Tanker Bob has been an expert Microsoft DOS/Windows user for over 20 years (and I won't say how far over!) I think that I still sometimes recite the function of each DOS interrupt in my sleep. That stretch came to a screeching halt in December of 2006. In short, the vista I see out my windows displays a Linux landscape.
?The Longest Suicide Note in History? That's Peter Gutmann's assessment of Microsoft Vista in his technical, economic and performance analysis of the compromises in Vista. This document is a must-read if you are interested in how the performance and stability of the system for which you paid hard-earned cash will be adversely affected. These issues all stem from demands by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to prevent the copying of HD-DVD, Blu-Ray, and other content on personal computers, even for fair use backup. A great article written several years ago on this development sits on the Freedom to Tinker blog. The Electronic Frontier Foundation also has an excellent analysis of this cozy and far-reaching relationship here. Lest you think that this is just paranoid hype, read Microsoft's own Output Content Protection and Windows Vista page and accompanying white paper for yourself.
Quoted directly from the Microsoft link above, here are the critical parts of OCP:
? Protected Video Path - Output Protection Management (PVP-OPM) makes sure that the PC's video outputs have the required protection or that they are turned off if such protection is not available.
? Protected Video Path - User-Accessible Bus (PVP-UAB) provides encryption of premium content as it passes over the PCI Express (PCIe) bus to the graphics adapter. This is required when the content owner's policy regards the PCIe bus as a user-accessible bus.
? Protected User Mode Audio (PUMA) is the new User Mode Audio (UMA) engine in the Windows Vista Protected Environment that provides a safer environment for audio playback, as well as checking that the enabled outputs are consistent with what the content allows.
? Protected Audio Path (PAP) is a future initiative under investigation for how to provide encryption of audio over user accessible buses.
Note the use of the phrases ?required protection?, ?content owner's policy?, ?what the content allows?. These mean that what you the user can do or see with your PC will be determined by people who did not pay for your hardware or software, not by you who did pay for it all. And, as a commenter on the Freedom to Tinker blog correctly observed: ?Over the past 30 years I have noticed a fairly strong inverse correlation between the quality of the product and the desire to protect the software from the end user (as opposed to commercial piracy).? Said another way?you pay more and get less.
Lest anyone say that all this will have no practical effect on the average user, here's (half way down the page) a case where an independent tester found that Vista would not play his CDs. His hardware didn't comply with Vista's DRM requirements, and now cannot play CDs he legally owns in Vista but can play them in any other operating system or device.
If that's not enough, Vista suffers from the usual initial-release issues as well: software incompatibility (latest catastrophic failure list here) and security holes like the systemic one discovered by Joanna Rutkowska. Forget about using your iPod on Vista as I write this, and drivers for a host of hardware have yet to appear. The Gartner Group estimates that only half of installed PCs will run Vista's Aero interface, and that's one of the higher estimates. Get out your wallet.
Even on XP over the last year, successive Windows Updates have broken parts of my sound system, disabled my built-in USB ports, and messed up my Outlook setup. Then there are the systemic problems like the disappearing system tray icons in XP which is well known. No help was forthcoming from Microsoft for any of these. My patience with the lack of accountability and support at Microsoft has worn very thin.
?Freedom Tastes of Reality? After researching the OCP issues in Vista, I decided that neither Microsoft, the RIAA, nor the MPAA will tell me what I can do with my PC for which I alone paid. Let me be clear: I do not condone any actual copywrite infringement. Personal copies made under ?Fair Use? are not copywrite infringement by law as long as they are not distributed to others. Everyone should receive the due payment for their work. The overwhelming majority of the computing world would agree with that position. But, in order to solve a problem with a few miscreant users, Microsoft, the RIAA, and MPAA will compromise everyone's PC who uses Vista. But not mine or a host of my new-found fellows. I don't care about HD-DVD or Blu-Ray, just leave my PC alone.
