The other night, I got quite the shock. A good friend, who is a Windows enthusiast and IT administrator/consultant, informed me that he had dumped Windows 7 for Ubuntu. I didn’t see that coming. For one, he’s a Windows fan. For another, I would rate Windows 7 as nearly Microsoft’s best operating system ever (sorry, even with the driver problems, Windows NT 4 still ranks as my fav; for its time — 1996ish). My buddy contacted me by Skype, and I kept the transcript which I offer here with his permission.
Many of my questions were deliberately pointed, for three reasons. 1) As with all interviews, I strive for impartiality. 2) This friend, whom I’ll call IT Guy for this post, is a good buddy. I know his personality enough to press hard about certain things. 3) I don’t want to give some of Betanews’ more rabid commenters cause to accuse of bias against Microsoft or Windows (I have none, but they accuse anyway). Hey, I’m just as surprised as you about my buddy’s Ubuntu conversion. He had tried Linux years ago and didn’t really like the experience, particularly because of driver problems and deficient or missing applications.
I don’t see that IT Guy gave very good technical reasons for abandoning Windows 7. He mostly states what I consider to be perception problems — that there are daily updates (which isn’t the case), that there are massive security problems (because of the number of patches) and that Microsoft’s anti-piracy mechanisms are harassing. These are actually emotional reasons, which is why I am posting the conversation. Even for experienced users, a purchase decision is still an emotional one. My friend didn’t feel good about Windows 7. Microsoft doesn’t want long-time loyal users like IT Guy going rogue and switching to Linux or Mac OS X.
With that introduction, I present the conversation, which has been edited in four places for flow (We asked and answered some questions out of sequence). The opening question reflects IT Guy contacting me by Skype, where my username isn’t my real name. So he wasn’t initially sure he was skyping me.
IT Guy: That you, Mr. Joe?
Joe Wilcox: Hey, bud. What’s shakin?
IT Guy: Same ole same ole! And you?
Joe Wilcox: Working. Caught me at bad time.
IT Guy: I’ve tossed Windows7 Ultimate!
IT Guy: Ahhhh. sorry….
Joe Wilcox: Oh?
Joe Wilcox: Wait.
Joe Wilcox: Do tell.
Joe Wilcox: Tossed for what?
IT Guy: Yeah, moved back to Linux. Using Ubuntu.
Joe Wilcox: Because?
IT Guy: Very satisfied, very impressed!
IT Guy: Couldn’t keep Win running with any speed.
Joe Wilcox: What about drivers? Software?
IT Guy: That’s with 8 GB of RAM.
Joe Wilcox: Really. What’s the system config again?
IT Guy: Everything including video if you want to vid chat.
Joe Wilcox: I can’t vid chat now. Later perhaps.
IT Guy: It is a truly amazing system. Especially with the spec’s I’m running.
Joe Wilcox: But give me some more details. Start with complete system specs.
IT Guy: Intel quad i7 proc.
IT Guy: 8 GB Ram
Joe Wilcox: Laptop?
IT Guy: Yes
Joe Wilcox: Just spell out specs in one sentence.
IT Guy: 500 GB HD
IT Guy: sorry
Joe Wilcox: Model and manufacturer too.
IT Guy: HP Pavilion DV6T. 1 GB dedicated vid ram, and the rest listed above. Came with win7 home, upgraded to Ultimate. Wireless internal of course.
Joe Wilcox: You ran Ultimate for how long?
IT Guy: Now running Ubuntu Desktop 10.04 Lucid Lynx. I ran Ultimate for about 3 mos.
Joe Wilcox: Why so little time?
IT Guy: Just got tired of fighting with it all the time with rights issues and such. A patch an hour somedays? Come on…
Joe Wilcox: What kinds of rights issues?
IT Guy: I’ve got some stuff I never want to lose, and with Windows I wasn’t feeling warm and fuzzy anymore.
Joe Wilcox: Because?
IT Guy: Anytime installing anything from software to copying doc’s localy folder to folder…
IT Guy: I understand some of that but come on. I upgraded to Ultimate to get access to some of my old db files created on XP.
Joe Wilcox: You couldn’t access them?
IT Guy: No. Windows 7 Ultimate is the only version that will.
