Windows XP – Ready to go Live?

About six months ago, I finally abandoned the version of Windows 98 I’d been using since October of 1998.  Yes, you read that right.  I declared my last installation of 98 dead just before it turned 10.

Somewhere back in the dim mists of antiquity, I’d found a pre-release version for driver development, so it tended to be very stable.  It wasn’t until about a year ago that the updates in hardware and the WDM driver updates were too much for it to handle, and I had to switch to 98 Second Edition.  Six months ago, I got a chance to take Windows 2000 Lite for a spin, which was serviceable, and fast enough to not frustrate me every time I try to get something useful out of my computer.

For $95, I am now the proud owner of an HP microtower sporting Windows XP Media Center Edition.  Is it ready for primetime?  Can it accomplish useful tasks?

Once upon a time, my waking hours were spent in a cubicle doing tech support for a major PC manufacturer.  That was 8 or so years ago, which leaves me somewhere in between a power user and a guru, but a magician I am no longer.

My linux experience is limited to (mostly) end-user interactions.  Nonetheless, I set up a dual boot on the 200Gb hard drive, giving Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) 80Gb to play with, and that’s what I’ve been using for the past several weeks since I got this machine.  It just works.

And now I have a little taste of what a true linux wizard must feel when he tries to accomplish something on a Windows box.  I tried to get Windows to play a DVD movie last night.  Piece of cake, right?  I knew pretty much how things worked, and where to go in the OS to make changes.

Nonetheless, after already having got linux to behave, Windows made me feel like my fingers were broken.  Each step was painful and mysterious, with little faith in the outcome.  And the result?  Windows XP is not, in my opinion, ready for the end user.

Installing software in Ubuntu is simple and direct.  Almost everything is available from the Add/Remove menu.  Other items can be installed from the Medibuntu site, or with a simple .deb package.  When I plugged in a firewire external drive bay with DVD writer, it just worked.  Double-clicking an ISO file brings up a disc-burning dialogue which itself automatically detects where the blank disc is.

Did I mention that everything I’ve used in Ubuntu thus far is free, as in free beer?

Windows XP requires users to go and find where software is hiding on the internet, with no indication that the software found won’t be riddled with malware.  Play a backed-up DVD from the external firewire drive?  No dice.  ISO files bring up a third-party disc-writing utility.  And even something as simple as backing up my DVD’s requires paying for a special AnyDVD package.

Ubuntu is chock full of eye candy, readily available out of the box, including transparency and special effects.  The one thing Windows does better is supporting my dual monitors.  But what use is the second monitor, when I have to ask Mother May I for everything on the first one?

I keep Windows XP around by running it full-speed inside a Virtualbox window.  When was the last time you resized your Windows desktop with a single drag of the mouse?

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2 responses to “Windows XP – Ready to go Live?

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