Hang On...Why Am I Still Using Windows?

Monday Oct 1st 2007 by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
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An expert who uses Mac, Linux and Windows looks deep inside his soul and asks himself why so many of his machines still run the Microsoft OS.

If I were to compile a personal FAQ based on questions I get asked in forums and blog post comments, it would include: if I’m so dissatisfied by Windows product (and Microsoft products in general) why am I still using Windows?

That’s a good question, why am I still using Windows?

OK, if I’m going to answer that question as honestly as possible I have to start off by saying that I’m not 100% loyal to Microsoft. There was a time when all the PCs I had ran Windows, all had Office installed, all ran Internet Explorer. Those days are gone. I now have PCs that run a variety of Linux distros, and not all my Windows boxes have Office installed on them. I also have Firefox and Opera browser augmenting Internet Explorer on most systems. I’ve also dabbled with Mac OS X…

But, despite all that, I still run a lot of Windows boxes of a variety of flavors: Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Home Server. My main desktop runs Windows Vista with SP1 installed on it and I can’t say that running this OS has been a trouble-free experience. All my other systems need regular attention and handholding. In other words, running Windows takes a fair bit of time, effort, and a lot of patience.

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So, given the fact that Windows consumes time, which in today’s world is one of the most precious commodities, why haven’t I nuked all the installations and moved onto something else?

I promised to answer this FAQ as candidly as possible, so I’ll start with one of the main reasons why I’m running so many Windows boxes: sloth.

Running Windows is a lazy option. I know, I know, I’ve only just finished saying that Windows is a time vampire, sucking away at free minutes and hours, but it’s still the easy choice. I can get a bare metal system up and running a fully functional desktop in under an hour (well under an hour if the system is a high-performance rig).

I’ve installed Windows so many times (no jokes, please) that I know what I’m doing. I know where to pick up drivers and have a pretty good idea as to what’s going to cause me grief and how to go about fixing the problems. I’m nowhere near as competent or confident when it comes to Linux or Mac.

In my world there’s no such thing as an “eyes closed, one arm tied behind my back” Linux install. Sure, Linux is pretty easy to install, but I’m always wary of pitfalls and problems, because I know that each one will more than likely represent a fair few hours spent researching and testing. I know that in the long term, I’m probably being a weasel to my future self, yet me in the present doesn’t care.

Next page: But there’s more to it than laziness...

But there’s more to it than laziness. I’ve been administrating Windows systems for years, and over those years I’ve learned an awful lot about the Windows ecosystem. Even if I was highly motivated and could abandon my slothness, getting that level of knowledge and expertise on another platform isn’t going to come easily of quickly. Gaining that level of knowledge in other platforms would mean a lot of work. This means that before I see any time savings, I’ve having to invest a lot of time upfront. I’m happy to invest time as, and when, I can, but that’s the problem.

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Whenever I write about any kind of problem relating to Windows or Microsoft in general, I end up having hundreds of people telling me that I should ditch everything Microsoft and migrate to another platform. The idea that, on a whim, that I can just abandon my entire investment in the Windows platform and somehow wander effortlessly over to Linux or Mac is simply ridiculous, and says more about how little the commentator does with their PC than anything else.

When you have a business built around any ecosystem (this doesn’t just apply to IT, it applies in many other areas), making any huge change to how you work take a lot of time, effort, planning and money (and if, like Linux, the product or platform you are moving to is free, there’s an inevitable cost).

The final reason why I’ve not migrated platforms is that I’m not convinced that Linux or Mac represent operating system apotheosis any more than Windows. I’ve handled both platforms enough to have experienced a fair few problems already. I have a sneaking suspicion that those people who tell me that the road to computing happiness starts by switching Mac or Linux are actually either lying to me, or at least not telling me the whole story.

I’m happy to explore different platforms at my leisure, but as to making any hasty move based on feedback from people I come across on the Web, that’s not going to happen.

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