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Windows Or Not

It's time to put something in writing, so I avoid to explain it every freaking time that somebody feels like asking me "how is it that you use Windows now?"... it's long, so stick with me huh?

In the "old days" (~1997) Microsoft had just released their '95 version of Windows, that actually was the first version that could be called 'an OS' and not just 'a shell on top of Ms-Dos', while a giant leap for the "windows" world, it wasn't a big issue for almost everybody that didn't looked "under the hood".

Around the same time I was starting to move from a pure "developer/admin" status (on DOS/Windows) towards a more Unix-oriented, all-admin status. And since I was mostly programming in stuff like Java and/or C++ or developing Web-application, Linux was a better OS choice for me than Windows.

Linux was more oriented towards supporting old, semi-obsolete hardware, more than brand-new-spanking machines with the latest in hardware. And since "semi-obsolete" was what we had to work with in most cases, Linux suited me perfectly.

The result was that starting from 1999, I began to use Linux on all my machines, and Windows only on work machines that didn't belonged to me. Since I wasn't responsible for those machines, I didn't messed up with the configuration.

The end of the '90 and the first decade of 2000 saw a lot of things changing in the IT arena, first of all there was the rocket-like ascent of things like Google and the Web. The effect was that *a lot* of Linux system administration work was required. And a lot of web-programming too. In short, there was no real reason for me to use a Windows workstation when 99% of my tasks involved setting up, debugging and babysitting Linux servers.

So I went on with Linux, I had decided that "package managers" were nice, but not really necessary, especially when you need to install specific version of specific stuff that always brings the whole packaging system to his knees. For that reason (mostly) I stuck with Slackware as my distribution of choice.

But... time passes.

Windows NT, as clunky as it was, was definitively a step in the right direction, and with the next iteration, Windows 2000 and XP began to build up on that foundation. Another move was the establishment of the "Designed for Windows" brand, that was awarded to hardware manufacturers that provided drivers for their hardware that conformed to specs. This, in turn, solved 90% of the crashes that affected windows. Crashes that were due to crappy drivers cobbled togethe and never fully tested.

At the same time, hardware companies began with "consolidation", meaning, they began buying up all the "dirty-cheap" manufacturer and gobbled up their facilities, this removed from the scene most producer of junk-hardware.

And all the companies that worked in IT began to realize that NOT updating the hardware, was penny-wise and pound-foolish.

In short, in the decade between 2000 and 2010, both Windows and the hardware I had to work with went through a process of improvement that ment better harware and more stable software.

Unfortunately, this didn't worked well for Linux. New hardware meant that the old drivers didn't worked and new drivers didn't existed or were (most of the time) buggy and difficult to locate and install. Also, the fragmented userbase (if we can use that term to refer to the different "factions" in perpetual war with each other that are the typical Linux users' base) meant that a lot of efforts went into re-inventing the wheel over and over, instead of focusing on polishing and fixing what was already there.

I'm talking about the 'Windows Manager' war (Gnome vs KDE vs wathever) that is (sort-of) still going, the clashes between zealot "pushing" their loved distribution with the same fanatism that I expect from religious fanatic.

All this left me on the sideline, I am a pragmatist: what I need, is a tool that does the job I need to do. I don't give a fuck who made the tool or what were his religious belief or the colour of his favourite underpants. If it does what I need, good. If it doesn't, something else can do it.

This went on more or less, until 2012, then...

Long time ago, during a meeting with my manager, I explained to him what "it works" means for me: it means that it does what I want, the way I want, when I want, everytime I want. Well, in 2012 it turned out that it wasn't linux.

That because the environment, the hardware, the software and what is "my job" had evolved. And a lot of my work was done by using web-applications, the not-so-occasional access to Windows server using RDesktop and the ability to read and write documents that were most often than not Word or Excel stuff. And 2 of these 3 tasks didn't worked very well on Linux.

[NOTE: the comments are disabled on this because I don't want to hear a shitload of nagging about "you could have tried $fuckingsoftwareversionsuckmydick that works beautifully on Debian..."]

