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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Now you can say goodbye to Microsoft (if you want to)

Are you tired of Microsoft Windows, but really don’t want to spend the money on new hardware for an Macintosh but Linux installations confuse you? First of all, don’t feel bad, second, check out this link: Some kind soul has created an .exe installer for Debian Linux. You no longer have to wonder what an .iso is, no more burning CD’s. Just download and run this .exe just like you’re installing any other Windows program.

Note: I have not tried this yet. The few details I’ve read indicate that this will install Linux on top of your Windows partition, giving you a fully functional Linux installation, freeing you from Microsoft Windows, and keeping all of your files in place.

If you like Windows, again, don’t feel bad and keep on using it. I’ve been working with Linux a lot lately, and Mac OS X, and yet for the time being I find that Windows XP still does what I need to do best. A computer is, above all else, a tool and the operating systems that run on computers are tools as well.

I may try this at one point if I can find an open source or free Ghost type application. If I can ghost my XP partition and restore it later if I want to, I’ll do it. The power connector broke on my old laptop, so using that one to test this out is not going to work until I have time to crack it back open and see if it’s possible to re-solder the connector back on the mother board.

If you do decide to try out this Debian installer and you like it, leave me a comment. If I get a chance to try it myself, I’ll post an update.

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Is The Windows Vista Release a Good Time To Switch To Linux?

ZDNet Australia reported on and mentioned that a speaker, Jonathan Oxer said that the Vista release might be a good time for a switch to Linux. He was referring primarily to administrators who will have to train people on a new interface either way, but let’s explore this question from the standpoint of the home user.
Linux has certainly come a long way over the years. My first experience with Linux was back in the Windows ’95 days. I bought a copy of Red Hat Linux 5.1 and installed it in a dual-boot configuration on my computer. At the time, I only had one computer (the bad old days). Red Hat did not drive my video card, so I was unable to get the x-window system working. I’ve never been much of a command line guy, and I quickly got bored playing with the command line. I didn’t know enough at the time to hack around in configuration files, so I dropped the project before too long.
I next tried Red Hat Linux 6.0, which a coworker burned for me. The beauties of Linux are that you can do this legally. I could have taken that CD and installed it on every computer at work and been well within the law. I only installed it on my own computer, and it didn’t drive the video card yet again. Why didn’t I just buy a new video card? I guess because I was much younger and much more broke.
One day at Best Buy, I saw SuSE Linux 6.4. I looked at the list of supported hardware and found my video card on the box. I bought it and brought it home, and sure enough I was able to run with a GUI (Graphical User Interface). I installed KDE for my window manager. At the time I only had dial-up available, and I was able to configure my Linux box to dial into the Earthlink service that I was using.
Next came SuSE Linux 8.0, but by that time I had a cable modem again and I had a lot of trouble getting it to work with cable. If I got it working once, I would reboot and lose that functionality. I was also using internet connection sharing for my wife’s computer, so when I was using my Linux partition she couldn’t access the internet. I dropped Linux for a couple of years, until Microsoft released their public beta of Office 2007 last year. The beta caused me a few problems, but uninstalling it caused even more problems. Because I had upgraded rather than installing separately, I could not go back to Office 2003 no matter what I tried. I ended up, after having to use OpenOffice for a class project, reinstalling Office 07.
When Office 07 threw me into a panic mode, I spent a few weeks trying to claw my way out from under Microsoft products. You can read some of that in previous blog posts here. I came to the conclusion after a lot of searching and trying other products that Windows XP isn’t that bad, although I’m still loath to switch to Vista.
Now then, with Windows Vista coming out later this month, should you consider switching to Linux? Well, first let me ask you to consider, what are your needs? One of the most profound classes I’ve taken to date toward my IT degree at the University of Phoenix is called “Fundamentals of Business Systems Development”. In that class, we learned about how a systems analyst works. This class helped me in so many ways, and not just in my personal IT, but also in my job and in my productivity systems. It is such a simple concept to actually sit down and analyze what you actually need, yet many of us never really learn to do it properly.
After working with a couple of Linux distributions and laying out my requirements, I came to the conclusion that I am better off sticking with Windows XP for the time being for my primary operating system. As I’ve said, Linux has come a LONG WAY over the years, but so has the rest of technology. I use a laptop for my primary system, although I also have a desktop computer, an Apple iMac and an iBook (both G3’s). I have a Pocket PC which I need the ability to sync. I use certain applications such as Evernote and My Life Organized that I haven’t been successful in getting to work on Linux through Wine.
doesn’t mean that I won’t keep playing with Linux, in fact, because I haven’t posted in a long time I am going to put this entry up on my blog and then start working on another one about some successes and failures that I have had with Linux. As for you, the reader, I recommend doing a careful analysis of what you actually use a computer for, what kind of applications you need, and what Linux alternatives there are if those applications are known not to work in Wine (i.e. or Koffice instead of Microsoft Office). It very well may be that you can make a switch to Linux if you’re not thrilled with the thought of Windows Vista.
Remember, above all else, your operating system is a tool. I have Windows XP, Mac OS X, and Linux running on the various computers in my house, and I have to say that each tool gives me the ability to do certain jobs that the others don’t. This isn’t choosing a political affiliation; it’s an operating system for your computer. You can download a Live CD from Ubuntu or Kubuntu (I prefer KDE as my window manager). A Live CD means that you can boot from the CD and have a full operating system. Several people in my current Unix class at the University of Phoenix are using Live CDs from Ubuntu or Knoppix. I actually used the command line on my iBook to complete one assignment, as Mac OS X is built on top of a BSD core and as such contains the full power of Unix.

