An Evening of Failure and Stupidity

By Shamus Posted Sunday Feb 19, 2012

Filed under: Rants 343 comments

Last Thursday I was griefed by many, many stupid people. I don’t want to spoil the ending too much, but the short version is that by morning I’d re-installed Windows. And one of the griefers was me.

The setup for this story: A few months ago, I got a virus. Not bad, nothing dangerous. When it was over I was pretty sure I had it all, but “pretty sure” wasn’t good enough. I needed to be able to trust this machine again, so I re-installed Windows. I put the new install on the D: drive and left the C: drive alone. This was also an experiment: How much stuff from C: will I miss or need in the long run? (The answer: Almost nothing. The only thing I ever bothered to recover from C: was my Minecraft saves. All of my programming, writing, and video projects are either saved on other drives or online.) And so our story begins…

It’s Thursday night. I’m looking at my C: drive and thinking that it’s probably about time to format that sucker and reclaim the wasted space. I mean, it’s been moths and I’ve never needed any of it. I boot off the D: drive now, so it should be safe to just nuke C: and use it for… I dunno. I don’t even have a plan for it. I’ve got a pretty good system where I keep the operating system on one drive, my work on another, and games on a third drive. I don’t have a plan for C:, but I might as well clean up that old mess, right?

I right-click on C: and hit “format”…

C: is a tiny little thing – only 250Gb or so. Despite this, the progress bar takes forty minutes. When it’s done, Windows gives me this stupid, non-informative dialog to the effect of “The specified operation cannot be performed” or somesuch. I look, and C: is untouched. Not a single file deleted. So what was the computer doing for the last two-thirds of an hour?

So, I decide to do a manual format. I just start throwing stuff into the recycle bin. Sooner or later I’m probably going to get an error telling me that I can’t delete such-and-such a file. I know how Windows is. Still, if I can rip away everything until I’m just left with a few forbidden files, I can reboot into DOS and kill those with the terminal. In fact, my wife Heather could burn me an Ubuntu Live CD here, and I could kill the files from a nice GUI environment.

I’m actually surprised at how much Windows will let me kill. I blow away all of the hidden and system files in the root directory without so much as a raised eyebrow from the operating system. It finally chokes on some file with an unprintable name. That’s either a leftover from the virus, or (more likely) just a corrupted file. I reboot to finish the job.

I forget to boot into Ubuntu, but it doesn’t matter. The Windows boot fails. Now, keep in mind that my operating system is on D:, and not the recently cleansed C:, but it’s stopped working anyway. It says it can’t find NTLDR, which means that…


I am an idiot.

Okay, I could fault Microsoft for some stupidity here. Windows has this obnoxious habit of locking and protecting all kinds of files it doesn’t want or need, even though it let me kill NTLDR without so much as a warning. But it doesn’t matter, because I should have known better. In fact, I did know better. Or at least, I used to.

I totally forgot that even when a computer boots from D:, it boots from C:, at least a little bit. NTLDR (“NT Loader”, a leftover from the days of Windows NT I’m sure) is a small little file that gets loaded at startup and sends the computer over to D: to look for the operating system. At some point in the past I understood this, but I forgot all about it until just now when I blew it away. Idiot!

Sigh. How could I forget such a thing?

Okay. No big deal. I just need to re-install Windows. I’ve got the Windows XP disk right here. In fact, I have a lot of them from long-retired computers. I can take my pick. (And please, do not hassle me because XP is “so old”. SOMEDAY I’ll get a new computer, and it will come with Windows 7, and that will be when I make the switch. That’s the most cost-effective method of doing things. I am not the sort of person to drop $100 just because there’s a new operating system with shinier toolbars out there. I am having a hard time imagining ANYTHING that windows 7 could offer that would be worth $100 to me.)

I get out the binder where we keep the XP disks and I grab one off the top. Looks like XP Home. Whatever. I’ve used both XP Professional and XP Home and I can’t remember any significant differences.

This installer sits there for two minutes, then fails with some sort of moronic non-informative “Can’t continue installation” error. Fine. I’ve got plenty of arrows left in my quiver here. I have another XP Home disk in the pile, and it might be a newer service pack. I try it.

The installer sits there for two minutes and then reboots. No explanation. I actually mistake this for progress. I see the machine reboot and I assume it’s just moving on to the next phase of installation, like Windows operating systems tend to do. I make a couple of trips through this meaningless reboot before I’m sure this is a waste of time.

Ok, I’ve got an XP Professional disc here. Let’s try that:

Once again, the installer runs for two minutes. (What is it with these two minute waits? I can boot Ubuntu into a GUI environment in less time. From a DVD. WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN A QUASI-DOS WINDOW FOR TWO MINUTES?!?!) Then it blue screens with an error saying I need to update my drivers. Dude, I’m installing XP from a DVD to a blank hard drive. Where would you suggest I put new drivers? And while we’re at it: DRIVERS FOR WHAT?!??! How can I get new drivers for anything when you don’t even tell me what KIND of device you’re talking about? Just… what?

Maybe there’s something left on the C: drive that’s making these installers puke? I don’t see how. In fact, I think they die before They get to the step of looking around the computer, but just for the sake of completeness I should wipe the C: clean with a proper format. Heather burns me an Ubuntu 11.0 CD. It boots up just fine, except the mouse cursor is invisible. I actually think it’s locked up at first, but after waving the mouse around I can see I’m highlighting stuff on the screen. I fumble around using the keyboard and manage to find the format & partitioning tools. However, it’s not letting me relate the hard drives to the labels. It’s calling each hard drive something like “/sda1”, “/sda2” and so on. I’m PRETTY sure that C: should simply be the first one listed, but I’m not in a gambling mood.

(I don’t know it yet, but I just dodged a bullet. Ubuntu wasn’t listing my first HD, which would have been “/sda0”. So I would have been nuking one of the good drives.)

Heather then burns me an Ubuntu 10.4 CD. I reboot with that and it seems to behave itself. I have a mouse cursor and it lists the hard drives properly. I kill the C: drive with a good formatting. Then I pull out my last XP Professional disc. This one looks like Service Pack 3. This had better work…

This installation gets further than the other ones. I move through the first few steps by pushing keys (this is still a quasi-DOS window, no mouse cursor) and I can see it loading a crapload of stuff. Stuff like “Human interface layer”. Finally I get to a prompt telling me to hit ENTER to begin the install, for real. I do, butit seems to have locked up. I press keys, and nothing happens. I try a few more times, but I don’t get anywhere.

Heather jumps online and does a search. She discovers that the computer is not actually locked up. It’s just given up using my USB keyboard.

There are no words to describe how stupid this is. The installer spends two minutes loading “Human Interface Layer”, “USB interface controllers”, and “Keyboard something-or-other”. The keyboard works just fine for the first few steps, and then the installer refuses any more contact with the USB keyboard.

By some miracle, we still have a PS/2 keyboard lying around. I plug it in, press ENTER, and unplug it again.

Once Windows XP is up and running I discover the usual: It needs drivers. The graphics, network, and sound systems are all missing. Heather downloads the drivers, burns them to a CD, and I install them.

Okay then. This was a miserable experience. That was three hours I could have spent some other way. However, I do enjoy having a nice, clean operating system. XP gets a little slow to start after 5 months or so. I’ve never figured out why.


You know, maybe I’m tempting fate here, but I want to install Ubuntu. I want to set up a dual-boot and try it out, just because.

The install takes less than 15 minutes. Maybe less than five. I dunno. I kick it off, go to get some tea, and when I come back it’s all booted up and ready to go. The network and sound systems work without me needing to look for any drivers at all. It’s kind of magical.

I can’t migrate entirely to Ubuntu. Too much of my work is Windows-based, and gaming in Linux is about as popular as bobsledding in Egypt. But Ubuntu is shockingly fast and responsive. (You know how Windows need to “think” for about five seconds before it will delete even the most trivial file? You know how it takes Windows a minute to boot, and then ANOTHER minute to stop thrashing around so you can use the machine? Ubuntu does not have these issues.)

Still this has been a very educational and idiotic evening.

UPDATE: Amazing. Even though I VERY EXPLICITLY said not to give me a hard time about using win XP, and about a dozen people have done so anyway. I'm going to make this as clear as I can: If you want me to run Windows 7 so bad, the donate button is on the right. Otherwise, you have nothing to say to me on the matter.

UPDATE II: Okay. Cancel that. Someone did, so now I’m getting Windows 7. Man, I should have screwed up my operating system ages ago! Thank you to the generous benefactor. If we’re very lucky, we won’t have another post like this in a few days.


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343 thoughts on “An Evening of Failure and Stupidity

  1. cadrys says:

    ..not trying to troll you, but the Win7 installer deals with USB keyboards without dying. Just sayin’. (What *doesn’t* it like? Trying to boot from SSD with a RAID array also present. 3 installs to go from ‘expensive pile of new parts’ to ‘working gaming rig’ last weekend)

    1. psivamp says:

      The usual solution here is actually a BIOS setting that most systems have, something like Legacy USB. It’s ridiculously pointless, but it comes every now and again while installing XP or some of the more basic *nix variants like Slackware.

      1. Andrew_C says:

        I have to point out that Slackware is one of the few Linux distributions that I have NEVER had USB issues with, and I’ve been using it since 10.1.

    2. SKD says:

      Generally the XP installer deals with USB keyboards without dying as well. I have done more XP installs over the last decade than I care to try and count, and very seldom do I have any problems with USB keyboard recognition. As others have said below, sometimes the installer just pukes when it switches from the BIOS running devices to software.

      1. krellen says:

        It’s my experience that XP setup can handle USB keyboards fine on machine models that only have USB ports. However, if PS/2 ports are available, the setup program will insist on only using PS/2 input devices.

    3. Eric says:

      In general the setup process for Windows 7 is about a hundred times easier and faster than Windows XP. Drivers? It’s got most of the common ones preinstalled until you want to download you own. AHCI mode, or USB interfaces, or SATA controllers? All of them work out of the box, unlike XP. Instead of about 5 reboots over the course of 40 minutes, it takes 10 minutes to install and you reboot about once.

      Pretty much every single person I have spoken to has kind of just gone “eh, whatever, I’m fine with XP” only to completely change their mind as soon as they actually use Windows 7 for any length of time. That’s probably why Shamus was so impressed with Ubuntu – after using XP for so long he didn’t realize an operating system could actually be fast and responsive.

      1. Sumanai says:

        I’ve had a “eh, whatever” response towards Win7 after I had been using it for a few weeks. In the beginning I had roller-coaster of positive and negative experiences, but that happens with pretty much every OS I’ve installed myself.

        If I hadn’t come to the conclusion that I’ll have to buy a Windows anyway, I would not had changed when I did. The difference is not that remarkable considering the cost (I’m not buying OEM versions) and many of the compliments that Win7 has been getting were given to WinXP as well. So being cynical about it is reasonable.

        1. MrWhales says:

          I had a very odd experience with all the latest Windows. I originally had a monolith-size 90’s computer running XP until the power supply committed suicide. This was about the time of Vista, which I actaully had some hopes for being a nice OS. It wasn’t quite. I liked it for it’s time, but that is because I had still been used to my Win 98 when my XP died. So it was a very big jump.

          When that computer got unbearably slow and virus-y, I decided on an update to everything instead of piecing it in. The new one has 7 on it. I thought it was negligibly better at first. It wasn’t till I discovered an abandoned laptop in my house with Vista still on it that I realized 7 is a MMA fighter to Vista’s drunk bar fighter

          1. Sumanai says:

            I only used Vista when I needed to act as technical support for my sister or my mother, who both have it on their laptops. I used XP before Win7. I suspect that some of the “holy crap, 7 is awesome” is because Vista was so bad and not because it’s something special.

            Granted, I don’t think any OS is anything special. What works best for you is the one that sucks least for the purposes you need it.

      2. Rick Hambrook says:

        Generally, yes. But on my latest machine Windows 7 installed at a low resolution and required Windows updates, and new graphics card drivers to get up to full res, then I needed drivers for the wireless dongle.

        Ubuntu installed at full res and while I was looking up how to install the wifi dongle drivers on my phone, Ubuntu popped up asking if I wanted to connect to the available wifi network. Amazing.

    4. Winter says:

      Windows 7 is pretty good. It won’t cleanly install to an SSD, although you have to find that out the hard way. (It’s doable but you have to babysit it. Linux isn’t there yet, either, so i can’t harsh MS too much.) Win7 really, really doesn’t like dual booting though. It will search and destroy any other operating systems connected to the computer, and it won’t so much as ask you about it. It also really doesn’t like being installed somewhere other than the first partition on the first hard drive–anything else and it might install, but it will sabotage you. You won’t notice at first… oh no, everything will be all roses… but then… one day… when you least expect it… bam, knife in the back.

      On the whole, though, it is an improvement.

      1. MelTorefas says:

        I *just* installed 7 to an SSD like 4 or 5 days ago, no different than any other Win7 install I’ve done. System runs like a dream so far. Also, my previous computer had been dual-booting 7 and Vista (had to keep Vista on there to get DELL tech support) for half a year. So, I don’t think those problems you mention are universal. I *will* say that 7, unlike Vista, nuked the USB drive I accidentally left attached when I first installed it on that old computer years ago.

      2. X2Eliah says:

        Hmyeah, installed it pretty cleanly for me as well – didn’t notice anything bad.

      3. psivamp says:

        Huh, when I installed Win 7 as my third OS, it didn’t mess with anything, which was a step up from XP which always overwrote my MBR.

        1. WJS says:

          That’s probably because 7 doesn’t use MBR booting any more, it uses the newer (read: not from the 80s) EFI booting.

  2. Andy_Panthro says:

    My brother always tells me how good Ubuntu is, the only problem being gaming. If I could run all my games I’d switch to Ubuntu in a second (and by the sound of things it wouldn’t take much longer to do it!)

    For now though, I’m sticking with Vista until it bothers me enough to buy Win7.

    1. psivamp says:

      The fun thing about Ubuntu is that it literally supports almost everything from the moment it loads. I’ve got a MacBook, so I have to jump through a few hoops — but it’s fewer hoops than getting any version of Windows its drivers and if I remember right Ubuntu also installs more smoothly than OS X.

      Fun fact: In order of longest load time from bootloader to full functionality at the desktop, my MacBook goes: Ubuntu, Windows 7, OS X Lion. That’s right, OS X loads more slowly on legitimate Apple-built hardware.

    2. wererogue says:

      Gaming in Linux is fine!

      … if you only ever buy games from the humble indie bundles.

      Seriously though, more and more small developers are producing linux builds of their games. DOSBox and WINE get a lot of the rest.

      But in full honesty you’re not going to be playing games from big publishers without a lot of messing around with config files and WINE prefixed, so it’s definitely not a solution for everybody. And there are oddities of some setups – it’s common, for example, to have games which run markedly slower in fullscreen, regardless of resolution, and you can pretty much forget about using vsync.

      1. MrWhales says:

        All I play is Minecraft and Civ 5. Do I fit the easy to switch build?

        1. Moddington says:

          Well, Minecraft runs natively on Linux, mostly thanks to Java, and Civilization V seems to have good results in WINE. Just from those two apps, I’d say you’d probably fit into the easy-to-switch demographic.

  3. 4th Dimension says:

    Couldn’t you have regenerated the NTLDR file? I remember fixing computers that had that file go missing (probably deleted by some user or something).

    Also, the drivers issue might be that Windows XP doesn’t recognize some new hardware (especially newer drives).

    1. James Schend says:

      Yeah there’s a Repair Bootloader option, if you boot into the “recovery console.” You can also move NTLDR to your D: drive if you like– by default it just installs onto “HD 0”, which is usually C:, but there’s no technical reason it has to be on C:.

      The reason people are harassing you about Windows 7 is because it’s ridiculous to expect a product built in 2001 to run on a modern computer. You keep talking about how great Ubuntu is– why don’t you grab a copy of Ubuntu from 2001 (assuming it existed then), and see how well it works on your computer? I’m guessing it wouldn’t work very well.

      As to why you should upgrade, why it’s worth a hundred bucks, well, the predictive cache alone is going to make your computer run so much faster. The search indexer actually works well, it’ll reboot failing drivers without having to reboot the rest of the OS (most of the time), windows are driven by hardware, which means you can still drag them around and they still refresh when bad software gets locked-up, etc. It’s hard for me to even write a list like this, since I haven’t used XP in something like 4 years now, I don’t even remember what it had and didn’t.

      1. Winter says:

        SP3 isn’t from 2001, that’s for sure.

        Also: Ubuntu works because they kept updating it, whereas XP is basically abandonware. You might say it’s old and out of date so it’s too be expected, but at the same time: what was he going to do: get Vista???

        1. X2Eliah says:

          The entire point of that comment was “get 7”. Why bring vista into this?

          Also, Personally I want to add that the whole “reboot failing driver on the spot without restarting” is a superb thing. When my HDD started failing, the graphics drivers would sometimes just crash – it was great to have them just restart and none of the work lost.

  4. Tobias says:

    When this happened to me I took the opportunity to upgrade to win7. So dodged that bullet.
    But the bootloader I used switches the drive markers. So my second partition appears as C: when I boot to the windows install there.
    When I started reading the article, I thought you had ran into this fun fact.

