Windowless

KubuntuFor the first time in maybe more than ten years, I don’t have a machine running Windows in my possession. Last week, my Vista-running Acer laptop stopped working. Windows just wouldn’t load. It gave me a load of options to restore things to a previous state of affairs, only, because it couldn’t find the driver for my C: drive, there was no previous state of affairs. And there wasn’t any option to restore the machine back to factory settings, no restore CD, no Vista install CD, nothing.

So I did the only logical thing I could do to make this machine useful again. I put Linux on it. Kubuntu to be precise, and it works very nicely. A sticky start, because I couldn’t find FireFox (it wasn’t installed straight away), and things like Flash player had to be installed too. Also, certain file formats (like MP3!) aren’t supported immediately either. But after an hour or so’s fiddling, I have things working very nicely. It certainly isn’t as eeeasy to get into as a certain Asus machine, but it isn’t half bad. It’s quicker and more stable than Vista ever was.

My Macbook is still my main machine, and I can’t see that changing. The quality of the open source software available on the Linux platform is astonishing, given that it’s mostly free of charge, but for certain applications – like those dealing with media (photos, video etc) – the Mac clearly has the edge. For doing stuff on the web, though, Firefox can be running in anything that doesn’t crash every five minutes or which operates at a reasonable speed. And Linux beats Vista hands down on that score.

6 thoughts on “Windowless”

  1. I think this is really interesting. I’m a Mac user but ended up having to get a PC because I wanted to run a specialist mapping application that was only available for the PC. As the definition of ‘specialist’ gets smaller and smaller so will the need to have a Windows machine. A proxy for the measurement of ‘specialist’ is the number of applications/services that don’t depend on the underlying operating system eg those delivered through a cross-platform application such as Firefox.

  2. Interesting: how are you checking that stuff still works in IE – are you running Parallels or Fusion on the Mac?

    I once got a secondhand Dell just to be able to run IE on Windows for development purposes. Now I just have two virtual machines in Parallels, one with IE6 and one with IE7 and I’ve not booted up the old laptop in months…

  3. @ Jeremy – no problems, though this laptop is a bit of a beast to lug around with me!

    @ Simon – Yes, and there is real potential now that Linux is getting easier and easier to use – the version that comes with the eeePC is a prime example. For non techies, it’s perfect. Quite a few organisations, though, including (shamefully) the Government, distribute files etc in propriatory formats like .doc which can cause non Windows (or Office owners) problems despite the best efforts of the likes of OpenOffice.org.

    @ Steph – I’m going to try and get IE working in Wine, though I haven’t had a proper look at it. I have access to IE at work, anyway, so can check stuff there when I need to in the meantime. Have been looking at Parallels but am not sure my little Macbook could cope with it. I’m eying up a beefy iMac for home for real grunt work – video processing etc – and that could be the machine to run virtual Windows on!

  4. Always one to be contrary, I’ve gone the other way. My stylish and silver Powerbook is now back in its case and I’m back to XP. A few reasons, should anyone be interested: Dragon Naturally Speaking – being able to rant my reports and Audits is so much more fun and productive; Feeddemon beats the h out of NetNewsWire; Microsoft OneNote – sometimes they can get it right; Suunto – heart rate monitoring for my cycling… but most of all. A TabletPC just is the business. Like a fixed wheel bike, once you’ve been there you wouldn’t go back.

  5. Paul – interesting alternative view! I have a few favoured Windows apps, but I reckon they will work just as well within Parallels on the Mac, or Wine on linux. Not much Mac and linux lovers cann do about your hardware preferences though!

    You’re damn right about FeedDemon, the best desktop RSS there is – and free now too! Was seriously disappointed in NetNewsWire, so much so that I am now back on Google Reader.

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