Windows 7 Upgrade: How Much Harder Can Microsoft Make This?

I was excited about Windows Vista. I can't say I'm that happy about Windows 7. I installed it on my netbook, but I barely even use it anymore. I'm annoyed about a few things in Windows XP, but Windows 7, at least the release candidate, is less stable. It looks nice; very visually appealing, and the wallpaper is wonderful. I have a problem with Firefox crashing incessantly on Windows 7 though, which on my netbook makes it intolerable.

Fake Steve Jobs took on the Windows 7 upgrade path, which looks painful. (He also provided Apple's upgrade path). I can't imagine why Microsoft has to release so many versions of the same thing, especially considering that every single Windows DVD contains the exact same information. You can install any version of Windows Vista or Windows 7 from the same DVD. The only thing different is the license key. For instance, my Windows Vista Home Premium Upgrade CD can install Windows Vista Ultimate Full, provided I have a license key. The license key on the box only works with Windows Vista Home Premium Upgrade though.

Before Windows Vista came out, I worked really hard on "switching" to Linux. I was sick of Microsoft, and I couldn't afford a Mac, so I tried to get Linux to work. I couldn't. I got tired of spending hours hacking away on my wireless chipset, only to have to repeat the process the next time I rebooted. I also had trouble with Flash and Java. I'm not a big fan of the command line. I don't like having to remember to type sudo before every command, or su to root before I try to do anything. I have heard that Linux has improved over the years. I haven't had the time or desire to mess with it lately, but I did come across something interesting: Ubuntu has a Netbook Remix. That might be worth checking out.

Linus Torvalds Abandons KDE for Gnome

For those not familiar with the words I used, Linus Torvalds is credited for having released Linux. He didn’t necessarily invent it, as similar projects were in the works, but he managed to compile a Unix kernel to run on an IBM compatible processor. I know, that isn’t entirely accurate either.

For the tech geeks among us, I found this ironic. A few years ago, Linus Torvalds chewed out the Gnome team and admitted that he used KDE.

I don’t use Linux much, but I’ve always preferred KDE in the past.

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Teach Your Children the Truth About Linux


A cartoon dedicated to helping parents teach their children about Linux.

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When Open Source Sucks

I was real quick to jump on the "Hate Microsoft" bandwagon back in the Windows 95 days. Everybody hated Windows. I used to read PC Magazine and PC World magazines, and I read article after article and editorial after editorial about how horrible Windows is and how much better Linux is than Windows. I actually bought it for a while, although my experiences with Linux usually ran into some show-stopping limitation that drives me back to Windows.

I "hated" Microsoft until about 2006 when I was trying to get through my IT degree and some attempts to "switch" to Linux stopped me dead in my tracks. I couldn’t get Linux to work with my wireless chipset, for instance.

I read and recited all of the reasons why Open Source is better than closed source software, but I finally reached the point of wondering if I really care anymore. There’s very little that I need to do with a computer that I can’t do on Windows. I have easy access to Microsoft Office 2007, leaving the need for OpenOffice and Google Documents out of my concern.

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How Much Professional Experience do YOU Have With Linux?

That question was presented to me recently. At first I was at a loss for a proper answer. What would you do if a potential job hung in the balance of your ability to answer that question?

Professionally, I worked with Unix for about five years on my previous job. My current job requires nothing more than Windows XP Pro. I have worked with Linux off and on as a hobby for about eight or nine years. Each time I pick up Linux, hack around for a while, then find a blinding limitation and drop it until next time. Currently my biggest problem with Linux is the lack of native support for the Broadcom BCM4318 wi-fi chipset, one of the most common in use today. As time goes on, I invest more time and money in applications for Microsoft Windows, which makes it harder for me to use Linux for anything BUT a hobby. Until Wine/Crossover Office get easier to use and support more Windows applications, I’m pretty much going to stay with Windows.

In any case, here is how I handled the question regarding my lack of professional experience with Linux:

"In my previous job, I worked with Unix on a daily basis for more than five years. My current job rarely requires the use of Unix, but I do occasionally play with Linux as a hobby, which I have been doing for almost a decade. Unfortunately, in my industry, it is very hard to work professionally with Linux, as my industry requires professionally developed and supported systems for mission-critical applications. Although some people tell me that Linux and Unix are entirely different, that has not been my experience and I believe I am able to move between the two easily."

