Zed Lopez

How Much I Hate Windows

It can be easy to forget how much I hate Windows.

A couple of weekends ago, I planned to install Ubuntu Edgy Knot 3 on a new hard drive. I’d been mostly planning on leaving off Windows entirely, but I’ll probably want to play Civilization 4 some day — its price is finally dropping, and there have been two patches released. What the heck, thought I, I’ll install Windows.

Windows is fussy about being the first thing on the disk, so I went to install it first. I didn’t take notes on the process, so I may err in some of the details that follow, especially on the exact order of things.

The disk partitioner was crude and unfriendly. There was no solicitation of keyboard preferences beforehand, so I had to operate it in QWERTY rather than my preferred Dvorak. My Windows XP CD is an update SP2 disc, so I had to pop my Windows 2000 CD in and out to prove I was eligible to use the update disc. And type in a long ugly string from the packaging. The installation took a long time, but didn’t require more attention.

Rebooted into Windows. Balloons popped up about having 30 days to activate, and my system may be at risk. Well, actually, I couldn’t activate, and my system was not at risk, because I had no Internet access — it had failed to install a driver for my ethernet hardware — an Intel chip on a 4-year-old Dell server whose motherboard is a clone of an Intel motherboard, so we’re talking cutting-edge esoteric hardware, you understand.

Dug up the driver CD that came with my machine. Installed the ethernet driver. Went to Internet Options and set my home page to update.microsoft.com, the only page I ever want to use IE for, and disabled ActiveX controls everywhere else. Opened IE. It chugged for a while, and then said I needed to update my Windows Update version (to include, among other things, Windows Genuine Validation.) I did so. Had to reboot; did so.

Realized I forgot to take the driver CD out; had to wait for it to boot to that so I could exit gracefully and reboot into Windows. Went back to update. It chugged for about a minute, then said I needed to validate before I could update. Tried to validate. It told me I had to activate before I validated. I activated, crossing my fingers that changing the hard drive (again — I’d done it in the past with Windows installations on this machine) wouldn’t cross the threshold of hardware difference that would require me to talk to Microsoft to make a case that I deserved to install their OS. It didn’t — woo hoo! Then I went back to update. Chugged for a minute again, but then I could finally validate.

Looked through the 60-some-odd updates. Declined to install the one where they’d run a service in the background to check whether my OS was legitimate and pop up warnings if it wasn’t. Installed them. Rebooted.

Then I went about installing all the things I wanted to have some sense of security on a Windows box — firewall, antivirus, Firefox, startup control monitor, the TweakUI powertoy so I could disable autorun on all drives current and future.

Then I installed Edgy.

Had a much better tool to partition the remainder of the drive. Answered some questions about locale, including getting to select Dvorak before I had to do any typing. It recognized my ethernet hardware. Spent a while installing things (a much shorter while than Windows), I rebooted, and there I was.

Yeah, there are some bumps in the road with Linux, usually having to do with using hardware whose use the manufacturers support only with Windows, or using software to handle propietary formats, which tend to come with licenses that preclude a free Linux distribution from installing by default.

But, on balance, I find installation and maintenance of Ubuntu to be easier than Windows.