Warning: The following is a rant. Please feel free to skip if not interested.
What I was trying to do: I had only Ubuntu Linux installed on my laptop, no dual-boot with Windows. The DVD drive stopped working, so I contacted Dell support. They asked me to upgrade the drivers, I said I couldn’t because I wasn’t on Windows. And I couldn’t install Windows because, duh, the DVD drive is not working. Finally, it turned out that the drive had to be replaced, and within 24 hours, a Dell repair guy came to my home, swapped the drive for a new one and everything was working.
I was so happy with the Dell support, and the way they looked forward to saying yes. They solved a hardware problem within 24 hours of sending an email. Wow. That is unexpected because for most big companies, good customer service is an accident.
After this incident, I decided to install Vista so that I could do the BIOS or driver updates or any other similar situation that might arise in future.
Situation One. Windows Update.
I popped in the Vista reinstallation CD given by Dell, it was installed in half an hour. I opened Windows update, showed some 71 security updates that has to be installed. Phew. It took a few hours to install. Waited for it to reboot. CRASH.
It asked me if I wanted to try normal booting or go to safe mode. I click on safe mode. CRASH.
I was puzzled, I thought this was a freak accident. So I redid the whole cycle and same result.
The irony is that I hadn’t installed a single third-party software, that is, if you don’t count the Dell WiFi drivers. All I did was run Windows update and it totally trashed the system.
The third time I reinstalled Vista, and then clicked on Disable Windows Updates. At this point, I didn’t care about Vista wanting to secure itself. I’d rather have a working ‘unsecure’ OS, rather than a OS that is secure and dead. In any case, I had bought a license to Norton Internet Security 2009 and put the responsibility of security to Norton.
Situation Two. External Hard Disk.
I connected my external hard disk so that I could copy back all my files, code and music back to the laptop. This disk is corrupted. Would you like to format? Whaaa??
I connected the external hard disk to the desktop running good old Windows XP. It worked flawlessly.
So I had to make the external hard disk connected to the desktop as a shared folder and access it on my laptop over the wireless network.
Situation Three. DVD drive.
The last two reinstalls, I installed the various drivers, etc. via the DVDs provided by Dell.
This third time, I suddenly realized, Vista doesn’t recognize the DVD drive any more.
Worst of all, it seems Vista was working well for the past 8 months purely because it was a factory install. There is no stable reproducible method of reinstalling and running a Vista system.
Rebooted, popped in the Ubuntu CD, installation done. Everything is working. Including the DVD drive, the external hard disk, and I didn’t have to click on multiple ‘Next’ dialogs each for 5-6 different driver installations.
This was a good reminder for me on why Linux distros, especially Ubuntu, rock.
Side note. Lock-in.
I used to have a Mac PowerBook a long time ago. One of the reasons I wasn’t keen on continuing to use it was that most of the software was Apple-only and it felt like a lock-in.
I thought I was clever in switching to a normal laptop with a dual-boot of Windows and Linux. Yeah, freedom, baby.
Dell provides support only for Vista, not even Windows XP! I’ve become so frustrated with Vista, but I have absolutely no other option. I mean, sure, I could use a different OS, but then all the cool features like fingerprint recognition hardware, the webcams, etc. most likely won’t work. If this isn’t a lock-in, I don’t know what is.
Of course, things have changed now with Dell selling Linux laptops. And also Macs now run on Intel CPUs, which means that we can run Windows and Linux on Mac hardware. My next laptop would certainly be one of these options.
But, then again, I might end up with just a Android-based netbook, coding on Mozilla Bespin, storing files in the cloud, and hooking it up to a big display whenever I am doing serious work (like Jace does with his MSI Wind).
In either case, I will look forward to not having Vista.
Update : The day after I wrote this, Vista has a new way of messing with me – it now shows the DVD drive, but now refuses to show the D drive where I’ve stored all my files. Sigh.