The real world has been pretty hectic lately so I was forced to postpone blogging, but hey, now I’m back! It feels good to have a leisure time again. Anyway, I got a new Toshiba laptop (the first one actually) – not really powerful but very much usable for work and fun. The purchase includes a Windows Vista Home Professional (or Premium? I don’t really bother reading it >.<) – an OS I’ve never tinkered with.
The Rosy Vista Is Beautiful But Has Painful Thorns
The first impression for Vista must be very enjoyable because of all those fancy eye candy Microsoft has put in. Futuristic theme, elegant sound effect, glassy windows, Aero win+tab switch, whatever. The catch is that my laptop is not for display but for work, and it seems that Vista does the latter much worse than XP.
First thing, Vista itself (plus tons of junk Toshiba has thrown in, of course) costs a whopping 15 GB (IIRC) of hard disk space. It also refuses to shrink its own partition beyond 50% free space. I create new partitions (so that upgrading/installing/reinstalling a new OS won’t lose my data), but if an OS needs 15 GB free space for its own work, you know that it works very inefficiently (dear brother Windows XP don’t need that). It seems that my games run faster when I give Vista that 20 GB, but whatever (probably it’s just psychological). And Vista insists to take over 15% of C:\ for System Restore, knowing that I am stupid enough to screw my system everyday.
The second is everybody’s favorite: User Access Control. It’s good that Microsoft now cares about security, but UAC is not going to work. You never know how easy it is to press Ok to everything only because the please-allow-me-screen pops up every time – you’re gonna love that rainbow shield icon. It is a right direction for WIndows, nevertheless.
The third is RAM and processor use – an utter disaster. The Aero glassy effects cost a lot of memory. The latest DRM implementation audiodg.exe costs a lot of processor use. No, I don’t want to mention Superfetch, that would be unfair. Windows Vista claims 65% of RAM right from boot-up (the RAM is 1 GB only), but Windows XP claims that 65% under 512 MB RAM with Firefox launched.
Vista certainly has some advantages including increased security and eye-candy compared to XP, but I don’t see if those outweighs the thorns. Hold your upgrade to Vista as long as possible. Oh, for the eye-candy, I believe that there are a few Vista-look XP themes hovering on the internet, just google for them.
Hardy Heron Kicks In!
Then I asked one of my friend with unlimited bradband internet access to download the latest Ubuntu. Luckily, Ubuntu 8.04 aka Hardy Heron was still hot, about one week old. Time to test what everybody had been raving about (note note: I already tried Ubuntu 6.04 ages ago and I don’t think it is worth switching).
The installer is great – much better than that of XP obviously (hey, have you ever installed XP on your own?). First I tested drive with the new Wubi which installs Ubuntu in Windows – no partitioning. When everything looked good, I installed Ubuntu to a dedicated partition.
Unlike my previous experience with Ubuntu 6.04, every hardware seems to be functioning properly (well, the touchpad takes a decade to move the cursor, but it is easily fixed in mouse settings). It also nicely warns me about the Atheros wireless device in the laptop, saying that a restricted driver is in use. No sound after sleep is the worst hardware issue I had – by searching the net and a little tweaking, however, the problem is now gone. The internal modem also does not work (it’s a winmodem / software modem, I looked for a solution but found that it is illegal for non-Windows OS to use winmodems. So much for a monopoly). Luckily I had a USB external modem that is usable with Linuxant modem drivers (and the place I’m heading does not use dial-up modems, thanks God). Hibernation does not seem to be working, but I don’t hibernate often (I will probably look for a fix when I’m feeling livid).
Other than hardware issues, Ubuntu (and Linux in general, presumably) is actually very good. Synaptic Package Manager is 1000% better than typical Windows install files: search for a program, double click, apply, and wait (or “generate download script”, get a wget implementation for Windows, and go somewhere with high speed internet). After installing a lot of stuff, Ubuntu only uses 5 GB for system files and programs (I put it in a 20 GB partition and that is a big mistake). It is also fast – subjectively, because I can’t test it by playing games. RAM use is very modest, it can go as low as
40% 30% of the 1 GB memory and 0% swap. Openoffice.org has no problem opening Word documents (also true for the new *.docx variant). Don’t forget to install Amarok, a music player exclusive for Linux (at least today) – the best I have ever used (that means better than Winamp and Windows Media Player). I like the Deskbar applet too. And Compiz Fusion. You NEED to see this eye-candy – clearly superior to Vista Aero, and my laptop can now be useful for display and work altogether.
So Ubuntu 8.04 looks very promising to me, I might even use it on a regular basis (except when playing games, and no, it’s not a regular basis ).
Finally A Conclusion, I’m Tired Enough
The Ubuntu raving can get more room obviously, but because I am tired enough to write, the wonders of Ubuntu Linux will be in another post. I once considered downgrading Vista to XP but I thought that it is not worth the hassle (or it probably is – I got the feeling that my PC with half the power and RAM runs games faster). If only Wine works as advertised…..