The British rock group ?The Who? did a song called ?I'm Free? on their 1969 Tommy album. The refrain says: ?I'm free, I'm free, and freedom tastes of reality.? Absolutely. And there is a liberated world out there that does not bow their knee to any special-interest industry group. They are called the Open Source community, and Linux is their operating system of choice. Yes, you do have a real choice.
Open Source and Accountability Open Source has been around for a long time, some say its roots go back to the initial ARPANet development in the 1950s that birthed the Internet itself, and yet it still provides a great model for the future of computing. Its strength lies in the fact that everyone can see all of the code in the software. Security holes are open for all to see, but also for all to fix. The community consists of highly talented individuals dedicated to the concept of open and transparent software development. Open Source doesn't necessarily mean free software, but the overwhelming majority of Open Source software is indeed free. Open Source software is also protected by copywrite and license agreements such as GPL, but these provide very few and reasonable limits on the code's use.
Amongst other notable achievements, Open Source collaboration has produced the very capable and secure Linux operating system which dominates the world server market, the OpenOffice.org office suite, Firefox browser, Thunderbird email program, the Evolution Personal Information Manager, K3b CD/DVD burning software, and much more. All of these compete very well with their commercial counterparts. Many are cross-platform as well. The central home for Open Source is SourceForge. Most larger application efforts have their own websites as well.
The word 'community' accurately describes the Open Source world. Each project is carefully organized and staffed primarily with volunteers that handle every aspect. They maintain strict version control and generally release a large number of interim ?baby steps? (sometimes nightly) for users and other programmers to test and examine. Rather than bugs being hidden from users as is often the case in the commercial world, bugs are fully publicized, tracked, and openly dealt with by the community. Even though most of the work is done by volunteers, they usually address issues more quickly than commercial software houses. This approach has demonstrated itself to be superior in a number of ways in an independent study by David Wheeler, which is a must-read that he last updated in 2005.
Even governments have noticed the success of the Open Source concept and opened up to it. For decades, governments have been held hostage by proprietary solutions, spending many millions to maintain systems which only the original vendors can fix or modify. Testing complex code will always be an issue, but having many more eyes on the code means more thorough testing without breaking the bank. And again, quality stands as equivalent or even better than comparable commercial software, yet either free or at a fraction of the price. The cost of government should be everyone's concern, and Open Source software provides a fruitful avenue to lower that cost to taxpayers.
Jumping Out the Windows As the saying goes, talk is cheap. After trying out Firefox for a year, Thunderbird for a number months, OpenOffice.org for a couple of months, all under WinXP Pro, I became convinced of the quality and security of Open Source projects. When much of my core software list showed up on the Vista incompatibility list and then my research of Vista OCP issues hit home, I finally decided to taste the reality of freedom.
The Linux penguin is an interesting animal. Linux comes in something over 200 different flavors, though most are branches of a handful of main projects. I looked at the pros and cons of each of the primary players. One distribution (as Linux flavors are called) that kept popping to the surface was Ubuntu. By some estimates, they have garnered over 25% of the Linux ?market? and have consistently finished at the top of all distributions, which is no small feat considering there are over 200 different flavors out there. Ubuntu is managed and maintained by Canonical, Ltd., which is the brain child of Mark Shuttleworth. Their promise is that Ubuntu will always be free, will support a host of languages, and that they will maintain a 6-month new-release cycle. For those that value a longer-term stability, a Long Term Support version is available with a 3-year support cycle on the desktop, 5-year cycle on servers.
Testing the Waters The Ubuntu project comes in a number of flavors itself depending on the particular desktop that you favor. The Ubuntu default is the Gnome desktop, which is probably the most stable and mature. I initially tried this through a great concept?the ?Live CD?. Simply download a CD image (iso file) to your system, burn the image to a CD, then boot the CD to try it out. The CD comes with OpenOffice.org, Firefox, Thunderbird, and a host of useful apps, giving you a very useful environment to try out. The only thing that you cannot do is save your changes (duh). I did this for a few days to get a feel for Ubuntu.
