On July 1, I decided that Windows was just not working for me. Yes, having a plethora of possible applications to install appealed to me, but I feel that no operating system has a monopoly of having things "just work." Here are just of a few of the annoyances I experienced while using Windows:
- Disabling AutoPlay (for security reasons) caused the content of CDs and DVDs not to appear when the disc was inserted in the drive. Once I inserted two CDs in rapid succession and was surprised to see the content from the first CD still appearing in Windows Explorer.
- No WPA2 support. While my wireless network card supports it, I was unable to install the WPA2 update from Microsoft's website due to a cryptic Windows Update error. Since Google was no help and rolling back updates like a madman did not solve the problem, it seemed like I was out of luck, unless I decided to pay Microsoft for phone support.
- Lack of good GPG encryption support. In Linux with seahorse, it is easy as right-clicking and selecting a context-menu option. In Windows, I had to go to the command-line.
- Windows Updates. The Malicious Software Removal Tool is not a critical update. It annoys me that when I told Automatic Updates that I did not want to install the June version of the tool, it waited ten minutes or so before prompting me to install the May version. And the April version. And the March version...
- Lack of free software. With the exceptions of Firefox, Thunderbird, and OpenOffice, most free software programs that run on Windows (like the GIMP or Gaim) are just not the same quality applications that they are on Linux.
Now, whether I talk the issues I have with Windows or Linux, someone (normally in off-line
conversation) remarks that I really would be better off using OS X, and that I would become so much happy if I just made my way over to the Apple Store and picked up a new iPod/Powerbook/Mac Mini/MacBook/Apple device du jour.
Thanks, but no thanks. Because of work, I have become acquainted with the workings of a 17" Powerbook G4. Here are some of the problems I have had:
- The keyboard on the 17" Powerbook G4 is the exact same keyboard as that on the 15" Powerbook G4 and the 12" Powerbook G4". As you have probably already suspected, it is a 12" keyboard. Not only it is smaller than the keyboard on my 14" Thinkpad, but it is of inferior quality.
- Mac OS X is a consumer-oriented operating system. I like to think that when it comes to computers, I am closer to the prosumer class. While consumers just want their computers to work, prosumers want their computers to work the way they want it to. Since Apple has an one-size-fits-all policy(read the previous paragraph about keyboards), the only choices they offer are false ones.
- Do you want your user interface to be blue or graphite?
- Do you want three years of AppleCare, or three years of regret after your laptop experiences a known problem but is out of warranty?
- Would you like a white MacBook, or do you want to pay extra for a black one?
And so on. OS X works wonderfully, except when I want to do something and it does not want to let me.
Simultaneously buoyed by Mark Pilgrim's successful transition (which reminded me of the Linux programs I missed) and concerned over the recent revelations surrounding Microsoft's WGA (in Linux, nothing is un-uninstallable when you have root), I decided to back up all of my data (using DVDs, since my external hard drive is in Virginia) and install Ubuntu 6.06. Despite the fact that my wireless did not seem to be working initially (it was quickly fixed), I was still happy with it. It was nice to see my Thinkpad's hardware volume mixer integrated into the native volume systems - something that does not even occur in Windows.
Staying with Linux means that I do not have to worry about updating my system will contact some company's server in Washington. It means I do not have to put aside money to upgrade to the next version of the operating system in order to receive the latest security updates. It is security and freedom at the same time.
The fact that my favorite author, Cory Doctorow, is not only planning on making a similar switch (from OS X to Ubuntu), but is purchasing a Thinkpad as well is just icing on the cake.