Moving away from Windows

I’ve dabbled in Linux for several years now – I’ve looked after Linux servers at work and at home, and I’ve had a secondary desktop PC running some version of Fedora or other.

Two years ago I switched over my PC at work from Vista to Fedora, and I haven’t looked back. I didn’t have any particularly unusual requirements of a work PC; just an ssh client to configure servers. I actually prefer the GNOME desktop to a Windows desktop, and I’ve been getting on with Fedora very well indeed.

A couple of months after this I decided to install Fedora on my main PC at home. I felt that I’d learned enough about desktop Linux to be able to get it going satisfactorily. And while it’s all good and well having a secondary Linux PC, you get any good at it unless it’s your primary.

The transition went very smoothly on the whole – I got most of my hardware working and I was very pleased with the usability. But it still nags me that there are a handful of things that don’t work (either satisfactorily, or in some cases at all) on Linux, so I’m still forced to keep Windows.

Audio Editing

I’m a massive fan of home audio production. I play a few musical instruments and I own a set of decent recording equipment (see my Equipment List), including a Phonic Helix Board 24 firewire mixer. I purchased the mixer when I was still running Windows XP as my primary OS, and it worked very nicely. I used to use Syntrillium’s Cool Edit Pro (now Adobe Audition) and I got on very well with it.

When I moved over to Linux, I was keen to get the mixer working. There exists a project named ffado which strives to get firewire audio devices working on Linux. Unfortunately it doesn’t offer full support for Phonic devices. I did have it working at one point, although it was iffy at best, and a pain to configure each time I wanted to use it.

And while Ardour is a pretty decent piece of software, I had grown used to Cool Edit and Audition and didn’t see why I should move away. So I still boot into Windows for my audio work.

Gaming

This is one of the most common complaints from individuals who migrate to Linux. Their games don’t work.

I’m not a massive gamer anyway, but I did often enjoy spending the odd hour on Age of Empires or one of a number of driving games.

Of course some games work under wine, but many don’t. Of the ones that do, they often have missing features or oddities. So I still return to Windows for my occasional gaming.

Unfortunately, since upgrading my Windows installation from XP to Vista, I’ve discovered that Age of Empires doesn’t work on Vista either. A Microsoft game… on a Microsoft OS. Quality. I don’t play Age of Empires any more.

Scanning

For those who read my review of my slide scanner, you’ll recall that it doesn’t work on Linux (at all) or Vista (at all) so I had to use the XP installation on my laptop to scan in 3,000+ slides.

I also have a Canon LiDE 25 flatbed scanner which is detected and apparently works out of the box on Fedora – but unfortunately the colours are funny and broken. I haven’t found a way to remedy this so I still scan on Windows. At least it works on Vista on my desktop PC.

Other applications

And of course, there are always the rare occasions when you encounter the need to use a specific application that is Windows-only, or a file format that somehow ties you to Windows. Recently, I’ve needed to use Windows for…

  • Boson online testing environment – for practising Cisco exams
  • Noteworthy Composer – a MIDI editor that’s so good I’ve never found a Linux application that comes close. It does actually work quite nicely under wine with Timidity, but some screen fonts break.
  • TomTom Home – software for updating the maps on my sat nav
  • Vue – a 3D rendering suite that I occasionally play with

Summary

Overall, it’s a shame I can’t drop Windows completely. The vast majority of my needs are satisfied by Linux, and Fedora in particular has come a long way since I started using it at Fedora Core 5.

So who’s to blame for this dependence on Windows? In my opinion, the blame must lie with the application developers who write their applications and games for only one OS; the hardware vendors who don’t bother to write drivers for any but the most common OSs.

Linux developers work hard to provide drivers and applications for new devices and new file formats. Their task is made harder by manufacturers who stick to closed formats and proprietary devices. It’s a shame, because it ruins my life!

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