though I have no complaints of what I have now).

As a side note, 105days and 6 hours uptime on server and 94d, 22h & 30min on my desktop now. I just ran a full upgrade of all software on them today – as I dont feel necessary to change to latest kernel yet I have no reason to not let the uptime keep growing still :)

yndoendo

Wine can help run games but what about Punkbuster? Most FPS games use Punkbuster to help prevent hacks or cheating during network games. Well Punkbuster checks the dll files to make sure they were not altered. Since WINE does not use the same dll files as Microsoft does, WINE will not work with Punkbuster enforced games. Just look at BF2, all authorized servers for leveling up had to have Punkbuster enabled. With out the feature of Punkbuster you might not be able to enjoy the whole game. Then you might say Punkbuster is holding WINE gaming down but how can Punkbuster certify all WINE library files when any one can compile WINE to their need and have different library files than anyone else?

The only reason I don’t move over is because of gaming. I want to enjoy all features of my games and be able to play them when they come out with out having to wait for WINE patches to support the game. I would be nice to move to Linux 100% but this is just a fantasy for gamers. Not until all games start to come with a Linux binary file.

bugmenot

Your mistake was using Ubuntu. You’d need something like Arch or Debian these days to get phenomenal stability. Ubuntu is garbage. I know I’ll probably get flamed for that, but after suffering through endless problems in 8.10 especially, I switched to Arch.

Nope. Windows is definitely less stable than Linux, even fully-patched. I can run my Arch install for months. I definitely can’t get that sort of uptime with Windows. Ever.

bugmenot

I have yet to play a single FPS that uses it. Of course, most my FPSes are Steam, which runs fine on WINE and uses online verification of the user.

However, I have to agree with he OP and say games are a pathetic metric for success of operating systems, especially since most people still don’t actually game on their PCs.

On this, Linux has Windows beat, hands down, polls closed, no contest. Linux has more than Windows has. It just lacks hardcore gaming. Windows has yet to corner the server market, the supercomputer market, or the embedded market. And when you have no need for gaming, there’s NO NEED WHATSOEVER for Windows, especially with projects like OpenOffice keeping up with Office now.

Linux is definitely faster, more stable, and most certainly more secure than Windows. I’m glad I don’t have to suffer through Internet Explorer or Outlook Express anymore.

And yes, I used Vista and immediately felt it was garbage. (This was even before I started using Linux full-time.) I didn’t drink the anti-Vista kool-aid. HEll. I don’t have TV, and I didn’t even have Internet until well after I started using Linux. Vista sucked. No matter what the “It worked for me” minority claimed (And it is a minority. Most the bad press Vista got was well-deserved.)

I use Archlinux. It’ll never let me down because the developers thoroughly test each package, and unstable garbage like Pulse Audio are in [community] at best.

billtodd

Interesting though unfocused discussion. Just to bring another viewpoint to some of the widely-ranging issues here:

It’s quite difficult to make an economic argument for Linux over Windows unless you’re building a system yourself. Any system you purchase (even second-hand) will likely have Windows already installed with little realistic option for getting it cheaper without Windows. Almost all the software you’ll want (let alone need) to supplement Windows (save perhaps for games) is available for free (see, e.g., techsupportalert.com for more guidance in choosing than you’ll get at the sites that just list thousands of freebies). Even if you build the system yourself you can migrate any pre-XP Windows distribution you may have to it without Microsoft’s blessing; for that matter, when I inherited an XP system on woefully underpowered hardware and with no installation disk and migrated it to new hardware there was, unexpectedly, no difficulty in replacing its drivers, ‘activating’ it, and passing the WGA test (leaving aside all the ways one could do so illegally were one so inclined).

It’s quite difficult to make a vulnerability argument for Linux over Windows, at least if you’re operating behind a hardware firewall router (frequently available for about $10 on sale after rebate), have effective anti-virus and firewall software installed (e.g., free AntiVir and free Online Armor), and use something other than IE and OE for connecting with the outside world (Firefox with NoScript and Thunderbird work well for us). Even good old Windows 98SE is pretty safe in such a configuration, and Win2K or WinXP are virtually untouchable.

It’s quite difficult to make a performance or hardware-resources argument for Linux over Windows unless you’re talking about Vista. Win98SE will run very well indeed and Win2K and XP will run quite adequately on a 300 MHz K6-2 with 256 MB of RAM and a 450 MHz Thinkpad with 192 MB of RAM (configurations which recent versions of Ubuntu don’t think much of), and with at least a 1 GHz Athlon and 384 MB of RAM Win2K and XP run just fine (stably, too).

What about Vista? The only Vista machine in our home is my daughter’s laptop running Vista Home Premium, and it runs well enough with 1 GB of RAM that she hasn’t bothered installing the additional 2 GB that I got her last Christmas. She initially was less happy with Vista so I went through some significant hoops installing Win2K as a second boot option (which entailed repartitioning the disk and modifying Vista’s use of it: Vista as installed by HP uses a new partitioning format which no earlier systems understand, and I didn’t want Vista’s partitioning tools to screw up the Win2K installation or vice versa), but by the time I was done she had gotten used to Vista and hasn’t bothered using the Win2K system.

