What Exactly Is So Bad About Windows?

This past Saturday, I finished up yet another excursion into the Linux world. I took my older laptop and loaded SuSE Linux on it again. For some reason, I just can’t get Ubuntu to load on this laptop, but SuSE 10.1 will. Let’s just say I’m happy to be back to Windows for the time being. The SuSE Linux 10.1 desktop is beautiful, but some tasks that I’m used to on Windows don’t always translate well to Linux. I could spend the time reading forums and newsgroups to find the pertinent information, but sometimes that just takes more time than you have. While I was messing around with Linux Saturday, I was also watching my kids.

Because this laptop is a little bit older (Pentium III, approx 188 Megs RAM), SuSE Linux runs a little slower on it. The fresh install of XP actually feels faster compared to it. I was trying to do tasks with Linux that should have been simple, like system updates and configuring user preferences. I just could not for the life of me get the Xen updater to work at all. I did get it to connect to a server, but I kept getting an error message about some other program using something or other. It was almost like Windows. Every task took hours, which could be because this laptop is older, but even XP can do most things in a reasonable amount of time.

Having recently been influenced by Mac and Linux users, and playing around with both platforms (although not so much with OSX; my iMac is OS 9.2.2), I have come to a few conclusions that I would like to recount here. For one, it is very easy to hate Windows. I’ve been using it for 10 years or more. Of course before the Windows 95 family there was Windows 3.1 (there were several versions before that which I don’t remember actually seeing), and DOS. I do remember DOS 6.2.2 being a wonderfully stable and powerful operating system. Windows 95 was a nightmare of instability, reboots, failures, and sudden problems for which the only apparent solution was to reload the operating system. Windows 98 had some graphical improvements but really wasn’t more stable. Windows 98 Second Edition was by far the favorite of the pre-XP class for home users. Windows ME (Malfunction Edition) simply cannot be explained in terms of logic. What were they thinking? Load us up with this buggy implementation of an OS written around Windows Media Player and get us so ticked off that we can’t help but buy XP the second it hits the shelves?

Of course, I’m not going to spend much time on the business class of Windows, although I have used many of them as well, including Windows for Workgroups, Windows NT 4.0 (various service Packs), Windows 2000, and Windows XP Professional. We have a Windows 2003 server here which I do the backups on when our IT guy is out of the office.

It is so easy to hate Windows and Microsoft in general. Their business practices are reminiscent of Ghengis Khan’s conquests. Most people buy a computer, bring it home, it has Windows, it has a problem, and a cynical guy like me shows up to fix it all the while complaining and influencing them that Microsoft sucks and Windows is horrible but what can you do? A lot of people who buy a new computer don’t know what they’re getting into. I don’t know many people who accidentally bought a Mac. Most Mac users buy their systems deliberately. Many Linux users buy a new system and wipe out the OEM installed Windows to replace it with Linux (or BSD, or Solaris, etc). And so, we all hate Windows.

Something else that happens when a user begins to hate Windows is the influence of the other systems’ users. A Windows user runs into a Mac user who says "Gee, I don’t have those problems on MY system. I never have to reboot. My system is beautiful and runs perfectly" (I hang out on some Mac forums so I know you people are full of it). Linux users speak of the reliability and simplicity and power of their system, as do BSD, Solaris, etc.

I’ve found it’s all a shell game. As I said in parenthesis in the previous paragraph, I hang out on some Mac forums thanks to GTD. A lot of GTD users have Macs, and they complain about a lot of the same things we do, like poor design, unstable programs, system crashes, etc. I’ve personally tried to use Linux, and guess what? It locks up, stops responding, performs sluggishly at times. Here’s what happens though. You install, say, SuSE Linux. You go to a forum looking for help because you have a problem with this operating system for which a virtual utopia has been painted. You mention your problem and you get told "Oh, well you should try Ubuntu. Ubuntu never has that problem." So you burn an ISO of Ubuntu and install it. You then encounter a problem, return to the forum, and get told "Oh, you should try Fedora Core. Fedora Core never has that problem." Next you’re told to try Gentoo, Yellow Dog, Damn Small Linux, etc, depending on the favorite distribution of the day of the attendees of whatever forum you choose. It’s all a giant shell game.

When my friend gave me my iMac last year, it came with Mac OS 8.6. I completely crashed it within 24 hours, requiring a complete reinstall of the operating system. I went to one of my Mac using friends to ask why they can claim that Macs are so much more stable, and guess what I was told? You bet: "Oh, you need OSX. OSX never has those problems." And yet on most of the Mac forums I frequent, people lament for the good old days of Mac OS 8 and 9. Once again, it’s a giant shell game.

Let me tell you something I’ve learned from experience: there is no software utopia. No operating system runs perfectly no matter what it’s proponents tell you. I am very happy that people can be so enthusiastic about their systems. Believe me, I am happy. As a 10 year plus Windows user, I will admit that we don’t have Windows evangelists trolling forums seeking to share the Microsoft Gospel with a world lost in unstable operating systems. It just doesn’t happen, except for some MVPs, who as best I can tell are brainwashed drones (I only say this because I haven’t been invited to join the program as of yet. Imagine, leaving ME off this list).

I have to admit that out of the Windows 95 family, XP is certainly my favorite. I have gotten uptimes measured in weeks with Windows XP. I have gone more than 6 months without having to reinstall the OS. In the Win 95 and 98 (especially ME) days, I sometimes had to do a complete reinstall once a week or more. Windows XP is pretty decent for the time being, and I’m just going to be happy to use it. I do look toward Windows Vista with fear and trepidation. Since they finally got XP to work, it’s time to release a non-functional piece of trash again and start the cycle over like they did with Windows 95. Don’t let people tell you that the new computer that you bought is trash because it runs Windows. Just use Windows and enjoy it while it lasts.

Maybe when the next round of Linux releases comes out I’ll try again. SuSE Linux 10.2 might be interesting. Until then, maybe I can stick to Windows long enough to get some work done. 

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