I liked the Live CD enough to give the system a try for real. Ever cautious, I kept my Windows XP Pro installation intact on one drive. I rooted around for an old 10GB hard drive that I had laying around, installed it in my PC, then installed Ubuntu on that hard drive in a dual-boot arrangement with XP on the other hard drive. The actual dual-boot loader is called Grub, which is primitive but effective. This whole process proved simple and worked perfectly. In minutes, I was running a full installation of Linux on a fraction of the 10GB drive!
Ubuntu (in all its flavors) does more than just install the base operating system. The distribution also installs OpenOffice.org, Firefox, Thunderbird, the Evolution PIM, a suite of multimedia applications, and a bunch of handy utilities. It provides a free and completely productive desktop environment right out of the ?box?. Very sweet.
I abused this system for three weeks, installing whatever I could get my hands on (more on this process later). Gnome desktop feels like a streamlined Windows, with all the power but none of the bloat. The interface strives for simplicity in appearance and operation. For new Linux users, this should prove ideal?that's the whole idea. Ubuntu, being of South African origin, uses subdued reds and browns prominent in the art and landscape of that region. It was OK for a while, but I prefer blues.
Blue? That led to trying out the KDE desktop. KDE hasn't been around as long as Gnome, but it has a lot of support. It's much more graphics intensive, with sharper icons and animations. Targeted to more experienced users, it also provides easier control over the underlying system. In addition, it seemed to come with more applications and utilities. The clincher, though, was the file manager. Gnome's Nautilus file manager proved weak in my opinion. I prefer a Total Commander approach, which KDE's Krusader provides. While you can use Krusader in Gnome, there are shortcomings associated with that approach. Tanker Bob wanted more power user stuff, so KDE beckoned. Ubuntu's KDE version is called Kubuntu, which I downloaded and burned to another Live CD.
The Plunge Files are like a gas?they expand to fill the available space. While the 10GB drive worked fine for initial testing, eventually I'd want to move all my data from the Windows drive to Linux. That meant a bigger disk. I wanted to keep my Windows system as a dual-boot to run Windows-only programs (more on that later), so that meant a new drive. Hard disks are incredibly cheap these days, so I picked up a Western Digital 320GB EIDE drive from NewEgg. I went that large because my long-term goal (that's a couple of weeks in Tanker Bob's world) was to run WinXP in a virtual machine under Linux. Lots of reasons why, which I'll cover in a later installment.
The fateful day arrived the week after Christmas. I plugged in the new hard drive as the master, set the Windows drive to slave, booted to the Live CD, double-clicked on the Install icon, and changed my computing life forever. Well, sort of. My PC has an old enough BIOS that it wouldn't boot the 320GB drive if the boot partition exceeded cylinder 1024. Oops, I knew that (rolls eyes). So using the excellent Linux graphical GParted disk partitioner included on the Live CD, I created a 20GB (should have done 10GB) boot partition for the Linux system, a 1GB Linux swap partition, and the rest mapped as my home directory. That worked perfectly, and took only a few minutes (well, except for actually formatting the 320GBs). Kubuntu installed as advertised and Tanker Bob joined the Linux world of freedom!
Initial Impressions Linux runs faster and multi-tasks better than Windows, especially on legacy hardware like mine. I can feel it in everything that I do. Linux also uses memory more efficiently. It is more secure than even Vista because it uses a security model that Microsoft specifically chose not to use. That is, you cannot routinely run as root (or administrator). Practically, that means that nothing running at your security level of ordinary user can compromise the system. In Vista, even though you may not be an administrator, the software installation routine automatically has elevated privileges in the system (read this). Sounds like virus and trojan horse heaven to me. Under Linux, you have to provide your root password to install anything to the wider system. It sounds cumbersome, but you quickly grow used to it and it's a small price to pay for the greatly increased security.
