The 12 steps of Windows anonymous

Saw this on the net somewhere and it made me grin so I thought I’d share…

  1. We admitted that we were powerless over Microsoft Windows and that our computers had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that an operating system greater than Microsoft Windows could restore us to greater productivity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our hardware and data over to the care of better software as we understood it.
  4. Made a fearless and searching inventory of our wrecked data, wasted time and thrashed hard drive.
  5. Admitted to our higher power, ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of Microsoft Windows.
  6. Were entirely ready to have Linux remove all of these defects from our computers and from our working lives.
  7. Checked that our hardware was compatible with Linux.
  8. Made a backup of all files that Microsoft Windows had harmed.
  9. Corrected data to such files where possible, except where such corrections would harm other files.
  10. Humbly installed Linux onto our hard drives.
  11. Searched through man pages, HOWTOs , the Internet and Slashdot, to improve our understanding and use of Linux.
  12. Having had a productive awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to windowholics and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.

Microsoft - How about a nice cup of fuck offFlippancy aside, once you make the switch to Linux, I’d say that it’s pretty unlikely that you’d ever willingly go back to running Windows as your main OS – because overall, and once you get used to it, Linux is simply better.

This isn’t to say that a *nix system will do you for absolutely everything – I still run a little MS Office in a Windows 7 virtual machine (via VirtualBox) because it makes life easier to be able to natively edit docx files and powerpoints for work, but that’s pretty much it. So I guess the message here doesn’t have to be abstinence but moderation. If you’ve got high-end Windows-only applications that you can’t live without and which require 3D hardware acceleration, then you’re pretty much stuck, but any other 2D Windows apps tend to work just fine under virtualisation (Flash, Photoshop, Office etc). The only thing that’s not so good under Linux is gaming (and this can be a deal breaker for many people), but if I want to game these days I just get on the 360 or PS3 anyways, and if PC gaming’s really your thing then you can always run a large number Windows games under Wine.

If you’re going to try out a *nix, most distros (Linux distributions i.e. flavours of Linux) allow you to try out the OS entirely from CD or DVD and make zero changes to your hard drive, and then you can install it later if you like, or not. Linux will also happily sit beside Windows in a dual-boot configuration so you can choose which OS to boot at startup. One thing to add though is that you shouldn’t judge the performance you get from a live distro instance as anywhere near the performance you’ll get from a proper install – running an OS from a disc (as opposed to hard drive) is really pretty slow and clunky, but the facility exists if you just want to have a look around, or take a Linux distro around with you. A better solution (even for trialling a distro) would be to find a USB stick which is a couple of GB in size, and then install the distro to that and boot it. If that appeals, then a list of USB compatible distros can be found here (Ubuntu’s included via the bundled usb-creator tool).

Microsoft Monopoly T-ShirtThe main problem with trying to convert people to *nix (apart from the whole zealotry thing, and that Windows users are commonly happy with their lot, as they [usually] don’t know how much better things can be) is that it’s different to Windows. The interface is different, things work a little differently, and if something doesn’t work perfectly out of the box then it can be tricky for newcomers to fix. Also, nobody likes change – so there’s definitely an inertia thing involved too. But if you stick with it, put in a little time and effort, and look up how to fix stuff on sites like UbuntuForums, you’ll be rewarded ten-fold with an OS that does exactly what you want, when you want it done, quickly and stably – for free!

There are stacks of distributions out there, geared towards things like multimedia, stability, security, flexibility or ease-of-use – why not have a look to see if there’s one there that speaks to you? I mean, what have you got to lose? If I had to recommend one, I’d have to say most standard to advanced users should be happy enough with either stock Ubuntu or Linux Mint (a customised version of Ubuntu with tweaks and improvements for eye-candy and ease-of-use).

Finally, if you want to see how people have customised their *nix desktops, check out UnixPorn (tagline: It’s not Porn, it’s Unix!) – I even have an old desktop up there ;)

Bonus Gubbins: That UnixPorn desktop was kinda old and Windows-y, so I’ve just posted my current desktop setup which uses Jix’s Artistic Wallpaper HD no logo along with Kouri1977’s Streets theme for conky (which uses the bring tha noize and the B.O.M.B fonts):

r3dux Desktop - June 2011
The CPU/RAM etc. counters along the bottom update at 1 second intervals - conky is sweet =D

Anyways, if you’re not already converted, are you maybe tempted? If not, why not? I’d love to know, and as always, comments/flames are always welcome =D

If operating systems were airlines

I was going through some old files the other week trying to sort out the stuff I need to keep from the stuff that’s just cluttering up my NAS, and about 8 levels down in folders called things like “Misc”, “Random”, “Scour this dir for anything you want to keep” etc. I found a saved web page from Issue 45 of Linux Gazette – September 1999:

UNIX Airways

Everyone brings one piece of the plane along when they come to the airport. They all go out on the runway and put the plane together piece by piece, arguing non-stop about what kind of plane they are supposed to be building.

Air DOS

Everybody pushes the airplane until it glides, then they jump on and let the plane coast until it hits the ground again. Then they push again, jump on again, and so on …

Mac Airlines

All the stewards, captains, baggage handlers, and ticket agents look and act exactly the same. Every time you ask questions about details, you are gently but firmly told that you don’t need to know, don’t want to know, and everything will be done for you without your ever having to know, so just shut up.