  5. Luker says:

    If I am not mistaken, Windows XP installers from early realeases (pre-SP3?) do not have SATA drivers, so if you were trying to install it on modern HDD, then that was probably your problem. Also, as someone mentioned, you would not get problems with USB hardware when installing Win7. Probably some basic driver support would also be ready out-of-the-box.

    You say there is nothing a modern OS could offer you that’s worth the price, and then you rant about how using outdated software causes you to loose so much time. Maybe that is something to think about ;)

    1. Shamus says:

      I managed to get it working without spending a hundred dollars, so I think my choice is vindicated.

      Moreover, the problem wasn’t that the installer was “old”. The problem was that it was built by an imbecile. It WAS able to use the USB keyboard just fine, accepting keypresses and everything. Only ONE keypress in the entire affair needed to come from PS/2, with no warning message or indication. That’s just terrible.

      1. Luker says:

        I suspect the thing with keyboard stopping to cooperate at some point is that before USB drivers are loaded, the BIOS is handling the keyboard in some legacy support mode. This way from the beginning the USB keyboard behaves exactly like PS/2 one. Once XP installer starts loading it’s USB drivers it is expected to handle keyboards on it’s own. It then turns out that it can’t do that. It is another thing to think about: this software is so old, that USB keyboards were so uncommon at the time that it was not a problem no to support it without special driver.

        1. Shamus says:

          Okay, that would actually be a pretty good explanation. In this case it’s not that Windows STOPPED listening to the keyboard, it’s that the newer BIOS stopped holding its hand.

          I’m going to believe this from now on, because otherwise I’ll go crazy.

          1. Dys says:

            The problem would have been in the hand over. The bios stopped handling it before windows was ready to pick it up, so that one keypress fell right down into the gap.

            1. MichaelG says:

              I just recently switched from an old PS2 keyboard that I like, to a new USB keyboard that I hate (I held on to the nice keyboard for 7 years, but it finally died.)

              Windows lets me log in with the new keyboard, so it understands it, but then goes through its “new hardware detected” dance and flickers the screen for a bit. Then it’s happy again.


              1. KremlinLaptop says:

                My IBM M keyboard was stolen from my car a few years back and that’s when I switched to using a USB keyboard.

                I really miss that IBM M keyboard though.

                1. Simon Buchan says:

                  A model M? THOSE BASTARDS!

                  Man, I really want to get one of those, at least to compare to the really awesome Razor “Black Widow” I’m currently using. Yeah, yeah, I know, Razor has dumb names, but it is both the cheapest and best mechanical keyboard I’ve used – far better feeling than the Das Keyboard or (one of) the Steelseries mechanical keyboards I’ve tried, but I hear so much good about the M’s I really want to give one a try.

                  1. Chuk says:

                    I had an M for a while. Personally I prefer the new ergonomic keyboards. The M was more aesthetically pleasing (“felt” good and made neat sounds), but I can type longer on a newer keyboard.

                2. Andrew_C says:

                  Unicomp still make Model M’s (they call it the Classic) not cheap, but probably worth it. Cherry’s programmers keyboard’s are also very good and slightly less expensive.

                  I’ve got a Model M sitting on my wardrobe that just need the gunk from a cup of coffee cleaned out and a PS/2 adaptor to work (I prefer the Cherry keyboards).

      2. evileeyore says:

        This whole affair is why I keep atleast one (if not two) working lagecay peripherals… actually I also just prefer the weight and heft of the old school keyboards. These new fangled feather weights… I don’t feel like I’m holding onto nothing!

        Also, Shamus don’t feel bad about still using XP. I’m still using XP and will likely continue unitl I’m finally forced to upgrade for some next gen game I really want to play.

    2. Infinitron says:

      This. You wouldn’t use hardware that’s over a decade old, would you? So why are you using an operating system that’s over a decade old?

      Pirate it if you don’t think it’s worth 100 dollars. After all, you will be buying it later on when you get that new computer.

      1. Infinitron says:

        Furthermore, as a computer graphics enthusiast, aren’t you a bit curious to see what that DirectX 10/11 business is all about?

        There’s also something to be said about setting an example in moving PC gaming technology forward – seeing as it’s been stagnant for years now, due to almost all games being made for machines from 2005.

        1. psivamp says:

          Everything DX10/11 do can be done under DX9c, it just means that the dev has to implement some of those features themselves. Also, DX9c is usually faster and the differences are small.

          I upgraded to Win7 because I wanted to actually make use of all of my RAM, and I didn’t have a 64-bit copy of XP anywhere. I can’t say that it makes a lot of difference, really. Most of my needs are moving into the cloud or are equally supported across every OS.

        2. Raygereio says:

          “There's also something to be said about setting an example in moving PC gaming technology forward ““ seeing as it's been stagnant for years now, due to almost all games being made for machines from 2005.”

          As a person who hates the obsession with graphical technology within gaming, I have nothing but disdain for the sentence you just typed.
          There’s nothing to be said for moving PC gaming technology forward. If anything there’s something to be said for keeping it “stagnant” as it has somewhat simplified system requirements and made PC gaming less of an expensive hobby.

          Besides; advances in graphics technology has stopped making games prettier for a while now. Competent art design is of far greater importance.

          1. Infinitron says:

            Besides; advances in graphics technology has stopped making games prettier for a while now.

            Yeah, and have you ever asked yourself why that is?

            Let me be clear: the stalling of gaming technology advancement has been as good for my wallet as it has been for yours. I love the fact that my PC that I built in 2008 can still run any new game at max detail. But it’s just been too long.

            If the technology isn’t pushed forward, we’re not just going to be stuck with aging graphics. We’re also going to be stuck with the same console architectures that support those aging graphics, which also include, for example, ridiculously small RAM sizes. Which means stripped down games (“sorry, not enough memory to support holstering weapons in ME3!”) with small, corridor-based maps.

            1. X2Eliah says:

              Ywah, but devs can make pretty games with old-tech graphics just as well s with new tech.
              And, likewise, devs can use the fanciest DX11 faubles and still produce thing that looks like a baboon’s arse (See – DA2, KoA:R).

              Pushing technology for better result is perfectly fine; pushing technology for technology’s sake is stupid.

            2. Raygereio says:

              “Yeah, and have you ever asked yourself why that is?”
              Simple. Because at a certain point what you have is good enough. Sure that 2048×2048 texture might look spiffy, but the truth is a 512×512 texture would have probably looked just as good.
              Sure that 3045x antialiassing is super awesome, but the reality is that it doesn’t do a whole lot to make a game look better.

              In any advancement you reach a point where simply throwing more power at it will not improve things. The only way to further advance then is to be smarter in how you use that which you have.

              “But it's just been too long.”
              Why? What is so bad about these “aging graphics”? They do not make a game worse. Just like a game with an engine that supports newer graphic features does not make a game better.
              You may disagree with that, but if you do then we have nothing further to discuss. Our views are just utterly alien to eachother.

              As for the ME3’s holster weapon thing. I have two things to say about that:
              1. Meh. It’s a non-issue. If you’re in a combat area you have no need to holster your weapon. Just like you have no need to draw your weapon in a non-combat area.
              Actually, could you even holster your weapon in ME2? If you could I never used it.
              2. I’m really curious as to the technical details of that. How the hell does something like holstering a weapon require that much memory?

              1. Infinitron says:

                Advancement of gaming need to be pursued on all fronts simultaneously. Better graphics, better technology, more memory, more complex gameplay. It’s a synergistic process.

                1. psivamp says:

                  I think we’ve pretty much hit a wall, graphically speaking. I’m all for progress, but increasing system requirements steadily isn’t the same thing.

                  1. Infinitron says:

                    Maybe we have, or maybe it’s because the platforms simply aren’t there to support better graphics.
                    “If you build it, they will come”, yadda yadda.

                    1. Raygereio says:

                      You’ve still failed to explain why the point of these advances is.
                      Just throwing SYNERGY! around like the buzzword that is doesn’t count. Also: memory != graphical technology.

                      What is bad about the “aging graphics”? What can newer graphics do to make videogames better that the “aging graphics” can’t?

                    2. Infinitron says:

                      It’s not (just) a buzzword. Advancements in one field tend to lead to advancements in other, related fields.
                      That’s how PC gaming was in the 90’s. Developers were all about pushing the envelope – “let’s make this game bigger, smarter, faster, prettier, more complex!”. There were none of the lame compromises they’re forced to make nowadays.

                      You’re correct that shinier graphics in and of themselves are meaningless, but they were a part of something positive, something that the industry has lost. Were you there in 1993, opening a new game your parents bought you, your young mind dazzled at how much better it looked and played than the game from last year?

                    3. Raygereio says:

                      Yes, but we’re not in the ’90s.

                      What’s the point now – right here in 2012 (after there have been a friggin lot of advancements in graphical technology) – of these advancements you want.

                    4. Infinitron says:

                      The point is that by kickstarting one advancement, maybe, just maybe, we’ll start getting more advancements and in other fields, as people start paying attention.

                      Just as Doom, for example, was just a game about shooting up monsters from hell, but eventually lead to so much more.

                    5. Raygereio says:

                      What you’re saying there is you want advancement not with a goal in mind, but just for the sake of the advancement itself.

                      That’s utter crap. Not only is that waste of resources, its results are not good. Just look at gaming today.
                      Come back once you have something that can be improved upon. Then we’ll talk about finding an envelope to push around.

                    6. Infinitron says:

                      Okay, how about a game with the graphics of a Crysis, the map design of Thief (you can improve on that game’s stealth mechanics while you’re at it), the huge open world of an Elder Scrolls game, the interactive living world of Ultima VII, and the “choices and consequences”-type plot of a Chris Avellone-written game?
                      Let’s start from that. I don’t see any game today trying to reach those heights. That’s what I mean when I talk about advancement.

                      I don’t see how you can interpret gaming today as the result of “advancement for the sake of advancement”. In case you haven’t noticed, the most popular gaming franchise of our time has three games, all of which look exactly the same. “Advancement for the sake of advancement” would be an improvement over what we have now.

                    7. Raygereio says:

                      “”Advancement for the sake of advancement” would be an improvement over what we have now.”
                      I doubt that as that’s exactlty what we have now in regards to graphical technology.
                      As for anything else: we’re apparently stopped talking about the same subject a while ago, so let’s just end this.

                    8. Infinitron says:

                      No, it isn’t what we have now. That hasn’t been true for a looong time.

                    9. Dasick says:

                      That kind of game would take many, many years and piles upon piles of money and manpower to make. Back in the day you could push the envolope on every aspect of the game by yourself, but not anymore.

                      Ex John Carmack was the guy pushing the technological and graphical envelope for Doom. He did so in what, a year?
                      John Carmack and about a fifty other programmers pushed the graphics/technological envelope with RAGE. It too them what, 5 years?

                      Today, you have to choose what you want to push and advance. And the truth is, graphics are, for most people, at a point where advancements aren’t felt the same way as the advancements in gameplay design, for example.

                    10. krellen says:

                      I want to make one thing absolutely clear: I do not like “Crysis-like” graphics. I do not enjoy playing games with excessive visual bling. My gameplay experience is, in fact, actively impared by high levels of detail. I get overloaded, confused, and frustrated by all that needless, artificial information.

                      “Better graphics” is not something I want in my games. I still like how Super Mario Brothers looks.

                    11. X2Eliah says:

                      I disagree with krellen a bit there. But it is down more to the design than technology.
                      I like how, say, Skyrim+HDtexturepack looks, even if it is chock-full of bling and effects and resolution and grit. I think it works – because the world, the colours and the effects were made properly and look ‘good’, not just ‘blingy’.
                      I hate how KoA:R looks, because it has a stupid, crude, plain wow-like base with a layer of “Teh Blingerzinator 3000” on top, that makes it all blurry, bloomy, washed-out, oversaturated and daft.

                      However, I’d much rather take the pretty, good-looking, informative visuals of Skyrim – or Trine 2 – over the crude NES-era SuperMario or Doom1.

              2. Michael says:

                As to the Holstering? It’s not a memory issue, it’s, and I’m almost 100% certain of this, a controller issue.

                If you play on a gamepad, there’s only so many things you can do to transmit information to the game, the control they used in the past (I assume) to control holstering is now tied to grenades, or switch weapons, or whatever.

                Kind of like how Crysis switched from a Grenade hot key in the original game to a grenade you had to equip in Crysis 2 by double tapping the switch weapon button. It’s not a memory issue, it’s just there is no extra button for that.

                1. Infinitron says:

                  So you think they’re lying?

                  1. Raygereio says:

                    It’s either that, or BioWare programmers are doing something really funky.

                    Seriously, unless I’m missing something holstering a weapon should not require a metric assload of memory.
                    All it does place the weapon model somewhere else on the player model and makes you walk around with a different animation.

                  2. Michael says:

                    They’re actually claiming that’s a memory issue?

                    I mean, unless we’re expanding the definition of “memory issue” to include the lack of keyboard support that strikes me as, well… insane.

                    1. Raygereio says:


                      Relevant quotes:
                      “It’s unfortunate, but sadly it was needed to claw back a significant chunk of memory.”

                      “It’s a runtime memory cost, not a disk space issue. You need those anims for the non-combat areas… so they’re going to be on disk regardless.
                      In order to support exploration in the combat areas, you’d need to have all the anims loaded in memory… so that would be things like the 8-way walks, runs, incline anims, idles, idle twitches, male/female variant overrides, eye noise… etc.
                      All in all (iirc) it came out to around 2-4MB, which is relatively significant. Also, as you’ve guessed, yes – I’m referring to the main game (as well as the demo).”

                    2. WJS says:

                      Ah, the heady days when 4MB of RAM was significant. The 00s were a fun time, weren’t they? What? You say this is from 2012? Uh-buh-wha?

            3. MrWhales says:

              You make an interesting point. But Shamus himself has proven that the same old stuff can make new better things. I remember something I read, more than likely here. It said something to a similar effect. If you keep updating and keep updating, the people making software will never be able to expand into new horizons of a technology.

              A stall in the process allows things to pool, ideas of how to alter things come out, and people think of new ways to do old things and we get put down a possibly better path then if the engine had never stalled.

          2. Infinitron says:

            “In an interview with Penny Arcade, Valve’s Game Newell said that they would get into the hardware game if it became necessary. Valve wants hardware production to move forward with technology, and would be willing to develop hardware if it came to that.”


      2. Dude says:

        There’s another issue with switching to Windows 7, and it’s similar to switching to Linux in many ways: loads of games simply don’t run on 7, but via some tweaking, run on XP.

        Basically, until games like Grim Fandango run on 7 for everybody, I’m keeping my XP partition. What Shamus really ought to do–because XP doesn’t have DX10/11 compatibility, is triple boot XP, 7 and Ubuntu. Best of every world except poserAppleWorld.

        1. Erik says:

          I’m sure this is true for vista, but I’m pretty sure it’s not for win7. Windows 7 runs a complete xp virtual machine under the hood, just for the purpose of being able to run everything that ran under xp

          1. Zekiel says:

            True, but my understanding was that if you ran programs in the virtual XP mode, it wouldn’t use your graphics card… thus any moderately new game (i.e. one that would benefit from a dedicated graphics card) would look awful.

          2. Dude says:

            But it doesn’t work on everything; I know for a fact that Grim Fandango will not run in XP emulation on a Win7 machine. On three different machines I’ve tried on (a low spec netbook, my main gaming machine, and a friend’s dual core), in fact.

            It runs on a XP Professional install flawlessy, though, with zero tweaks necessary.

            1. Nick R says:

              > I know for a fact that Grim Fandango will not run in XP emulation on a Win7 machine. … It runs on a XP Professional install flawlessy, though

              Opposite result for me; in my experience Grim Fandango runs fine in Win7RC but not in WinXP. I don’t yet have a copy of Windows 7, but I’ve still got the Win7 Release Candidate installed on my PC, purely to play Grim Fandango.

              (In XP, the two big technical issues I have with GF are a) atrocious slowdown of cutscenes; and b) sound cutting out within a couple of minutes of starting the game, which can only be temporarily solved with a restart of the game. They happen with all the combinations I’ve tried of Windows compatibility modes, in-game rendering modes, and Task Manager CPU affinity settings.)

      3. Shamus says:

        “So why are you using an operating system that's over a decade old?”

        Because it does what I need?

        Note that the things I criticized it for were due to bad design, not age.

        1. Infinitron says:

          Yes – but what seems like atrociously bad design today might have been a reasonable compromise in 2001.

          1. Scott Richmond says:


          2. KMJX says:

            Actually, it was already a bad, stupid, and failing idea at the time. I was there, so i would know.

            It was still better than what was otherwise available, but only because the unmentionable windows version was even crappier than 95, and there was nothing else readily available to the uninformed consumer, not because of technical limitations.

            In 2001 we were already beyond the point where technical limitations were the main issue with software development.

          3. mac says:

            No, it was never a reasonable compromise. Not in 2001, and especially not in 2008 (SP3).

            Plenty of people had USB keyboards in 2001.

