I was informed sometime last week that students at maths faculty can get various types of software for free. Wolfram Mathematica, OriginLab Pro (very robust tool for experimental data analysis) and… Windows 7 (and 10, but after reading about its 'privacy features' I'm not really interested) along with stuff like current Visual Studio Ultimate and similar nifty things. Figures that if I don't have to pay for that, I might as well get some experience with it.

Here's a bit of my background: pretty much my whole life I have been using various flavours of Linux. It's not because I'm some privacy nutjob who hides from gub'mint, hacker wannabe, hipster brogrammer pretending to be 'a proper programmer' to get me some juicy internet points. That's just what my family was (and is) using so I got immersed there from the very beginning. Sure, later I began to relish a bit too much in the fact that 99% of privacy problems or seriously shitty deals were not even adjacent to my daily computer use, but that's simply that: a system that I have been using for a long time. Most of you are likely the same about your system of choice, but that's perhaps presumptuous and a digression. That's to get my previous experience out of the way. I would like to offer a perhaps rare view of someone who only last week started using Windows 7 more often than "once a month or two someone needed 'a computer geek' to help him/her" that is hardly what you would call as experience. Some of you may find it hard to believe, but Linux is not even something that I would call as part of my identity.

Installation:

It went fairly fast, no real problems here. I got frustrated about disk partitioning at one point, but that's because I'm using one nifty trick on Linux: One partition for system, one for /home/ directory. That way if something would go south I can simply wipe system or re-install it on top of it. Hardly a rocket science, but there were some problems and I had to use an external tool to fix the issue.

On the other hand, I have seen much worse installations and that's even without calling for examples like infamous Gentoo. ;)

System Updates:

Holy fuck, where do I start with that one. It took almost FORTY HOURS to get the system up to date! Afterwards, the updates were copious, took a long time and were by far the most underwhelming part of Windows.

You see, the worst thing about that in Linux (this comes with a caveat that I'm usually using so-called stable branches that don't update more often than daily on average) is getting about two minutes of it per day on average. Installation of the system itself takes more time, but after about an hour you get a system in a perfectly updated condition and you are good to go.

It was just painful. Something as simple as looking up possible updates could take over forty minutes. Perhaps it's for geographic reasons, it sure as hell should be neither hardware (quite a powerful laptop, 16GB RAM and a mid-tier quad-core i7 CPU) nor connection (50Mbps, rock-solid as far as stability is concerned).

System and User Setup:

I have almost no experience here, so I had to use Google to get some direction. I was dreading the idea of using a system without a package manager.

What's package manager? It's a utility that tracks all of the installed programs and libraries. The main benefit of it is the simple fact that it takes care of all of the installations and updates (with some caveats, for example you may like to install a newer or older version that is not offered to you and that's need to be taken care off manually) so you don't need to see that flood of shit like "New version of Java available", "New version of XYZ" or "Windows has more updates". You just use one or two commands and have it dealt with for you. Some versions of Linux offer it in an even more streamlined version where you don't even need to know about updates.

Turns out that there are a few viable solutions for Windows! I went with chocolatey and feel pretty good about it. Seriously, give it a try if you like what you have read so far.

However, the system updates are still slow and annoying. I'm a week in and already had to use Restore Previous System Version tool because Windows seemed to fuck-up its own updates. Perhaps that's on me, but I'm going to extrapolate that other newcomers may have similar difficulties. That said, Linux can also go south when updating, so it's not something completely new to me.

System Speed and Responsiveness:

Honestly, I was surprised. Perhaps in a year or two, when all the redundant crap will accumulate, it will be closer to the dreadfully underperforming garbage that I kept hearing stories about, but it's not half bad. It was noticeably slower even when compared to my long-standing Debian installation, but hardly something that I would call 'slow' or 'barely bearable'.

I do miss my shell, though. On Linux, I can get by with anything, including browser, without using mouse or touch-pad. Perhaps I'll need to readjust my muscle memory to stop trying to open the shell or go to tty to do something faster from a command line. I had to use drag-and-drop (aside from moving tabs in the browser that I almost never need to do anyway) for the first time in YEARS. It just feels clunky.

Hardware Support:

Yeah, after coming here from using Linux, the fact that drivers just install and work reliably was almost baffling. "What, I needn't configure anything by hand?" or "How come the X-server didn't crash?" were my first thoughts before remembering that I'm not on Linux.

Massive plus. Although with other convenient elements behind Linux, I would much more prefer to get 10% of Windows hardware support into Linux and other similar systems over having to unixify Windows.

That said, my synthesiser does not work with Windows. That was pretty damn baffling since I can't remember ever having a problem with it on Linux but Windows just fails on its arse. When I managed to make it semi-working it was unable to record shit like strength behind keystrokes and the end result was a resounding PUT EVERYTHING IN FORTE FORTISSIMO! WHICH SOUNDS EXACTLY LIKE YOU WOULD READ IT! YEAH, THAT LOUD! When Vivaldi ends up sounding like Wagner… you get my point, right? :P

Summary:

Honestly… Windows is kinda meh. But that's a good type of meh!

I will definitely go back to it if need be. I don't have time and energy to troubleshoot every minute bit of hardware problem on my own. I don't want to dabble in kernel sorcery to get my OpenCL to launch. Seriously, that shit is just one step from convincing me that I need to sacrifice my next of kin to appease spirits lingering in the computer. It's a fucking mess and main reason I'm not trying to convince people to give Linux more than a try with a LiveUSB/CD. Windows gets massive props for just having enough support at places.

But for a day to day use, I would have to unlearn about a decade worth of Linux experience and then get up to speed with Windows 7. Which, knowing my luck would happen around the same time when Microsoft would announce that they are ending the life of this version.

And, honestly, right now 90% of the shit that I'm doing requires a web browser, PDF/PS/DJVU reader, LaTeX suite, C++ and Python, and being able to play/record music. At this point, I could do it on a fridge with a keyboard so the system is among the least important elements as far as I am concerned. In my personal case: Linux is more convenient when I don't have to use a proprietary graphics card, Windows is less convenient when I need do my day to day shit. At least now I have enough first-hand experience to gauge it properly. That said, I haven't uninstalled Windows 7. After some work, I now have a dual-boot Windows 7 + Linux Mint; both with just the partition scheme and utilities that I need from them.

I hope that you liked what I wrote. If you would happen to have some questions, feel free to ask away. I can be a bit swamped with coursework for a while, but I promise that sooner or later you'll get a response (provided you are not an antagonising prick, but that's fairly standard requirement).


CrazyEyeJoe:

I'm a Windows user, but I've used Linux quite a bit for school or work.

I'm now a keyboard user, I avoid using the mouse unless I'm browsing the web, and in my opinion Windows is WAY better for keyboard use than any Linux I've used. That is if you disregard the command line, which obviously is better on Linux (you can get Cygwin if you'd like a UNIX command line).

The GUI in Windows is, in my opinion, astonishingly good. It's the best part of the OS. Once you learn a few hotkeys, you'll be blazing through everything. Some of my favourites (I'll denote the windows key as Wkey):

Wkey+left or right arrow: Fits the current window to the respective half of the screen (good for putting two windows next to each other)

Wkey+E: Open an explorer window

Ctrl+Shift+N: Create a new folder

Wkey: Open start menu (and type in stuff to search for applications)

EDIT: I've never used it myself, but I've heard Powershell is good. It comes with Windows, and is much more modern than cmd.


posted by Devac: 271 days ago