DC to Daylight
A short (?) (actually a bit long)rant about operating systems...
by unclejed613 , 30th December 2010 at 03:56 AM (4044 Views)
I'll start by saying, I've been using PC's and their direct desktop ancestors since about 1980 or so, and have used CP/M, DOS, OS/2, just about every version of Window$ (including Windows 3.0, and the Win95 "desktop" known as "Bob"), Unix, and Linux.I've helped people do some configuration and network setup on Vista and Win7, although i do not own (and do not want to own) copies of Vista and Win7. I have been doing this for a while... I used to run a BBS 24/7 before there was such a thing as the internet. How i actually got any work done "back in the day" with 64k of memory and a pair of 180k floppy drives and a 1Mhz 8 bit processor is beyond me, but i did manage to get a few things done i guess.... So we'll skip most of the history lesson, and fast forward to a couple of years ago. At that time almost all of the computers in the house were running WinXP, and because i was tired of kicking my children off of my computer so i could so some web browsing or amp design or play Delta Force, i decided to just build another box. My kids had just brought home a freebie they found sitting next to a dumpster, P3-800, 512M of RAM, and a 10G hard drive. i have a few other HDDs in a box, so i put a 30G drive in it, loaded Win2k on one of the drives and Linux on the other and set it up as a dual boot machine. i copied all of my CAD software and other files to the "new" machine and started using it. i began leaning heavier on Linux. up to this point i had been using Linux primarily as a hardware diagnostic tool and had set up a few Linux routers. I began using Linux for web browsing, and a few other things. Using Wine, i could also run quite a few "must have" Windows apps too. i was still somewhat limited by the hardware i had, though, and eventually had the opportunity to upgrade the hardware. When i got the new box home, i moved all of the hard drives into it. It booted fine into Linux, but would not boot into Win2k. By this time i now had 4 hard drives containing 5 linux partitions and 3 windows partitions. one of the drives contained the Windows system and a second Windows partition with about 10G of files, and a third was a Linux partition with a bunch of music files on it. I put the disk in the machine as the primary master drive (which is what Windows wants to see when it's being installed) and began reinstalling Windows. Windows refused to install unless it owned ALL of the drive (Windows, you see, doesn't like to share disk space with another OS). After Trying for a few hours to install Windows, i finally arrived at the 6th or 7th time of seeing....
"Windows cannot continue installing on this disk. Press R to retry, Press F3 to exit."
So I exit to check and see what just happened here..... booting from a Linux live CD, i find that there is indeed a Windows (C: ) partition and my Linux partition is safe and sound.... but my 10G of data (which had been a Windows partition) was now "unallocated".... So what happened? When i fixed the MBR, Windows' heavy-handed disk tools wiped the FAT of both windows drives, and somehow wrote an invalid partition type to the D: drive (it was FAT32, not NTFS, which for some reason the installer didn't like that). Once MS disk tools do something like this, there IS NO way to fix it. Linux fdisk can delete a partition and restore it without losing data, but Windows disk tools just blow everything away.... OK, enough of this.... this machine has just become Linux ONLY...... today the machine has Slackware Linux 13.0 on it, and for the very few instances where I really need Windows, I have a copy of Win2k installed on a virtual machine.