            1. Lalaland says:

              Yes but they had USB 1.0 keyboards that don’t talk the way newer USB 1.1 keyboards do which is why the XP installer HIDs don’t work very well. Also we don’t know what chipset Shamus is running on which affects how Windows reacts (VIA USB controllers were particularly painful at one stage).

              In short the XP installer is crap but so were early versions of YAST or any other installer tool from that era, the modern versions of that tool shipped with Vista and Win 7 and so don’t suffer these issues. Comparing a very old installer to a very new one and contrasting is more of an exercise in ‘how far we have come’ than a criticism of the older interface.

      4. Tse says:

        Hm, pirating is an interesting suggestion, but isn’t it illegal in the US? The way it works is quite funny, though, you fool Windows that your PC is a certain make of laptop and add a legit OEM code. Microsoft’s servers are fooled by this even if the PC you have has hardware not available to laptops.

        1. Infinitron says:

          I’ve gotten the impression that MS don’t really give a damn about individual cases of piracy of their software. They earn the vast majority of their income from selling licenses in bulk to OEMs and businesses.

          1. WJS says:

            I’m pretty sure I saw an actual quote from MS saying that they would rather people used a pirated copy of Windows than Mac OS or Linux. Considering how much their business strategy depends on everyone using Windows, it’s not really surprising.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              That was true before,hence why a non legit copy of win7 would only give you a black background and no other penalty.But with win10,not the case any more.

    3. Squash says:

      I don’t think this is right. I have built several rigs in the past 5 years, all with SATA drives, and used both XP SP2 and SP3 with no problems.

      I must say, Shamus is much braver than I am. Formatting drives scares the bejeebers out of me. One wrong selection and I have nuked the wrong drive. I don’t like putting myself in a position where I can do that much damage by mistake, even if I am SURE I cannot make that mistake. I tend to pull the SATA cables out of every other drive in the box before formatting a drive. Even thinking about what Shamus nearly did to his other drives makes me break out in a cold sweat.

      1. Shamus says:

        I actually did unplug the other drives before doing the format. (Took a while to figure out which was which!)

        1. Squash says:

          OK. Now I can sleep at night.

      2. WJS says:

        I wouldn’t trust windows to get it right, no. With linux, you can mount and examine the contents of drives from the install environment, which means you need to really screw up to erase the wrong drive. When I installed windows, though, I unplugged the linux drive to be safe.I don’t envy people who try to dual-boot from just one HDD.

    4. Lalaland says:


      A major part of my job is helping customers install the old ,obsolete XP on shiny modern hardware and your best bet is to make your own XP installer with your SATA drivers pre-integrated. You can also integrate Service Packs and other such things but don’t go too mad as it goes wonky if you integrate too much, generally speaking SATA drivers and SPs are the only things worth adding.

      I think complaining that a 10 year old installer behaves unpredictably with hardware it was never designed for or tested with is unfair on MS. By the time SP3 came out Vista had been released for consumers so they had no incentive to make the installer user firendly (consumer licences for Vista do not support downgrading to XP). Non technical home users had the far better WinPE based installer for Vista and businesses were being none too subtly encouraged to leave XP behind. Vista adoption by and large never happened at large organisations though so it’s been hanging around making my life miserable for years.

      Windows 7 obviously offers a much better experience being based on WinPE and being fully USB & AHCI aware. Remember the gulf between the Win9X installers and the XP one, how we were all relieved we had such a nice installer? Now I curse XP to the heavens every time I see it spend 5 minutes loading obsolete RAID adaptors and it’s hilarious claims to load USB HID support only to fall over. Make an Nlite installer disk it will solve this issue for XP but MS have made this better and your next PC will have a much better reinstall experience (note though that the automatic repair option still does nothing useful).

      1. says:

        I LOVED this thing back in the day. You pick the components you want to install, integrate the necessary drivers and make a automated install.
        Later i discovered hard-drive imaging, which could easily restore the whole system to the saved state with everything configured, which was even better and faster.

      2. Anorak says:

        Nlite was fantastic. Before I discovered it, I had to keep a sodding floppy disk drive around for the express purpose of installing SATA drivers.
        The installer for windows XP is and always was a bad joke, even in 2001. I’ve run into the USB keyboard issue before too – and it is unbelievably frustrating. I ran a weekend long memtest on the machine once, because I thought it was a hardware problem, not this idiotic failure of an installer.

  6. Robert Maguire says:

    I had a similar problem to your keyboard. I remember spending days trying to get Windows Vista x64 to work on my PC because the installer couldn’t recognize my DVD-ROM drive past a certain point in the install process. I eventually had to copy the files to a bootable USB drive to get it working. Same with Windows 7. It boggles the mind how they made it forget how to use hardware it’s already accessing like that.

    1. psivamp says:

      There’s a subtle transition between firmware control and software control there. In the old days, you had to have drivers to load anything from CD. I remember installing DOS 6 and CD-ROM drivers before being able to install Windows 95 from CD. Now, the hardware and control mostly adhere to standards and your BIOS can boot to CD or USB drives (some of us, at least). The problem is that once you load up a kernel and try to take over from the hardware, you need to have an idea of what you’re talking to because the BIOS pretty much steps entirely back. If you load up a linux live CD/DVD, it brings up a swiss-army knife of a kernel with dozens of modules that pretty much know how to talk to anything. Windows tries to do something similar, but sometimes some oddball bit of hardware reports in differently or just plain isn’t supported.

      1. Z says:

        If you load up a linux live CD/DVD, it brings up a swiss-army knife of a kernel with dozens of modules that pretty much know how to talk to anything. Windows tries to do something similar, but sometimes some oddball bit of hardware reports in differently or just plain isn't supported.

        Reading this makes me smile and realise how far we’ve come since the days of “but linux is sooo hard to install!” and “but my thingy won’t work with linux!” Good times.

        Even gaming is getting there. Sure, not officially supported by the game devs, but more and more games, even modern ones, are playable under WINE in linux. Not trivial to set up, but doable, surely.

        On the other hand, linux is not free of its own little “oh no! advancement gone bonkers!” drama. I applaud your choice of Ubuntu 10.4, it’s good, stable, and will be supported until 2013, but it doesn’t have the latest shinies. On the other hand, the latest shinies for the most part suck (gnome3 and Unity). For an alternative distro that is also easy to install, has the newest shinies, but makes them not suck (or suck less), I hear great things about Linux Mint. But YMMV.

        Great that you’re giving linux a serious look, though.

        1. Ian says:

          Linux Mint is my flavour of choice. What I do find though is with Gnome certainly it’s far to easy to screw up and remove a panel on the UI. If it happened to be one preloaded with a block of system try like widgets it can be a devil of a time putting it back the same.

          That said I use Steam for my games almost exclusively now and I’n not sure about that and Wine. It appears it may work but there are long pages of woe.

          The big issue with Wine gaming for me is I don’t know if something wrong with the game is the game, my system or wine. Even code I’ve done myself has worked fine on Windows and WINE one build then stopped rendering half a mesh in WINE the next.

          You can also have some problems with cutting edge hardware and Linux. I can’t dual boot my shiny new laptop because the Linux bootstrap fails very early on.

  7. gyfrmabrd says:

    Ah, the joys of installing a fresh set of Windows.
    Right next to me I have my wife’s laptop, which, after 5 years of unpartitioned mistreatment is finally starting to choke under the yoke of a incomprehensibly cluttered registry. Sometime soon, the grim task of setting the poor old yeller on its feet again will fall on me. Not. Looking. Forward.

    On the other hand, my brand new Win7 on its deliciously decadent solid state drive installed without any hiccups, and it takes about half a minute from pushing the power switch to being fully operational. Just saiyjin, them upgrades are kind of worth it.

  8. Aanok says:

    Well, to be honest, Win7 offers DX11 support, which is kind of interesting, on the contrary of DX10, and it allows more RAM, among other things. If you’re going for a high-end system it’s kind of a given choice.

    On the other hand, it also sports one of the most embarassing interfaces of history (that damned start menu looks like it’s designed for the resolution of a Commodore64).

    1. Pete says: my friend. Gaze upon the beauty of its out-dateness!

      So, yeah, I wouldnt call it worthy of a 100 bucks, but I got my win7 for free as a part of some student support program or whatever, and I expected the install to be the usual hour-long trek, only to have it install in the time it took me to make a good cup of tea. Everything worked right out of the box, too. Definitely worth upgrading if you have a copy lying around is what Im saying.

      1. Aanok says:

        Man, that is like… whoa. Like… whoa.

  9. KremlinLaptop says:

    To be honest until about a week ago I would have been firmly in the, “XP works just fine, there’s no need to upgrade,” partially because I was so badly burned by Vista (though to be fair it came with the laptop I was buying at the time).

    Then about a week ago I was updating the drivers for my graphics card when the problems started. There’s some sort of completely mysterious error with nVidia drivers that will, without any further explanation, fail the install of the drivers. Getting to the point where I had wiped any evidence of previous nVidia drivers being installed on my computer right down to remnants in the registry and it still refused to install the latest drivers OR the ones that had come with the gfx card.

    One the installs did get so far that the next time I restarted my machine I found myself staring at Windows in 800×600 and the drivers that had been there… being gone. After some deliberation I returned with a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate and beer, an hour or so later I was toodling about in Win7 quite happily.

    To be fair the driver problem, which then didn’t occur in Win7, is nVidia’s fault and honestly it seems like nVidia’s drivers are becoming more and more finicky as of late. Which is a shame because ’round the midpoint of the last decade I started valuing nVidia for drivers that wouldn’t make me curl up in a ball under me desk weeping as my machine ate itself.

    This brings us neatly to Win7. Is it better than XP? Yes. Is it worth x amount of dollars over XP? Probably not, but I don’t regret spending the money. I can’t point to any single one thing in Win7 that makes it superior, what I can say is that Win7 feels and operates like an evolution of XP. I have to say what I’m the most fond of at the moment is the neatness and usability of the taskbar and jumplists. Then along with that just the ability to customize so many things I wanted to tweak in XP.

    1. psivamp says:

      I because a staunch nVidia guy around 2002 when I started using linux. nVidia offers cross-platform drivers that work reasonably well. At the time, ATI was uncooperative and there were three options that were all pretty terrible. I’ve become out-of-date with the whole ATI vs. nVidia thing though. I guess the next time I build a machine, I’ll look into ATI.

      1. KremlinLaptop says:

        Well, ATI doesn’t exist as such these days; it’s all AMD now. I’m not sure about what the quality level is now but my past experiences with ATI were… far from good.

        At the time ATI tended to have graphics cards that outperformed nVidia, but they had incredibly finicky drivers and no cross-platform support. Also I had the fan assembly on a Radeon 9800 Pro simply disintegrate after an year worth of use. These days? It might be far different, all I know is that in the past year or two I’ve been having more and more issues with nVidia drivers.

        1. psivamp says:

          I know it’s AMD now, but years of habit are hard to break.

          1. tengokujin says:

            From what I understand, one of my housemates prefers using ATI cards because AMD actually releases the specs for their cards, so he can write his own drivers, if necessary. But that’s about the limit of my understanding, and he’s a software engineer, so I really can’t comment beyond that.

            1. Mistwraithe says:

              Nvidia’s drivers used to be a major selling point for them. But 4 or 5 years ago they really began to fall apart with many older games not behaving well, missing graphics etc, with the result that I now go out of my way to buy ATI/AMD video cards.

        2. MelTorefas says:

          Yeah I’ve used nVidia my whole life, but on this new machine the bleeding edge AMD card was better and cheaper, so I went with it. I’m not a hardware junkie, but man this thing is nice so far.

      2. Rosseloh says:

        I don’t know how their drivers are for Linux (my laptop has an nVidia card), but I love my 6950 from AMD(/ATI). And it has worked perfectly on my system so far. Everything runs fully cranked and smooth as silk. To be honest both devs have their upsides, and in the end, if I need a new graphics card I just get whatever is most money-efficient or recommended (my boss recommended the 6950 since he had one).

        1. Moridin says:

          AMD’s linux support is…not very good. I actually just got a new computer with 6570 a few weeks ago and dualbooted into linux mint. The open source drivers work, sort of, but apparently the 3d acceleration doesn’t, and there are about 2 cm blank spaces in all sides of the screen. The official drivers are even worse; they do the same in addition to making everything look like a mess and the updates refuse to install.

  10. Scott Richmond says:

    To be perfectly honest Shamus you’re dealing with software built over 11 years ago. Add to that a whole bunch of user errors and you’ve got what some might think what you at least in part deserved.
    I love that you take issue with spending $100 on a new OS yet continue to indulge yourself in day long expeditions like the above. Exactly how little is your time worth mate?
    You need to upgrade your OS. Frankly I don’t care which ‘camp’ you choose but you just need to do it as I’m sure plenty of people in this thread can attest to. Personally I’d give you Win7 as I know it’ll just work for you and it’ll require minimal learning curve. Ubuntu 11 is great, but I believe you’ll run into a bunch of Linux flavored problems.

  11. Sem says:

    I’m amazed that you only had to recover your minecraft saves. I always forget something (usually multiple somethings) when reinstalling/upgrading windows.

    Having lost data one too many times, the last time I upgraded it did it differently. All my disks are in RAID 1 (e.g. mirrored disks) so I just deleted the RAID volume of my C: drive so that I ended up with two C: drives. I installed on one drive and left the other one alone. In the worst case, I could always boot from that drive back into my old OS.

    I also made an virtual image from my old OS. That allowed me to run it my new OS and just transfer data between the two if necessary. It saved me couple of times (Off course, because I had a safety net now I was a lot less diligent in transferring my data).

    And about waiting for windows to do something, I ‘solve’ that by always having a book ready to read in while waiting.

  12. cyber_andyy says:

    Uh Ubuntu. I Tried to get it working on my netbook. Awful, useless operating system that just did not work. XP worked first time. All hail to the wonderful XP.

    1. psivamp says:

      I’m sorry to hear that. In my experience, you’re the minority case. Ubuntu worked flawlessly on the first boot on my netbook and on most machines that I’ve installed it on. XP, on the other hand, usually requires some fiddling.

      Although, I will say that I don’t like the recent direction of the UI, Unity is clunky and buggy at best.

      1. Jay says:

        Yeah, I’ve run Ubuntu for a while. After a while in Linux, running Windows starts to feel like hopping everywhere. I can do it, and it works, but it’s annoying and time consuming and I’d rather not.

        Some versions of Ubuntu do have trouble with some laptop wireless cards. Software solutions are a pain in the rear, but a $30 USB wifi modem solved the problem for me without effort, just plug and play.

    2. Eric says:

      Ubuntu kind of worked for me once I got the partitioning sorted out, but its auto-update program ended up crashing like crazy and I could never get to a display resolution bigger than 1024×768 because I was never able to get the drivers downloaded and set up. I also tried out a couple of other distros, but they crashed upon boot due to my overclock (which is 100% stable in Windows). Despite what people say, Linux is not the modern “plug and play” experience it’s made out to be – definitely usable, but considering I was running into glitches 10 minutes into using it, well… yeah. Not exactly the best first impression.

      1. Gravebound says:

        Yeah, the last time* my desktop XP install got fragged I tried Ubuntu. It was getting rave reviews about how it “just works” and has “everything you need already installed”. Everything but the drivers to my wifi card…or any programs that I like…and having to relearn basic functions….ugh. Not being a programmer, having to type out long stings of meaningless (to me) gibberish to load programs and drivers makes me crazy. And it still took as long as XP to boot up.

        I went back to XP. (* this was a couple years ago now, maybe there is better out there?)

        DamnSmallLinux, on the other hand, has saved my backside a few times :)

        And don’t feel bad about still using XP Shamus; it seems as though Win7 introduced two things that annoy me for every one thing it fixes. It’s why my desktop is still XP.

  13. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I dont know if its still available,but there is the demo version of 7 you can get.You wont have a wallpaper with it,and some of the other fancy stuff,but it should be working fine.7 isnt really just another windows with fancier graphics,its actually a pretty decent system.

  14. JR says:

    It’s not impossible to run windows programs in linux. There is a sort of high level emulator called WINE that’s been in development since the first versions of windows. It’s quite buggy, but there’s a large community behind it. I managed to run mingw and, for reasons that are lost on me right now, compile the SDL libs for windows.
    But more importantly, WINE lets you play games. I played the first two Call of Juarez games and Spelunky to completion with the aid of PlayOnLinux. They probably ran a bit slower than in native win32, but still very much playable.

    As for windows, it might be worth skipping to version 8. The developer demo(free btw) boots crazy fast and looks very promising.

    1. Abnaxis says:

      The biggest problems I encountered with WINE always involved the .NET framework, Microsoft’s ludicrously big software framework whose gargantuan size makes it hard to translate to Linux. Unfortunately, a lot of indies use .NET, so I always need a VMWare machine running XP to get all of my games.

      1. psivamp says:

        I’ve switched to VirtualBox for my virtualization wants. Mostly because it is free.

        1. Atle says:

          It’s free, and it supports USB, which means I can use it for downloading data from my sports watch.

      2. 4th Dimension says:

        If the program uses .NET 3.5 or less, you can run .NET assemblies using Mono project in Linux.