My point was (and still is): I am paid to do some taks, not to drive myself nuts in trying to do such tasks because some shithead decided that his software needed two dozens libraries that were not available or had the wrong version, or the wrong subversion of something that stopped me to simply install the bloody thing. And don't talk to me about "open" office or other crappily-cobbled together imitation that always runs like they're on a 386 with 100 Kb of ram, crashes when you try to save your document and can't read the one I need to read.

And what worked on Linux (SSH access to servers, quick & dirty scripts etc.) works as well on Windows. In fact, we could say that Windows was better at serving my needs than Linux. So I installed Windows.

Now, the causes of most crashes that Windows suffered in the past were dodgy drivers. Since the "Designed for Windows" program require manufacturers to submit the driver for testing, and most crappy manufacturers have been either bought up by bigger, better manufacturers or have gone out of business, most of the drivers are now decently made, this lower the risk to almost none. The quality of the software is also improved. Sure, nothing is perfect, and Windows is very far from perfect, but so is Linux.

So yes. I've been using Windows as my main OS, both at works and at home, for the past 6 years, and frankly, I'm not disappointed. Everything works as expected, and some more.

What is the problem with Linux? Well... that is a very good question.

Linux was born in the bedroom of Linus Torvalds when he started re-writing from scratch an OS that was already old by re-implementing the Posix standards. Why Unix ? Because writing a GRAPHICAL os at that time was a monumental task (still is) and one that require a huge group of developers, graphics and other personnel. While writing a kernel that only talks with pre-existing tools (GNU)... is not easy but doable. As Linus can testify.

Linux was built to be a SERVER. That is, a software that runs on a machine that is very powerful and can support and manage multiple users at the same time. But that is not really something we need on a Personal computer. By his name, a PERSONAL computer is... personal. That is, is used only by one single person. In fact, I began to think a few years ago, that running a multi-user, multi-tasking, multi-processing OS on a machine that perform ONE and ONLY ONE task (db server, web server, app server, firewall, proxy server...) is a freaking overkill and is, mostly, unnecessary.

For some reason, along the way, somebody decided that "Linux MUST win the 'war for the desktop'"... And they started doing every possible thing to do so. This led to the "Windows Manager" struggle and to several peoples trying to implement a "better Word than Word".

Now, we can go on about the fact that Word format is proprietary as long as we want, but the point is that there is "Word" and there is an "Excel", and trying to imitate it is going to be expensive and an uphill battle. Corel tried to do so and it didn't ended well. And there are a lot of people that keep whining over the fact that Word is an horrible product. Guys, I remember things like Wordstar on DOS. When I was trying to use that crapfest that was "Openoffice", I kept thinking "give me back WORD!". In the end, I kept using VI not because it was a better product, but simply because there was NO product on Linux that did anything functional.

And when I started looking at video editing... basically everything is built around ffmpeg, that is fantastic, but is a monster with a zillion options and as many quirks. LightWorks probably work, but is a bit expensive and is very focused on editing only. In the end, if you want something like Premiere Pro... you need Windows.

The "problem", as I see it, is that Windows started as a graphical interface on top of an OS for a very small and weak machine (the PC), with ONE user, no disks and very little memory. Then it "upgraded" to a fully fledged OS, but had to keep its baggage of old text-only applications that needed to keep running. And the hardware (that was cheap, buggy and had all kinds of quirks) wasn't the best to run on. The road from that to an OS with all the bell and whistle that you can imagine on a modern computer has taken a lot of time, but Microsoft kept pushing the cart uphill and now they've arived. As desktop OS, Windows does everything I want, and some more. Sure, you'll have problems when your users keeps installing junk or some other fuck up happens, but this is going to happens anyway.

On the other hand... Linux started with an OS that was already mature in 1990, and hasn't added anything to the pile. The only addition were SELinux and Systemd. And the fact that these additions have been strongly refused by quite a number of 'users' is telling.

Davide Bianchi
24/07/2017 16:11

Comments are added when and more important if I have the time to review them and after removing Spam, Crap, Phishing and the like. So don't hold your breath. And if your comment doesn't appear, is probably becuase it wasn't worth it.

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