Friday, January 7, 2011

Why I Switched Back to Windows from Linux

I have been using Linux for my research for several years now. What started out as an intimidating beast is now something I feel I can work very efficiently in. To put it simply, I feel like I understand Linux (at least to some degree). I understand the organization of the file system and the philosophy behind it. I understand file permissions and a lot of aspects of system administration. In particular, I love the power of the command line. Linux has treated me very well for my research. There is just one big problem with Linux though as a home or personal operating system: software.

For a while, I used Linux (various Ubuntu Desktop Editions to be exact) as my only operating system. No dual boot or anything like that. Just Linux. It felt very nice to have a consistent setup for work and my home. I could easily set up my partitions exactly how I wanted, use a script to reinstall all my programs, and in general, have complete control over my data. I even used some reasonable photography software (SILKYPIX Developer Studio) through the package for running Windows software on Linux, Wine (although it was fairly slow), as well as found a native Linux photography program (Bibble 5) which was not too bad. While not perfect, I thought I could live with it. It was all good for a while.

Then, something stupid happened. I wanted to download an MP3 album of off Amazon, but they had no 64-bit "Amazon MP3 Downloader" for Linux. I tried to get the 32-bit one to work on my laptop to no avail. Well, this was kind of annoying. Surely, Amazon could easily make a 64-bit Linux version of a program to download MP3's right? But they didn't. A little bit later, I got a Netflix account. It was a good thing I had a Wii at the time as Netflix On-Demand only will work on Windows and Mac operating systems. Was it really worth making these sacrifices in order to stick to my beloved Linux system?

Also, around this time, I got a job doing edits on scientific papers. Microsoft Word was the standard way to do this. I could use Open Office Writer on Linux for some of the work, but it was much more awkward than using Microsoft Word and sometimes could not even be done at all. I also was thinking about getting a Kindle. Well, there is no Kindle for Linux, so I won't be able to read my Kindle books on my laptop. Did I mention I was getting pretty tired of using the sub-par photography software instead of using the excellent program Adobe Lightroom which only runs on Windows and Mac OSX?

It was time to make a change. I reluctantly reinstalled Windows 7 on my laptop. Since then, I have used Amazon's MP3 downloader, Kindle for PC, Adobe Lightroom, Microsoft Word,, Netflix On-Demand, Steam and iTunes as I end up purchasing an iPod Touch to read Kindle books. While I had not planned on using my PC for games, I had sold my Wii and my Xbox 360 died, so Steam turned out to be a very nice surprise as I use it to sometimes play games on my laptop.

To sweeten the deal even more, I have Ubuntu installed in a Virtual Box so I can still use Linux when I want. By making it full screen, it is as if I am running Ubuntu natively so it is quite effective. I even use Cygwin in Windows to do some of the file management and backup stuff that was so easy to do on the command line in Linux.

The bottom line is that, while I really wish I could get by with just using Linux, it just isn't worth it for me. I would be forced to use inferior software in several cases and would be missing out on some functionality completely by using only Linux. Windows allows me to produce (Lightroom, Word) and consume (Netflix, Steam) more and better.

While there is a reasonable chance that someday, some of the software I have mentioned will be available for Linux, it is not there today. The commercial operating systems will probably always have the best and most cutting-edge software as long as software is still relevant. Perhaps as more and more things move to the web browser instead of being a local application, the differences between the operating systems will start to matter much less. I look forward to that day, and I look forward to going back to being Linux-only if I ever see it as the best option one day again.

1 comment:

cspice said...

I agree, Linux is great for some things, but Windows is better for basic functions because Linux is not yet supported by a lot of vendors and still has a few quality assurance issues. Linux in a virtual machine seems like the best option at this point.