The bags beneath my eyes are smiling…

xp-desktop

I hate Windows.

Many of you who know me have heard me say this over and again. Microsoft Windows sells the world’s worst operating systems. Their products are as  much an embarrassment to American enterprise as the Edsel. It’s just crap software. Trust me on this.

I just spent something like two weeks rebuilding a computer to a level of functionality which would have been attainable in about an hour’s effort if we could have used Linux. We couldn’t because Ann is trapped into a relationship with yet another Microsoft excrescence called Word, because all of her editors use it exclusively. Microsoft Word is designed so that it doesn’t “play well with others”. There are open-source alternatives for word processing, such as Open-Office which are terrific for the everyday user, but, regrettably cannot be used for the tagged/notated editing work which Ann performs, because to do so would confound the editors to whom she uploads her finished manuscripts.

Anyway, her machine confounded us a few weeks ago, by becoming wonkier and wonkier. Ann herself became frustrated to the extent where she attempted to “restore” her system with Gateway’s disk which came with the computer. By the time it was handed to me, we were looking at rescuing data from an inoperative system, and then rebuilding it piece by piece.

My first thought was that the hard drive was dying, which is fairly common. These episodes can progress incrementally, with the drive still reading and writing data, but slower, and with glitches. We got the data off, sighed with relief, and set about re-installing Windows on to a new hard drive.

After three failed attempts at the reinstallation,  I dug into matters, and determined that the system’s memory was at fault. This was only possible, by the way, because the Ubuntu Linux install disk has a “memory test” program built right into it. I borrowed it for that purpose, and found a bad memory chip. Turns out the old hard drive was ok after all.

Next, we set about re-installing Windows with fixed hardware. That will, after a tedious 45 minutes, yield a computer with no useful software installed, and most of its basic devices, like sound, a proper video set-up, the data card reader, modem, and network capabilities crippled or totally broken. Even Gateway’s restore disk doesn’t attempt to provide the needed drivers, because Windows does next to nothing to intelligently select them from a list, or install them where needed to make things run.

Just to make sound work on this miserable rack of a machine took me many days, and some inspired guesswork. The Gateway people didn’t seem to have a clue, themselves.

Linux is nothing like this.  You install the operating system (for me, generally Ubuntu these days), and the devices are detected and mostly run fine. Yes, there are problems that arise, but the support you find in the community of users is far more coherent than yakking for hours with some far-away corporate toad of a technician, who blandly and blindly gives you mis-advice after mis-advice.

Linux is not for the faint of heart. It can take years to get really comfortable with it, but open-source software for this marvelous operating system works so well, words fail to relate what a pleasure it is to use. Ann’s laptop is again doing handsprings within its tedious Microsoft XP environment, and we are all glad for that, but, for my part, I’m glad to be grazing in greener pastures than those so falsely and ironically implied by the default Windows desktop.

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