Why I Don’t Use Windows

2009/08/24

I haven’t run Windows as my primary OS at work almost since I started my current job. For quite some time, I ran it on a secondary machine, using the excellent x2vnc to drive the box from one keyboard and mouse. When that machine died, I invested in moving it over to a virtual machine.

Some time ago, I got fed up with Windows XP crippling my system’s overall performance. See, IT forces Windows machines on the domain to run McAfee anti-virus. Given how often I use Windows (and how I got in the habit of logging out when I am not checking mail), it would tend to happen that McAfee would insist on doing a complete system scan all the time. This, of course, caused the virtual machine’s CPU usage to hover over 50% and pegged the system’s I/O, making it painful to even switch windows (on the host, even), let alone get any work done. There’s another story there, but suffice to say, I haven’t fired up XP in some time.

Today I fired up old XP again to grab some files off the machine, and maybe to import my Outlook mail archives into Thunderbird, so I could use them on the new Linux VM. After watching the performance go from “bad” to “abysmal” (several seconds just to scroll a file list?), I realized the problem. Okay, so I’ll fire up Task Manager and kill the never-to-be-sufficiently-cursed McAfee.

“The operation could not be completed. Access is denied.”

What?

Okay… if I can’t kill it, at least I can tell it to be nice and quit hogging all my resources… so I change the priority (it’s currently one step below Real Time, no wonder it kills the system!) to the lowest setting.

“The operation could not be completed. Access is denied.”

Excuse me? I am logged in as local administrator. This means I should be able to control my machine, but Windows doesn’t let me. On Linux this would never happen. Now, it’s not unheard of on Linux for a process to get kernel-locked (i.e. the process is stuck in an uninterpretable kernel call – in my experience this tends to happen when an NFS server goes down), but Linux would never tell me I can’t do something because I don’t have permission. On Linux, when I am root, I am root, in total control of my machine.

Oh, yeah, and then there is the “updates have been installed, you need to restart your computer” nag message, that I have to click on periodically or XP will decide to restart without my permission.

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2 Responses to “Why I Don’t Use Windows”

  1. Marvin Says:

    Well since we first got a new pc, we’ve been used to Windows OS and I’m actually using McAfee as my anti-virus

    • mwoehlke Says:

      Unfortunately, you’ve basically hit on Windows’ main selling point right there: “people are used to it”. That’s really all it has going for it. Change is hard.

      I would sure hope McAfee isn’t as horrid if you keep your machine running and let it do scans at night. I didn’t (Windows is a pig, McAfee even more so, and there was just no reason to leave it running all the time), and as a result often had to suffer with McAfee trying to scan the system whenever it was running. That, combined with not being in control of my own machine, was more than I was willing to tolerate.


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