  15. Dasick says:

    It's Thursday night. I'm looking at my C: drive and thinking that it's probably about time to format that sucker and reclaim the wasted space. I mean, it's been moths and I've never needed any of it. I don't even have a plan for it. I've got a pretty good system where where I keep the operating system on one drive, my work on another, and games on a third drive.

    First paragraph, bolded the typos.

  16. Abnaxis says:

    I get out the binder where we keep the XP disks and I grab one off the top. Looks like XP Home. Whatever. I've used both XP Professional and XP Home and I can't remember any significant differences.

    I’m pretty sure Home only supports a single CPU core. For future reference…

    1. zootie says:

      The general difference between Home and Professional Windows (XP, Vista, &) is the ability to support a network domain login (I forget the exact term for it). Home can only join workgroups whereas Pro can be attached to a domain. It’s just a cheesy ripoff by MS to be able to charge corporations 100 bucks more than consumers for the same OS – they actually remove the domain executables from the Pro version to make the Home version.

      1. Piflik says:

        It is the same with chip manufacturers disabling sections of the expensive chip to sell it cheaper instead of creating the cheaper version on its own, and it is not a ripoff, it is the only way to be profitable and still offer a product for the consumer market.

        They won’t program a completely distinct OS for the consumer, but they have to have some difference between Home and Pro, or nobody would buy Pro. If they could have only one OS, I assure you, it will not be the cheap one.

        1. Raygereio says:

          “it is not a ripoff”
          Eh, that’s debatable. I understand the economics and the why of it from the perspective of the companies that do this, but there’s something to be said for feeling ripped off when the only difference between two version of a piece of software is the value of a single bit that either activates or deactivates a particular feature.

          1. Piflik says:

            Well…if they wouldn’t do it, there wouldn’t be any Windows Home. None at all.

            1. WJS says:

              No, there’d just be “personal” and “enterprise” licenses. You know, like lots of software does? I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft eventually go the route of offering windows for free for non-commercial use; they really need the “everyone uses it” advantage.

  17. Mak says:

    The Windows XP install disc actually allows you to do a repair install, which would have reconstructed/rebuilt the NTLDR for you. Even with the faffing about with the USB keyboard (as others have said, there’s a bios option to work around that) it probably would have taken you no more than a good thirty minutes, all up.

    No good knowing that now I guess, rather than before you started, but 30 seconds on Google once you hit the NTLDR error could have saved you a considerable amount of time.

  18. perry says:

    you simply can’t compare ubuntu released in 2011 and decade old xp. install win 7 and see for yourself. its like magic compared to an ubuntu installation. ALL drivers are auto detected/downloaded/installed. there is actually no ‘dos mode’. the whole thing is prettier than the ubuntu installer. it takes a bit longer than ubuntu, but rarely more than 30 minutes.
    also, i noticed a bigger problem. in my experience, when you boot windows the ‘c:’ drive is the one this version of windows is booting from. if you shut down and dual boot win7 from another drive, the new drive is now listed as ‘c:’ within win 7 and the old one is still ‘c:’ in win xp. so when you were formatting your old useless c: drive, you were trying to format the real os drive your pc was working on. its a miracle you managed to go so far as to mess up windows. i doubt you can do the same in win 7.

    1. Dasick says:

      the whole thing is prettier than the ubuntu installer. it takes a bit longer than ubuntu, but rarely more than 30 minutes.

      Y’see, where I come from, a prettier operating system(which is just a framework to run your actual applications) is in no way a good tradeoff in exchange for speed. And 30 minutes is a lot when we’re using the tea kettle as a measure of time.

      On an unrelated note, this thread seems to attract a lot of heat from the pro-win7 crowd…

      1. perry says:

        well, the fastest any ubuntu version has ever installed for me is 15 minutes. that windows 7 can sometimes take 30 minutes to install at maximum is hardly a lot of time. especially when you consider the fact that ubuntu rarely works flawlessly after installation. sound, graphics, bluetooth, brightness control, wlan, hibernate. one or more of these is invariably broken in every version. you have to muck around with grub and all sorts of crap to fix these small things. otoh, it is rare that win 7 encounters something it can’t handle at install-time.
        dunno about you, but i’d rather have a good to go system 15 minutes later than have half my stuff broken.

        1. Dasick says:

          dunno about you, but i'd rather have a good to go system 15 minutes later than have half my stuff broken.

          See, that wasn’t in your original post. All you talked about was how pretty the win7’s installer is, and how win7 takes more than 30 minutes”, which I assumed was 30 minutes mroe than Ubuntu.

          That wasn’t fair. I’ve never used Win7 nor Ubuntu, and when you talk about selling points I assume important stuff like Ubuntu being broken to be at the top of the comparison chart.

          I.. I trusted you! And you betray. Cheater.

        2. Thomas says:

          I’ll be honest, as far as both sides go, is this really an important thing? I mean considering you’re probably going to be using your OS for a couple of thousand hours (if you’re a proper computer user :D) I’m pretty sure we’re talking essentially zero install time. I’d happily wait a day to get multiple years worth of service.

          I guess that means I’d be sliding towards the 7, ‘get it right’ install, but as long as Ubuntu does the job then it’s still not going to really matter right?

      2. KremlinLaptop says:

        Discussions about home-schooling and religion? The comments stay the picture of civility and even minded discussion.

        A chance to compare operating systems in the same family? BRING ME MY PITCHFORK AND TORCH!

        1. Shamus says:

          If users of different operating systems were divided up geographically, the shooting would have begun years ago.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            It has years ago.Its called mmo scene.

    2. Shamus says:

      “install win 7 and see for yourself”

      Okay. Now, I VERY EXPLICITLY said not to give me a hard time about using win XP, and about a dozen people have done so anyway. I’m going to make this as clear as I can: If you want me to run Windows 7 so bad, the donate button is on the right. Otherwise, you have nothing to say to me on the matter. Thank you.

      This is not a reply to perry as much as a blanket reply to all Win 7 boosters.

      1. perry says:

        okay! actually i follow the ‘upgrade when buy new computer’ model myself. the ‘install for yourself’ was wrong on my part.

      2. Infinitron says:

        You’re a gaming blogger. Your career relies on your being in tune with what’s relevant and on the cutting edge. Think about that.

        Then again, maybe you really are a game design hipster. ;> Vintage, and all that.

        1. Dasick says:

          I cast detect troll.

          What are my readings?

          1. Infinitron says:

            I’m a Codexer. Does that count?

            I’d crack a joke involving a ‘detect sycophant’ spell…but let’s not go there.

            1. KremlinLaptop says:

              I used to be a regular at NMA under a different name.

              …That detect troll spell is going to have a hard time singling anyone out.

              1. Infinitron says:


                1. KremlinLaptop says:

                  Represent, brah. (Oh jeez, I just said that out loud. I made myself ten times more lame than usual.)


        2. krellen says:

          Shamus’s role in the gaming blog universe is to be the grognard who harps on how pointless the new and shiny is and about how things were so much better in the before time, so sticking with XP is right up his alley.

          1. X2Eliah says:

            And it is extremely amusing to read about ancient problems normal people don’t have to deal with anymore ;)

        3. Alex the Too Old says:

          “You're a gaming blogger. Your career relies on your being in tune with what's relevant and on the cutting edge. Think about that.”

          This sentiment is what’s wrong with gaming in general and game writing in particular. Always pushing the newest, most expensive bits of hardware and software is the job of marketers, not bloggers, reviewers or fandom. If the amount of enjoyment you get out of a game is dependent purely upon its use of the newest, most unproven technology, regardless of what that technology is being used to do (“This idiot-plotted semi-interactive brown shooter is 2% more photorealistic than the last one if you’re running the latest hardware! Woohoo!”), you are not a gamer, you are a benchmarking program.

          1. Alex the Too Old says:

            Oh, and the sheer presumption and unintentional humor of Anonymous Netkiddie telling Professional Writer what his career relies on also bears pointing out.

            1. X2Eliah says:

              All hail the Omnipresent Internet Blog Commenter for yet another witty, half-snarky remark? Frames of reference, man.

        4. Dovius says:

          I’d actually think of Shamus as a bit of an everyman gamer who represents the type of person who can’t afford to completely re-do their pc every 2 months because PC developers want more shinies ibn their games.

          1. X2Eliah says:

            Yes, but there is 2 months and there is 10 years. Quite the difference.

            1. krellen says:

              We only just – as in just today – got our last user on our network at my work switched over to 7 from XP.

              Well, except for me. I’m still running XP at work. I still see no pressing need to upgrade (I do have 7 at home, where I have more RAM; there is actually a good reason to run 7 if you need to run 64-bit.)

      3. Pete says:

        Start a “Get Shamus a copy of Windows 7” kickstarter? I hear that sort of stuff is popular these days.

        The above IS in jest, by the way.

        1. Dys says:

          Shamus don’t need no stinkin’ kickstarter.

      4. Adam P says:

        You wouldn’t want Windows 7 anyway. Home Premium (what the heck kind of version name is that?) is so user-friendly that power users can’t do anything with it. Like I can only increase the fontsize by an arbitrary amount, without any options to specify a size. There isn’t even an option to reduce it by an arbitrary amount! There are a few more problems like that, where basic things in XP are restricted in the interest of making it more accessible.

        Back in my day, we had “Advanced settings” buttons that let us tweak our configurations without having to spend an extra $90 to get it.

        1. Soylent Dave says:

          There is an ‘advanced settings’ button which lets you play around with different font size increases (specifying the exact increase you want, not just choosing from a list)

          You can only decrease the size below 100% by pissing about in the registry though (which is probably because some software really doesn’t like font sizes smaller than 100%)

          There’s a lot of stuff like that in Win7 – where the advanced settings are just a little bit more difficult to find than they used to be. This might be a design feature to stop standard users bumbling across them – or it might not.

      5. cadrys says:

        As a matter of fact, I *did* hit the tip jar before my initial post. Thanks for all the free ice cream over the years, good sir, and I look forward to reading more of it!

        (How many unique views a day? Even $1 a person might add up more than some of us realize…)

  19. Mari says:

    Having made the move just before Christmas from XP to Windows 7, I can assure you that unless you were a fool like me that adopted 64-bit architecture before Vista which forced you to use XP-64, the red-headed stepchild of Windows operating systems, there is in fact nothing in Windows 7 that makes it worth dropping $100 on.

    I haven’t tried Ubuntu, but I’ve developed a deep loathing for most Linux distributions. In theory they’re great but it seems every time I try to install one I waste the better part of a weekend, develop a migraine and a twitch, and end up reinstalling Windows without every having gotten a fully functional boot-up out of the Linux flavor d’jour. I keep hearing great things about Ubuntu but at this point I’m far too gun-shy to give it a shot.

    1. psivamp says:

      Ubuntu has a live disc that you can throw in to see if your hardware works before you make nay changes to your drives. Also, they have an extensive wiki and, in my experience, on most hardware it “just works.”

      1. Dasick says:

        A wiki, like a website on the internet? “Internet” as in the thing you use your computer to access? Yeah, I can’t see how that would go wrong.

        As far as I understand it, Linux builds usually follow a very bare-bones philosophy of letting the user control how their OS is gonna work. Ubuntu seems to be the exception, with usability and user-friendliness at the forefront.

        1. psivamp says:

          I mention the wiki because you can look up hardware that can be problematic under Ubuntu before you commit to anything. There are some systems that just don’t cooperate as well: MacBooks being one of the big ones. But even on my MacBook, Ubuntu is easier to get fully working (for me, and I’ve been using *nix variants for about a decade now) than Windows XP on the same.
          Oh, and I recommend(ed) messing about on the Live DVD before making any changes. I also wouldn’t advise anyone to completely migrate over unless your needs are modest and your system is archaic. I’ve installed linux on a few ex’s systems because they pretty much only go on the internet and they have decrepit hardware that chokes on Windows, but runs linux passably.

          Ubuntu is very much the exception to the mindset you mention. If you want a system like that, there’s Gentoo and Slackware each of which is much harder to get running and offers marginally more optimal performance. I’ve never successfully gotten Gentoo working, but if you want to compile all of your software to be optimized for your specific hardware, that’s the OS for you. Slack is what I cut my teeth on, and it’s about as barebones as you can get before diving into masochistic distributions like Dettux.

        2. Skye says:


          I’m a huge geek+IT worker+ cut my teeth as a helpdesk worker.

          I have a collection- a large collection- of errors that cropped up and had enormously self defeating help messages. “Keyboard not found- press any key” “Mouse not found- Click okay” and one of my favorites, “Network Interface Card error- would you like to update drivers?”

      2. Mari says:

        See, the thing is, that’s what everyone said about Red Hat and Yellow Dog and Debian and Fedora and … need I go on? Every distro I’ve tried has had ardent supporters that said, “No, no problem. You just burn the live disc and you boot from it and it just works and life is beautiful and your computer will fart rainbows and glitter gushes out of the keys at every keystroke. And freedom. And justice. And other buzzwords.”

        I’m not a novice though I claim no great degree of proficiency with computers. And I’m totally into electronics that fart rainbows. My “Nook Pad” farts rainbows, in fact, thanks to rooting it with Cyanogenmod. My point being, I’m not totally incompetent at this stuff. Yet, somehow, every distro of Linux hates me.

        1. Lalaland says:

          They hate us all equally it’s just that some are upfront about it (the aforementioned Gentoo but I still love it anyway) and others that hide it behind smiley icons and cute names like Ubuntu.

          You’re not missing much unless you want an O/S parents and family can’t break or have a really old notebook that needs freshening up and you have no install media for XP. The live disks are mostly useful for ‘How painful will this be?’ testing, if the live disc hates your notebook/PC the actual installer probably will to.

    2. Alex the Too Old says:

      I’ve had the same experience with *nix OSes as Mari. Yes, I’m a tech person, but “computers” is a big enough field now that it can no longer be assumed that just because your job takes place on a computer and requires a technical degree, you know how to rip apart and fix an OS. (I used to know how to do that to Windows, but I’ve been happy to let those skills atrophy in exchange for not having to fix Windows any more.)

      Although I must say, the Ubuntu Desktop Guide at is a vast improvement on, say, even for-profit printed books available for any distro a decade ago. (The installation guide, on the other hand, is your standard wall of text written by a non-native speaker.) When I tried installing SUSE in college, for instance, the documentation was entirely focused on messing around with the file system and customizing system settings; the question “how do I get this to do anything useful?” was never answered during my few days of trying.

      1. Lalaland says:

        +1 I even bought the boxed SUSE version that came with manuals (remember those?) which were more or less man pages printed out for me :(

    3. Deadfast says:

      I never understood what people’s deal with XP64 was. I switched to it shortly after SP1 was released and have been using it until Windows 7 came out. I have never had any issues with it.

      1. Lalaland says:

        It doesn’t get updated so you’ve probably an awful lot of unpatched exploit avenues on your box; crappy USB and peripheral support (almost no-one tests XP64 and drivers can be tortuous to obtain) and it’s task scheduler/memory manager is really rather rubbish at dealing with multiple cores and large amounts of RAM.

        I have a number of customers who are stuck with this because of really expensive software and they cannot wait to leave until their ISV updates the application they’re stuck however.

        1. Mari says:

          No, actually it does get updated. I was still getting updates as recently as Dec. 15, 2011. Long after Microsoft stopped “officially” supporting it. Virtually nobody ELSE supported it, but it strangely kept getting M$ updates.

          For the record, here are the issues *I* had with XP-64. I make no claims that these are universal issues but they are the reasons I grew to despise that OS.
          *Old games: I play a lot of these. About half of them worked on XP-64. So far, since upgrading to Win7 I have not come across an unplayable game, not even the really fracking old ones. I have no idea exactly why this is so, since I’m running Win 7 in 64-bit as well, so it’s clearly not an issue of “well, 64-bit just doesn’t support old 16-bit games.”
          *My mouse(s): Again, I have no clue WHY this was an issue but I went through so freaking many mice it was disturbing. I’ve no idea why but for some reason XP-64 just shat itself a couple of times a day and could not grasp how to use my mouse anymore. Similarly, three keyboards – all with different connections to the computer ranging from PS2 to USB would suddenly stop working for anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes at a time several times a day.
          *BSODs: yes, they happen. And kudos to XP-64 for usually being able to recover from them without a hard reboot. But the fact that they happened at least once or twice a week is kind of crazy. I haven’t seen a BSOD on this Win7 system since I got it, which is kind of the way life should be. BSODs should be reserved for, I dunno, horrible problems. Not the OS’s way of saying “I’m tired now” which generally seemed to be the message with XP-64.
          *Memory: it was certainly no Vista but XP-64 was a huge memory hog. Running the same programs on Win7 uses about 1/3 less memory than on XP-64.
          *Drivers for all: XP-64 drivers range from sucky to non-existent. Win7 drivers have just been there every time I’ve added a new device. My “Nook Pad.” My phone. Whatever mouse I decide to use. Monitors. You name it.
          *Multi-core processor: I suspect this was the reason for many of my BSODs but can’t say for certain. What I do know is that I never got the performance from my multi-core processor that I should have because XP-64 was never quite sure how to handle it. I’m just grateful that we never tried to run XP-64 on the hubs’ system (TWO dual-core processors, imagine the poop exploding from that system on XP-64)

          So, yeah, I was quite happy to finally make the switch. No, Win7 isn’t the shiniest thing in the universe to me, but I’m much happier with it than I was with XP-64.