I believe that answer satisfied the question. Feel free to use it if you need to, although substitute your own experience, as you can’t use mine :-p .



Do Mac Apps Really Suck on Windows?

Some of you may have heard that Apple Inc. (Formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) released the Apple Safari web browser for Windows last week. Many of you may not care. I’m not sure exactly where I fit in. CNET’s Rafe Needleman wrote a blog entry titled "Mac Apps On Windows Suck. Here’s Why". I’m not sure that I agree with all of his conclusions.

With the Apple iPhone due for release soon, the announcement of Safari for Windows shocked a lot of people. Many developers and gadget geeks salivating over the iPhone had been hoping for an SDK (Software Development Kit) in order to produce applications for the iPhone. If you’ve ever used a Pocket PC, you know that third party applications are practically salvation. Pocket Outlook is minimally useful, but Pocket Informant is a wonderful excursion into the world of mobile productivity. WebIS Flexmail 2007 is also a wonderful replacement for Pocket Outlook’s email functionality. I don’t know many Apple people, but I do know that like Windows, sooner or later you’ll need a third party application to get things done. As the iPhone runs Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, I’m sure it will need more applications. However, Steve Jobs (and I’m sure others, but Steve is the public figure) have decided to make the iPhone a closed platform. As I understand things, there will be ways to write applets through Safari, but that is the extent of development capability on this platform.

And so, millions of geeks are upset. I was sort of apathetic to this announcement. I don’t intend to buy an iPhone right now. The announcement of Safari for Windows excited me about as much as, say, Outlook Express for the Mac. Oh, wait, my Macs do have Outlook Express. At least, my iMac does. I downloaded Safari on my work computer just to test it out, but for the most part I’m sticking with Firefox for the time being because the available extensions allow a great deal of customizability. Opera is nice, but Firefox meets my needs so I see little reason to use Opera, and IE7 needs a session manager for me to take it more seriously. I am spoiled with Firefox because when my system crashes, I can pick up exactly where I left off. If I have 50 tabs open and half of them are partway through a long article, I won’t miss a beat. If IE7 crashes with two tabs open, I’m hosed.

However, I don’t see the platforms through eyes of zeal. I have settled on Windows XP as my main OS for the time being because of all the tools available, Windows XP does what I need it to do the best. The programs that I use run best on Windows XP, I don’t have to buy any new hardware, and of course it is well supported and established.

As far as tools go, I differ in my opinion of iTunes from Rafe Needleman. I actually think that iTunes is a fairly decent media manager. Actually, my favorite feature is the podcatcher. I really don’t care for Microsoft’s digital media implementation. I believe that their target market is the gyrating silhouettes from the iPod commercials a few years ago. Windows Media Player 11 is decent, but has no podcasting capability. I download several podcasts, and iTunes does a wonderful job of managing them. Ever since I got my video iPod, I’ve come to appreciate iTunes even more and I’ve digitized the better songs from my CD collection to sync with the iPod to listen to when my wife is in the car with me. Now, if a better iPod sync/media utility comes along, I’ll happily try it out. For now, I’m content with iTunes.

Linux is a fine platform, but I have written it off for the time being. The software that I use and have come to depend on runs on Windows, and finding replacements or figuring out a new workflow just takes too much time on the two other platforms. Actually, I would love to play with Mac OS X more, but the hard drive on my iBook apparently crashed, and I don’t have the time to take the thing apart again, swap the hard drive into a PC laptop, and use a Windows XP disk to check the hard drive. Mac OS X Tiger doesn’t ship with much in the way of hard drive utilities.

In any case, if you’re into Safari, check it out for Windows. If you’re not, don’t sweat it. Firefox will probably remain the undisputed champ of Windows browsers (and Mac and Linux) for a while.


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Saying Goodbye to Microsoft- a trial run

As a follow up to my post the other day about a Debian Linux .exe installer for Windows,  I decided to try to give you, my loyal reader (surely there’s one of you) a hands-on report. Before I left for work this morning, I stuck a Windows XP CD-ROM in the DVD drive of my desktop computer so that I could log in remotely and as I had time, install Windows XP in a virtual machine just to try this out.

Following is a screen shot of the Windows installation in VMWare Server:

Please forgive the poor image. I’m still working on my image editing skills.

