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May 09, 2005

Confessions of an Ex-Linux User

At the beginning of the summer of 2000 my family got a new computer, this freed up our previous machine for my grand GNU/Linux experiment. After playing around with Phat Linux to test the waters and then Linux Mandrake I settled on Red Hat. From that point I used Red Hat Linux exclusively until the summer of 2003 where I started dual booting on my new college computer.

These days I'm back to using Windows almost exclusively now. Windows XP is far stabler than the Windows 98 that I dumped in 2000. Firefox is also nice enough that I can use it in place of IE and not have to worry about taking down the whole shell (though the Linux/X11 port is fairly horrible). And Thunderbird protects me from those nasty Outlook (Express) worms. It's nice being able to almost properly view documents that people have decided to typeset in MS Word (for the love for god, why?). The Windows Gaim port is in a good enough condition that I can use it in place of that add-ridden AOL client. And Media Player Classic has made multimedia a pleasure on windows. I'm also enjoying the excellent Nero suite, both their video tools and their burning tools. Gaming on Windows allows for more choices; Linux has some big title games like Doom 3 and UT2004 and lots of older games running on ported VMs but doesn't have nearly as many games as Windows. As a Linux user, I did (and still do) tend to play more console games though.

MATLAB is another reason. Though there is a Linux (with optional very ugly X11 support) port, I can't use the features I need the most. I need to use the fdatool quite a bit but it just isn't usable on the X11 port and I don't mean the Havoc Pennington it still has features unusable, I mean the gui is so horribly skewed and illegible that it is a real pain to use.

Windows can still really could use a few things though. I'd love to be able to have a tabbed terminal in windows. I'd like to see better out of the box archive support. I'd really like standard tar, gzip, bzip2, rar, and possibly 7z support, with tight shell integration. I'd also like to see a Direct Show Ogg demuxer, Vorbis decoder, and full MPEG 4 support (ASP/AVC/mp4). In the more likely to actually happen arena, windows should shorten the names of its default system folder location for those who have the misfortune to use it in the command line "cd c:\Documents and Settings\Username\My Documents" us a mouthful as is "cd c:\Program Files\Common Files" I realize that there are the tilde names like c:\docume~1\Username\mydocu~1" but that is also awkward. I also know about command completion but in some situations its not feasible. the My Documents, My Pictures, My Music, etc. folders should have the My lopped off, of course they are yours, and "C:\Program Files\Common Files" can become c:\programs\common, of course they store files, and "Documents and Settings" can become "profiles" because it is easier to type.

There are a few things on the Linux side that could win it massive amounts of points. It would be sweet to have a grub menu item or boot up key combination to not start gdm/kdm/xdm. Native Eclipse would also be sweet. Ubuntu got close I could smell it but progress mysteriously stopped over a month ago. I good audio player would also be awesome. Despite the fact that I am currently using Winamp on Windows I don't like the Beep/XMMS Winamp-cloned bitmap interface. Rhythmbox is pretty nice but could really use a plug-in system, right now rbscrobbler is such a hack. Firefox also needs a serious clean up. You shouldn't need to be root to install search plug-ins.

Maybe someday I will return but for now I am content with Windows.

EDIT 5/11/05: I added some stuff, I didn't mean to take the entry live earlier

Posted by ajc30 at May 9, 2005 11:21 PM

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Tracked on June 27, 2005 01:34 PM


Firefox is also nice enough that I can use it in place of IE and not have to worry about taking down the whole shell (though the Linux/X11 port is fairly horrible)
What's wrong with the Linux version of Firefox? It's exactly the same as the Windows version for me, my only complaint is that it uses GTK for the GUI.
It would be sweet to have a grub menu item or boot up key combination to not start gdm/kdm/xdm.
I think this is possible. Check out the configuration at the very bottom of this page and notice that there is an optional 'initrd' item for each entry. Although I use GRUB, I've never played with that option before, but to me it sounds like you can control what starts up at boot.
Native Eclipse would also be sweet.
The Java IDE? I was under the impression that it consisted mostly of Java classes on every platform (and hence no 'nativity'), but maybe I'm wrong. But I don't see what's wrong with the available version of Eclipse for Linux.
I good audio player would also be awesome.
Have you tried amaroK? It's wonderful, I would describe it as foobar2000 + iTunes. Built-in Audioscrobbler support. I was also having a hard time accepting Linux media players, but amaroK beats anything I've used even on other platforms.

Posted by: Brian Beck at May 10, 2005 09:24 AM

My Firefox irritations are the search plug-ins, the preference location (Edit->Preferences on x11 vs. Tools->Internet Options on Windows) I don't care where they put it they just need to make it consistent, difficulties installing some extensions as non-root (it seems in general little regard was taken for multi-user systems designing it), and general hostilities towards distributions (It seems there is a disconnect with the Mozilla Foundation about why someone would want to get their product from someone other than them).

As far as the initrd thing goes, i guess it's posible to put together another initrd then play with startup scripts but it sounds like a lot of work. If they had a really easy way to do it on that site, i missed it.

I've heard good things about amaroK but I use an all GTK+ desktop, I don't even think I have qt installed right now.

Posted by: Alex at May 11, 2005 06:44 PM

I use an all GTK+ desktop, I don't even think I have qt installed right now.

Ah, now I see why you switched back to Windows ;)

Posted by: Brian Beck at May 22, 2005 04:45 PM

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