Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

Why I’ll be keeping Windows close to hand for a while to come

2nd December 2007

Even though I have moved to Linux and it has been fulfilling nearly all of my home computing needs, I do and plan to continue to retain access to Windows courtesy of virtualisation technology. Keeping current with the world of the ever pervasive Windows is one motivation but there are others. In fact, now that Windows is more of a sideline, I may even get my hands on Vista at some point to take a further in-depth look at it, hopefully without having to suffer the consequences of my curiosity.

Talking of other reasons for hanging onto Windows, listening to music secured by DRM does come to mind. DRM is seen in a negative light by many in the open source world so Linux remains unencumbered by the beast. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing and the whole furore about Vista and DRM earlier this year had me wondering about a Linux future. However, I have been known to buy music from iTunes and would like to continue doing so. WINE might be one way to achieve this but retaining Windows seems a sounder option. That way, I am saved from having to convert my protected music files into either Ogg Vorbis or FLAC; the latter involves a lossless compression unlike the former so the files are bigger with the additional quality that an audiophile would seek. MP3 is another option but there are those in the Linux world who frown upon anything patented. That makes getting MP3 support an additional task for those of us wanting it.

In my wisdom, I have succumbed to the delights of expensive web development tools like Altova’s XMLSpy and Adobe’s Dreamweaver. While I have found a way to get Quanta Plus to edit files on the web server directly and code hacking is my main way to improve my websites, I still will be having a bimble into Dreamweaver from time to time. I have yet to see XMLSpy’s grid view replicated in the open source world so that should remain a key tool in my arsenal. While I haven’t been looking too hard at open source XML editors recently, there remains unexplored functionality in XMLSpy that I should really explore to see if it could be harnessed.

I have included implicit references to this already but keeping Windows around also allows you to continue using familiar software. For some, this might be Microsoft Office but OpenOffice and Evolution have usurped this in my case. Photoshop Elements is a better example for me. Digitial transfers from scanners and DSLR’s will stay in the world of Linux but virtualisation allows me to process the images whatever way i want and I might just stick with the familiar for now before jumping ship to GIMP at some point in the future. With all that is written on Photoshop, having it there for learning new things seems a very sensible idea.

While open source software can conceivably address every possible, there are bound to be niches that remain outside of its reach. I use mapping software from Anquet when planning hillwalking excursions. It seems very much to be a Windows only offering and I have already downloaded a good amount of mapping so Windows has to stay if I need to use this and the routes that I have plotted out before now. Another piece of software that find its way into this bracket is my copy of SAS Learning Edition; there are times when a spot of learning at home goes a long way at work.

So, in summary, my reasons for keeping Windows around are as follows:

  • Learning new things about the thing since I am unlikely to escape its influence in the world of work
  • Using iTunes to download new music and to continue to listen to what I have already
  • Using and learning about industry standard web development tools like Dreamweaver and XMLSpy
  • Easing the transition, by continuing to use Photoshop Elements for example
  • Using niche software like Anquet mapping

I suppose that many will relate to the above but Linux still has plenty to take over some of the above. In time, DRM may disappear from the music scene and not before time; accountants and shareholders may need to learn to trust customers. NVu and Quanta Plus could yet usurp Dreamweaver and there may be an open source alternative to XMLSpy like there is for so many other areas. The Photoshop versus GIMP choice will continue to prevent itself and all that is written about the former makes it seem silly to throw it away, however good the latter is. Even with changing over Linux equivalents of applications fulfilling standard needs, it still leaves niche applications like hillwalking mapping  and that, together with the need to know what Windows might offer in the enterprise space, could be the enduring reasons for keeping it near to hand. That said, I can now go through whole days without firing a Windows VM up and that is a big change from how it was a few months ago. I suppose that it’s all too easy to stick with using one operating system at a time and that is Linux for me these days.

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