Windows Air

The terminal is pretty and colorful, with friendly stewards, easy baggage check and boarding, and a smooth take-off. After about 10 minutes in the air, the plane explodes with no warning whatsoever.

Windows NT Air

Just like Windows Air, but costs more, uses much bigger planes, and takes out all the other aircraft within a 40-mile radius when it explodes.

Linux Air

Disgruntled employees of all the other OS airlines decide to start their own airline. They build the planes, ticket counters, and pave the runways themselves. They charge a small fee to cover the cost of printing the ticket, but you can also download and print the ticket yourself. When you board the plane, you are given a seat, four bolts, a wrench and a copy of the Seat-HOWTO.html. Once settled, the fully adjustable seat is very comfortable, the plane leaves and arrives on time without a single problem, the in-flight meal is wonderful. You try to tell customers of the other airlines about the great trip, but all they can say is, “You had to do what with the seat?”

Awesome =D

How To: Install Windows 7 Upgrade as a Fresh Install

Update: See the bottom of the post for another method of performing a upgrade install as a fresh install which only needs a single copy of your Windows 7 upgrade disc and nothing else!

Backstory

I’d had enough of fighting with OpenOffice 3.2 today and finally cracked: I bought a copy of Microsoft Office 2010 Professional Academic edition for $49AUD through Microsoft’s It’s Not Cheating program.

However, since I run Linux I thought I’d just get a copy of CrossOver and I’d be laughing, but this was not to be. I ponied up for Office, set it downloading, then went to get CrossOver only to find it only supports up to Office 2007 – and I don’t mean that Office 2010 won’t work 100%, or will be a little eratic – it won’t work at all. Feck!

Okay, so I can always run it through virtualisation (i.e. a VirtualBox or VMWare instance running some variety of Windows), but I didn’t fancy running the latest, greatest Office on a shonky old copy of XP, so I ponied up (again) for a copy of Windows 7 64-Bit Upgrade (that’s another $49AUD through It’s Not Cheating) and created a new virtual machine, installed Windows 7, entered the key at the end of the install, and it told me it wasn’t valid! Double feck!

At this point I’m $150AUD out of pocket with nothing to show for it, and am starting to furrow my brow.

Trying to deal with the key issue later – I just left the key out to get 7 up and running (it’ll go for 30 days without activation) and tried the key again from within the OS rather than from the installer; this time instead of just key invalid I got an error message stating that this key is not valid for a clean install of Windows… Okay.. now we’re getting somewhere – let’s fix this bad boy.

The Fix

There’s a bunch of stuff on the Web about forcing Windows 7 to accept a clean install from an upgrade disc by creating registry keys, running arcane commands (slmgr -rearm etc.), removing config files from the ISO before install etc. – and to be perfectly honest I didn’t fancy re-installing so I had a quick whirl at all of ’em. And guess what? They didn’t work, so I’m not going to post them here. Instead I’ll tell you what worked for me [drumroll please….]:

Installing another version of Windows first.

No, really.

It doesn’t have to be 64-bit if you’re migrating 32-bit to 64, it doesn’t have to be one step below Windows 7 (i.e. Vista), it doesn’t even have to be a legal, valid version of Windows! It just has to be some incarnation of Bill’s Marvelous Blue-Screen Machine, and then when you install Windows 7 on top of the existing install, it’ll recognise a prior version of Windows existed, and your “upgrade” key will work perfectly.

Windows 7 Activation
Ba-da-bing Ba-da-BOOM! Shamone! =P

So in my case, this just meant slapping a copy of XP onto a new virtual machine, then the instant that’s finished installing, just changing over the ISO image mounted on the virtual DVD drive from XP to 7, rebooting, and letting this second version of Windows install.

Once you’ve got Windows 7 up and running, your “old” copy of windows will be sitting in C:\Windows.old, and you can either use the built-in Disk Cleanup tool to remove it or just delete that folder and you’re as good as new*.

* = If you’re doing a native Windows 7 install, once you’ve removed the old install then you’re quite literally good as new. If you’re installing on a virtual box using a hard drive which uses dynamic storage (i.e. you allocate, say, 60GB for the HD, but it doesn’t take up any space to begin with, it only takes up space when data is added to the drive) then the space allocated for the old Windows install can’t be fully recovered because dynamic disks can take up more space, but do not resize back down to take up less space when you remove data! But you’re going to put more than 700MB of additional stuff on it anyway, right? So just remove the old Windows install before installing new apps and the like and you’ll break even!

Windown 7 - Remove Previous Windows Installations

It’s not a glamorous hack or sneaky workaround, but it does work, and who doesn’t have an old copy of Windows sitting around somewhere? If you’re feeling particularly cheeky you could try it with a copy of Windows 3.1 or 95 installed and see if it still upgrades clean ;-)

Update: I was discussing this with some colleagues the other day who clued me in to the following rather sneaky (but perfectly legitimate) method of installing Windows 7 Upgrade as a “fresh install”:

  1. Install Windows 7 as a fresh install and do not enter your key while installing.
  2. From within your installed and running (but not activated) version of Windows 7, go to your Windows 7 disc and install it again!
  3. If your Windows 7 Update disc doesn’t show setup type stuff (because it’s UDF and there’s all sorts of issues), just reboot the machine and install Windows 7 over Windows 7, um, dawg ;)

Cheers!!
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