There is only one reason left why Windows exists
by Walter V. Koenning, for the Reallylinux.com Opinion Section
156 minutes of pain compared with 26 minutes of success. That's the difference between a Windows installation and a Linux installation. After two and a half hours fiddling with a Windows install on my Toshiba laptop, it became pretty obvious what is one major reason why Windows remains a viable operating system.
Let me start by sharing a simple premise. I wanted a dual boot laptop, with Windows and Linux. Since Windows has an attitude problem it has to be on the primary partition and master drive to work correctly. No problem. I decided to simply start with a reinstall of Windows.
Bad idea. Reinstalling a base Windows to my laptop was going to be an event to end all installation events.
I am using a simple configuration on a Toshiba Satellite Pro 1GB RAM, 80GB 5400rpm disk, wifi, 10/100 and integrated video/sound run with Realtek. Straightforward stuff I thought.
So I began with my PAID FOR FULFLEDGED LICENSED AUTHENTIC Microsoft Windows CD. I have the little cert sticker, all the reminder notices about Windows authenticity and peal the shrink wrap off. My foolish assumption was that when you buy a full fledged expensive as all version of Windows, it will be an easy installation.
It's true that the initial setup for Windows was pretty simple and quick. I used the windows installation configuration to slice the hard disk in two partitions and to choose to load Windows on the primary HDA1. No real issue.
However, it then began a series of unbelievably slow installation processes that make installing Gentoo on a Pentium II appear speedy.
I watched my life pass before my eyes.
The Windows installation took 53 minutes before I finally got the Windows welcome screen and was finalising setup and configuration, which in this case meant connecting to the Internet and registering my Windows license to ensure it was legit.
What I did not realise was that the 53 minutes of pain only included the BASE WINDOWS INSTALLATION.
For some reason that is beyond me, all those thousands of files I installed were not driver or application files. I have no idea to this day what all those files were for, but installing for 53 minutes got me to a Windows GUI. No applications, and no real drivers. All I had were poor generic video drivers available.
Okay, so my next step should have been to install applications, like OpenOffice.org 2.0, Firefox, etc.
But before I could do that, I now had to go on to the internet to find a number of drivers for the various Toshiba hardware components that apparently were not on the Windows CD. What did I pay for in the first place? I think to myself, as I begin to scavenge the internet for my supported Windows drivers.
Off I went to my friend Google and sure enough, I found many of Toshiba Satellite Pro driver files needed to make Windows work correctly.
I visited the first site that had what I needed, a realtek audio driver for the satellite pro and clicked download. What I got next was a you need to register pop-up followed by a note that I could also order the whole set of Toshiba Satellite Pro drivers on CD for $20. I'm thinking to myself, how can you sell someone else's drivers? More over, why am I registering to download from a free drivers download website?
Then it hit me. Like anything linked to Windows, money and more money is the fundamental. The value of the customer and customer service are dictated by how much more money can be siphoned from them.
I decided to forgo paying someone for drivers they didn't even create and went to the trusty Toshiba website.
I should have started there in the first place. Thankfully, after some probing I found all of the driver files I needed and downloaded and installed them to the Windows PC. Now I spent about another 16 minutes installing all of the drivers and finally I was ready to install applications.
The process was long and seemed to be getting longer. After installing the core applications, the total time to install Windows was over 2 hours.
One example of the installation pain came when I found out that Microsoft Media Player does not support DVD codecs out of the box. What is the use of a media player that can't play media?
I wanted to watch DVD movies, so off I went into my closet to search for any CDs I had that would include some base DVD codecs. Thankfully my Iomega DVD drive came with drivers and codecs and an application that allowed me to view DVD movies. Finally, after installing them I could watch a movie on my Windows system.
But the total installation time was now 156 minutes.
It was time to get my Dual boot option working. Next, I inserted a Linux CD and began the process of installing it on the secondary drive partition. The particular version I was using was PCLinuxOS Live-Boot CD.The primary reason had to do with the fact that the senior editor insisted I test this flavour out, hence I caved in and tried it.
Now, it could have been any installation: Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Fedora Core, SimplyMepis, OpenSuSe, and the result would have probably been almost the same.
In my case, installing the PCLinux OS was childs play. Insert the Live-CD, let the OS boot, then select the Install icon. The process was just as straight forward as the Windows installation, figuring out drive partitioning and getting it going was easy.
However, the total time involved was significantly less.
Where the initial process had taken me 53 minutes with Windows, it took me only 26 minutes with PCLinuxOS.
The next step was installing drivers. However, I was surprised to find that this was not an issue for the Linux installation.
Apparently, where Windows fails to include core hardware drivers, the Linux distros are now ahead of the game.
My sound worked fine without issue and video settings were great. In fact I had none of the driver issues that occurred after installing Windows from a shrink wrapped version. I did not have to scour the internet for Toshiba drivers because the hardware was already supported! I scratched my head.
How can this be? How can Linux offer better out of the box driver support than Windows?
Next I wanted to install several of the key applications I always use regardless of OS. However, I was surprised to see that they were already installed!
I had Firefox, OpenOffice 2.0 and Mplayer (a simple DVD movie player). Everything was already installed by default and fully working with Linux.
The total time it took for Windows to get me to this point was 156 minutes. Here I was 26 minutes into a Linux installation and I was ready to enjoy using my desktop system.
Reinstalling Windows verified what I had suspected all along. The only primary reason Windows is so prolific has to do with existing Microsoft vendor relationships.
If instead, every PC owner had to go through the same pain to install Windows, find drivers, and install applications then Linux and OSX would have been on 90% of PCs world-wide years ago. I can only imagine what will happen in the future as more Windows users need to reinstall the OS and then realise that the process is not worth the bother.
Perhaps then, they too will do as I did, and reinstall Linux on the primary partition without dual boot.
This opinion piece should not be construed as factual information. It contains the opinions and personal experiences of the author at the time of publication. However, the opinions and personal experiences that have been posted do not necessarily express the opinions of Reallylinux.com. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. Microsoft and Windows are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and Internationally. All other trademarks or registered trademarks in this opinion piece belong to their respective owners.