I was on a course this week, and was one of three delegates. We all had to bring our own laptops; I use a Mac, one of the other guys was using Windows XP and the third guy was running Linux. This in itself was interesting; 5 years ago we would all have been on Windows. Clearly, a technical IT course is not going to be representative of market conditions in general, but:
a) Microsoft's strangle-hold on the O/S market is definitely slipping, and
b) Even at a techie course, Vista was not represented at all (the instructor was using a Linux VMware Server to host XP, 2003 and Linux VM's).
At work, we moved from Windows to OS X
pretty much as soon as there was a viable virtualisation option to run Windows on Mac (we started with Parallels
, but most of us now use VMware Fusion
). We also all still believe it's the best choice - even the guys that switched to Mac for the first time as part of the change over now wouldn't go back to Windows.
As a result, I still have my old(ish) IBM ThinkPad - it used to be my work laptop and is now my backup should my trusty MacBook Pro ever be out of commission. It's a single-core Centrino jobber with 1.5GB RAM, a great keyboard and a pretty decently sized screen (even if it isn't widescreen). And yes, it says IBM and not Lenovo on the lid. I originally specced it with the idea that I'd run Linux as the primary O/S and use Windows VM's as required, but that never really worked out as Linux was always too lacking, despite me having tried various distributions.
Don't get me wrong; I love Linux, but configuring the WiFi adapter to connect to a WPA network was an unbelievable faff at the time, support for the 64MB ATI video adapter required some work, power management was questionable, etc. etc. I don't mind wrestling such problems when I have the time, but a work laptop needs to perform a set of tasks without getting in the way. If you have to fight your laptop network configuration for 10 minutes before you can get on with troubleshooting the server that's down, it's just not gonna fly. So, I went back to Windows XP as the primary OS and had it dual-booting Linux, until the Mac came along.
Anyway, I got chatting to the guy running Linux on his laptop at the course this week, and how he finds the current version of Ubuntu
in these regards. He said it was all plain sailing now, and the problems I had fought all been ironed out in the more recent releases. So, this week I downloaded Ubuntu 8.10, and installed it alongside XP as dual-boot, like before, and...... it just works :-)
Everything is there; connecting to my WPA wireless network, all achieved quickly and easily through the GUI. Flash, Java, mp3 support, etc? - easy. Terminal Server, VNC connections? - no worries. Citrix ICA connections via a CAG/Secure Gateway? - not so straightforward, but only 10 minutes to get running. VMware Workstation install? - piece of cake. Hardware all automatically detected, including bluetooth; everything looks good.
Now, I'm sure that there are some items I'll have missed (mainly because I don't need them - I think the laptop has a WinModem for example, but I've never even plugged it in), and there may be a few hiccups yet to be discovered, but I am really, really struggling to think of a single, good reason to keep XP on it. Everything I need Windows for, I can do in VMware - I know this, because I have run this way on a Mac for almost 3 years now. All the benefits of not
running Windows will also apply - reduced chance of attack from malware/viruses; increased reliability, Open Source goodness, Windows instances are sandboxed and snapshot-protected, etc. etc.
So, unless anyone has any strong justification to the contrary, the old Thinkpad and Windows will be parting company this week - Ubuntu will be the only O/S running directly on the hardware, and Windows will be confined to VM sandboxes, where (in my case, at least) it belongs.
I wrote this up, as it is an epiphany for me. I have been bleating on to techie mates for several years about how Windows is not the future (at least, not only
Windows), and today, for me, the time has finally come when that is true. Not only because I can finally ditch Windows-on-hardware completely, but because I also think that Linux is also now a viable option for non-techies - the configuration and use of an Ubuntu system does not require any use of a CLI any more, and the interface is usable and attractive (once you get rid of that brown "human" theme!).
My last installation of Windows directly on hardware is being decommissioned, my entire computing world now runs on Mac OS X, Linux or VMware ESXi, and I am very pleased by the development. Don't get me wrong, Windows has it's strengths and it's place, but unless you're a gamer, I really don't think that place is necessarily anywhere outside of the office any more.