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SuSE Linux 10.2

This is great! I get to put up the first page yet about the new SuSE Linux 10.2 release! There are several pages up about the alpha releases, but I can’t find any yet about the production release. I haven’t done anything more than burn the 64-bit DVD image, but hopefully I’ll get time to play with it later.

Like many, I’m less than enthusiastic about the upcoming release of Windows Vista. I’ve played with both the beta 2 and RC1, and found them to be interesting. I’ve had a hard time using them fully because the release candidate apparently isn’t upgradeable, so any work I invest into it will be lost. I’ll have to back up my data and make a fresh install in the event that I switch to Windows Vista. I don’t care much for the price point either. I understand, 5 years is a long time and the economy has changed and so a decent commercial home operating system probably can’t sell for $99 anymore, but Vista just has too many tiers. The Home Basic version is so basic I’m wondering if it’s worth anything. The next version up still lacks some networking features. Being me, I would be left wanting Windows Vista Ultimate which is priced at well over $300 for a full version and something like $229 for an upgrade.

Five years ago, many of us swore that we would not upgrade to Windows XP because it had too much "big brother tech". We meant the activation, which has now become a standard part of the Windows experience (which is what XP stands for). Windows XP has proven to be a decent, stable, and powerful operating system, and hopefully Windows Vista will build on that. I’m still not that excited about it though. The graphics are nice, the suite of applications that comes with Windows Vista ultimate are impressive, but I’m still not that excited.

Earlier this year, I tried to claw my way out from under Windows. That experience has led me in some interesting directions. I wanted to gain experience with other platforms in the home environment. I’ve used Linux in the past, and I had an iMac that somebody gave me. This time in the process of playing with other operating systems, I upgraded the RAM in the iMac and upgraded the operating system to Jaguar, or Mac OS X 10.2. I bought an iBook for $100, installed a hard drive, bought a power cord, and put it together. I eventually upgraded the iBook to Tiger ( OS X 10.4) and I’m waiting for some new RAM for Christmas to really get the experience. I’m finding that it’s still a Windows world, however.

In the last few weeks, I’ve jumped back and forth (using a 20 Gigabyte partition on my laptop hard drive) between Windows Vista, SuSE Linux 10.1, and several of the Ubuntu derivatives. I currently have the 64-bit Kubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft running on there. I’m fairly impressed with Ubuntu. They have done a wonderful job on stability and usability, but I still can’t get my wireless working. I’ve tried upgrading the kernel with no luck.

I have a Unix class coming up next week at the University of Phoenix, so I’m keeping a Linux partition on. I’ve installed and deleted Linux partitions many times in the last year, but I’m learning each time. I’ve learned how to edit Grub (the Linux boot loader) so that Windows XP is my default. It’s really simple. Just follow this:

How to edit Grub:

cd /boot/grub

(make yourself root through your distro’s method, su, sudo, whatever)

kate (or kwrite, gedit, vi, emacs or the text editor of your choice) menu.lst

scroll down and look at how many entries there are. Find the "default = x" selection. Chances are it will say "default = 0". Counting from the first entry as 0, count the lines to the "Windows Vista/Longhorn" bootloader. It may say XP or whatever version you’re running.

Change the default value to the line number. In my case, it’s 4. Count the line that says "Other operating systems" as a selection.

Save and exit.

Now, when you reboot, Windows will be your default. It’s easier than trying to edit the boot.ini file in Windows, which doesn’t support Linux anyway.

Anyway, I’ll get around to installing SuSE Linux 10.2 and hopefully I’ll get around to posting about it. Until then, Google seems to indicate that I’ll have the first post up about the production release of this version.

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