The Verdict

As I write this, the vote for whether I should reinstall Windows XP or switch to Ubuntu is locked in a tie. As such, and for other reasons, I have chosen to do neither – at least for now.

Yeah, it’s a cop out. But a number of factors conspired against taking action. For one, there is the situation with my laptop, an old G3 iBook. Ever since it was upgraded to the latest Apple OS (10.4) it’s been almost unusable. Then there was Martine’s recent experience with her much newer G5 iMac; over the past week it had gotten really bogged down and was significantly slower than even this four year old Dell. So by comparison, my machine didn’t seem so bad.

Although I remain curious about Ubuntu, I had been leaning towards the Windows XP reinstall. So I looked at my “All Programs” list to see what I would have to deal with.

Holy mackerel.

It’s true that I don’t use a lot of that stuff, but what I do use – even if only rarely – constitutes a huge amount of work to reinstall and reconfigure. To wit:

all my programs

Keep in mind that some of the items in that list contain multiple programs, such as the Adobe one, which expands to show Acrobat, FrameMaker, Photoshop, and Adobe Type Manager. A lot of this software requires one to jump through a number of hoops in order to install them (ahem, Adobe) including multiple updates, bug fixes, patches, and other configuration tricks.

Even the basics, like Web browsing and email, would take more than a few minutes to reinstall. Heck, I’ve got 18 extensions in my Firefox for Pete’s sake, plus a handful of “about:config” tweaks. I’ve also got a non-standard theme and some GUI tweaks for Windows XP, a tricky plug-in that lets my Palm Desktop talk to my iPod, secret handshakes in my email, weird third-party products bolted to the side of my Paint Shop Pro, and a number of other oddities that I probably wouldn’t even remember until I’d lost them.

Forget it. At least for now. It was enough just to watch Martine recover her iMac on Sunday. That involved a lot of wizardry and voodoo via user forums, iChat sessions, downloads of dubious legality from friends, a complete network shutdown and reboot, IP address renewal, a DNS lockdown, and a bit of luck. Fortunately, something in all that worked, because she’s back up to speed, and I think my system is a bit faster too.

So that’s that. Mind you, I’ve already downloaded Ubuntu and burned it to a CD (although I don’t seem to be able to boot from it), so one of these weekends I might just install it in parallel to XP. You know, just for fun.

Thanks for voting, and for leaving helpful and encouraging comments. But for now, status quo is the way I go.

14 thoughts on “The Verdict

  1. > I’ve already downloaded Ubuntu and burned it to a CD (although I don’t seem to be able to boot from it)

    This is possibly because your machine is configured to look for the OS on the hard drive before the CD drive. You can change the order in which in searches the drives by entering the setup screen (via the “Press F2* to enter setup” prompt that appears when your machine is booting up). In this setup screen, change the order so that it checks the CD drive before the hard drive.

    * I think it’s F2, it could be one of the other function keys.

  2. Yes, it’s F2. I did that, but it didn’t seem to make any difference.

    Hee hee! That link is great! “When you buy a new Mac, you’re buying a giant hardware dongle that allows you to run OS X software.” Oooh, I can’t wait for the fireworks! :-)

  3. “…you’re buying a giant hardware dongle…”

    When was it ever otherwise? It’s been like this even since Smith and Wesson built the first handgun you could buy cartridges for.

    The only time that you have ever had 100% freedom to modify a tool is when you built that tool yourself. That control is the foundation of the open source movement.

    Then why does no one care about freedom-zero? Why isn’t free open-source software, which gives back that control, more popular?

    The reason is that, for the average person, FOSS does not give back that freedom at all. You have to be a coder, and a fairly skilled coder in order to have that freedom. Otherwise, FOSS is just like any other boxed product.

    With Windows, the lock-in is reversed from the Mac world. People who choose Mac do so to get away from Windows, but they are locked into a single manufacturer. People who choose PCs have the freedom to choose from a dozen PC manufacturers who all produce nearly identical products, but (except for the 0.5 per cent of the population who uses Linux) they have no choice of OS.

    Tell me then who is exercising freedom of choice.

  4. Any machine with ~20 firefox extensions is going to be slow. Stop loading so much crap into your browser and then see what the browser responsiveness feels like.

  5. Go with Ubuntu (or another Linux distro). I too was put off for a long time by what I feared would be arcane setup quirks and UI glitches, but when I finally went with Ubuntu it installed fast, detected everything without a fault, and has run flawlessly. It updates and patches easily, and is bulletproof. Plus, the price is right. What’s not to like? I can’t visualize going back to Windows at this point.

  6. Trever, the browser is plenty fast. It’s the OS overall that’s a bit slow (moving files around, starting programs, etc.)

  7. I’ll try to be nice about this but you are a Techie’s worst nightmare. Not true, 12 o’clock flashers are our worst nightmares but there’s NO WAY you need all those proggies man. Your Pagefile must be stressed and your HDD fragmented like crazy.

  8. Point taken, Dave, although in my defense I’ll say that I run Diskeeper, so the frag is under control.

    It’s true that I don’t need most of those apps, and I’ll probably uninstall a bunch of them, maybe even today.

    One of the problems is that I’ll occasionally need some specialized tool, like an MP3 trimmer. So I’ll go searching around and I’ll find a bunch of them (freeware, free trials, etc.). But their descriptions all suck, so the only way to see if they’re any good is to install them.

    How many times have I downloaded and installed an app on a free trial basis only to find out AFTER installing that the trial version is so disabled that it’s essentially useless? Many times. I usually uninstall them right away, but sometimes I don’t so they accumulate.

    I reckon my registry is a disaster. Fukn Windows registry just gets bigger and bigger no matter what you do it seems. I even tried Registry Mechanic, which claimed to have found something like 1500 registry errors. I fixed them, and the next day ran Registry Mechanic again, and it found the same errors all over again.


  9. I test a lot of stuff also but as soon as I see they are no good, I uninstall them, just to keep things as clean as possible. But I’m paranoid. When a hard drive goes under 35% free space I add hard drives.

    If I were you I’d Back-Up and format the drive and start all over clean. That Program Files menu scares me.

  10. Well, I’ve uninstalled 26 apps, which feels nice. As I said earlier, the machine is actually behaving well lately, so I’m not going to do anything drastic.

    A question: when I look at my registry, I still find some entries for software that I’ve long since uninstalled. For example, there’s an entry for something called Blaze Media Player that I vaguely recall trying out a couple of years ago. The software is NOT on the computer, and the paths that the registry entries for Blaze point to are invalid. Is it safe to just remove those registry entries? What’s the risk that doing so will cause a greater conflict elsewhere?

  11. If you mean a registry for example I chose Photoshopt, but we know we won’t be removing that one.


    If you have uninstalled it go ahead and remove it. But it’s always a good thing to make registry back ups (right-click the Key (folder) you are about to delete and select export and then follow the wizard. Just in case something goes haywire, but the chances of that are very very very small. The only risks are for dependencies, but if the software is uninstalled, the dependency is technically removed.

    I do this kind of manual cleanup all the time.

  12. Hey, if anyone’s still following this, I’ve removed more than 35 applications so far, cleaned the registry, and did some overall reorganization. Wow, it’s like I have a whole new computer! This thing is now as quick and responsive as the day I got it. Woo hoo!

  13. Ha! Computers mirror humans on many levels. If they have to much on their minds… they slow down.

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