  20. klasbo says:

    So my computer is just weird then. Because I have two C: drives. It alternates between C: and G:, depending on what OS I boot.

    Also, I despised windows 7 initially, but mostly just because they tried to “hide” a lot of the “advanced” features behind “intuitive” interfaces. But then I realized how everything just works in win7 (no need to install generic drivers, fewer program crashes, etc). And then I discovered Ultimate Windows Tweaker.

    1. Mari says:

      My only real complaint at this point with Win 7 is that I can’t reorganize my Start Menu the way I want it anymore without piddling around in files that users have no business piddling around in. It’s proven to be quite stable and flexible once I put all the advanced controls back in plain sight again.

      A very minor secondary complaint is their silly “user account control” scheme. Really, they want me to confirm that I want to allow a program I deliberately installed on the computer (note that the OS should know it was a deliberate install since I confirmed that fact TWICE during install) to write to my hard drive every freaking time I launch it. I can turn that off, but doing so turns off ALL notifications of anything trying to write to my drive. There’s no middle ground that I can find in the settings. Either anything can write willy-nilly without my noticing or every time I try to launch, say, Dungeon Keeper 2 I have to promise all over again that “yes, I really do want to launch that and it’s ok for it to then write to my hard drive.” I get the concept and it’s not a huge hassle, just a single button click, but it’s still stupid and there’s no excuse for the lack of middle ground there.

      1. Mak says:

        Try explicitly running it as an Administrator (right-click, [Run as Admin]) and see if that fixes your problem. :)
        Most of the time it’s the program trying to do something that requires running as an administrator after the installation process has finished.

      2. Blake says:

        There is this little app that disables the elevation prompts but leaves the rest enabled. I agree there should be more fine grained controls, but it’s a bit better at least.

      3. Kyte says:

        This thinking is extremely dangerous. Just because you let it in your computer doesn’t mean you wanna let it have full control of it. If your software’s asking for elevation during normal execution, it’s because it’s trying to do something it should’ve done during installation. It’s simple as that.

        (For one, UAC doesn’t tell you for what d’you need the elevation, so I will outright disbelieve it’s just “to write something in the HDD”. Unless your program enjoys scribbling in Program Files on every launch (which it shouldn’t, that’s why Application Data exists)).

        In fact, Linux does the same thing. And OSX. And every other modern sane OS in the world. Just because you let the maid work on your house doesn’t mean he gets the right to tear it down if he wanna.

        1. WJS says:

          The issue is that Microsoft insist (or insisted up until 7) that everything should be installed into Program Files, and a lot of older games use their install directory for config files (and even save games in some cases). I never install anything in Program Files, and I pretty much only get UAC prompts when I should. That the default way of installing things is such a headache is totally insane.

  21. Neko says:

    Welcome to the Ubuntu community, I hope you find your stay pleasant.

    I suspect you know this already, but the Ubuntu Wiki is very helpful and well organised. If you enjoy tweaking your OS, there’s plenty of ways to do that (e.g. 10.04, 11.04, 11.10).

    And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, Shamus, but just as a PSA: A lot of guides you see on the net throw shell commands at you. A lot of the time, it’s just easier to explain them that way than taking lots of pictures of the GUI and meticulously explaining what button to click. Especially as those buttons change from version to version – the terminal is much more predictable. However, don’t just blindly type whatever a blog or forum post tells you to. It’s still possible to sneak something harmful in there. If you don’t know what a command does, try “man [command]”.

    If you know you want a command to do something but you don’t know what it’s called, try “apropos [command]”. Get out of the Windows habit of downloading software from random websites and see if it’s in the Software Centre or Synaptic instead. Chances are, it’s all neatly packaged up for you already. You won’t find an “Excel” or a “WinAmp” here, but you will find spreadsheets and music players – check the Linux Alternatives list.

    Gaming is possible, it’s just not the thrilling roller-coaster ride of win32 land. The Linux Game Tome lists quite a few compatible games of varying quality, is a bit prettier to look at, and the WineHQ AppDB will give you an idea of how playable a particular game will be under Wine.

    Finally, the little things no-one tells you but I can’t live without: Holding Alt lets you grab a window anywhere on its surface with the left button and move it. I think the Gnome default lets you resize from anywhere with Alt and the middle mouse button, but I much prefer the RMB for that and using Super (“Command” (“Windows”)) as the modifier key. Quickly copying and pasting text is as simple as highlighting it and then clicking the middle button in your destination. The tab key in the shell will auto-complete things for you. Symlinks to a file or directory can be created with ctrl-shift-dragging it in Nautilus or “ln -s [thing to link to] [name for the link]” and are a much much more powerful “link to a file” than Windows’ Shortcuts, which are really much more similar to our .desktop Launchers. File selection dialogs are generally not full-featured Windows Explorer instances, and as such you can do sane things like drag a file into the dialog to choose that file rather than copy it there.

    1. Z says:

      That is a great post, and a very comprehensive summary. I really hope Shamus reads it, and clicks on a couple of links there.

      But a quick word to windows users, especially those whose livelihood involves typing. This:

      Quickly copying and pasting text is as simple as highlighting it and then clicking the middle button in your destination. the single greatest UI feature, and I miss it dearly whenever I have to use windows. Why doesn’t it just work? Why must I fiddle with menus or hotkeys, when I could just magically paste things around?

      This feature has been part of X window since the eighties. Is there anything to make something like this work in windows? Why isn’t it just standard?

      Seriously, once you use this, you will wonder how you ever lived without it. It’s like copy-pasting using telepathy.

      1. Zukhramm says:

        Get’s in the way of scrolling for me. And I do that a lot more than I copy-paste.

      2. KremlinLaptop says:

        Oh god. Don’t remind me. That’s one of those conveniences that I dearly miss and while I suppose ctrl-c and ctrl-v are fairly handy they’re nowhere close to the handiness of highlight copy-middle click paste.

    2. Peter H. Coffin says:

      Quickly copying and pasting text is as simple as highlighting it and then clicking the middle button in your destination.

      Grab any random assortment of mouses. Identify left, right, and middle buttons by looking. Find pictures of keyboards of any six laptops by different manufacturers. Point to the middle button on at least four of six.

      1. Z says:

        Clicking both left+right buttons together sends a middle click, on any mouse, on any linux/unix/X, AFAIK. Even laptops. So, if you can find those, you’re set.

    3. X2Eliah says:

      Not to start anything, but this is also a great post solidly confirming my belief that I – as an end-user and common consumer-person – don’t want ANYTHING to do with ubuntus, kubuntus, linuxes, unixes and other xxx’s. I just want an OS that, you know, lets me do things without me having to wrestle with it.

      1. WJS says:

        Maybe computers aren’t your thing, then. Because no OS is perfect. A lot of people find Windows is the one that you have to “wrestle with” to make it do stuff.

  22. Narcolapser says:

    I’ve been working myself over to Ubuntu for the last two years. I now consider it my primary OS and my XP boot to be my secondary gaming boot. I’m not fond of having these as seperate systems, but some games just don’t run unless I’m in windows. Doesn’t stop me from trying though. I’ve got EVE running on Ubuntu, that’s one of the more important ones. If only I could get League of Legends running and Tribes Ascend.

    The fact that anything runs at all is truely quite impressive. WinE can provide access to the hardware for most programs making them run about as fast as windows most of the time. Good luck trying to do that the other way around. Making Linux native programs run at full speed on windows. HA!

  23. Stranger says:

    See, I don’t use Windows 7 because for some reason it doesn’t like some of my older games. I tried installing them on a “newer, fresher” computer a while back . . . these are old gems of mine which weren’t DOS games, but ancient Windows 95 . . . or in one case, Windows 3.1. They simply will not run properly in Windows 7. One of them (XWing vs. TIE Fighter) won’t even properly install on XP for some reason.

    On another hand, one of the games I did want to introduce my dad to (“Tunnels of Doom Reboot”, an update in Java of an old game we both enjoyed wasting time on for days at a time) . . . will not work for some reason on Win7. Granted, it has a few oddities which crop up anyway but this time it simply won’t run.

    Also add to the pot that I also don’t have the money to run out and just GET Win7. (And when I did have it, I was instead more interested in updating an aging graphics card to play StarCraft 2.)

    Final dash of spice? I’ve played around in Windows 7 and couldn’t put my finger on anything in particular I thought I needed to have for the computer I had. (This was solved for me differently, though.)

    All of this contributes to me mostly just keeping with Win XP.

    . . . and then I had to replace a computer which died mysteriously (I never did figure out what died in that box) with an Intel Mac Mini because it was a better deal for what I needed. That would be a replacement “now” as opposed to “two to five months later after saving more money”. I haven’t entirely regretted the decision itself, with two exceptions:

    – I can’t do Skyrim, according to specs this is due to the integrated video card not having enough RAM available. This means I will be locked out of newer games because my video card memory is not good enough.
    – A game I *do* want to play is on its way and I fear I will not be able to run it SOLELY on the weakness of the integrated video card.

    Note the common problem in those two, and it’s why I wound up digging out my shoebox of old CD-Rom games to enjoy rather than buy new games. It’s funny, people keep touting to me how deep newer games are, but sometimes I find older games are more complex in how they feel and an have a *lot* more hours of playtime in them without padding. Or at the least, FEELING like it’s padding.

    1. rofltehcat says:

      Sometimes I still wonder why there is no VM built into windows that lets you boot (free) versions of their old operation systems.

      It would solve sooo many compatibility issues…

      1. Marauder says:

        “Sometimes I still wonder why there is no VM built into windows that lets you boot (free) versions of their old operation systems.

        It would solve sooo many compatibility issues…”

        It’s called “Windows XP Mode” and it’s available with Windows 7 Professional and higher, allowing you to download a Windows XP VM from Microsoft…

        1. Stranger says:

          I seem to recall reading that it simply doesn’t work as easily as simply . . . well, partitioning a dual boot for Windows XP would be?

  24. Infinitron says:

    Heh. I was just about ready to bump you 20 bucks, Shamus, but somebody beat me to the punch and then some.
    Have fun with your new OS.

    1. KremlinLaptop says:

      Kudos to the anonymous person who donated such a sum. I’m sure we would all have pitched in just so we could sit on our asses and giggle while Shamus installs another operating system. Hope you enjoy Win7, Shamus.

      …Gooble gobble! We accept him! One of us! One of us!

      1. James Schend says:

        He’s being penny-wise and pound-foolish by saying, “XP wasted an entire day of my time, but I’m not going to spend $100 for Windows 7.” Seriously? An entire day of your time isn’t worth $100?

        It’s hard for me to have sympathy for people who can’t see the big picture. Glad other people donated, by my inclination is just to remove this feed from my RSS… every time Shamus talks about anything tech, he goes into “grumpy old man” mode, and it’s annoying.

        1. Soylent Dave says:

          You don’t think that last part might be because he is a grumpy old man?

          1. James Schend says:

            Could be, but he doesn’t usually *sound* like one.

            1. Soylent Dave says:

              I dunno – Spoiler Warning, Piracy, changes in technology, demanding we get off his lawn…

              There’s a definite theme emerging in the way Shamus addresses each of these issues.

        2. Dys says:

          I suspect that if he had one of those special machines where you turn the handle for a few hours and $100 slides out of the end, this point would actually be valid.

          Time does not actually equal money except in very specific circumstances. Arguably there may have been ways to spend that time which would eventually result in a net gain, but the fact remains that the expense would still come first, with potential remuneration at some possible future time.

          Equally, even if that equation were valid, it works just as well in reverse. Rather than failing to spend money to save time, he actually spent time to save money.

          All of the above is predicated upon the assumption that a win7 install would be entirely flawless and hassle free, requiring no expenditure of time. Which is frankly unlikely.

          1. KremlinLaptop says:

            Also it sort of assumes I would spend the time I save by doing X in an easier, faster and more costly manner, then recouping the losses during the time I saved.

            …Yeah. Frankly, I can’t imagine very many of us are so vital and important that we can value ourselves in this fashion. I can admit I’m just not that important in the world and… I’m fine with that, really.

            1. Bubble181 says:

              Quite the opposite, in my mind, really. I have to work a good day to have €120. I work 200+ hours a month. I have waaayyy too little free time. What free time I do have, I want to spend usefully (by relaxing or having fun. It’s a strange way to say, but it IS the useful way to spend my free time.). Given the choice between spending €90 or losing 4 or 5 hours, I’ll spend the money. Obviously, this is at a different point for everyone – ease-of-use and time gain vs saving money; where the balance falls depends on a lot of things. Very few of us treck out into the wood to chop a tree to have a log to turn into a new bowl if you can just buy a bowl at €0.75 in you local Walmart or whatever. On the other hand, doing the dishes half an hour, or paying someone €50 to come over and do them for you, or throwing out the old dishes and buying new ones every time, is pretty much a gigantic waste according to everyone with a normal amount of money.

              Just saying….I tend to agree with the people saying it’s unfair to compare a 10-year-old Windows installation with a 6 months old Ubuntu installation; especially the phrase “(You know how Windows need to “think” for about five seconds before it will delete even the most trivial file? You know how it takes Windows a minute to boot, and then ANOTHER minute to stop thrashing around so you can use the machine? Ubuntu does not have these issues.)” irked me…because, youk now, Win7 *doesn’t* do that anymore.
              On the other hand, I do think it’s absolutely Shamus’ choice what OS he uses. I use Vista, it’s better than XP for my needs, but I admit it’s a crappy OS.

              Still, I look forward to the next few rants about the installation woes of Win7. I’m sure they’ll be a fun read. I do hope Shamus keeps an open mind though – a lot of things can be interpreted two ways (“easier to use” and “lack of options/options hidden”). Construing the same or similar things differently in Ubuntu and Win7 would be a shame, but a failing I’ve seen quite a few other bloggers make, because of blinders about Windows and MS.

              1. delve says:

                “the phrase “(You know how Windows need to “think” for about five seconds before it will delete even the most trivial file? You know how it takes Windows a minute to boot, and then ANOTHER minute to stop thrashing around so you can use the machine? Ubuntu does not have these issues.)” irked me…because, youk now, Win7 *doesn't* do that anymore.”

                Just to disagree, my win7 laptop takes several seconds longer to delete a file than my much older, much less powerful winXP laptop. Why? I’ll be damned if I know but I promise you it’s incredibly annoying. Hell I can’t even open a directory via desktop shortcut within 5 minutes of bootup without being faced with a progress bar. To open a local directory. Imagine that.

                Bloody worthless OS.

                1. Bubble181 says:

                  Huh. I have to say ,that sort of problems are incredibly common with XP, Vista and earlier iterations (heck, on my laptop I’m typing on now, opening Chrome on start-up takes about a minute…), but I’ve only heard that type of problem *very* rarely in relation to Win7. Lack of options, disagreeing with some stylistic choices, networking issues, vulnerabilities, memory hog, all kinds of things (to be perfectly clear: I don’t think Win7 is very good at all – just “better” than Win7 because it’s more modern and, therefore, more adapted to newer hardware and some new things you might want to do with a pc), but you’re pretty much the first to tell me that problem is ported over too.

                  Nuts. Crappy Microsoft prodcuts *grump*

                  1. krellen says:

                    There are a number of things that could lead to more slowness with 7 than with XP; XP runs faster on less cores, for instance (if you have a single or dual-core processor, XP will likely run faster than 7.) XP runs better with less RAM (if you’ve got 2G or less, XP will probably run better than 7.) XP runs better on integrated graphics or low-end graphics cards (though disabling Aero can go far to bridge this gap.)

                    7 is not empirically better in all instances.

                  2. delve says:

                    I assume you mean ‘better’ than XP. I can agree with why you think that because it’s true. Largely 7 should be an improvement over XP however it is, in my case, not. Maybe I’m the only person experiencing slow down related to HDD operations, or maybe I’m the only person that thinks it’s worth noting because every prior version of Windows has had these issues. All I can say for sure is that it’s at best no better than my old XP laptop and at worst I might as well brew a cup of tea while I wait. Bearing in mind that this laptop came with win7 pre-installed I’d say that’s pretty damned pitiful.

                    1. Bubble181 says:

                      I’m actually wondering as to how much it’s just that second one – people are used to it from previous windows….
                      You’ve got my sympathies, at least, and that IS pretty crappy for pre-installed.

        3. Shamus says:

          You think that’s annoying? You should try having anonymous people make presumptuous statements about your tools and your finances, claiming you can’t “see the big picture”.

          1. Bubble181 says:

            Watch out, or you’ll get the “Anonymous is always right” idiots on your scent ;-)

          2. Soylent Dave says:

            I bet you can’t though:

            The Big Picture


        4. Squash says:

          See you. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  25. Atarlost says:

    I just want you to know you’re not alone in using XP.

    1. Raygereio says:

      Same here.
      Heck up until just a month ago I still had a computer running with win98.

      1. Darkness says:

        I have a laptop with Win98 to run Panzer General and to burn EPROMs. I have a Win95 laptop in the basement but there is no real use for it.

