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September 04, 2018 — Jesse Harris

My opinions of Windows

Many in the free software community regard Windows as a pile of garbage. While it does have it's flaws, I think many of these conclusions fail to see the case for Windows.

I've read the book 'Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft', and there are a few other posts around the internet about the troubled history of Windows development.

Even with all of the beuracracy that has burdened it's development, it feels like MS have really turned a corner with Windows 10.

The good

Here are some of the less commonly appreciated aspects of Windows:

  • Runs on extrodinarily varied hardware
  • NTFS Volume Shadow Copies (Like free snapshots in btrfs and zfs)
  • Can take on any number of personalities (like WSL and 32bit windows on 64bit)
  • Can boot from a filesystem in a file (vhd)
  • Deeply scriptable (I've seen many say Windows is GUI only. Fallacy)
  • Out-of-band data deduplication. (Amazing feature that I haven't seen replicated as well on Linux)
  • Highly customizable for business use cases
  • Strong sleep / power saving support
  • Robust remote desktop solution (No other OS has this implemented as well)
  • Great built-in virutalization
  • Windows Subsystem for Linux
  • Ability to refresh the PC with the click of a button

I'm also writing this article from a Windows command prompt on a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. By the way, did you know openssh comes built-in to Windows since the April 2018 release?

The bad

Some of these items are not the fault of Windows directly, but indirectly due to being the most popular desktop operating system. In these cases a diligent systems administrator can overcome these negative aspects of running Windows.

  • Horrible console (Improvements coming with ConPTY)
  • No developer culture - Many developers have created user hostile apps (ie, apps that consume too many resources, start on boot, are kinda like malware)
  • The need to run Anti-Virus software. (Seriously annoying as often the AV software consumes as many resources as the apps you are running, effectivly halving the performance of your PC)
  • Third-party application install experience. (This problem is slowly going away as more Win32 apps enter the store via Project Centenial)

Also of note is that now that Microsoft is starting to push S mode, some of these issues may go away. Running a PC lean on third-party apps really makes it a dream to use. Super long battery life, quiet, cool, bug-free. If you can live with the built-in apps, I highly recommend giving it a go.

My history with Windows

My usage of windows has it's origins in MS-DOS, as it would for many who used computers in the late 80's or earlie 90's.

Having used PC's since then, I've always had, either through work or home a PC running a version of Windows covering most of the major releases.

  • Windows 3.11 (at home on the parents PC)
  • Windows 95 (on my own PC, also began running Linux around this time)
  • Windows 98 (again on my own PC)
  • Windows 2000 Server (home PC)
  • Windows XP (Home and Work)
  • Windows 7 (Home and Work)
  • Windows 8.1 (Work, testing Surface hardware)
  • Windows 10 (Work)

A keen windows user may notice I skipped Milenium edition, Vista, and Windows 8. I did use them, but never ran them for any significant amount of time. I also haven't listed any of the Server editions that I regularly used at work. This list is just those used as a desktop operating system.

Since Windows XP, I've also been responsible for developing an MOE, and repackaging software for use at work.