An update on my alternative operating system

A few weeks ago I
posted that I was getting rid of Windows, and I thought you might all
like an update on where I am with that.

The biggest change for
me is that I've started to run Linux under the hood on my principle
work laptop. I'm using Suse 11, for those who are interested in
technical things.

Originally, years ago,
I had a Macintosh. It was the original 128k version, with a single
floppy disk, and I loved it. I continued with Macintosh for the next
decade or so, way before it had its resurgence to popularity in recent
times.

I gave it up and
switched to Windows in order to be more aligned with what most
corporates were using at the time. Over time I became pretty
convinced that Windows was the future, and even wound up working at
Microsoft eventually.

I've now realised that
Windows isn't cutting it very well any more for me. The realisation
came when I couldn't get the thing to go to sleep when I wanted it
to. Neither could I get it undock without a restart. Couldn't connect
to any of the printers at work. Couldn't even reliably sustain a
connection to my printers at home. Had to beg it to make a connection
to a wireless network. And the integrated Internet Explorer was
crashing at the drop of a hat.

I realised I was
spending a lot of time fighting with it before I even got any of my
applications to open.

Yes, I know these are
all signs that it's time to reinstall. But stop for a moment. When
did we all get into the habit of reinstalling
operating systems because they started to degrade?

It
was the high water mark of inconvenience that made me jump ship.

Of course, I still run
Windows for those key applications which I can't do without. For
example, I can't live without ClearContext, which helps me manage
email. And I still need Windows to access the corporate resources at
the bank.

So I run it in a
Virtual Machine on top of Linux.

Here's the surprising
thing. Windows runs better
inside a Virtual Machine than without it. Even from a performance
perspective (although my laptop is a relatively new one and has that
new Intel virtualisation gadget in its processor, so maybe that is
the reason).

Even
my Microsoft Office applications seem to crash less frequently. I
still use them, having tried and failed to convert my brain the
OpenOffice things that came with my new operating system.

I
now have a copy of Windows which I run every single day, and I
haven't had to restart it in over two weeks. Unheard of. Neither is
it degrading with time. Bliss.

And
guess what?

When
you undock the laptop, it
undocks.
When you ask to sleep, it does so in seconds. And comes back to life
without hassles.

Now
let me not paint a picture that all this was simple to achieve in the
first place. I had quite a lot of bother getting everything the way I
like it and went through two Linux distributions before finding Suse
11.

But,
and I have to say this, I'd evaluate the bother as about the same as
making Windows work perfectly, all the time. Especially when you
factor in the several times a year reinstall.

For
me, the switch to Linux is paying off. I am actually more productive
(at least now it is all working) than I ever was when I had to fight
with Windows every day.

Counting
up the minutes wasted by operating systems is an illustrative
exercise for everyone. Keep a wasted minutes diary for a week. You'll
be shocked at what you find out.

8 Responses to“An update on my alternative operating system”

  1. October 22, 2008 at 5:41 pm #

    This precisely follows my experience James. I have been running Ubuntu for two years now, and won’t go back. And the XP experience running within Sun VM is amazing. Boots faster, runs faster etc. In fact, running Google Chrome in XP, inside the VM is faster than Firefox in any environment.
    All this an no viruses to worry about.

  2. October 22, 2008 at 7:01 pm #

    Thanks for the update. It will be interesting to see how MS reacts to such converts once they again critical mass. Clearly they have stopped pushing Vista and going now for Windows 7 which may as well really be a Vista patch in guise of a new version. Of course it will demand even more processing and computing power so that we continue to keep upgrading the hardware (and the chip and box guys are not left behind in making their bucks)!

  3. October 22, 2008 at 10:10 pm #

    Hey, Colin,
    Can you remember who it was who put you onto Ubuntu…?

  4. David Shea
    October 23, 2008 at 4:15 am #

    Flashback 1995: OS/2 Warp
    Warp ran Windows 3.1 much better than the Windows on DOS setup. Also if something did crash it did so on its own without bring down other windows apps or affecting the OS.
    I’m going to look into Linux, Thanks! 😀

  5. Anthony
    October 24, 2008 at 9:00 pm #

    I work in technology at a large bank and ran a small pilot. Could I survive for 1 year running Linux.
    Really the 3 major inconveniences were
    1) conversion from PowerPoint to OpenOffice on complex presentations
    2) Some bank internal websites require IE – I ran a plugin that masked the browser name and they worked ok
    3) Visio
    Tricky to setup were:
    1) Couple of windows apps I needed ran fine under wine
    2) Juniper VPN Java version

  6. Clare Swindlehurst
    October 30, 2008 at 4:38 pm #

    Windows on my work laptop drives me crazy as it is constantly hanging. I use a mac at home and it is a dream in comparison although I do prefer MS Office. I’m intrigued that you are using Linux on a bank machine – how on earth did you get that agreed?

  7. November 14, 2008 at 12:23 pm #

    Same here: using a mac, running the corporate image in a VMware. Works better and faster than on the laptop…

  8. December 1, 2008 at 10:21 pm #

    I’ve been running openSUSE on laptops for some years now, and running both openSUSE and Windows XP in VMware on top of that. Many people have noticed that Windows can run more quickly on VMware than it does natively. It seems to be that the disk caching to memory is better for the virtual machine than for Windows natively.
    Cheers, Tony.

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