I like the idea of open source platforms in the abstract, but there’s just no reason for people like my family to move to Linux (not that I haven’t fooled around with it a bit just to see what it’s like). Even if we could do absolutely everything on Linux that we do on Windows (which I suspect would not be the case), as long as there’s nothing we want to do that we *can’t* do on Windows and *could* do on Linux there’s no reason at all (save pure curiosity) to tackle the Linux learning curve.

I’ve built our last four home desktop systems myself and just migrated older Windows systems to them. At some point there may come a time when software that we want to run will not be runnable on Win2K or XP – and *then* if there’s no cheap way of picking up a newer Windows version and what we want is runnable on Linux that option may start to become interesting (since I really can’t imagine paying Microsoft list price for an OS).

But as of now, for us at least Linux is a solution looking for a problem.

- bill

rockfx01

You clearly have never tried configuring a high-end system with Vista (64-bit, RAID, lots of memory). Vista has HUGE, glaring issues with RAID when you’re running more than 3GB of RAM. Let me just say that it has taken 3 months of working on my Vista desktop system on and off to get it stable, because it was periodically trashing the registry which required running the repair disc every time it happened. It also periodically trashes the RAID 0 array causing it to think it’s degraded when all I’ve done is shut it down and then turned it back on. I’ve never had any problems with the same computer when testing Ubuntu on it (I don’t dual boot Ubuntu on that system because it also causes Windows to think the RAID is degraded since it’s not hardware RAID).

I also use an array of systems for work and play (Vista, XP, OS X, Ubuntu, RHEL) and would probably agree about OS X being the worst, but Vista has been a major pain in the neck too, much more so than Ubuntu. Vista’s ‘autosensing’ audio card support wreaks havoc on some A/V applications which don’t sense the sound card if nothing is plugged in to the audio ports, memory consumption and start-up times are horrible, Aero is a resource hog, and contrary to your thoughts on UAC, it is extremely annoying.

I don’t mind the occasional password request I get in Ubuntu for administrative duties, but UAC is absolutely awful. I mean really: some software installs require a multitude of authorizations from UAC for every single driver or required app bundled with it. I have to approve administrative apps just to open them, and then I have to approve them AGAIN anytime I make a change? It is constantly popping up for minor actions you would never expect to need approval for, and every time it pops up, the computer grinds to a halt as Aero dims the screen to make the approval message stand out. UAC is the first thing I disable on Vista installs these days, which luckily is not very often.

With my old laptop (Dell D800 with Nvidia Geforce GO5200), I was able to run compiz with only a minor hit to my system performance, and even the 3D cube desktop effect worked decently. Aero hardly even does anything (really? 3D application switching? That’s the best MS can come up with?) yet it sucks the life out of my Quad core Q6600 with 4 GB of RAM and a pretty decent video card. The entire Vista OS is just a bunch of bloatware, as is MS Windows Server 2008.

I mainly run Vista because I use professional video editing/compositing applications that aren’t available on Linux, and for a couple of games which may or may not run on WINE. On my laptop I dual-boot Ubuntu/Vista. If it weren’t for those apps, I would have long ago wiped Vista from the drive and put my $180 box of garbage on the shelf to collect dust.

I’ve replaced Quicken with GNUCash, MS Office with OpenOffice, Explorer with Firefox. I could go on but what would be the point? Even with the many apps that are available in Linux, there are still many apps tieing users down to Windows (myself included), and not all OSS apps can contend with their closed source counterparts. GNUCash is usable for the average user once you get over the initial learning curve, but it is definately !=Quicken. Serious market share is not going to grow until developers start releasing their closed source apps and drivers on Linux (yeah yeah, you can complain but we all know it’s true) or open sourcing them, but that’s not going to happen until Linux has a bigger market share (you see the problem?).

Just look at OS X. Today it has a much bigger market share than it used to, but there are still many applications that exist only on Windows and are not available on OS X because it still does not have nearly the market share Windows has. Linux has to gain some serious ground still before it can really take off in the desktop market IMO.

mjcorbin

Last spring I helped my 70 year-old father move from Vista on his new computer back to XP, just because of familiarity issues. I don’t think there was anything wrong with Vista at the time.

Meanwhile, I installed Red Hat 4.x(something) on my new home server in 1999 to get compliant with year 2000. New computer E-machines 266MHz, AMD K5, 1 GB RAM, SCSI-2 card with three hard drives in RAID-5. In May, 2009 one of the drives failed and so I updated the hard drives to three 1 TB for more space.

I would have to agree with the statement that I don’t think about the Operating System, it just functions. New hardware? Maybe some day, but not today. New Operating System? Same answer. What is needed is a Network Services, Internet, Printing that work, and that’s what we have.

Since WinXP, Microsoft clients have “played nice” on our network and we don’t even give them a second thought when a friend visits and needs to get to Internet E-mail or whatever. That’s the way all of this technology is supposed to work – in the background, available when needed.

mhazen

OSX is open source? Awesome! Where can I download the installer CD?

*cough*

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