A longtime Ubuntu Linux user experiments with Windows 7 and finds that he's not missing out by sticking with Linux and open source.
Last month, I wrote about my life using Linux for the past ten years. This week, I started using Windows again -- and was reminded why I switched to Linux in the first place. Here's what I learned.
I've been a happy Linux user for a decade. I wiped the Windows partition from my computer long ago and never looked back -- until recently, that is, when I found myself having to boot to Windows in order to work with a PDF file that was only supported by modern versions of Adobe Acrobat. Since Adobe stopped releasing Acrobat for Linux several years ago, and I could not get Acrobat to run reliably via Wine, running Windows was the only solution I could find.
Fortunately, Microsoft now loves Linux so much that it makes Windows 7 and Windows 8 virtual machine images available for free download and use on Linux systems. The images only work for a limited time before you have to register, but for my purposes, they fit the bill. After downloading, I was able to fire up the image in VirtualBox and get to work.
Why I Stopped Using Windows
Once I booted into Windows, however, I was quickly reminded why I switched to Linux so many years ago. Even my virgin Windows 7 virtual machine image did some annoying things. They included:
- The Windows taskbar displays only icons. Maybe that works for you. Personally, I prefer seeing Windows XP-style names of programs in the taskbars. It just helps me keep track of what I have open more easily. That's how Ubuntu does it (with GNOME Classic installed).
- There's no easy-to-access terminal. OK. This one's not really a problem with Windows as much as a reflection of my personal preference. Most users don't want to work through the terminal. But one of the things I have come to love about Ubuntu is how I can quickly open a terminal and run some quick commands to complete a task that would take much longer when done using the mouse. Want to move all the PDF files in one directory to another one? You can do that in a few keystrokes on the command line. I suppose you could do this in Windows, too, but the Windows CLI is arguably much less user-friendly, and it takes longer to open.
- Windows endlessly nags me about registering. The Windows virtual machine image I downloaded is supposed to be a trial for use by developers. If you want to run it permanently, you need to register. I get that. But since first boot the system has nagged me to no end about registering. It pops up boxes all the time telling me to register, or warning that I may be a victim of "software counterfeiting" (which is rich, because, again, I obtained this image perfectly legally from Microsoft's own site). I know that if I actually registered, this annoyance would go away. But I like that on Linux, I never get bothered about registering -- or warned that I need to update my registration and so on. I can spend my time actually doing work instead of clicking boxes telling me to register.
- It reboots when it feels like it. This is definitely the most annoying part of my recent Windows experience. The system reboots itself periodically, presumably to install updates. Sometimes a tiny pop-up appears warning me that it's going to reboot, and asking if I want to postpone. If I miss the pop-up, then the system will reboot suddenly while I am in the middle of working. It's a tremendously obnoxious feature. In contrast, Ubuntu usually manages to apply updates without requiring a reboot at all. On the rare occasion that it does want to reboot -- which generally only happens after a kernel update -- it patiently waits until I give it permission. Ubuntu has never rebooted on me while I am in the middle of working.
This list would probably be much longer if I were using my Windows system for something more than just editing a PDF file.
I know: Ubuntu has its problems, too. Nothing's perfect. And for some people, WIndows is just a better fit than Linux.
Still, I admit that I've been happy, in a kind of way, by my frustrations working with Windows. Ever since I switched to Linux, I have always been afraid that Windows will get much better, without my knowledge. Using a recent version of Windows and finding it quite annoying is pleasant affirmation that Linux is still the better option for me.