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Vista Ultimate vs. Ubuntu 7.04 - Which Install Is Easier?

This weekend I suffered a meltdown of my workstation’s main hard drive. The drive help my Windows Vista Ultimate install, which in turn held several hundred pictures, music files, movies etc., not to mention all the games and utilities that I had installed over the years. After trying unsucesfully to get the drive back, I decided that’s what backups are for and chucked the worthless lump of toxic metals. It was time for a serious makeover.

Circuit City had a great deal on drives, so a quick car trip landed me a brand new 500GB Seagate drive for $109.99. Hell I remember when a 40 MB drive costs me a month’s salary. I love technology. Sorry I digress. After popping the drive into the machine, I gathered up my respective DVD’s and set off to rebuild the beast. Only this time, Vista was going to have company - and maybe competition. This time, Ubuntu 7.04 was getting an equal share of the drive. It is time to really see which one is easier to install.

Before we launch into the specifics of the installations, a little detail about the type of machine I was using. It started life several years ago as an E-Machine T6522 Media Center computer. The Media Center part is important because I use the computer extensively for streaming music, pictures and video throughout the house. I have upgraded most components in the box except the motherboard and the case. Currently the specs on the box are:

  • Athlon FX-60 Dual Core processor
  • MS-7093 Motherboard (939 chipset)
  • 1790 MB Ram (I have no idea why I have such an odd number)
  • ATI 1950 Pro video card
  • Hauppauge Wintv-PVR 350 for video recording
  • Microsoft Wireless Comfort Keyboard\Mouse combo
  • HP Photosmart printer

When the install is finished, ideally, all components will be detected and functioning. Because of the way it handles booting up, I decided to install Vista Ultimate first.

8:15 – I insert Vista Ultimate DVD. The files started to load from the DVD. And load. And load. For a while, I thought I was installing Windows 95 on my old 486. After 8 minutes, (OK it wasn’t THAT long, but still 8 minutes staring at a black screen…) a little green bar popped up signifying I was loading Vista. Progress!

8 :23 OK, slow progress. Now I have a pretty Vista looking background on my screen. I have moved from black and white to Technicolor, Dorothy. The problem is, there is no writing on the screen. It is a blank image. Nothing is moving. No prompt telling me things are installing. It’s been sitting here for 5 minutes, so I think it’s hung. I’ll reboot and try again.

8:28 Wow, glad I wrote that down because the screen suddenly shifted to an actual “install type” screen with questions and everything. How novel that after 13 minutes I finally get some input into what I want. Boy would I have been pissed if I had restart.

8:30 I verify my language choice, time format and keyboard choice and hit Next.8:31 Tell Vista to Install Now (vs. when I wonder?)

8:33 I have to enter incredibly long product key. One nice thing - the dashes are entered automatically. That nice little touch saves me from having to interrupt the flow of my typing. Someone has been paying attention in Redmond.

8:34 Accept MS license agreement

8:35 I need to select the Custom install option since this is a blank hard drive. That threw me for a moment because I expected to see New Install or something like that. Custom seems like a weird place to lump a fresh install. Maybe they weren’t paying that much attention in Redmond after all.

8:37 I partition the hard drive into a new 250 GB partition. The new hard drive partition utility takes a bit of getting used to. I had to click on the 500GB drive and hit “New.” Then I had to pick the size of the partition, which oddly enough was listed in MB instead of GB even though the drive itself listed the capacity in GB. I love the consistency! Once that is done, all we need is a quick format and the partition was ready to install Vista.

8:40 Sat back and watched Vista Install. It took 25 minutes to get to this point, but now it’s hands free. It seems to go much faster than XP did at this point. I guess the install is front loaded instead of back loaded so a bunch of the work is already done. I take a break and by 9:05 the system has installed.

9:05 I pick a name for myself and a password. I also pick a cute little picture of a robot as my icon. I have no idea why I need to have a robot, but I guess it’s better than the having to be the kitten. Hit Next.

9:07 Now we are almost in. I have to choose my protection level. I stick with the obvious (and default) choice of Use Recommended Settings. Now Vista will try to keep my machine safe and secure without me having to remember to do anything. Thank god for backups.