Visually, KDE is very attractive. It offers four working desktops by default, with the ability for the user to define how the task bar works relative to these desktops. I chose to have all apps appear on the task bar grouped by desktop, and by clicking on a task I'm taken to that app and the desktop on which it sits. This really helps organize your work. Just about everything about the KDE desktop can be configured to the user's desires.
While Kubuntu Linux tries to do as much as possible through the graphical interface, some things are best done from the command line. This sounds daunting, but it really isn't that bad. The average user would rarely have to resort to the command line, but a power user will find themselves there regularly. Plus, there are still a number of optional utilities that only work from the command line. This is even true in Windows (e.g., ipconfig).
Economics That term sounds funny in the Linux world, but I'm talking in comparison to the Windows world. Vista upgrade from XP Pro to Vista Ultimate retails at $259 and won't install later on a bare drive if my system crashes. That means that I'll have to install XP first, then Vista, wasting hours in recovering my system. Office 2007 Professional upgrade runs $329. So, not counting replacing incompatible software and adding new hardware to run the Aero interface, especially a new high-end video card, I've already saved about $600 without spending a penny. That's over half of the money I'm saving up for the new PC I'm building this summer. Sweet indeed!
Future Installments If all this sounded easy, it pretty much was. If you're an average user who just sticks with the standard distribution software and don't live on the bleeding edge of hardware, you should encounter few problems. If you do have issues, there are lots of helpful folks on the Ubuntu forums.
On the other hand, if you're like Tanker Bob and enjoy (!?) self-inflicted pain and anguish while tweaking your PC to the nth degree, then you'll want proprietary drivers for video (for 3D support), your multifunction printer/scanner, proprietary multimedia codecs, customizations, and lots of software. While this article covered my migration in a skeleton manner, future articles will put flesh on the bones. I'll discuss the easy way of getting your proprietary video drivers to work, changing the built-in software out, general software installation and maintenance, Windows software equivalents, creating and running virtual machines, and other fun things that frighten small children and keep us awake at night.
Freedom Bottom line: I haven't used the Windows dual-boot since December (actually only once at all just to ensure that it worked), only use the Windows virtual machine to ActiveSync my Dell Axim X50v and access Logos Bible software, and have thoroughly enjoyed my Linux experience. I even have full read/write access to the entire Windows NTFS drive from Linux. Oh, and except for the virtual machine software, the operating system and all my software has been free. This is a keeper. I control my computer, not the MPAA or RIAA, and there's no Microsoft DRM or OCP to prevent my legal CDs and DVDs from playing?I'm free, and freedom tastes of reality.
Absolutely wonderful article. I may be trying out Linux soon. I just had my second hard drive crash on this Macbook, not to mention the mounting list of other problems I've had with it since I bought it 6 months ago. I had used a Mac from about 1988-1998, but went to a Windows PC when our school system switched over to Windows. But I soon got tired of Windows XP so I went back to the Mac and I'm starting to regret it. I've had this Macbook sent for repair twice, had multiple other smaller problems, and just put in my third hard drive. And the funny thing is, I never move this Macbook. It's never left my desk here so I can't imagine what would be falling off of it if I actually took it somewhere. Anyway, sorry to ramble, just wanted to tell you I enjoyed the write-up very much.
Thank you for your kind assessment and for taking time to write. I'm sorry to hear about your hardware problems. Hard drives have become so reliable that it's unusual to see them crash so often. Sounds like a bad manufacturing lot.
Well as much as I love the Mac OS X, this Macbook has been a nightmare since the day I bought it to replace my Powerbook G4 12" model. Random shutdowns, colored vertical lines, two hard drives from two very reputable hd makers iin Seagate and Toshiba, being very picky about the RAM used in it, as well as a host of other little tweaks that have been necessary. My faith in the Mac, despite almost 20 years using them, is dwindling fast. I don't mind paying extra for a Mac as long as that extra money is worth it. Well great article and I look forward to the continuations.
