About 6 years ago I took a serious plunge and installed FreeBSD on my primary laptop for work. Admittedly, I kept that Windows partition around for necessary occasions, and it was necessary. About 4 years back, I dumped the dual-boot and went with only Red Hat/Fedora, and I’ve been pretty happy ever since.
And yet, I’m now switching to Windows XP. There are reasons.
My job requires that I give presentations using a projector. With Linux, I spent too much time getting projectors to work. Sometimes they’d work flawlessly, and sometimes they wouldn’t. The problem here is consistency and plausible deniability. With Windows, I can walk into a customer site and expect the projector to work; if it doesn’t, it’s the projector’s fault.
I have to use WebEx, and they claim to support Linux, but it doesn’t always work from one code revision to the next. Same logic applies here as with projectors.
When all of your co-workers are using an app and they have to specially save their docs for you because you’re not on the same app, its motivating. Crossover office doesn’t support Office 2007, OpenOffice doesn’t support Office 2007 formats, and not having Office 2007 impacts my productivity. This makes me sick, by the way. Being forced to a format that is only compatible with itself is just plain wrong.
I’ve been using XP exclusively for two weeks now. Am I happy? The short answer is no. I’ve traded external pressures for internal annoyances. The pain of Linux was everyone else’s. The pain of Windows is my own.
I realize now that there are a host of supporting applications that I use(d) on a daily basis, but that aren’t strictly required for my job. Some of these (gimp, firefox, nethack) run on Windows as well, but many do not. Gthumb, the gnome image browser/viewer, is a surprisingly clean tool. I used it for simple editing of images. I never thought I’d miss the rats nest that is package management on Linux, but where Windows has stagnated, Linux has improved. Yum is really quite good, and the ability to search and install from repositories is pretty powerful.
* Speed of Use
I was running FC6 on a broke-down T40, and I’m running XP on a brand-spankin T61p. I miss the T40. It’s not the hardware. The software, especially Office, is just plain bloated. I get significant pauses waiting for things to start up or waiting for Outlook to open the ‘new message’ window. Where is the experience commensurate with the hardware?!
* bash, grep, sed, vi, etc
The beauty of Linux is right here; these are small, purpose built tools that perform their designated jobs quickly and easily. The more familiar you get with them, the more powerful they are. Windows has no equivalents, plain and simple.
The fact that Windows doesn’t come with an SSH client or server is a gaping hole in functionality. Sure, I can install a myriad of tools to make up for this, but it’s still missing.
The one thing I thought I’d never have to think about is sticking this laptop on a dock and having it work. Yet, this is a problem for Windows. nVidia provides a handy substitute control panel for the display that lets you set up profiles and hot-key them. For some reason, these hot-key combinations magically disappear. Sometimes the laptop docks fine, and adds my second display automatically. Sometimes I have to re-configure it. Sometimes, it just powers off with no warning when I dock. Linux may have been both limited and complex in its docking (editing Xorg.conf isn’t really fun), but at least it was predictable. Windows does let you change display properties without ‘restarting X,’ which is helpful.
What does this add up to then? I have no idea. I’ll give XP a shot for a while. I owe it that. And there’s no harm in bolstering my Windows power user chops. I suspect, however, that when Crossover gets around to supporting Office 2007, I might just switch back and not tell anyone. Until then, Cygwin and VMWare will just have to do.