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Confessions of a Linux User

2013-07-30 4 min read marco

As you may have guessed from the number of entries on Linux on this blog, I extensively use it on pretty much all computers I own. It doesn’t matter if its an ancient 486 that sits in the basement and connects once a day to data sources to mangle them for presentation as email or the latest Ultrabook from Samsung. They all happily run Linux, in particular either Kubuntu or Ubuntu Server (my one exception being the crappy Acer netbook that only runs Fedora).

Recently, though, I wanted to talk with friends on Skype. I used my Kindle Fire HD, which runs Android and has a Skype app. The quality was terrible. Either the built-in camera is, or the software – in any case, despite tons of available bandwidth, I showed up on the other side very grainy and lacking sharpness of detail.

Now, while most people would think of that as a giant plus, I only heard complaints. So I switched to a laptop. Unfortunately, the same problem appeared there. I realized I still have one computer running Windows 7, that I never converted to Linux, so I fired it up. It had Skype pre-installed, I was ready to go, all set.

Well, what do you know, the experience was amusing, if a complete failure. I’ll share it here, because I was reminded of how odd Windows looks and feels once you leave it for a while. Not the operating system itself, but the ecosystem. You have to put up with a lot on there just to survive. I am not sure it’s worth it.

For starters, Skype proudly proclaimed I should install the new version. I clicked the “Install” link, and the software started downloading. While I was waiting, the computer started complaining about mandatory updates, so I allowed it to download those. Installation, as usual, would happen when the computer shut down.

Next, a host of crapware started telling me I had run out of … payments to them. So Macafee wanted a paid upgrade, and Norton Security wanted a paid upgrade, and software I’ve never heard of wanted an upgrade. Then Windows wanted to know if I had the latest Antivirus, just in time for ClamWin to complain that it needed a new definitions file.

I sighed loudly. On Kubuntu, the upgrade process doesn’t require you to do much: the notification thingy tells you there is stuff to download and install, you click on the icon, enter your administrator password, and off it goes and does its thing. There aren’t dozens of installers competing for attention, which in my world is a good thing.

Well, I told ClamWin to go and fetch the latest, and it told me it had to upgrade. I went to the download site, and it told me I needed some download manager from a third party. I went to the third party, and it gave me an “Advanced Installer” option that was “Not Recommended.” I clicked on it, and it turns out the options it gave me were those not to install more toolbars for browsers, not to change my default search engine, and not to change my browser home page.

Lucky me I clicked on Advanced Installer, otherwise this download manager would have changed a bunch of settings on my computer that are completely irrelevant to download management.

What do you know, the download manager was a separate install and didn’t get me the update to ClamWin. I had to go back to the download page and click a different download link. Meanwhile, Windows was blacking out the screen and giving me ominous warnings about running software from unverified sources. Scary shit, I tell you!

When I wanted to start my Skype call, I had a half dozen warning messages pop up from different sources. I must have clicked the wrong one, the one that says that you have to restart your system for the updates “to take effect” (read, to be installed). The computer immediately shut down and spent the next ten minutes installing updates.

Miraculously, when it booted back up, it didn’t fail. I got up to my desktop, to be greeted by a bunch of popups about all sorts of wonderful things. I ran Skype and called. Miraculously, it all worked and I was not grainy. But during the call, I got three more popups from the crapware, kicking me out of of fullscreen mode and telling me they wanted money for the so-and-so update.

How do you guys stand that? It’s not like you get a medal for running Windows, and it’s so incredibly frustrating!