Sunday, October 28, 2007

Picking at the scabs of old wounds XP vs Linux

Nothing but nothing test your techie mantle like repairing or re-installing an operating system. I want to say to all those who have never done it, you are under the illusion of a plug-n-play dream. I mentioned before that my MS Windows XP installation failed. I thought it was my playing with Grub, a Linux boot loader. Actually it was some corrupted XP system files. There was no change with Grub config files, MS Windows XP just would not boot. So first I tried to use the thoughtfully prepared recovery disk set I made (13 CDs) and then the HP recovery tools included with my PC. Neither worked at all. I discovered that if you have stuff like extra drives, printers and such, disconnect them. Recognizing your equipment is something recovery tools don't do well. In my case, there was no recovery, I had to re-install everything. Now comes the fun and you learn why some operating systems are better that others. At one time, when MS Windows was still attached to DOS, you could boot into DOS mode and do disk repair and maintenance. You could load the tools onto a floppy and fix stuff. Now you can not, period. I relied on Linux tools to partition and format my disk. The MS recovery tools could not read my disk arrangement until my extra drive was removed. Since I was re-installing everything anyway I made the XP partition smaller and the Linux partition bigger. I kept the HP loaded XP Home install archieve partition even though it was useless in my recovery efforts. I wish they just could have given me an XP Home CD instead. Microsoft dosen't want you to own anything you might put on more than one computer, I guess. It was a good thing I had an official XP Pro CD. The XP install went fine and then came the service packs and upgrades. As expected MS XP owns the computer and there is little to accomodate another operating system on the same computer. (Why would I do that anyway?) Well, when I made the partitions, I made a couple formatted for Linux. MS Windows can't even see them without help. I installed Xubuntu Linux, simply and straightforward, downloaded the upgrade files and the programs I liked. Xubuntu Linux installs GRUB but didn't ask me where or if I wanted it. MS XP does have multiboot ability from its NT heirtage but could not find the Linux boot files. You must go through hell to figure out how to find and edit the XP boot.ini file. But Grub is very handy, easy to edit and if you don't put it in the master boot record, XP won't overwrite it, ever. Long story short, it all works. So, comparing MS XP and Xubuntu Linux, I'd say their installs were nearly equal, but Microsoft needs to include the disk prep tools in a place where you can easily use them. Also it is so disheartening to agree to so many end user agreements while installing MS Windows. Linux does not have that except for Java and some multimedia plug-ins. Sorry there is no cost savings, I already owned the MS XP CD. Most people get their Microsoft OS pre-installed so it seems free. But if you build and load from scratch, Linux can be had for free and used freely. I had fun doing all this stuff and now have a great running machine. One more thing, if you ever have to open the computer case to disconnect a drive, vaccum it out. I now know where dust bunnies come from.

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