Thursday, 24 April 2008
Windows just Works
Well, it's that time of the year again, when all the distros brush off their latest and greatest offerings. That's the good news, a sudden plethora of wobbly windows, wonderful applications and whizzy widgets to play with. The bad news is putting up with all of the articles that everyone and their dog seem to feel qualified to write these days. 'Good, but not good enough' or 'Doesn't quite make the grade' seems typical of the latest collection of posts springing up like weeds. I think the 'Windows works perfectly but Linux needs so much tweaking' school of thought has been rather done to death lately. The reason Windows 'just works' is that someone like me has spent ages setting it up for the average end user. Take a vanilla Windows CD/DVD be it XP or Vista and install it and see what happens, nothing, it does practically bugger all. When you buy your nice new computer from Dell, HP or whoever, they have had an army of people who have prepared, installed and tested all of the drivers, applications and nice toys that people assume come with Windows. Most people do not, and in most cases cannot, build a Windows PC from a bag of CD's and a readme file. Why should Linux be any different. To build and configure a Windows PC, install all of the applications and test it takes us about a week. To do the same for a Linux PC takes about a day. That's a hell of a lot better but even that isn't exactly 'out of the box'. Why do people think suppliers give you a restore CD ? If you had to put everything back by yourself you might see why it takes us a week to prep a PC image. Most end users unpack their PC, plug it together and turn it on. That's about the extent of the skill level we are dealing with here. That's not an insult it's a fact. Think of it this way. I like computers, I like fiddling with them. Give me a pile of CD's and a dustbin bag of bits and I'll make you a computer that works ( and maybe a washing machine from the stuff left over ;-). I don't like cars. I expect to get in one turn the key and be off. I don't want to re program the engine management chip or upgrade the radio or even to be honest, change the oil. Lots of people would be quite happy if I gave them a car in pieces and asked them to put it back together, some people like fiddling with cars. I don't, I just want it to work. Linux is great, it's not perfect I admit, but it's good solid engineering. Giving computer users who have only ever seen Windows set up by experts a Linux DVD and saying 'Here you go, honest, it's better than Windows' is like giving me a Porche in bits. I'm sure it would be better than my old clapped out Ford if I only knew how to put it together.