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July 23, 2010

Why I gave up on Linux and returned to Windows XP

I am a senior IBM mainframe software engineer and database administrator and in its day I was highly proficient in MS-DOS line commands. I have written thousands of lines of computer code and tested hundreds of thousands of lines of computer code. I recently tried several Linux distributions and after too much time wasted chasing solutions for issues which simply work or work simply in Windows, I made the decision to return to Windows XP to catch up on other projects.

I would like to begin by complementing all the software engineers, developers, and testers that have diligently worked and contributed to Linux.

On the positive side, Linux is void of one of the key architectural design faults of all MS Windows versions since Windows 95, that being the Windows Registry or what I often refer to as the Windows Landfill. I have been told that the entire Windows Registry is assembled from various files on the hard disk and loaded into memory upon start-up, regardless of which applications are running or not running. The Registry contains nearly all the critical Windows operating system settings along with settings and parameters for almost all Windows applications. Unfortunately many Windows applications do not completely remove all of their entries when uninstalled leaving heaps of junk behind in the Registry. There are numerous Registry “cleaners”, but I have yet to find one that can accurately removes all the junk left behind by uninstalled applications. Furthermore, applications including MS Windows, use the Registry as a temporary location for temporary settings but fail to remove these when they are no longer needed. Thus the Registry is forever expanding in size. Hard disk space is not the issue here. The issue is waste of RAM, operating inefficiency, stability, and OS portability. Fortunately, Linux is leaner and smarter.

On the negative side, I encountered a persistent font-rendering issue with Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and Linux Mint. I live on an HP nc8430 notebook PC with 1680x1050 WXGA resolution, where increasing font size is a must. The feature works for system fonts, but did not work for key applications like Firefox. My research revealed that the issue has already been documented throughout the Web and is related to these distributions failing to update the standard configuration file which Firefox and other applications rely upon for their font settings. While the Ubuntu folks are aware of it, they seem uninterested in fixing it. The issue is also present in Linux Mint which is based on Ubuntu. The fonts worked as expected for both Gentoo and PCLinuxOS. However I was unable to get my internal Intel 3945 ABG Wireless card to work with PCLinuxOS (both Gnome and KDE versions).

In every incarnation of Linux that I tried, my notebook fan was ALWAYS ON even when no applications were running with CPU near 0%. This issue may be related to CPU throttling and fan throttling. Linux needs to resolve this before I can use Linux on a notebook without the associated side effects such as annoying noise of the fan on max, increased fan wear, and reduced battery life. There is nothing more this user would like than to depart the world of Microsoft Windows for Linux, but the path will have to be paved with far fewer rivers to cross or mountains to climb just to get there.

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