Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Back to Windows

I'm back on Windows after a few months of using Linux exclusively at home. I still like Linux quite a bit, and am running a few distros in virtual machines now just so I can keep my skills up (and to support relatives who I switched to Linux - more on that in a bit), but I switched my main OS back to Windows because of the lack of usable audio and video tools, which I use all the time.

Not sure if "usable" is really the right word, but for me it's just so much more of a pain to work with the audio and video tools I found on Linux that were supposedly "best of breed" (Rosegarden and Ardour for audio, Kino and PiTiVi for video. I tried to get the Cinelerra and the highly-rated OpenShot video editor to work, but ran into lots of issues.) The audio tools were very difficult to set up, and the interfaces are nowhere near as slick as Mackie Tracktion 2 for Windows. Kino and PiTiVi were a total joke.

I initially bought into the idea that since it was open source software, I could fix and improve the software I wanted to work with. But the IDEs that I tried are nowhere near the level of VisualStudio, the languages they were written in I was unfamiliar with, and I just don't have the time to learn right now. Never mind that coding for audio and video applications is difficult to begin with. I might get into this someday, but I didn't want to deal with it now (I usually LOVE this type of stuff).

I did have great successes with converting two of my computer virus-prone relatives to Linux. One works for a major financial institution that has web software that won't work without the Microsoft JVM! Also, Windows security updates wreak havoc on the software. My solution was to install Ubuntu, and use Sun's VirtualBox with a working snapshot of XP. If he ever got a virus, he could just revert back to the snapshot. The financial software now works perfectly, and for the first time in years, he actually like using his computer. I also put my dad on Linux Mint, and he keeps telling me how much he loves it (aside from a few minor annoyances, but nothing like dealing with viruses and malware on Windows).

To be fair, both were using Windows XP - another virus-prone relative who I do tech support for has been on Windows 7 for a few months now (protected primarily with Microsoft Security Essentials), and has not had an issue yet, and loves her computer now as well.

There were initial hardware compatibility and other issues with both of these installs that took a bit of time for me to work through, but both systems are rock-solid stable now. I think Linux can work very well if you are just primarily browsing the web and just need to work with Office-type software (Sun's OpenOffice works very well if you're not doing anything crazy). It can also work well in other situations, depending on your exact needs.

Having switched back to XP myself, I find myself missing a few of the nice features on Linux now. The Bash shell is wicked powerful and a quick way to do system administration, having multiple virtual desktops is great, and I love how configurable pretty much everything is. Also, not having to worry about viruses nearly as much is awesome. I'm sure I will try it again someday.


ghettodev said...

Welcome back to the dark side. In all fairness, I think it's easier to have people using Windows Vista or 7 and just lock it down for them. I think that does the balance of protecting them while keeping them within something that looks familiar.

My problem with linux is that you have to set up everything manually. I gave up when I had to set up the wireless card. If Apple was not so expensive I would recommend it more often.

Dave Gruska said...

Depending on the distro, you don't necessarily have to set everything up manually. In fact, out of the box, Linux Mint 8 supports my wireless card, sound card, my old printer, and my scanner.

All I needed to do to have a usable system was check a box to have it use NVIDIA's drivers for my graphics card.

Wireless setup did use to be a big hassle with some older Linux distros I tried, though.

The difference in looks from Windows to Linux Mint is minimal. And you can configure it to look pretty much however you want. I used an old iBook (OS X) for a while before I "Linuxed" that as well, and the difference in the UI between that and Windows drove me nuts.

Both of the people I switched to Linux were unwilling to buy a new computer to be able to run Win 7. I am very impressed with Win 7, though, and can't wait to run it myself, once my 10-year old computer bites the dust.

Kearns said...

I'm now running Windows 7 on 6 out of the 7 PCs in the house, and it runs great on all of them, even the oldest one. I find that it runs at least as good as XP if not better, on the same hardware. When paired with Microsoft's Security Essentials, I have had 0 viruses. On my personal 2 Win7 boxes I'm running Ultimate, which means I have free use of Virtual PC as well...

Dave Gruska said...

Kearns - how old is your oldest computer?

I might run the Win 7 readiness tool just to see what it says on mine, but I don't feel like buying Win 7 for a computer that's on its last legs.

> When paired with Microsoft's Security Essentials, I have had 0 viruses.

Security Essentials does seem to be very good, but you also know how to be safe online. My relatives are virus magnets - mostly from clicking on links in forwards and spam, downloading games and screensavers from untrusted sites, you name it - despite my numerous warnings.