  26. Rosseloh says:

    No worries about XP (Although that is very nice of whoever donated you enough for a copy of 7!). I work at a computer shop, and we reinstall XP all the freakin time, because we’re sure as hell not putting vista out there on any of our used machines. On my personal machine I only upgraded to 7 because I wanted DirectX 10 support, and as a college student I could get it for $30.

    Anyway, yeah, sounds like you had some fun. I should shake a finger at you for just randomly deleting things, but it’s a good lesson to learn I guess.

    Oh, and for anyone’s benefit: USB support is motherboard dependent, not the Windows installer. If you don’t have USB support in your installation, open up your BIOS setup (usually F1 or F2 while the computer is starting) and check for the “Legacy USB support” option. We have to turn that on all the time.

    As for Ubuntu, well, I don’t particularly care for it, but it’s definitely got it’s niche as an introduction to Linux. I currently have Debian on my laptop (trying it out since I don’t have anything important on there and can reinstall anytime), so for a lot of stuff I’m seeing the same thing you are. Although when it’s work related I tend to do a lot from the command line so it makes very little difference what distro I’m in anyway, and everything else I use my laptop for is through Chrome.

  27. Hitch says:

    Okay, do your sanity a favor. When you first switch from XP to 7 some things will seem weird and stupid. Mainly because 7 has a lot of “user convenience” features that you “don’t need.” You’ve been getting along fine in XP until now, so why change? Trust me, give it a couple months to get used to the changes and you’ll actually start to appreciate why they did some of the things they did. If you complain publicly about them, you’ll just get people complaining that you know nothing about computers because you don’t appreciate the obvious superiority of 7. And die hard XP users arguing in your defense. So if you DO want OS flavor flame wars, ignore my advice.

    1. KremlinLaptop says:

      Finding all the incredibly annoying things that are meant to ‘protect’ the user from their own stupidity and disabling them will alleviate a lot of this frustration.

      Nothing annoys me as much as a million pop-ups asking me if I REALLY want to let so and so do so and so on my computer. Yes! I said so! I said so twice! Let it do what it wants to do!

      …See, now all of us who were lauding Win7 will begin bitching about what we dislike.

      1. Rosseloh says:

        Yeah, first step for me on a new 7 install (for personal or work use) is to disable UAC.

        1. Hitch says:

          I don’t know about that. They’ve toned it down a lot since Vista was first released. (Note: 7 is basically Vista.1. They took Vista and sanded off all the rough edges and made it work right, but Vista had such a bad reputation that they had to rename it to get people to try it.) I guess it would still be a bit annoying, mainly because of programs that don’t behave themselves and let the OS know that they’re trusted after the first time you allow them to do their thing. But I’ve had more than one occasion when that UAC dialog popped up and said, “Do you want this extremely dangerous and bogus sounding program (that I never invoked) to make changes to your hard drive?” I just wish there was a “Hell no!” button for those.

          1. Thomas says:

            Thing is, Microsoft didn’t design it as a security feature. The idea was, because it puts people off, that devs would begin to work harder to make sure their programs don’t need any high level permissions, which meant the programs were less exploitable (or something, I’m not techy, there’s an Ars Technia article on it somewhere, complaining how they did this and then designed a system that let MS programs ask for higher permissions without triggering the warning)

          2. Kdansky says:

            Amusingly, the windows numbers go like this:

            NT: 4.0
            XP: 5.0
            Vista: 6.0
            Windows 7: 6.1

            Because everyone had to recompile their software for Vista, and MS didn’t want to break all those programs which checked for the number incorrectly (such as only the first digit, which was very common), and they didn’t want to break all the drivers (again). Despite this, 7 and Vista have significant differences.

            1. Marauder says:

              Close, NT 5.0 was actually Windows 2000. Windows XP’s internal version number is 5.1. :-)

        2. Kyte says:

          In this day and age, any program that asks for UAC in normal execution is either
          a) performing stuff that needs admin, or
          b) poorly designed.

    2. Infinitron says:


      Shamus: Make sure to enable ‘Display Control Panel as menu’ in your start menu options.

    3. krellen says:

      I still want to slap whomever it was that decided the menu item should be “Devices and Printers” instead of “Printers and Devices”.

      1. Soylent Dave says:

        Haha – I hadn’t noticed that one.

        I do like the little pictures of all my devices (and printers), instead of generic icons, just in case I’ve forgotten what they’re called. That’s er, useful…

      2. Zukhramm says:

        Doesn’t “Devices and Printers” make a lot more sense? Why even mention printers at all? Printers are already devices.

        1. krellen says:

          I want to do something with a printer (we use a lot of printers at work; we work with the disabled, with medical records, and with poor clients, all of which make paper records very very useful). I used to be able to go to “Printers and Faxes” to do things with my printers. Now, instead of looking in the Ps to do something to my printer (which are still the most common devices), I have to look in the Ds.

          I’m a power user. I can handle that. Most of my coworkers are not, and large portions of them still can’t find their printers on their own. It was a stupid decision and completely unintuitive.

          1. zootie says:

            The amusing thing is that those menu icons are all shortcut files. You could make like 10 for each different device type and Windows would suffer no issues at all. So having “All Devices”, then “Printers” “Thumbdrives” “Scanners” etc. is perfectly feasible, perfectly harmless, and very helpful to the user. But I bet MS spent entire weeks worth of meetings reorganizing the Start menu to “maximize efficiency”, whereas in this instance, the exact opposite would be beneficial to the end user.
            By the bye, you can create said shortcuts for the user via network policy, I believe. If you’re in that type of environment, that is.

          2. Zukhramm says:

            I was not aware that printers were so common.

            Devices and Printers appears on the start menu for me, but I might have put it there myself and forgot about it.

        2. KremlinLaptop says:

          Would it be perhaps better if it said, “Peripheral Devices” instead? I’d prefer that.

          Edit: Okay, Krellen has a good point. I can just imagine the number of my friends who would have called me to ask what in the world a “Peripheral” is and what does it do.

    4. Gravebound says:

      Disable Aero Snap

      I also wanted to know if there is a way to replicate what I do in XP, where you can drag a folder to the sides of the desktop and create a pseudo-taskbar that hides until you mouse near it. It is where I keep my less-used icons so they don’t clutter the desktop.

      1. KremlinLaptop says:

        You could do that in XP? Damn. Now I find out.

        I was once perplexed when a co-worker didn’t know about alt-tabbing, but then it occurred to me… if no one shows you or tells you about there is nothing in windows, except maybe the Help files but who looks at those, that would tell you about it.

      2. zootie says:

        Sort of. You can create a new Toolbar on the Taskbar, but you can’t drag it off to one side or the top of the window anymore (at least I haven’t been able to).

        However, if it’s to a fixed drive, you will get a >> control which gives you a Start menu-style popup menu from the Toolbar. If it’s to a removable drive (my stuff is on an encrypted file which requires login, so Windows doesn’t see it at startup) you will only sometimes get that >> control. You can still right-click and Open Folder on the Toolbar though, so it’s a gimpy but workable solution.

        1. Gravebound says:

          Thanks. Not a perfect solution, but it does free up space like I wanted. Now I just have to force myself to adapt to it. :/

          Any way to make the ‘>>’ button wider?

  28. rofltehcat says:

    Remembers me somehow of my PC:
    I got Windows on my C, completely normal. It is a SSD drive so it should start up very quickly. Somehow, it boots with the same speed as if it were on my data disk (E).
    If I remove the data disk (E), normally my PC should still boot, right? Nope. My whole Windows is on C but somehow it can’t boot Win7 without E (full of movies and games).

    So… somehow, Windows placed something (more or less) essential on my E drive. I don’t know why it should ever do this, but… fuck you, Microsoft!

    1. James Schend says:

      It placed NTLDR, by default, on whatever HD your BIOS labels as “HD0.” You can move it easily, Google for instructions– that’s probably the problem.

      I agree it’s kind of a bad design– what it should do is temporarily install NTLDR to “HD0” for the first setup reboot, then move it to your Windows disk automatically, but I guess Microsoft figured the situation wouldn’t come up, or wouldn’t bother people, as much as it has.

  29. susie day says:

    I switched to Ubuntu for many of the same reasons that Shamus lists, it just works better in so many ways, it has intelligent errors, and it has a sense of humor. When I use Windows now, I’m constantly frustrated … WHY, Windows? WHY?!

    Sure, Windows 7 fixed a lot of XP’s problems, but the underlying structure and philosophy is still the same.It still takes a couple seconds to think about deleting a file, it still assumes that I don’t know how to use a computer, and you can’t copy and paste from error messages.

    I dual boot right now between 7 and Mint, plus my little netbook which is running an old version of Ubuntu.

    Oh! and once you’ve installed linux + windows … linux’s bootloader is smart enough to let you keep your install even if it’s on the secondary drive. I have four hard drives in my computer right now, and GRUB deals with booting my different operating systems off of different drives.

  30. Soylent Dave says:

    Shamus –

    I asked this one on Twitter, but I suspect it might have a longer answer than 140 characters…

    Why dual boot? Is it ‘just because’, or is there another benefit?

    Is it “I really want a Ubuntu OS, but lots of my software demands windows”? (And if that’s the case, is dual booting better than virtualisation?)

    Not that ‘just because’ isn’t a valid answer, but I’ve been wondering if there’s more to it – I can find lots of stuff HOW to set up a dual boot, but not a lot of stuff on WHY I would want to.

    (people who aren’t Shamus feel free to answer as well)

    1. Elec0 says:

      ‘Just because’ is actually a completely valid answer. The idea of having a Windows and Linux OS that you can choose between at runtime is a nice one. If something goes pear-shaped with your Windows OS, you can boot into Linux and maybe get your files back without having to worry about Windows. There might also be some programs and tools that run on Linux and not Windows. Or maybe you could just want it just to want it, for the curiosity factor.

      1. KremlinLaptop says:

        Also for programmers developing programs that are supposed to work on multiple systems it’s very important. There are real reasons.

        For your regular user? I can’t think of many besides the novelty of it and then say preferring a Linux OS over Windows, but wanting to say play videogames still.

        1. Soylent Dave says:

          There are real reasons

          So for testing OS compatibility and so forth?

          Is it markedly better than OS virtualisation?

          Any other reasons?

          (this is genuine curiosity – there’s loads of stuff on dual booting on the internet, but it’s all ‘how’ and not enough ‘why’)

          1. KremlinLaptop says:

            …Why you gotta ask such hard questions, man?

            I had a dual boot setup years and years ago with Debian and WinXP, the only reason for that was because the fairly large local network at the time was all based around a linux server and some other messiness that Windows didn’t play so nicely with (which all could have been sorted with a bit of effort, I reckon.).

            Although 99% of the time I could do what I needed to do by connecting to said server using PuTTY instead of booting to Debian anyway.

      2. Soylent Dave says:

        Oh I can definitely appreciate doing something with a PC just to see if you can, or just because it’s difficult or interesting or any number of other ‘just because’ reasons.

  31. Chris says:

    Shamus is running Windows XP?!

    Pfff, I’ve been running Windows Vista. For four years. XP is a stable, modern operating system in comparison.

    1. krellen says:

      Dude, I’m so sorry.

    2. KremlinLaptop says:

      That explains why the comments system gave you an avatar that looks like that…

    3. Nimas says:

      Wow, I’m actually surprised no one has started a whole “uphill both ways” quote here. Probably something to do with NT or somesuch

    4. Irridium says:

      I used to run Windows Vista.

      Then I took a Windows 7 in the hard drive.

      1. KremlinLaptop says:

        Boo! Old meme! Boo!

        (Okay, so it made me chuckle actually.)

    5. Lalaland says:

      I never got the Vista hate, post SP2 it’s a stable modern O/S too that is a bit RAM hoggy but with 4GB is perfectly smooth. Never had any instability issues versus XP but then I only made the switch post SP2. I run Win7 now but I kept that Vista install around for quite a while until SP1 for Win7 came out.

      That being said I saw lots of friends who were screwed with Vista on the i945 chipset which never fully supported WDDM 1.0 or the DX10 2D bits. They were typically underpowered and bloody slow but that had more to do with their anemic hardware specs than the O/S itself (Pentium D, Pentium M et al).

      1. krellen says:

        “with 4GB is perfectly smooth.”

        That might be the issue – having 4GB of RAM is less common than you think, especially among consumers.

        1. Lalaland says:

          Good point an awful lot of boxes were shipped w/2GB and Vista does hate that

    6. RTBones says:

      The OS wars are something I’ve never really understood.

      Case in point: I know the community here (regards the room with a wry smile) will remember a ‘short lived’ OS called Windows ME. It was largely derided as an organic waste product with more bugs and issues than features. It may have been disparaged even more than Vista.

      And yet – for reasons known only to the cosmos, the Windows ME installation I had simply worked. While I did have my issues with it at the time, they were primarily design decisions made by Microsoft and not OS issues. On my machine, it was stable, quick, responsive. I didn’t have a BSOD problem – the machine just ran and ran well.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Oh god!Why did you remind me!I had ME for half a year once.And it crashed more than all of the other systems I had before and since combined!That was a dreadful chapter of my life.

  32. Dys says:

    So what have we learned from these comments…

    We have learned that windows is slower than linux, but more likely to work out of the box. We have learned that linux is a superior os, but incapable of running the full range of PC games. We have learned that people care passionately about the choices they have made in this arena. Speculatively, because they are secretly aware of their champions’ weaknesses and in dark moments wonder if perhaps they chose poorly. We also learned that internet people love Shamus enough to give him shiny things.

    None of the above is in the least bit surprising.
    Personally I have win7 because the only thing I use the PC for is gaming, so linux in any form would be functionally useless.

    The day a critical game pops up which has been developed for linux and will not run in windows, that is the day I will consider a dual boot. Until then, it’d be nothing but a waste of space.

    1. MelTorefas says:

      Well said, sir. I find myself in 100% agreement with you.

  33. Kdansky says:

    1. “Don’t give me crap about not using Windows 7”
    2. “XP can do everything just fine!”
    3. Not worth 100$
    5. 500 lines of angry rants about XP’s limitations.
    6. Spent one day on fixing crap, essentially costing more than the price of 7.

    And you wonder why people give you a hard time? Most of what you complain about is significantly better in Windows 7. I would never want to go back to XP any more. Never. I’d rather switch to Ubuntu.

    1. Kdansky says:

      Oh, I forgot something important: It sounds like you tried to install a fresh Windows XP 1.0, which of course will be a huge pain in the ass. Did you know that XP 1.0 doesn’t even support USB 2.0 ports? Like, at all? No wonder you had such problems.

      You can (though it requires a lot of work) create an install DVD with the newest service packs and patches. That will result in a much smoother install experience.

      But especially the installer is unbelievably better in 7 than in XP.

    2. krellen says:

      I don’t know about you, but I don’t make $100 a day. I’m pretty sure Shamus doesn’t at the moment either.

      1. Kdansky says:

        100$ a day is less than minimum wage around here (Switzerland). As an Engineer, I do get paid better than that.

        And if you’re not an Engineer, then you’ve made a career mistake. ;)

        1. krellen says:

          Well, in the US, minimum wage (at least Federally; some states and municipalities have their own individual minimum wages) is about $45/day.

      2. Klay F. says:

        And yet (I’m willing to bet) the majority of people here are willing to spend $60 on a product that is essentially useless (i.e. videogames).

        1. Zukhramm says:

          They’re no useless, they provide entertainment. Also, I do not buy one a day.

          1. Klay F. says:

            Ah yes how did our proto-human ancestors ever survive without entertainment.

            You don’t buy a game a day? So are you then buying one new operating system a day? Because otherwise what you just said is meaningless.

            1. Kdansky says:

              I’m still completely convinced that at least 99% of all humanity has absolutely no clue how to allocate money. Every time I go to an ATM, I hear some people go something like “Ohmygod, it’s the 25th and my wages are not yet in my account?! How am I going to buy groceries?!” to which I have to say: If you have a job that pays regular wages, and your account balance is exactly 0 (or less), then you are spending too much money! It’s actually really easy to keep your finances in check: Don’t spend more than you have. There, done.

              Spend money on stuff that impacts you daily. Don’t buy crap you never use. A great keyboard is totally worth it, but you probably don’t really need a remote controlled plane with a camera, even if it looks absolutely awesome. The OS is in the former category.

              Less serious story: I know a guy who was so cheap, he stayed at the cheapest hostel in Rome, only to spend more than three hours a day hiking between the city and his room. Which means he essentially gave up a significant portion of his holidays to safe the tiniest sum of money.

              1. Klay F. says:

                Ever since I got my first job, I have been putting a portion of every paycheck into savings. If I have enough money leftover in checking to buy a luxury item (like a videogame), then I’m okay with making a purchase. Its as simple as that. Amazing that people don’t understand this.

            2. Zukhramm says:

              To me there’s a distinction between “not useless” and “vital to survival”.

              And no, you don’t buy an OS every day, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the amount of money compared to time, in the case, the money for an OS saving you a day of work. The total time I spend with most games is less than or at least comparable to one day.

  34. KremlinLaptop says:


    What does everyone think of Mac OS X?

