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Fun with Vista ...

  • Subject: Fun with Vista ...
  • From: Richard Rasker <spamtrap@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 04 Mar 2009 10:47:06 +0100
  • Bytes: 7288
  • Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.advocacy
  • Organization: Linetec
  • User-agent: KNode/0.10.9
  • Xref: ellandroad.demon.co.uk comp.os.linux.advocacy:743623
A friend and long-time desktop Linux user of mine just bought herself a
cheap laptop, an eMachines D620, for a mere €350. OK, it comes with Vista
Home Basic. And OK, it was her intention to have Mandriva installed (just
like on her desktop machine at home). So OK, I could just boot it with the
Mandriva DVD without even booting up Vista, wipe the HD, and have it
running Mandriva within fifteen minutes.

Then again, I just can't resist the temptation to prod Windows and see it
wince; also, for reasons of warranty, we decided it'd be better to go with
a dual-boot-configuration, and just shrink Vista's partition (wiping the OS
sometimes voids the warranty). I already knew from experience that
braindead Vista will break unless this latter action is done using Vista's
own disk management tool. Also for reasons of warranty, we decided that I'd
create all necessary recovery disks, in order to restore the system to its
original state, if necessary. And, of course, in a dual-boot configuration,
the user could run Windows apps if necessary.

So this was the plan:
1. Boot up Vista, set up user account.
2. Create recovery disks.
3. Shrink the Vista partition using Vista's own tool.
4. Install Linux on the free space.

Step 1 already presented us with a surprise: instead of the expected five to
ten minutes, it took more than 50 minutes before we could even begin to
enter user account details -- 30 minutes of which were spent looking at
screen displaying the text "Please wait a momemt ..." while absolutely
nothing appeared to happen. No disk activity, no progress bar, nothing at
all. It's beyond a shadow of a doubt the longest "moment" I ever
experienced. And remember, this is a /preinstalled/ machine.

After an hour, we could finally enter user data, expecting Vista to spring
to life. No no, not so fast! Next up, Vista needed to "determine the
computer's performance", which took another six minutes. Then the "Desktop
was prepared" -- add a few minutes more. We were already regretting firing
up Vista in the first place ... what a hopeless waste of time ...

But then, finally, after almost an hour and a quarter after switching on, we
were greeted with the desktop. With a message "Install [1 of 11 apps]
Please Wait ...". OK, so we waited some more -- ten minutes, to be precise.
But after that, we eXPerienced Vista in all its glory(*). And were greeted
with a Norton AV craplet window. Which offers no available close button,
nor a "Don't bother me next time" option, but instead comes up every single
time after booting, even if the license agreement is rejected. Welcome to
the Windows world, where crap is shoved down your throat whether you like
it or not. The only way to get rid of this huge nuisance is removing the
package via the Control Panel (which, incidentally, takes another three

*: As the single-paragraph flimsy (a.k.a. "manual") hilariously puts it:
 "eMAchines delivers a superior user experience via the Microsoft(R) Windows
  Vista(TM) operating system (OS)."
  Sticking your hand in a meat grinder may also give you a "superior user
  experience" -- if you're an auto-mutilating masochist that is ...

OK, over to step 2: create recovery disks. This process, involving the
burning of no less than 3 DVD's, takes 70 minutes of time -- during which
the machine is unusable. You can move the mouse pointer around, but you
can't open or save anything. Nevertheless, the result appears to be a
bootable set of true recovery DVD's, not some sort of stupid "recovery
starter" which is totally uselees without the presence of the original,
intact hard disk image. Also, the tool performs an integrity check on the
DVD's after burning 'em. Well done -- although the whole process is
excruciatingly slow all the same. Also, I don't understand why the machine
can't be used during this time. Yet another sign of incompetent design.

OK, 2.5 hours after switching on for the first time, I can finally start
shrinking Vista's main partition. The HD size is 160GB, and Vista occupies
an amazing 15GB of this. The reason why I find this amazing is that there
are hardly any apps installed yet; a full-fledged Linux install with
hundreds of applications fits easily in 5GB of disk space.
Ah well, let's restrict Vista to a corner of, say, 20GB. Firing up Computer
Management -> Disk tool -> Shrink ... WTF!? This braindead tool says that I
can reduce Vista's size by only 60GB! Some Googling around reveals that this
appears to be "normal". Apparently, Vista's file system contains files
somewhere halfway on the physical disk, which can't be moved. This is
ludicrous! Is this rubbishware what those incompetent idiots in Redmond
have spent six years of development time on?
And the "solution" seems to be to jump through a lot of hoops, downloading
this "cleanup tool" and that "system config tool", each one capable of
rendering the Vista installation unbootable with even the tiniest mistake.

I decided to follow up on only the simplest suggestion, which consisted of
Vista's built-in defrag and disk cleanup tools. So I started the defrag
tool, and was immediately dumbfounded by another sign of Microsoft's
incompetence: defragging shows no progress bar, and the stupidest time
indication I've ever seen: "Defragmenting hard disk C: ... This may take
several minutes to hours". What kind of nonsense is this?

Anyway, after another 25 minutes of waiting, "defragmenting" and "cleanup"
were done -- without any significant improvement in shrink capacity,
though. So I let Vista shrink its volume to the minimum size (~70GB), and
went ahead with step 4.

Step 4: Install Mandriva. This was a matter of 15 minutes, with another 15
minutes fine-tuning and configuring. Everything except the wireless adapter
(which needed ndiswrapper & Windows drivers) worked in one go. Now THIS is
how an OS should work.

Summarized: I can do a full-fledged Linux install in a sixth of the time it
takes *preinstalled* Vista to actually become usable -- with "usable"
meaning that you still have nothing but a few annoying craplets, and need
to install all your real apps.

Got a new Windows machine? You'll spend up to a day before you can become
halfway productive.
Got a new Linux install? Within 30 minutes tops, you can start getting work

Richard Rasker

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