Joe Wilcox: Did you try and identify why? Use Microsoft Knowledgebase or forums?
IT Guy: They are up front about that though.
IT Guy: The KB for sure. Most didn’t have the time of day.
Joe Wilcox: What about performance? Powerful system, should be plenty of oomph for Windows 7 Ultimate.
IT Guy: Yes it was at first. I could never keep it that way short of doing a sys restore.
Joe Wilcox: So what about performance?
IT Guy: Oddly enough, I came here from the Ubuntu forums
Joe Wilcox: Came here, meaning where?
IT Guy: A refreshing change from MS. Not only is the OS free, if you’re kind in your approach on the forums, it’s almost like free tech support as well!
IT Guy: I highly recommend Ubuntu.
IT Guy: In case you couldn’t tell.
IT Guy: Been using it about a month.
Joe Wilcox: You still haven’t answered question about Windows 7 Ultimate performance.
IT Guy: With NO problems!
IT Guy: The performance degraded as time went by.
Joe Wilcox: How so?
IT Guy:: I have no explanation why. That was the most frustrating part of the whole thing.
Joe Wilcox: What makes you sure Ubuntu won’t degrade in another two months?
IT Guy: I consider myself, if not a ‘computer guru’, then pretty darn close.
IT Guy: With Linux today you can monitor and control everything the system is doing.
Joe Wilcox: So let’s discuss that. You have how much IT experience?
Joe Wilcox: You’ve managed systems?
Joe Wilcox: Meaning, as I recall, your experience is broader than just an end user.
IT Guy: Started my first programming classes in 1983. Been working in the industry in one way or another ever since. You know that.
IT Guy: Went to Devry or however they spell it.
IT Guy: Ended up as a full time employee for my COBOL professor.
Joe Wilcox: OK. How about you give me three things you liked and also disliked about Windows 7 Ultimate?
IT Guy: It was pretty.
IT Guy: It was shallow!
IT Guy: Reminded me too much of a cheap woman! hehe
Joe Wilcox: Are you describing Windows or your first date?
IT Guy: Liked the new Aurora interface and how fast my games played.
Joe Wilcox: Cheap woman as in easy to get or hard to please?
IT Guy: I disliked that it has so many security flaws. There were literally patches per hour some day!
Joe Wilcox: Microsoft releases patches on second Tuesday of the month. There couldn’t have been that many.
IT Guy: No stable OS should have to be updated continuously in order for the end user to have some sense of security.
Joe Wilcox: Apple regularly updates Mac OS X.
IT Guy: True enough.
Joe Wilcox: What about Ubuntu?
IT Guy: If I want the update yes.
Joe Wilcox: How often? More often in one month than Windows?
IT Guy: My kernel is protected and I only update it in the event of hardware change.
IT Guy: I’ve updated the kernel once since install.
Joe Wilcox: The Windows 64-bit kernel is pretty hardened. Did you run 64-bit Ultimate?
IT Guy: Yes I did.
Joe Wilcox: Could it be Microsoft is just more proactive about security?
Joe Wilcox: Crime goes up after cities put more cops on the street. It’s a well-documented occurance. More cops means more crime recorded not an increase in actual crimes.
IT Guy: That is a possibility. I was thinking about it more from the disgusted end user perspective of ‘what is so wrong that I have to have all these updates’ feeling.
Joe Wilcox: So the updates generated fear — that Windows isn’t safe enough?
IT Guy: I just figured that as loaded up hardware wise as this laptop is, that I shouldn’t have noticed any slowdown, or at the most it should have been imperceptible.
IT Guy: It wasn’t so much a fear factor thing though it did weigh on me at times.
Joe Wilcox: Got it. OK, now to those three things you didn’t like most about Windows 7 Ultimate.
IT Guy: The slow down, the security, and having it act like I was a new user every time I tried to do something at the sys level.
Joe Wilcox: OK. So what about Ubuntu? What three things do you like most or dislike most?
IT Guy: I like most the fact that when I turn on the laptop, I’m able to be editing my website live, in about a minute flat!
Joe Wilcox: How do the bootup times compare?
IT Guy: Three weeks later I like that it still is booting just as fast.
IT Guy: Ubuntu=1 minute up and able to start an app.
