Monday, April 4, 2016

...And it's goodbye to Windows 10

I have been running Windows since I built a $4,000 machine my freshman year of college.  I purchased Windows NT 3.5 Workstation because it was the latest and greatest technology at the time, and from an OS standpoint it was going to be the future of computing.

I also did a dual-boot setup with Slackware soon after just to play around with Linux, the new kid on the block. The primary lesson I learned from doing this was hardware support in Linux was nowhere close to Windows.  I remember trying to get an Iomega Zip Drive to work with Linux and it turned into a beat-down of searching the brand-new Internet only to find esoteric instructions of modifying primitive config files that in the end still did not get it to work properly.

Fast-forward many years later, and I decide to give Linux another try.  I don't remember how I found out about Ubuntu but I ended up using it as the distro of choice for my experiments. Based upon my prior experience the number one thing I was concerned about was device support.  My strategy was to do just a basic install of Ubuntu 9.x on what was new AMD hardware at the time and see if it worked OOTB. If not, then I would put Windows on it and move on.

Delightfully, Ubuntu worked right out of the gate with a basic install! From then on I was hooked on Ubuntu.  The only stumbling block I ran into was getting the drivers for a HighPoint RocketRAID 2640x4 card installed properly but I didn't expect it to work from a basic install anyway. Eventually the RocketRAID card worked just fine in a RAID 1 configuration so I was pleased as a peach.

However, there were some other issues with the Linux sphere that still lingered on. These were mainly software compatibility issues with the dominant Microsoft apps such as Office. For example, trying to open an existing Word document in OpenOffice would not render properly. Or opening an Excel spreadsheet in OpenOffice would fail because not all of the built-in Excel functions were supported. So with Ubuntu 9.x, the hardware support was there but software compatibility was spotty at best. Linux still wasn't ready for prime-time as a complete desktop replacement for Windows.

Several things have changed though since those days that brings me to where I'm at today (blogging from an installation of Ubuntu 15.10 Desktop with Google Chrome). The first major issue is that Microsoft fell down hard with what was their two biggest advantages over Linux a) hardware support with solid OEM device drivers, and b) laser-like focus on usability. I built a new machine in 2014 with an AMD APU running Windows 8.1 and had nothing but trouble with it from Day 1:

  • No Start Menu: This was by far the dumbest thing Microsoft has ever done. Assuming that every Windows 8.1 install would be on a PC with a touch-screen is just stupid. It wouldn't have been so bad if I could have found the apps I wanted to open some other way, but the built-in search functionality was absolutely horrendous.
  • Could Not Lock Screen: Literally I could not lock my brand-new Windows 8.1 PC. Why? Because Windows 8.1 would turn off the USB ports where the keyboard and mouse were plugged in making it impossible to log back in. *gasp* hardware issues with Windows?!
I hated every minute of running Windows 8.1, but I knew at the time I still couldn't migrate to Ubuntu yet. I was still dependent on some Windows-only apps such as Microsoft Office, iTunes, etc. But then came along Google Drive with tight integration to Google Docs/Sheets/Slides. Put all of my Microsoft Office docs into the cloud?  Hmm, intriguing. A lot of people have issues with this idea due to "privacy" but I don't see any problems with it. Especially since I am in full control of which documents I want to share with others, and by default all Google Docs are private to you the author. So I went ahead and migrated all the documents I had into Google Drive and never looked back.

Microsoft then comes along and releases Windows 10 and it is free for me to upgrade from Windows 8.1 (free, really?). I jumped all over this as I could not wait to get off Windows 8.1 and onto something, anything that was "better". I say "better" because that is naturally a relative term to the state of the baseline. I thought for sure Windows 10 would be "better".

Experience turns out to show that Windows 10 is much worse. How worse?
  • Start Menu Refuses to Open: The Start Menu is back (yay!). But after a day, maybe a couple days, it refuses to open when clicked on (boo!). Time to reboot...
  • Keyboard Shortcuts Refuse to Work: Have a special key to open the Calc app? It fails to work right around the time the Start Menu refuses to open. Try Super+S and search for Calc to open that way? Don't even bother, it doesn't work either. Time to reboot...
  • Apps Refuse to Open When Clicked on in Start Menu: Start Menu working? Check. Try to open Word under the Apps list? Nope. Click on it all you want, it's not going to open. Time to reboot...
  • The Freaking Calc App Has a Freaking Survey When Opened: All I want to do is do some maths and Windows asks me if I am enjoying the calculator app. The answer is NO! because you are asking me if I enjoy using the app when all I am trying to do is use the app. Unfortunately a reboot cannot fix this stupid issue, but migrating to Ubuntu can!
  • Opening an App for a File Times Out: Got a screenshot on your desktop you want to look at? Click on it, wait a while, and get a message that the attempt to open the file timed out. Splendid!
  • Attempt to Delete File Ignored: Don't need that screenshot on your desktop anymore? Just try to delete it, I dare you. It won't go anywhere when you try it.
  • Severely Unstable Graphics Drivers: I put this on AMD as much as Microsoft.
    • Desktop randomly crashes and takes some open apps with it
    • Menus from background apps bleed onto the foreground app
    • Random restarts without any user prompts whatsoever
  • Horrendous Memory Management: I was running Ubuntu 14.04 Desktop in a VMWare virtual machine with 2.5GB RAM allocated. I had 16GB available so I should have never run into any memory issues whatsoever. Windows 10 would tell me that I was running low on memory when Task Manager showed I still had 3GB free. Oh, and then Windows would just go ahead and kill my Ubuntu VM without asking. Jealous much?
I was not going back to Windows 8.1, and since Windows 10 is supposedly the "last" Windows version I had to get out of this quagmire. I was going to wait until Ubuntu 16.04 LTS was release on April 21st to "upgrade" from Windows 10 but I had to move to Ubuntu 15.10 because I bought components to upgrade my desktop to the Intel Core i5 Skylake platform and didn't want to wait several weeks to play with my new hardware.

So how did the transition to Ubuntu 15.10 Desktop go?  Stay tuned to find out...

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