    (Oh god.)

    1. Kdansky says:

      OSX is great, and you can’t game on it any better than Linux, so it’s out before we even started.

      1. Stranger says:

        The Ur-Quan Masters, Nethack, and Master of Orion 2. And Minecraft.

        . . .

        All the games i have played in the last week except Guild Wars.

        1. KremlinLaptop says:

          You know, I wish my fancypants smartphone had Nethack on it.

          1. Stranger says:

            I wish I never heard of Nethack.

            And yet . . . I keep going back habitually. Glutton for punishment?

          2. Pete says:

            My fancypants phone HAS nethack on it. Hooray for android?

            1. KremlinLaptop says:

              I was using a friend’s Android phone. It was bloody lovely.

              …I instead have a N9. No, don’t ask why I bought a phone with a dead-on-arrival OS. Probably like smartphone hipster cred or something. I’m just waiting for the hack to boot ICS on to the thing to be completed.

      2. Darkness says:

        I have 37 Steam games and some Mac specific ones. I also run about half of my Mac games on Linux. Minecraft on both of course. Although that has to wait until I get over getting killed in the Nether and losing everything. There are quite a few more I can get but the big Killer Games are mostly console stuff for me; PS2, PS3 and XBox 360.

        None of them will run on my Win98 laptop which is the newest windows I own.

        I am good with that.

      3. pHonta says:

        That’s pretty misinformed… Steam Mac catalog single-handedly rebutes that, and many Mac ports of PC games are not in Steam.

        1. WJS says:

          Err, he said “not better than Linux” not “no games whatsoever”. What the hell is with all these people saying “actually, you can have games on Mac!” No shit, but you can have games on Linux too, so no, Mac is not better in that regard.

  35. David A says:

    I have a 32 bit Vista machine that’s on it’s 6th year of life.

    The hardware has never been upgraded. It runs The Old Republic and Skyrim. I’m typing this message while watching 720p Starcraft 2 Livestream.

    It handles my programming homework like a champ. It plays every movie I want to watch and every song I want to listen to. There’s still 30gb on the ol’ harddrive, so I still have plenty of space, and god forbid, I could uninstall Crysis and get some of that space back.

    I don’t know why I would upgrade when THIS computer – which is completely paid for – works, and has always worked, and will continue to work for the foreseeable future.

    And when it comes to computer games, let me point something out: Movie theaters show films at just short of 30 frames-per-second. 30 fps is cinema quality, ok? I get between 25-30 fps for most of my games, which means it’s still completely playable.

    Spending $1,000+ on a dream machine, getting 75+ fps on a game on maxed settings, is the definition of extravagant. Once you’ve surpassed cinema quality picture, you’re bumping uglies with diminishing returns.

    I just don’t see the point in buying something brand new when you can get something old at a fraction of the cost that’s just as good.

    1. MelTorefas says:

      I pretty much thought this way until my 5 year old machine started chocking on TOR. So I bought my dream machine, and my eyes almost fell out of my head. I thought the graphics were ‘fine’ before. I had no idea.

    2. Trix2000 says:

      I thought the same way for my now-6yo computer, since it did everything I wanted. Then I upgraded to a really nice win7 with shiny hardware.

      Jaw-dropping was had, and now the older computer is relegated to browsing only. It’s just so nice to have a machine that can run anything I want it to without much fuss.

      However, I still do use the older computer. It’s very handy to keep it upstairs so I can browse up there if I want to.

    3. You are forgetting that at the cinema that each frame (of says those 24 frames) captures 1/24th of *passage of time*.

      While on a PC it’s a 1/24 *slice of time*.

      Film is based on exposure time (even digital film), while realtime rendering does not.
      You can simulate using blur effects but you are still missing passage of light over time (exposure) data.

      Then again you could do realtime rendering at like 240fps and simulate exposure and “playback” at 24fps. But most consumers don’t have that hardware yet.

    4. Simon Buchan says:

      OK, I can’t leave the “24 FPS is Cinema Quality!” meme alone – 24 FPS is COMPLETELY AWFUL. Literally the only reason 24 was ever picked was because it was the slowest that they could run the (super expensive) film and still get somewhat decent sound (which was written in a few millimeters of unused space on the right strip).

      24 FPS is why your eyes get exhausted when watching Saving Private Ryan and it’s extremely short shutter lengths (to minimize motion blur to make it look “realer”). 24 FPS is why nearly any panning means the entire scene except extreme closeup devolves into an incomprehensible blur.

      And then there’s the interactive argument: the fact that at 24 FPS you are spending 40 milliseconds in latency per frame – even in a perfectly written zero-latency engine on perfect, zero latency hardware thats blowing most people’s innate action/reaction latency (the amount of time before your brain expects to see results) – and most drivers queue up 2 or 3 frames, and most game engines need an extra frame to implement physics on your input, or two for smoothing; not to mention most input hardware adds ~10 milliseconds of latency, and LCD adds it’s own delay (unfortunately the LCD technology otherwise better in every way IPS is by far slower to TN), etc, etc…

      Anyway, the end effect is not “60 FPS has half the latency of 30 FPS” – it’s “60 FPS has 1/10-1/100 of the perceptible latency of 30 FPS”, because your brain subtracts an expected time to action.

      Also, I’m sorry, I know you don’t deserve this rant, but I can’t let someone be wrong on the internet!

      1. Kdansky says:

        Thank you for pointing this out. 24 FPS is horrible.

    5. David A says:

      My computer died on me, just this morning.

      So I’ll be getting a Win7 system too. Damn, karma’s a bitch, isn’t it?

  36. zootie says:

    Wow, how many people recommending upgrading to Windows 7 are comprehending the fact that they’re advising paying the same company that made a problem for the solution? Don’t get me wrong, I have Win7 on all machines and it is the best MS OS so far, but it took 10 solid years for MS to get from “here we go” to “ok, it generally works”. So I’m not inclined to cut them any slack on things that anyone would notice during normal usage, and especially not where those things are only addressable by giving MS more money.

    1. Infinitron says:

      What problem? XP was a fine operating system. But its time has come.

      1. Soylent Dave says:

        XP was the best operating MS had yet produced.

        That’s not quite the same as ‘fine’.

        To my mind a fine operating system doesn’t bluescreen. Ever.
        And a ‘fine’ operating system should be easier to repair than reinstall if it does break.

        (admittedly that’s not a standard I held my system to when I had XP on it, but only because I didn’t think it was possible to have a system that stable. I liked XP. I thought it was a vast improvement over previous versions of Windows – but it’s still got some pretty glaring flaws)

        Oh and obviously I waited to get a new PC before I upgraded my OS, because I’m not made of money.

        1. krellen says:

          DOS fits your requirements. I contest any claim that XP – or even 7 – was or is the best OS Microsoft ever made.

          1. I still miss Amiga OS, but looking back at it properly well. I remembered things better than they actually where.
            Win7 s basically the new XP. and Windows 9 will be the next iteration.
            Windows 8 will hopefully not get the same stigma Vista got.
            But when millions start using it all the time some design flaws always crop up.

            It seems like MicroSoft has stepped into a Tick-Tock cycle.
            Where one version will add new features galore and try and move tech forward. While the other version will improve performance, get rid of dead weight etc.

            Vista introduced new stuff. Win8 will introduce new stuff.
            Win7 improved things, Win9 will improve things.
            Unless M$ takes a 180 and introduce lots of new things in Win9 (DirectX 12 ?)

  37. Jeff says:

    Personally, I got stuck with Vista when I bought my computer, so the upgrade to Win7 was a no-brainer, especially with the ability to use additional RAM.

  38. Bryan says:

    > When it's done, Windows gives me this stupid, non-informative dialog to the effect of “The specified operation cannot be performed” or somesuch.

    Because of NTLDR or boot.ini or pagefile.sys or hiberfil.sys or some other vaguely-protected file, that’s still shared between OS installs, right? :-)

    > It says it can't find NTLDR, which means that…

    Oh dear. :-)

    FWIW, Ubuntu does something vaguely sort-of similar. Back when it used GRUB 1, it dumped a /boot/grub/stage1 and /boot/grub/<filesystem>_stage_1_5 file on the disk, which — if they ever changed physical sector locations on the hard drive — would cause the machine to become unbootable. There’s also /boot/grub/stage2, which (if deleted outright) would do the same thing.

    (The extremely-simple-by-necessity code in the first ~400 bytes or so of the master boot record isn’t big enough to include full filesystem support. All it can do is hardcode a sector offset and a size, load up the data stored there, and start running it. So that code loads up stage1, which has a similarly-hardcoded sector offset and size for the various stage_1_5 files for various filesystems, and loads them. Those eventually provide the bootloader with enough code to find stage2 using the real on-disk filesystem structures. The stage2 code loads up the menu, shows it, and boots the OS you choose.)

    Anyway, now Ubuntu uses GRUB2, which (since I don’t have it installed) I don’t know exactly what needs to stick around anywhere in the filesystem, and what needs to stick around at a fixed offset on the drive. But I’m sure that both still exist — unless the GRUB2 equivalent of stage1 and stage_1_5 are just stuck together and dumped into the space between the end of the MBR and the start of the first partition, which is possible. (Partitions can only start and end on a cylinder boundary, and the MBR is a single 512-byte sector, so there must be space between the end of the MBR and the start of the first partition. Unless you use one of the crazier new partition table formats. Hmm.)

    If the installer lets you skip activating GRUB, then the same thing will apply: the /boot/grub/* files from one OS (or whatever GRUB2 uses) will still be required to load up another OS. (You can just put the other OS into a menu entry, though.) Of course, the standard operation of the installer is to activate *its* GRUB, perhaps with menu entries for older installations, so this is *usually* less of an issue. Unless you do something weird. :-)

  39. Luke Maciak says:

    Shamus, quick – complain about having an old car, and see if someone gets annoyed enough enough to get you a free upgrade. ;)

    1. Hitch says:

      I like the way this guy thinks.

      1. Darkness says:

        THIS! Your kitchen looks terrible! Your big screen TV isn’t big!

  40. Zaxares says:

    This is TOTALLY not a dig at you for using Win XP, Shamus. I’m just amazed that you can still get away with it! Don’t most recent games only run on Windows Vista/7 these days?

    EDIT: Scratch that. I just checked the game boxes of all my most recent games, and they all can still run on Win XP. Wow. Now that’s system longevity!

    1. Yup! Or rather how far MicroSoft stretches the compatibility effort which is insane compared to Linux or Mac etc… that toss off dead weight after a while.

      Also, do not be surprised if XP vanishes from boxes but DirectX9.0c is still noted as being supported. (partly emulated/remapped on Vista/Win7/Win8 to use a variant of DX10)

      1. Bryan says:

        OSX might “toss off dead weight” after a while. I have no idea.

        However, you are *utterly* wrong about Linux doing it. The kernel will still run, without problems, programs compiled all the way back in at least 1999-ish. I just did it today, in fact. (UT. Also, a few days ago, Rune, which uses the same engine.)

        The system call interface *never* *changes*, meaning the kernel will always work with code that was written to the system call standard. The only other thing to possibly be an issue is shared libraries, so as long as you can find (or build) the ABI version of the shared libs that the program was built against, you are golden. It’ll work. (Or if the program was compiled statically; that’s the other way to go.)

        (And symlinks make this much, *much* less of a problem than DLL Hell. will *always* remain binary compatible with *anything* that linked against it, no matter which underlying version you actually have installed. If the library code breaks binary compatibility, it’ll flip to instead.)

        And you don’t even have to worry about versioning with glibc (specifically) anymore, because it provides versioned symbols; as long as you’re running a version that’s newer than the binary, you’re golden. (This used to be a pain, making statically compiling much more attractive.)

        I’m not sure where you saw “toss[ing] off dead weight”, but it was not on Linux.

        It may have been on one (or more) of the distros. But the underlying system does not do it; only (IMO stupid) distro decisions, like no longer providing some library, might. (Even still, though, you can get a copy of that lib and install it yourself, with some patience.)

        1. “so as long as you can find (or build) the ABI version of the shared libs that the program was built against,”
          yeah but that statement is why many are scared off by using Linux.

          Also I doubt that you can simply run a binary made for Ubuntu “something” on say Red Hat “whatever else”.
          (or did they finally fix that?)

          I’m talking full GUI programs not command line here.

          Besides, I was saying (assuming) that Linux did toss out deadweight over time rather than what Windows do.

          I was only trying to give Linux a compliment, but I guess that backfired somehow?

          And don’t get me started on shared libraries/dll hell. I think only Mac OS is the only one not having a huge issue on this.

          Why dll’s simply can’t be in a subfolder of the program folder but instead has to be installed with a bundled dll installer is one of the silliest things MicroSoft has allowed.

          1. Bryan says:

            > yeah but that statement is why many are scared off by using Linux.

            But 99.99% of the time, you don’t have to bother. Your distro *probably* provides a version of whatever program you’re talking about, which works fine with no changes.

            For the other 0.01% of the time, though, the fact that this is possible is an extreme advantage. :-)

            > I'm talking full GUI programs not command line here.

            So am I. That’s just the thing: There is *no difference* between the two as far as the kernel is concerned. Just talk over the socket to the X server, and everything will be fine.

            As for the rest: Whether ripping out support for “dead weight” is a good thing or not depends entirely on what support you’re talking about, and to whom you’re speaking.

            My favorite example of Windows breaking this lately: most people don’t mind that ns558 gameport support no longer exists in win7 (that is, the DB15 joystick and MIDI port on most sound cards, up until it was ripped out of the OS at least), but since I have two or three peripherals that still use that port, and still work perfectly, it makes the entire OS a non-starter. (Not that I used any version of Windows after about 2001. But still.) Better to use ns558+sidewinder, the two kernel modules that make this particular joystick work on any Linux kernel in the last few years.

            Now, someone might say that USB is “better”, for some reason, but they would be forgetting one critical fact: I *already own* these devices, and they work perfectly well. :-)

            Most people don’t care. I do. It’s the same with old syscall support, actually; most people don’t care that a C library built in 2009 will still work on the kernel that was just released today, but it’s rather critical for the operation of this machine, so I do. :-)

        2. Ragnar says:

          I must see if I still can get my old copy of the linux version of Alpha Centauri to run.

          Also, I find that it is often easier to get old Windows 3.1 or 95 games to work in wine than in Vista.

          1. Bryan says:

            Yup. It’s also possible to debug Wine, if the game or its installer is doing something weird. Maybe it’s not possible for everyone to find the problems, but at least being able to get more information about the internal state of the system, and the APIs being used, helps the wine guys fix the system or provide workarounds for broken stuff.

  41. Sumanai says:

    Fun thing: I don’t remember if it was WinXP or Win7, but if during boot your computer loses power it suggests Recovery or something on the next boot (there’s also an option to boot normally). If you take that it loads something for a while and then gives the option to recover from a file. If you choose not to, it then starts doing something. It doesn’t tell what exactly it is doing, or how long it will take, but if you press “cancel” it tells you that it can’t be cancelled. It will go on for about an hour before telling that it can’t do anything.

    So it will pretty much just check around if there is anything it could do, doing nothing in particular, but it can’t for some reason to cancel it. On a positive side, cutting power and rebooting allows you to end it with no apparent side-effects.

    1. Sumanai says:

      Another fun thing, and I’m saying this as a warning Shamus, is that my Win7 decided once that Steam was installed improperly or something and put it in compatibility mode. Which will make Steam complain about it every time it starts. It was not possible to turn it off from the Properties -> Compatibility. After searching online I found out one has to edit the registry in order to do that.

    2. Sumanai says:

      For a change I offer a fun time with Ubuntu 11.10:

      I keep US-layout for default in both Win7 and Ubuntu, but change to FI when chatting with friends. Since I only need the FI-layout in chat programs I set it up in Ubuntu so that every software I open uses default (US) and that the system keeps up a different layout for different software.

      So if I open Firefox, it’s US. I open Empathy, I change from US to FI and it stays as FI until I restart the software or the computer. If I then start Chromium, it’s US again. As it does in Win7.

      Except, the system keeps forgetting it and resets itself so that every window uses the same layout. When I check the settings it tells me that it’s not so, but it functions that way. If I change the settings to universal and back again it starts working the way I want it.

  42. TechDan says:

    I’ve always wondered why NTLDR can’t be copied to all HDs. The BIOS could move through the drives looking for the file, that way the system isn’t ruined just because you remove what should otherwise be an inconsequential drive. Perhaps not the most efficient method, but easier for the average user at least.

    1. Mak says:

      The NTLDR would have to be modified for each disk that it was put it on because of how simplistically hardcoded it needs to be to actually function (see Bryan’s post above); but if that were done, you couldn’t run multiple OSs on multiple disks, since the NTLDR would just redirect back to the primary Windows install each time.

      I guess it could default to that behavior during install, with the option to not, but that could cause a lot more problems than it fixed.

      1. Bryan says:

        Right, NTLDR is basically the NT4-and-beyond (NT, 2K, XP, etc., etc.) equivalent to GRUB’s stage1. Possibly also stage_1_5 and stage2, I don’t recall exactly. (I don’t remember if NTLDR reads boot.ini, or if that’s something else.)