As I’m installing, I’ve also done some reading. This does not exactly overwrite Windows, but it installs Debian Linux alongside Windows. Windows XP typically uses the NTFS file system, while most contemporary Linux distributions use an ext3 file system. SuSE Linux has traditionally used the ReiserFS file system, until Hans Reiser was suspected of killing his wife. The official line is that if he gets convicted, there will be no updates to this wonderful file system, so SuSE linux 10.2 has been switched to the ext3 file system. Normally, NTFS and ext3 (or other Linux file systems) are incompatible, but what this installer does is supposed to do is to install Linux in a loopback ext3 file system within an NTFS drive. As far as Windows is concerned, this is a single file, which of course gives you one-click uninstallation capabilities. Get tired of it, delete one file. This gives you the ability to boot into a Linux installation without having to partition your drive. It also, at least in theory, protects Windows from becoming corrupted. This beats a Virtual Machine or another partition because this file can grow as needed. If you install Linux in a 10 Gig VM (Virtual Machine), and use up all of that space, you are better off starting over again. VMWare Server (the free product) does not, as far as I know, give you the ability to extend the size of a VM. I also haven’t been successful with a Window/Linux dual boot in changing partition sizes.

Of course, the question arises: what happens if you have to reinstall Windows? Well, I don’t know.

But, I’m going to experiment for you with a VM so you’ll at least know if this installer actually works. This way, I can test the installer without chancing the loss of one of my operational Windows systems. And so, the experiment continues. By the way, here is one tip I discovered for VMWare Server: do not, under any circumstances, select VM> Install VMWare tools until your VM is fully installed. Let me explain a little. When you first set up a new VM, you still have to insert the installation disk and install the virtual machine. VMWare server from the beginning tells you that you don’t have VMWare Tools installed. Well, I thought "OK, I’ll install VMWare Tools" and I selected this option. The problem I ran into is that apparently VMWare tools shows up in the CD-ROM drive of the virtual machine. This caused me a lot of problems with the Windows XP installation because the setup went looking for files on the CD, but the file system was reporting that VMWare Tools was in the drive. I ended up with a botched installation and I had to delete the VM and start over again.

OK, back to the Linux installation. Here we have a functional Windows desktop:

Now I’m going to bring up Internet Explorer 6 and navigate to the correct site, to begin downloading the executable. If this works properly, I should download a file and then be directed to reboot.

Here is the point where I’ll be posting pictures more than I’m writing, but I hope to give a decent (thought not overly verbose) picture of this installation. Next is the installer.

Here is the boot selection screen.

This is the beginning setup screen. It seemed like I had to go through 3 screens to set up the language:

One thing I think I misunderstood was related to the partitioner. I was not given an option to keep my existing Windows partition. This isn’t good. I almost canceled, but this is a fresh VM and I can start again anytime I want. I’ve never actually used Debian Linux, and this is a great chance to check it out without having to burn a CD.

OK, the installation is finished:

The desktop is very comprehensive as well. The current release of Debian is based on the 2.6.18-33 Linux kernel. Very impressive. I did come across a few minor problems however, one being that I couldn’t keep my Windows partition. I’m not sure if I set the VM hard disk to a size too small, but 12 GB should be adequate for a base install of Windows XP non-SP2 and Linux. Most Linux distributions are fairly small compared to Windows. I believe a base installation of Windows Vista Ultimate RC1 ran more than 12 GB.

In any case, in the finest traditions of the Mythbusters, this one is confirmed, you can install Linux over Windows through an executable. If you’ve decided that you just can’t take Windows XP any longer, or you’re still running Windows 95 or 98 and you’re determined to switch to Linux but you don’t want to mess with .iso files and you don’t quite know how to work a partitioner, give this a shot.

If you haven’t used VMWare Server yet, give it a try. If you have the RAM and hard drive space, VMWare Server will allow you to run several different computers all on one box. You can also download pre-built virtual machines to try out other products. If you want to see what Linux can do but don’t want to install it, give a VM a try. You might be surprised. The link to VMWare’s free products is here.

My final VMWare tip is this: if you set up the VM for one operating system and then install another over the top of it like I just did, VMWare tools doesn’t install. When I try to install VMWare tools on Linux, VMWare server thinks the VM is Windows and so a CD-ROM with Windows installation files appears. This isn’t very usable on Linux.

In the words of the SuSE Linux team "Have a lot of fun!"

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