So fastforwarding to December 2010, I have a PC at work running WinXP because I have to. My machine at home has been running 24/7 for at least 3 or 4 months without a reboot (yes, Linux is THAT stable), and i have been running my machine at work for about 2 weeks since it's last reboot. My machine at home has been running a few apps constantly, such as a large torrent download, email, a VOIP server, etc.... My machine at work rens a few apps during the day, but most of it (except MS Outlook) gets closed at the end of the day. So what's the difference? The Linux box comes back from the screen saver instantly, apps run smooth, even though the machine hasn't been rebooted for a few months. The machine at work begins getting sluggish, churning the hard drive for 5 minutes or more after entering the password to return from the screen saver. taking forever to switch between apps, crashing apps (like Adobe Acrobat, which for some reason locks up Internet Explorer when it crashes). Looking at the process tree in Task Manager reveals nothing except system processes are churning up a lot of disk writes and reads while apparently just slowing the machine down. the system's cache file has grown to 2 GIGS of who-knows-what. What fixes this odd behavior? rebooting.... then the machine is back to normal. I'm not sure why Windows gets so top heavy after it's been running for more than a few days, but it does. Possibly the cache file also keeps a growing cache history (which is what the strange behavior would indicate). It's not just on my machine, but company wide, and I've seen other Windows machines do this as well, and it's not a new phenomenon. Windows also takes FOREVER to restack it's RAM allocation when you close an app, Linux rearranges it's RAM usage immediately. When Windows crashes, it often requires a reboot to get everything working right again. With Linux, [ctrl]-[alt]-[bksp] will force a restart of X (linux's graphic interface) without a reboot in the off chance that the GUI gets hung up. Also, processes in linux can be killed, "re-niced" (where you can alter the CPU and disk priority a process gets) , or restarted (or in some cases given a swift kick in the butt to get it moving again), but when a process hangs up in Windows, all Task Manager allows is to kill it.
Currently there is only one WinXP machine still operating in the house. The children use a Linux box for web browsing and watching movies. Now when they play online arcade games, no more viruses... My oldest son is away at college, my next oldest uses a Macbook. Linux's KDE Desktop is a really nice GUI with a lot of useful features and even some "eye candy" that should be making Bill Gates green with envy. It simply is better and slicker than Windows.
Speaking of viruses (and their siblings... malware, spyware, adware, exploits, etc....), there are at least a few hundred thousand virii for windows, and between 800 and 1000 for linux. Most of the Linux virii assume you are 1) running using the root (administrator) account and 2) have an idiotically simple password (like "root" or "admin", "joes-computer", etc...), and uses a "standard" list of known common passwords to try to gain access. Operating a limited user account with a random or unknown (to the "list") password stops the majority of Linux virii before they can do anything. The remainder can do some limited damage to files in the user account currently running, but can't harm the system (which runs as the root account). Windows virii have the ability to gain for themselves "super admin" status, and avoid deletion or even the halting of their processes by the real admin of the system. Antivirus software for Windows runs under the ownership of the admin user, which the virus can bypass with "super admin" and not even the antivirus software can stop or delete it. Not to mention the numerous security holes that Microsoft is constantly plugging because somebody found a way to exploit it.
Last but not least, i'm tired of paying a couple hundred dollars every time a new flavor of Windows comes out, then a few hundred more for the office suite (Microsoft Office) that goes with it. Slackware Linux is FREE, and so is Open Office and Thunderbird (email client). when you get Win7 "standard" edition, you get ALL of the same software that comes with Win7 "ultimate edition", but only has the functionality of "standard" unless you pay a few hundred dollars more to "unlock" it. If you want to set up a server farm, you have to pay lots of $$$ for Microsoft Windows Server 2008, as well as a license fee for each machine it's installed on. With Linux, EVERYTHING neccesary for a server is included "out of the box" with no fees. The license is GPL (General Public License), which means "if you can install it and set it up, go right ahead", and if you make any changes to the software to make it better, provide the source code so everybody can use it.
Tech support for Linux is also free, and you can go to many places and forums on the web and ask questions ( LinuxQuestions.org ) , and get real help. If you have older hardware languishing in a corner, Linux generally will run just fine on that as well (only recently has some of the i386 and i486 code begun to disappear from the Linux kernel, but Linux should still run quite well on those older architectures) an old 386 or 486 with 16M of memory is more than enough to run a router or internet gateway. add a wireless card, and it becomes a wireless router. Try that with Windows...
The Slackware Linux Project
Installer packages for "aftermarket" Linux software:
Need to run Windows programs in Linux?:
WineHQ - Run Windows applications on Linux, BSD, Solaris and Mac OS X (a windows API for Linux)
VirtualBox (a virtual machine, where you can actually install and run ANY operating system, including Windows)