IT Guy: Windows 7 Ultimate=At the end about 4 and a half minutes before you could try to start an app..
Joe Wilcox: That’s from bootup? What about sleep? I find Windows 7 Ulitmate to resume quickly on a much less powerful system than yours.
IT Guy: Ahhh, never used sleep.
Joe Wilcox: Really? I assume most everyone uses sleep.
IT Guy: I can’t give you a good answer there because I just never used it.
IT Guy: I now do! Took Ubuntu for me to ‘discover’ the value of sleep mode.
Joe Wilcox: My experience is about 10-15 seconds from sleep.
IT Guy: With Win7?
Joe Wilcox: Yes.
IT Guy: Wow.
Joe Wilcox: That’s hardcase scenario — using Outlook. Outlook was super slow on Vista.
Joe Wilcox: From sleep.
IT Guy: Now I’m going to have to reinstall and look at it again. I used it hard as well. Outlook, Word, Access and typically a media player app of some kind running.
Joe Wilcox: What else do you like about Ubuntu? How is the UI and drivers?
IT Guy: The UI for Ubuntu is on a level with OS X.
Joe Wilcox: That’s good?
IT Guy: As far as I’m concerned, it’s the best, most intuitive UI I’ve ever had. The drivers are superlative and run everything very well.
IT Guy: I’m using Gnome, by the way.
IT Guy: KDE was just to much like windows for me. Seemed like there were two ways to do everything.
Joe Wilcox: OK. Driver installation compares how with Windows 7 Ultimate?
IT Guy: Ahhhh.
IT Guy: Are you talking initial install? Of Linux?
Joe Wilcox: Both for drivers.
Joe Wilcox: What if a device doesn’t work? How easily can you get a new driver?
IT Guy: At present, I’ve not come across anything hardware wise that hasn’t worked. I have intentionally reinstalled the nVidia drivers with no problems or issues.
Joe Wilcox: What about applications?
Joe Wilcox: Can you watch DVD movies? Make home movies, etc.?
Joe Wilcox: Microsoft has Windows Live Essentials, and there are plenty of good third-party apps. Apple has iLife and its pro products.
IT Guy: All my writing is done with OpenOffice, I watch movies with VLC, I’ve been happily burning my DVD’s with Brassero, and so on and on…
IT Guy: All of the apps I use are free. Part of the OpenSource community.
Joe Wilcox: You do some photography. Have you got anything comparable to Adobe Lightroom?
IT Guy: I am using Gimp for all my photo needs.
Joe Wilcox: That’s enough? Really?
IT Guy: Matter of fact the photo used on my twitter account was imported and edited with Gimp today.
IT Guy: It’s a really awesome graphics program actually.
IT Guy: So far, I’ve found there is nothing I can’t do with this OS that I was doing with Mac or Windows.
Joe Wilcox: And it handles your Nikon RAW files?
IT Guy: Very well.
IT Guy: Actually found a nikon driver for the camera that imports them directly to Gimp and then wants to know if I want to convert them to a different format.
Joe Wilcox: Would you recommend Windows 7 Ultimate to friends? Would you recommend Ubuntu to friends?
IT Guy: hmmm.
IT Guy: Yes to Ubuntu.
Joe Wilcox: And WIndows 7 Ultimate?
IT Guy: I don’t think right now I’d recommend Windows. I mean Ubuntu is free, and you can do everything with it that you can do with Windows, so do the math!
IT Guy: Also, Linux tends to keep your skills honed. Windows seems to not want the end user to have any smarts!
Joe Wilcox: Skills honed how?
IT Guy: You can do a lot from the terminal. Learn basic commands to run in the terminal to maintain the overall health of the computer…
IT Guy: Stuff that harkens back to the Unix console days.
Joe Wilcox: Windows has a sophisticated command line feature.
IT Guy: It definitely does.
Joe Wilcox: But you prefer the Unix/Linux terminal?
IT Guy: Unless you know more or can do more than the basic old dos commands it is really limited compared to the console in Linux.
IT Guy: Especially compared to Unix…
IT Guy: So yes I prefer the Unix/Linux command line over Windows.
Joe Wilcox: And how many years have you used Windows?
IT Guy: Holy *^#*. since ver 1.0.