Friday, May 08, 2009

Remind me, how is Windows the dominant OS?

It doesn't take long to come around and realize how easy Linux has made some otherwise mundane tasks. Let me back up a little.

This weekend our church is running its annual flea market and auction and for the auction we have a pretty slick deal.  We use multiple laptops including one in the auction audience which enters the winning number and amount once the auctioneer yells "Sold!".  So by the time the person gets out of their seat and walks to cash out the information is already entere!  The beauty of wireless technology.

The problem is getting enough laptops to all communicate wirelessly, as one has to run as the database server while each of the clients have to run their own copy of FileMaker Pro. Thus, we need all of the systems to run Windows or Mac.

That's the issue.  All of my home systems, and laptop, run Ubuntu or a special-use Linux. I have been Windows free for a while now.

So last night I took an extra hard drive I have for the laptop, and installed Windows XP on it, which was the operating system the laptop originally came with. Once it finished and I rebooted, that's when the difference between Windows XP and Linux became visible.

While I managed to install Windows on the laptop, it didn't include many important drivers such as the video, Ethernet, modem and wireless.  I was stuck in a 480x640 resolution with no access to the internet! Even clicking on the Internet Explorer icon displays a "What do you want to open this with?" dialog box!, this laptop does not have any exotic hardware. I believe it has an Intel graphics and Broadcom ethernet and a Broadcom wireless card. It is a Dell Latitude D400.

Using a seperate computer I tried to download the drivers from the Dell website, place it on a USB drive and move it over to the crippled laptop.   When I tried running the self-extracting .exe I get an error that RPC (Remote Procedure Call) server is not running?!

So now, with one day to go, I have to try and find these drivers and install just the bare minimums so I can install FileMaker Pro and connect to the other computers on the network.

What gets me is that with Linux, and especially the later versions of Ubuntu, I have not had any show-stopping errors during installation or even running the LiveCD!  Linux has detected my display adapter and I get my 1024x768 resolution. The Ethernet is detected and turned on immediately so I can get online, updates, whatever immediately. The wireless drivers, I know, need to be downloaded but between the handy hardware drivers application that lists everything needing a proprietary driver, and that my ethernet connection is humming along nicely, getting the wireless to run is a snap!

For all those people talking about how difficult Linux is to install, have you really tried installing Windows lately, or is Windows easier only because somebody else (as in the manufacturer) did all of the work?