Quote: I'm not sure how similar to Logos it is, but there is some Linux software called BibleTime that addresses the same market.
Thank you for the suggestion. However, BibleTime doesn't have a fraction of Logos' capability or library offering. Logos has hundreds of top-quality references available and very sophisticated analysis tools. The main problem is that it needs IE's rendering engine to work.
Very nice write up. I joined this forum just to post here. It's always great to hear about a new Linux users experience. I surmise that you are just one of a growing number of people that are put off by the latest of Microsoft's offerings for all the reasons listed above. Isn't a new improved product supposed to offer more value, more benefits to the customer instead of offering less? Even if we completely disregard the initial problems w/ compatibility, drivers, botched release dates etc. of Vista the overall value of Microsoft Windows has declined drastically. I always tell my friends/customers (regarding software) "You should at least get what you pay for." and I do not feel that Microsoft delivers on this most basic of principles.
Moving right along......
Already I've heard complaints about the differences between XP & Vista interfaces - what does this tell us?? Hopefully the differences between the Windows interface and the various Linux interfaces do not deter too many people but I fear it will. They are not hard to learn at all, only different and history has shown us that people do not like change even if it is for the better. It doesn't matter that Linux is free, more secure, without viruses (for the moment) etc. It has been my experience that it's is far easier to teach a user about Linux if they have no preconceived notion of how a computer/desktop should behave even if that new user is 80 years old and never used a pc in their life. Microsoft has created an interface that is less than intuitive (IMHO it actually borders on ridiculous in some instances). "Like what?" they'll say. And so I ask "If you wanted to stop a Windows pc, what is the first thing you'd do?" And, invariably after a brief pause, a puzzled and confused look comes across their faces as they reply "Click start?"
This is the challenge we face.
Quote: Thank you for the suggestion. However, BibleTime doesn't have a fraction of Logos' capability or library offering. Logos has hundreds of top-quality references available and very sophisticated analysis tools. The main problem is that it needs IE's rendering engine to work.
As a suggestion you might want to check out WINE. Quite an impressive amount of Windows software actually works very well under WINE including IE6. Now I haven't the slightest idea if your Logos software will work w/ WINE or not but perhaps it is worth a try. Another great WINE resource is http://frankscorner.org/. Personally I use WINE to make backups of my legally purchased DVD's w/ DVD Decrypter, DVD Shrink & RipIt4Me (all native win32 apps) on my Debian Linux machine. It works quite fabulously.
One day you may tire of Ubuntu and venture into the real power of Debian GNU Linux (on which Ubuntu is based). I'll be back to read the subsequent parts of this post. Best of luck to you and your endeavors w/ Linux!
I wish you nothing but solid roads ahead of you Tanker Bob. You might want to check out Ubuntu CE (Christian Edition), as I know a lot of people enjoy what they added to the core. I agree with the previous reply on Wine, just that wine doesn't work for every windows program yet, but getting better all the time. What I do is run VMWare, which then runs my windows within Linux and then I don't have to reboot if I need anything. You can download VMWare Server for free, or you can use other virtualization software, such as XEN. You typically have to redo your windows install, unless you can work out the method of using an existing parition within the virtual system, just that is tricky.
Another nice Ubuntu package is Mepis. You can look at that on my website, knolinux.com, which I try to help people new to Linux like yourself decide which version will be best for them.
One package you might want to look into adding is called Automatix (www.getautomatix.com) Cheers!!!!
Like I said I love the Mac. I'm also a senior technical guy at a very well known U.S. Company and have had years of experience with just about every OS you can think of. As much as I love the Mac I love the freedom Linux gives me even more. Its quite a feeling to be in control of your hardware, OS, and software.
mzilikazi - Indeed, getting Vista is definitely getting much less than you pay for--it takes away what you already have! Thank you for your suggestion on WINE. I am using WINE for simple programs like iSilo, but of course not everything runs under it. I am using a virtual machine which is working fine for me, but haven't gotten to write about that yet.