  43. andy_k says:

    pwned/griefed by operating systems!

    Good to hear you are trying out ubuntu, personally I am a Mint guy (just like ubuntu but more hip) but, as you point out it will never replace windows for gaming and other apps.

    I was recently burnt for having the audacity to attempt an upgrade of my motherboard and cpu (to go from mildly over powerful to ridiculously over powerful) on an existing install of windows 7. Didn’t work.

    Ubuntu image (have dual boot) took marginally longer to start up the first time after upgrade then just *worked*. But I still needed windows for Starcraft 2 and Skyrim (and sundry other games) – so that was a reinstall. Yes, it may be possibly to get them working through wine (or some other emulator) but I just want to play them not learn about emulation on linux. So reinstall it was.

    Like you I still had my previous ‘C drive’ saved, now I have two of them. In a year there will probably be a third one, and I can see how far through each game I got before I reinstalled and which games I installed through steam and which I didnt.

    Whilst that will be nice, I guess, I think I would have rathered it had just worked :p

  44. acronix says:

    What´s this nonsense? Windows XP? Real men stick to DOS!

    Now if you excuse me, I have to switch eleven floppies to instal Master of Magic.

    1. Stranger says:

      . . . I have MS-DOS 6.0 floppies around here somewhere. I’m not kidding.

      1. Darkness says:

        Good God! Don’t you have the upgrade floppies for 6.1 and 6.2 (or 6.2x something)? Get with the times, man (or woman).

  45. delve says:

    Oh wait. You went off the deep end to win7? Get ready for a headache.

    I have a suspicion that, like me, you will spent many pointless hours railing at the lost UI functionality as compared to XP. Advice: Either let it go or downgrade your OS back to XP to upgrade your UI.

    Similar disclaimer to Shamus’: I don’t want to hear about how great win7 is; it does not and can not support the most basic UI functionality that I have been using since Win95. Countless hours fiddling with google’s search box have proven fruitless. At the most basic level the OS exists to facilitate my interaction with the hardware and the software that executes on it. Not to look pretty. Win7 looks pretty (by some definitions, I call it gaudy) but it fails spectacularly at its basic purpose.

    1. Blake says:

      Which functions exactly?
      I haven’t run into anything I used to do I couldn’t do as well in 7.

      (Not flaming, just curious).

      1. I’m curious too. Programatically speaking Microsoft never removes features that is still being used. This is why there are API stuff covered in cobwebs still around, since maybe 1 or two programs still use it and is in turn used by a few hounded people.

        As to the UI, I can’t recall anything missing off the top of my head. If anything there is too much features (feature creep). But there is also a lot of nice API stuff that programmers can take advantage of which really can enhance functionality of their programs.

        There does exist alternate UI’s by 3rd party’s out there.
        There are also those that still swear by filemanager tools like Total Commander instead of using explorer.

        “At the most basic level the OS exists to facilitate my interaction with the hardware and the software that executes on it.”
        I can’t recall that ever changing since back to the early Amiga and Atari days which pioneered this stuff (small nod to Xerox).

        Select a file, or multiple files using Shift or Ctrl.
        Ctrl-C for copy and and Ctrl-V for paste (shortcuts might vary between Windows and other OS) or Ctrl-X for cut.
        Delete for delete. F2 for rename.
        Double click to view/run, right click for properties and more info.
        And sort by filename and date and size.

        Those basic things is really all I’d need for file-management.

        Win7 is better on I/O than Vista, which was better than XP which was better than, etc.

        The only negative I ever noticed (with both Win 7 and vista before) was that the gameport on my audigy 2 zs platinum was not supported.
        Not sure who’s fault that is but looking at this next bit I think I know…

        On 64bit Win7 (and Vista and XP x64 probably) trying to record on the soundcard can cause intermittent static and noise on machines with more than 4GB ram. Creative seems to have no plans to fix this issue.

        If it’s a big enough issue Microsoft could potentially do a shim for the creative drivers memory addressing but…

        1. Bubble181 says:

          Well, I do have to say that things like Total Commander feel more natural to me.

          Than again, my very first experience with computers as using Norton COmmander 3.0, and I was…err…4 years old at the time? Maybe that’s just me :-P

          1. It was Directory Opus for me, on the Amiga way back.

    2. Tse says:

      In Windows 7 you can get to the needed settings quickly by typing what you need in the start menu. Before I learnt to navigate that way (and only that way, I don’t even use the control panel anymore) I would sometimes spend over 20 minutes looking for the network connections setting.

      1. delve says:

        Edit: On rereading this I come across quite angry and grumpy. Well, I am. But it’s directed at MS and Win7 not anyone here. :)

        This is, in fact, my biggest UI gripe.
        I want a ‘start’ menu (and damn MS for using such generic names, but I digress) not another stupid HDD search feature. On my old laptop I can open any of a half dozen of my most commonly used apps with two keystrokes, Win-[0-9]. And another few more besides if I include Enter in the key sequence. In win7 do you know what you get if you start typing after hitting the windows key? You get a [expletive] search function. I don’t want to search, I know what I’m looking for. Open it for me. I don’t want to use the mouse, it’s slow and imprecise and I damn sure don’t want to try to remember and type the full name of the software app.

        As far as I’ve been able to determine there is no way this can be turned off and the last thing I want to do is try the couple of 3rd party apps that google turns up which claim to ‘fix’ the start menu. There’s no telling how badly they’ll screw up a traditionally flaky OS (especially dickering around in non-user space functions) and why should a 3rd party have to fill in for functionality that has existed since ’95?

        Am I now working on a 64 bit system? Yeah, so? The HDD ops are still slower than Christmas in May. My software might be marginally faster but I put that down to a generational improvement in the underlying hardware and even then I have to wait 10-30 seconds between clicking and actually seeing a splash/loading screen. I have to fight with the interface to get anything done (particularly UAC which although it claims to be ‘off’ doesn’t quite seem to be anyway) and I’ve got fancy, swishy, shiny bars everywhere that tell me less than ever before while sucking up ever more resources per pixel.

        1. Kdansky says:

          The mouse isn’t slow:

          Apple spent 50 Million bucks on research, and every single result they got was “the mouse is faster”.

          1. delve says:

            Apple can believe what it wants to

            1. Kdansky says:

              Your scorn doesn’t invalidate proper research.

              1. delve says:

                Proper research is a statistical matter an I fall outside the bell curve. Apple can believe what it wants.

          2. Alan says:

            The cited article makes no claim that Apple spent $50 million on researching mouse versus keyboard. It doesn’t even claim they spent $50M on research. They spent $50M on research and development for the Apple Human Interface as a whole.

            Tog is also really comparing shortcuts circa 1989 to mouse and menus. There is no particular evidence that a search oriented interface (what delve is addressing) was tested in comparison.

            Tog is talking about research on or before 1989. 22 years ago. Computers have changed. Interfaces have changed. Users have changed.

            Apple has done a lot of important research into usability and efficiency, but a 22 year old article about a slightly different topic isn’t terribly compelling evidence.

        2. WJS says:

          Err, what? Win7 does do “WinKey+[0-9]” to launch stuff.

    3. Kdansky says:

      I spend my days writing software for both systems, and I often have to make compromises just to get stuff running on XP too. I am unconvinced until proven otherwise that Win7 cannot do something that XP can, because whenever I look at the libraries, I see that all XP stuff is still there.

  46. Blake says:

    So now do we now get an ‘old vs new’ blog on Windows installs?
    Followed up by a first impressions after a few days?
    Followed up by an update a month later speaking about your actual usage changes?

    I started using Win7 at work at the start of last year, like everyone I did that initial flailing that always comes with ‘AAAH CHANGES!’, but soon adjusted.
    I has Win7 at work, Vista as my default at home, and XP for when Vista decided to die on me.

    After getting used to 7, taking advantage of pinning things to the start bar, never clicking on anything in the start menu ever again (seriously, just press the start button, and type what you want), and all the other little things, I can happily say it’s just better.

    I got a new computer late last year and put 7 on it, you’ll love how much nicer the installer is. Vista was a big step forwards compared to XP that way, on 7 I just pretty much said install, and it did.
    Default settings for updates and everything just work, I kept feeling like there should be more I needed to tweak, but there wasn’t.

  47. I used C64, Amiga OS, Win95, Win98SE I believe, 2000, Windows XP, 2003, Vista, Windows 7.

    Windows 7 is basically XP with all the goodies of vista.
    By that i mean the performance is almost the same as XP.
    The vista drivers are now pretty mature and since Win7 uses the same drivers there should be no issue getting things to work.

    If you have a x64 cpu then go for Windows 7 64bit just out of principle.
    If you do not have a 64bit cpu then 32bit windows is the only solutions.
    You usually do not get a benefit from 64bit OS expect for a few CPU instructions you can rely on being there. And being able to take advantage of 3+GB memory.
    (32bit apps with the large address aware flag can use up to 4GB on a 64bit OS, vs 2GB it would otherwise)

    I’m looking forward to you describing your first steps into Win7.
    Assuming nothing goes tits up it should be smooth sailing, a lot of generic drivers is shipped by default, and provided there is no issue getting on the net Win7 simply fetches more drivers from windows update etc. So the install should be very smooth, even if the hardware is on the old side.
    I just hope you have a dual core or better CPU as a single core really struggles these days.

  48. Simon Buchan says:

    Sooo Shamus….. I’m guessing you forgot I sent you a Windows 7 Ultimate product key? Guess I don’t blame you, since it was about a year ago. Sure you need to find someone with a Windows 7 DVD, but there should be plenty around, and it can be for any version and the key will activate it as Ultimate. Worst comes to worst, downloading from somewhere isn’t pirating, it’s using it without a licence that’s pirating!

  49. thebigJ_A says:

    “SOMEDAY I'll get a new computer, and it will come with Windows 7…”

    You… you don’t build your own PCs?

    I feel like someone told me santa isn’t real.

    1. Heh! I’m a strictly component PC builder myself. I usually manage to build a equally good PC for a lower cost, or build a better PC at the same cost.

      The pre-built PC’s (even those that are component PCs) usually pick parts that are not what I’d pick. Or makes you wonder why they put those components together. (most likely they bought a container of some GFX card etc.) and there is many times a lot of extra stuff that I know I wont need included.

      My next purchase will probably be just a new PC case, and nothing else.

    2. KremlinLaptop says:

      I went from pre-built PCs back in the days before the internet (well it did exist even then, but not like it does these days) to upgrading them myself and that inevitably lead to just outright building my own computers for quite awhile.

      These days I go to a friend who has a computer repair business and if I want a new computer I just give him a list of what I want in it, what I want installed on it.

      In the mid 00’s I finally became tired of building my own, I guess it relates to the ‘is it worth your time’ discussion up there and while it was probably worth my time it sure wasn’t worth the frustration. It cuts out all the testing, troubleshooting and so forth. For example when building one computer there was a delay in getting the graphics card and I was forced into a situation where I had to buy the case before I had all the components. Lo’ and behold the damn graphics card was about as long as my ’67 Continental and elements in the case made it impossible to put in there. Out of frustration said problem was solved with an angle grinder, since the place where I bought the case from was closed for two weeks (which was why I bought the case when I did).

    3. Lalaland says:


      That’s the one word that explains the whole DIY vs prebuilt thing. Do you want to chase a four or five companies for warranty support or shout at one? I build for myself but for businesses I recommend nothing but prebuilt.
      The difference between major OEMs and small players isn’t the hardware it’s the billions of $ on warehouses full of spare parts for warranty support. If my business requires me to get this project out by tomorrow and something dies I want to know I can start working again tomorrow. Of course there are different support levels at different costs but you know what your time is worth in billable hours and you decide on what level of support you need.

    4. Tse says:

      Aren’t there companies that build PCs in the US? I get all my components through 1 company (at retail price) and pay an extra 50$ for assembly, which is more than offset by the price reduction for buying a relatively expensive configuration. They also handle warranty.

  50. Zak McKracken says:

    Hmmm…. you have an adventure which ends with you installing Ubuntu as a second OS, which to me is a happy end, and someone gifts you with Windows 7 … what am I supposed to think?

    Anyways, always good having a Linux somewhere on the computer, especially for virus problems. And for proper work, of course :)

  51. Matt says:

    I’m surprised nobody has linked to this yet.

  52. Smejki says:

    Yep, XP installer is hell-ish. But gees, it is from 2001? Was Linux that nonproblematic and “magical” at those days? I really don’t know. I wasn’t using it at the timne.

    Win 7 (maybe even Vista. I don’t know, I skipped this version instalation-wise) is as magical as Linux. The installer is mouse driven, the OS can communicate with almost any device “out of the box”. Compare comparable.

    On the other hand there are somem new other ways how Win7 coluld drive you crazy. :D
    XP is at least … predictable after all this time.

    1. Sumanai says:

      I remember installing Debian GNU/Linux in 2001 and it was good. As was, and no doubt is, usual for Debian it had old software (they were always a year or so older than the current one), but it had little things that worked better than XP. IIRC and YMMV. We’re talking about operating systems and Debian especially wasn’t (and doubt it is) for everyone.

      Also: XP may have come out in 2001, but the third service pack didn’t.

      1. Smejki says:

        Yeah, SP3 didn’t come in 2001 but it didn’t affect the instalation part in any way as I can remember.

        1. Sumanai says:

          I think that this event just proves it should have.

  53. Vekni says:

    Your wife put that to disc for you? Hotdamn, you DID marry a winner!

  54. Dovius says:

    Maybe it has been noted before, but I love how there can be civil and interesting discussions about home-schooling and religion here without any issues, but the second it’s about using a certain operating system half a dozen flamewars break out.

  55. Atle says:

    I have Win 7 on a laptop, and XP on a stationary. Since I mainly use Linux, I don’t see much difference between 7 and XP. Yes, 7 is a little bit smoother than XP, but it’s still an unflexible, pop up hell which has me click around in circles hunting for the option that does what I want it to do.

    When it comes to linux I’d recommend trying a KDE based distribution like PCLinuxOS. Mostly just works and stays out of the way.

    I don’t like Windows for technical and useability reasons, but also I don’t like Microsoft for political reasons. They’ve done too much during the times to disrupt fair competition. And still it’s nearly impossible to buy a laptop without being forced to pay for a Windows installation as well. So much for competiton on price.

  56. GTB says:

    I have windows 7 and its okay. But the couple of hours it takes after a reformat to make it look and act like windows 98 (the last good windows) is a real pain in my ass.

    I don’t understand why all this shiny transparent shit is so important to people. I want an OS that is stable and fast and runs everything, and doesn’t have a lot of stupid shit between me and my software. The rest is completely unimportant to me. I would be perfectly happy operating on a C prompt again, honestly.

    But then, im an old hermit Luddite, so what do I know.

  57. Dev Null says:

    I am having a hard time imagining ANYTHING that windows 7 could offer that would be worth $100 to me.

    Well, it keeps all your leftover unused memory from feeling unfulfilled.

  58. decius says:

    I work with an XP machine that takes, with no exaggeration, 18 minutes to boot from cold iron. I come in the door at quarter til the hour, and it is no earlier than three past when it BEGINS the startup thrashing.

  59. anna says:

    A couple of quick thoughts on your lovely Ubuntu experiment, in case it’s interesting to you:

    Linux names your hard disks like this:


    (after the first 26 disks, it goes to sdaa, sdab, etc). Each of those represents a *physical hard drive*. ‘sd’ stands for ‘SCSI disk’, for the curious.

    On each drive, each partition is sequentially numbered (and it is 1-indexed), like so:


    So if you only have 1 drive and it has 3 partitions, you’ll actually have:


    But if you have 3 drives with 1 partition each:


    So, there would never under any circumstances be a /dev/sda0, unless Ubuntu does things very differently than the other Linux distros. And if these are all separate physical disks, each one will have a different *letter*.

    Not that it mattered, since apparently the newer Ubuntu knew how to read DOS disklabels for you. But since you just installed Ubuntu, I thought you might be interested to know some of what’s happening under the hood.

    Oh, another interesting thing: you could have figured out which disk was which with the original disk too, with either the command ‘blkid’ or ‘dosfslabel’. Random facts :)

    1. Shamus says:

      Very helpful. Thank you!

  60. RCN says:

    You know, as amusing and face-palming-worthy this article was, it was also very educational and instructive.

    I’d not know how to go for a third of the solutions you found for moronic problems that shouldn’t exist.

    Windows is both a blessing and a curse, but so it every operating system, Windows just has the most baggege to carry… I guess.

    Interestingly… the same apply for Steam, except most of its competitors are MUCH, MUCH better. I literally melted away in despair when I heard Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion would REQUIRE M*F*ing STEAM to even boot.

    1. WJS says:

      WTF? I have never, ever heard anyone say with a straight face that GFWL, Origin, et al are better than Steam, let alone MUCH better.

  61. WJS says:

    Oh, ouch. I literally cringed when you mentioned NTLDR. (I’m pretty sure that even as of Win10, it’s still the NT kernel) Obviously not a systems guy, or you would have known which disk you were booting from, and probably wouldn’t have deleted your bootloader. (Just underlines how broad a field “computers” really is, regardless of what laymen may think about “computer experts”)

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