Friday, 13 August 2010


Yes, I am now officially Minted - and have been, happily, for at least two months. You could also say that I've been de-loused - it certainly feels that way! In less cryptic words, I have not booted into Windows on my main computer for a long, long time. It's finally become Linux all the way for me.

True, I had to run one or two Windows applications every now and then (any advice on how to use Hugin effectively is more than welcome). Even then I ran them from inside Linux. The Wine project has created a truly marvellous Windows emulation (I know, I know - WINE stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator). But otherwise, there really was no need for that slow, clunky, virus ridden monstrosity. I think a few examples will help drawing a better picture of the differences.

In the beginning, there was the installation...

Download the DVD (I went for KDE edition that won't fit on a CD) - quick on ADSL, but YMMV. Burn it - 10 minutes. Boot from it into a full Linux Mint KDE environment - 5 minutes (it is loading from CD, remember). Check all important hardware is supported - 5 minutes (WiFi and sound, mostly). Click on the Install to Hard Disk icon - instant. Going through the few installation options is a breeze, and you could easily leave them at defaults (I'm anal, and pick and choose). The actual installation lasts less then 15 minutes. All said and done, you've re-booted into your fresh operating system in probably less than an hour - if that.

Then came the additional software installation...

But wait! Pretty much everything is already installed - including a full office suite compatible with MS Office. There's also a choice of browsers and e-mail clients there already, a bunch of multimedia applications, graphics, and so on and so on. Being picky about browsers and imaging I downloaded Google Chrome and Picasa. But you don't have to.

Oh, and I also checked for latest software updates. These downloaded and installed in a couple of minutes. And I did not have to re-boot.

Now, let me see what happened when I last installed Windows...

It was quite recently actually, just before I switched to Linux. It was on the same laptop, and probably the main reason I made the switch in the end. It also wasn't just any old, dodgy, Windows XP or even Vista installation. It was a brand spanking new Windows 7 Ultimate, received straight from Microsoft UK HQ (luckily it was a present - otherwise I might have sued for my money back).

First, just to make sure I repartitioned and reformatted my hard disks. Both of them. Even if I intended to install Windows just on one. You see, I've tried installing Windows 7 over Windows Vista, but the result was as slow a mess as you may have had the misfortune of seeing. So, I spent a couple of hours making sure my Windows 7 Ultimate, very much original operating system, is installed on a virgin system. But, to be completely fair, you may not want to count this time and effort in the comparison.

Then, I booted from the Windows 7 install DVD. The installation, in all fairness, did not last much longer than the one for Linux Mint. But unfortunately, your "quality" time with Windows before you can really use it does not start once the system re-boots for the first time. Oh, no...

Next comes a rush to download a good anti-virus application. Luckily, Microsoft itself offers one, and for free. Sadly, it is not included in the installation, not even as an optional feature (Linux Mint comes with ClamAV pre-installed - not that you really need it). Oh well... That at least did not last long.

Onwards we go to check for any software updates. Since Microsoft releases its operating systems once in every blue moon there was a couple of hundred megabytes of updates. And they wanted re-boots. And more that one as well, since not all of them could be installed at the same time. Oh dear... Another couple of hours gone.

Next came downloading some decent browsers and e-mail clients. Yes, Windows comes with those. But no, they are not really worthy of mention.

Since there's no office suite included with windows you have to install that separately, too. Here, you can go the free way (not the freeway) and install the same OpenOffice that comes with Linux. It's also probably the quickest. It weighs in at (barely) reasonable hundred-odd megabytes and, most importantly, will not require you to immediately look for updates. If you install Microsoft Office, on the other hand, you will immediately need to look for updates, and more likely than not there'll be quite a few. Last time I saw such an exercise, there was around couple of hundred megabytes worth of them. And again, you'll more likely than not have to re-boot at least once.

OK. So after a good workday worth of effort my Windows 7 system was finally up and running. It even ran reasonably quickly and smoothly. For a bit I thought that Microsoft finally got their act together. But how I was lighting my fire with the rabbit still in the forest - and not even the one outside the door.

I happily used my laptop, Windows 7 and all, for probably a month and a half when I noticed that it started slowing down. And it kept slowing down. I wasn't doing anything much to it. I wasn't even installing all sorts of silly stuff like I did when I was a wee lad. But it still kept getting slower and slower.

Clean-ups didn't help. Regular updates didn't help. Nothing seemed to help...

And that's when I looked towards Linux again. So I downloaded Linux Mint (then it was still version 8 - Helena). And I had an epiphany. It installed in minutes rather than hours. As frequent as the updates were, they installed quickly and generally did not require re-boots. It wasn't slowing down - at all.

Last, but by no means least when it booted, it booted in less than two minutes. Last time I booted into Windows 7 it lasted almost ten. Every time I boot into my work laptop running Windows XP (and a bunch of security applications) it takes the best part of 20 minutes before any useful work can be done.

So, in summary, not only have I saved myself a full day of life on the installation (because I'd have had to re-install Windows apparently to make it run faster - probably every three to six months), but every week I am saving almost half a day in boot times! If time is money, as they say it is, I am well and truly - Minted!