KnoLinuxGuy - Going back to what I said to mzilikazi, I am actually using VMWorkstation. I will go into the decision process for that selection in a later article, but it works great for me. I also used Automatix to get Google Earth, codecs, and some other things which I will also write about. I quickly skimmed your site and it looks like you've put a lot of effort into it--nice work! FWIW, I've had good experiences with GoDaddy for domain registration, but I already had a good hosting service (myhosting.com) by then. Ironically now, myhosting uses Windows servers.
pr0gr4mm3r - I've tried WINE for some simpler programs, but could not get more complex ones to work. For instance, Comcast Rhapsody will install but will not run. I'm still playing with this. I looked at ies4linux, but I don't need 5.0 and 5.5, only 6.0. Is there an option just to install one version of IE? Since I've laid bucks on the table for WMWorkstation, I'm less motivated to try to get Windows apps to run under Linux, but it's fun to play.
All - It seems that collectively you've all written parts of my upcoming articles. This is great! You've helped guide me to what folks think is important and I'm definitely listening.
Thanks for this great article. I'll use it as more reference material for my friends who think Microsoft can do no wrong. A couple of comments: KDE is actually older than GNOME. According to wikipedia, KDE was started in 1996, and GNOME was started a year later because of license issues. However, differences in developer goals have lead to the differences you pointed out. New Linux users who prefer KDE's style may want to look at MEPIS or (soon) Freespire, both KDE-based distros based on Ubuntu. My personal preference in Bible software is Bible Desktop (http://www.crosswire.org/bibledesktop/), which is cross-platform and has some additional features compared to BibleTime, but is also based on the SWORD Project so has many of the same limitation as BibleTime in comparison to Logos. And yes, ies4linux does ask during its installation what version(s) you want to install, and installs only the ones you request.
Thanks for keeping me straight on Gnome. I fixed that in my upcoming post. Great minds think alike, because I mention both those distros in the next installment, though not in the context of KDE. What do they add that Kubuntu doesn't do?
Thank you for the info on ies4linux. I'll give that a shot. Maybe Logos will run under WINE with IE6 there as well. Right now, it's running in the VM just fine. In fact, the whole VM is working perfectly. I'm very impressed with the job VMWare has done.
I run Ubuntu (with Gnome) myself, so I can only speak on the other distros from what I have read in reviews. Basically the other distros each have their own idea of what usability on a desktop means. The primary addition to Kubuntu is out-of-the-box support for proprietary codecs such as Windows Media and MP3. Each have Live CDs, so they can be tested easily. MEPIS was originally based on Debian, but moved to an Ubuntu base last year with version 6.0. Freespire and its commercial sister distro Linspire was also originally based on Debian, but will be Ubuntu-based with their next release (Q2 2007). I forgot to mention Linux Mint, which was built on Ubuntu from its beginning last year, and has not settled on KDE or Gnome as a default. It is worth mentioning the only Linspire/Freespire has licensed the proprietary codecs they include, so only they are strictly legal in the US. I agree with you on VMware. Much of their functionality is now available for free. I have used VMware Converter to convert Windows machines to virtual machines before installing Linux on them, and VMware Server to run the virtual machines, all with great success. Thanks to it I will be able to continue using W2K indefinitely (the last good version of Windows as far as I am concerned). The only real reason to use WINE is if you want to avoid a complete installation of Windows, or if you have memory or space constraints that rule out VMware.
I've read pretty much the same things about the distros. Time will tell whether they have what it takes to be players. I've been able to get everything I need in Kubuntu, so am not looking to change at the moment.
I looked at all the free solutions at VMWare, but they didn't have the flexibility that I sought. I'm happy with WMWorkstation, as it is very flexible and makes it easy to tailor individual machines. Although I'm currently using it for WinXP access, I will probably do much more with it as time goes on. I agree about WINE. With a WinXP VM, I only use WINE for simple tasks like iSilo and iSiloX.