Monday, August 21, 2006

Windows vs. Linux -- Windows 1, Linux 0

The Internet itself has put the lie to the old saying, "Eight hundred monkeys typing on eight hundred typewriters for eight hundred years would inevitably produce the works of Shakespeare." No, we just have faster Web connections courtesy of pornography.

And now Linux, specifically its flavor Ubuntu, has put the lie to "eight hundred programmers typing on eight hundred keyboards..." They can't seem to make an install process that won't lead a user to a psychotic breakdown.

The background:

I hate computers. I love writing, but I hate cajoling and jerry-rigging and going through the Five Stages of Grief everyday with my desktop PC just so I can blog and write books. This, however, is what I must do. Because I use Microsoft Windows as my operating system. There was a time in the 1990s when I was an Apple user, but after calling the 800 Helpline number for Apple Canada and getting a recorded message saying the number is unlisted by request of its owner, I switched to Windows. And I've been sorry ever since.

So, after some investigation and much coveting of Apple's new line of computers, I learned that Linux might be the answer for me. Particularly, I had heard very promising things about Ubuntu, one of the many flavors of Linux. Tonight I attempted to install Ubuntu -- with no success.

What went wrong? What did I have trouble with? I have no goddamned idea.

I went to the Ubuntu Web site and downloaded the installation disc to a CD on my machine. I then restarted my PC, hit F12 very quickly, and made my computer boot up with the Ubuntu CD. When the slick, vacant Ubuntu desktop appeared after a few minutes, there was absolutely no instruction on what the user was to do next. Not being an idiot, I double-clicked the "install" icon figuring that was how one installed the operating system. After double-clicking the icon, my pointer turned into some kind of circular zoetrope-type thing that I guessed was Linux's version of the Windows hourglass or Apple's wristwatch, which signaled the program was working. Well, my CD-ROM whirred like a champ, and shit-all seemed to occur on my screen. Eventually the circle-time-passing-indicator disappeared. Just when I thought about restarting my machine, a box slowly assembled on my screen, which turned out to be the Ubuntu install interface. It staggered along, finally asking me to select the default language for the operating system. I did so and clicked the Forward button. Again, nothing seemed to happen. After leaving the room and coming back half an hour later there was the second of six screens staring out at my office -- choose my location on planet earth so Linux could better serve me. It just hung there, never fully loading. I left it go for an hour. It never loaded.

For all the dramatic crowing about "open source" applications, I'm uncertain that I see the point.

After two more increasingly frustrating tries, I finally restarted my machine and let it boot up in Windows. After slugging away with Linux for the better part of three hours, my Windows applications seem lightning fast.

Which leads me to the nightmare question -- Are Microsoft products actually superior? They can't be. I've had too many problems with them, too many crashes. Microsoft treats its customers like unpaid quality assurance testers, notorously shipping products way too early, and thus having to issue patch after patch after goddamned patch. All the while peoples' machines are getting smoked by viruses sneaking in through vulnerabilities everyone but Microsoft technicians seem able to find.

And don't even get me started on the abomination that is Internet Explorer.

But what the hell is up with Linux? I'm grossly disheartened by the experience this evening. I've seen Linus Torvald on 60 Minutes and have read every scrap of Linus and open source propaganda I could get my hands on. After programmers around the world have worked on this operating system for years this is the best they can create?

At this point, an electric typewriter is starting to look very appealing to me. At least it has that oldschool Zen about it.


Vintage Computer Manuals said...

I hope to master Linux by the time I die.
It is never easy.
I cannot figure out how these geeks have mastered it and can easily manouver there way around with ease.
I have come to the conclusion that if the Linux Distro ( flavour) out of the box suits you i.e has a browser and an office and you are behind a router of cable broadband connection then Linux may be ok.
However if you have to install anything - programs , printers and especially wireless cards lots of luck.
Now I know how senior citizens feel when trying to use Windows.

Shaun Stephens

Whetam Knauckweirst said...

Thanks for the reply, Shaun. What a nightmare situation -- to think Windows is my most viable option. It's sickening! I agree with every one of your points.

One of the most Zenful guys I know of navigates through this universe in DOS. Maybe that's the way to go. I can't wait to see ASCII porn.

rick said...

matt, learning linux is a discipline, not a pass-time. now show me paint-the-fence! now show me wash-the-car! now show me untar celtx to /usr/local/celtx!

mr. miagi would be proud.

Jeff said...

Here at Das Komplex it now takes a minimum of 10 minutes to boot into Windows each morning. Roughly the same amount of time is required to boot off at the end of the day. I'm increasingly disgusted that I can't turn my computer on/off in a reasonable amount of time. This has led me to buy a Mac for home use, and I'm very happy to have done so. OS X is a pleasure to use.