Operating Systems

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I used to be the biggest Linux zealot ever. In spring of 2009 I had an Alienware m15x gaming laptop that was absolute shit, and it had Windows Vista on it. My best friend at the time had recently purchased a Mac mini and I loved it. I wanted Mac, but Hackintosh wouldn’t work on my laptop, so I installed an operating system called OpenSolaris. It was a now defunct operating system developed by Sun, and it was definitely not Linux, but I thought it was! I struggled with it and with its lack of software support, but I really loved the simplicity of it, so my best friend suggested I get Ubuntu.

An Alienware M15x

An Alienware M15x

I installed Ubuntu on that laptop in May of 2009, and the next month completely got rid of my Windows partition. I used Ubuntu and all sorts of Linux distributions full time for roughly five years. In summer of 2011 I reinstalled Windows 7 so that I could finally use my laptop for gaming, but it struggled to even play Fallout: New Vegas. The Alienware m15x is easily the worst purchase my parents have ever made for me, and I so badly regret talking them into it. The laptop finally died in April, 2012.

Intrepid, the name of my current desktop.

Intrepid, the name of my current desktop.

Christmas of 2012 I got my current computer, my iBUYPOWER ne741i (I think is the model). It was a beast at the time but the mobo was a bit outdated and the GPU is showing its age. Anyway, it came with Windows 8, which I tried for literally five minutes, then I just installed Ubuntu and Windows 7 on it. I still loved Linux, but I had a gaming rig and I absolutely needed Windows 7 on it. Steam for Linux wasn’t available at the time, and it’s just now starting to get actually good triple A games. I guess I used Ubuntu about 3/4ths of the time, but that slowly started to shrink to under half the time. There were a few things keeping me from switching to Windows 7 full time.

  • Inconsistency: Different folders have different folder views, and there wasn’t a way to set them all to the same one. Popular third party apps almost always have unique interfaces whereas on Ubuntu almost everything was GTK or Qt that could be styled to the GTK theme.
  • My Music Library was almost all FLAC and I couldn’t find any good music players on Windows. Foobar2000 was incredibly complicated for me and Winamp was ugly as sin.
  • I use a second computer as a “personal cloud” and I didn’t know of a way to let Windows communicate with it. On Ubuntu I used a great bit of software called sshfs (highly recommend if you’re using Linux and need to mount another computer as a file system) and I didn’t know of any comparable software on Windows, especially something that could handle all my symlinks.
  • Just the fact that Linux was cool, stable, powerful. It gave me control over everything, which is something I still miss.

I suppose the catalyst that got me using Windows again was Micro$oft’s rebrand and redesign of Hotmail, Outlook.com. It had a very nice interface, so I forwarded my me@thomasboxley.com emails to it. I started poking around through it and saw that it had a calendar, awesome contact management with the People app, and even Microsoft Word online. Skydrive (now OneDrive) was really nice too. Now you might be saying, “Thomas, Google has all of that stuff and more!” To be honest, for the past couple of years I’ve really been concerned about privacy with Google. That’s one of the reasons I don’t use Google Chrome really. I’m going to sound like a paid M$ shill here but Microsoft is probably the big tech company I trust most these days. They’ve really turned themselves around since Ballmer left. Still, fuck them for all that stuff with the Xbone. I moved all of my contacts from my iPhone into the Microsoft cloud and started syncing to OneDrive.

In October 2014, I suppose it was, I took the plunge and installed Windows 8.1. I still had the key from when I first got the computer, so *gasp*, I was actually using a legal version of Windows! Anyway I fell in love immediately. I loved the integration between all the apps. There were three things I really didn’t like though.

  1. Not as much control as I had over Linux. On Linux I could always pop into a TTY with Ctrl + Alt + F1 to do stuff like kill nonresponsive apps. It makes me sad this isn’t possible with Windows. The ability to just halt everything and bring up a PowerShell instance would be really nice though.
  2. Charm bars. Self explanatory. They’re pieces of shit.
  3. Full screen Metro apps. I really liked the Metro apps and their simple design, and the Segoe UI font is beautiful, but I just hated that they were full screen.

But I was able to solve two of my initial problems. Windows has this great program called NetDrive that lets me mount another computer, even one with an ext4 file system, with Windows, and it followed symlinks! And I just used Winamp. I just dealt with the ugly design (but I learned how to use and customize Foobar2000 so that’s what I’m using now).

On Linux, I was always into the bleeding edge stuff. Okay, yes, I stuck mostly with Ubuntu’s LTS releases after 2012 just because I was tired of upgrading every six months, but for the actual apps I probably had dozens of PPAs installed. I was really excited to use Windows 10 after it was announced, especially since there were windowed modern apps, so I signed up for the tech preview and that’s what I’m using now!

Windows 10 Tech Preview

Windows 10 Tech Preview

Honestly, Windows 10 is probably the best operating system I’ve ever used, next to Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat. It looks beautiful, has multiple desktops, windowed Metro apps, a mixture of the classic and Windows 8 start menu (Live tiles are awesome!) and Cortana from Windows Phone. I switched out NetDrive (which went premium) for Samba, which is incredibly awesome in every way. I really wish Microsoft would make File Explorer (formerly Windows Explorer) tabbed, but there’s a great program that does that called Clover. I also hope that they put in a shortcut to PowerShell from the Ctrl Alt Delete screen.

Anyway, that’s where we are today. Windows 10 is very nice and it’s completely free, so I highly recommend it. It’s still pretty unstable though, so don’t get it if you don’t absolutely know what you’re doing.

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