9:08 I set my time zone settings click Next. A few minutes later, I am able to logon to my PC for the first time.

9:10 Tell Vista that the network it is attached to is a Home network. This should allow me to share things without to much difficulty.

9:11 See that there are 26 critical or important updates to install. Tell Windows to go ahead.

9:12 Notice that my resolution stinks. Go into my settings and change it to my normal resolution. WTF! My video card isn’t recognized???? It is a year old! How in the hell can it miss an ATI video card?

9:15 Check to see if it found the Wintv 350 card. Nope. I see a “video device” listed under unknown devices. That must be it. I also notice that my printer is listed under unknown devices. So much for the vaunted hardware detection.

9:20 The updates have downloaded and are installed. I need to reboot the machine.

9:23 My first Vista Blue Screen. Am I happy? Not so much.

9:28. System reboots properly and Vista is running smoothly, albeit without my video drivers. New updates take care of the printing problem, so that’s a plus. The security center is reminding me I need anti-virus software on my machine, but it has configured Windows Defender and the other security tools. My machine feels safer already.

So, in 1 hour, 13 minutes I was able to get Vista loaded and patched on my machine. I still don’t have my software reinstalled, but I’m surfing the web etc without problems. Until I get the video and TV card drivers, I cannot configure Windows Media Center, so that is next on the agenda. After that it is time to install Office 2007 so I can actually do some work and not stare at worthless Widgets. Still, the machine seems to be functioning well so it is time for the next test - Ubuntu 7.04.

Installing Ubuntu 7.04

Let me admit up front that I am not a Linux person. I am just now starting to get the hang of the OS and am FAR more comfortable in the Windows world. That said, I have experimented with Ubuntu on my laptop (see previous write-up) and have enjoyed the experience so far. I figured it was time to put it through its paces on the desktop.

9:50 Put in a Ubuntu 7.04 CD and reboot my machine. After a few minutes, the boot loader loads up and I click on the LiveCD option to test my hardware before installing.

9:55 OK this is odd. It seems to be taking forever to boot off the LiveCD. I keep getting this “Buffer I/O Error on fd0″ message. It seems the LiveCD is trying to load up a floppy drive. Good luck there, mine isn’t attached. After a few minutes, it moves on, so I guess no harm.

10:00 The LiveCD has booted and I’m at a desktop. I have no keyboard or mouse. I had it under Vista and I had it during the boot loader, just not in Ubuntu. I check the USB cable, unplug and plug it back in nothing. It seems this experiment is going to stop dead in it’s tracks.

10:04 I notice that the USB cable from the wireless puck that controls the keyboard\mouse has a PS2 adapter. On a whim, I plug it in to the keyboard plug. Suddenly I have both keyboard AND mouse functionality. That is the weirdest thing I have ever seen. Plugging and unplugging the cable verify the results. I’m surprised but happy I got it working.

10:07 I click on the “install” icon on the Desktop. The actual Ubuntu install takes off.

10:09 The install is asking me about localization options. I select English, and an English keyboard.

10:15 The system does it’s thing for a bit then needs to know where to install Ubuntu at. I can use the whole drive (the default choice), let it install on the largest contiguous area of free space, or pick the partition you want. I decide to see what the system would pick and choose option. It finds the right partition for the OS and actually creates a swap file as well. Two birds with one stone.

From here things slow down. The formatting of the drive takes considerably longer than it did on Vista. I head off to watch Shooter with Mark Walhberg.

10:40 I notice the formatting is done and the system is ripping through the install process. A message pops up saying to remove the CD and hit enter. I do and the machine starts to reboot.

10:42 …And the machine hangs up on the reboot. I have had this problem before with this motherboard and Linux. It is as if the machine doesn’t power all the way down. The screen goes blank; the fans run really fast but no reboot. I have to unplug the power cord. This is not a big deal, but it is an issue specific to Linux. I have never had it happen in XP or Vista.

10:45 The machine is back up and running. I did not get the “Buffer I/O” error this time so that is an improvement over the LiveCD. After a few more minutes, I am able to log on.

10:48 Now that I’ve logged on, it’s time to see what works and what doesn’t. The first thing I notice is that my resolution has already been set at the optimum level. That’s a good sign. A quick glance at the hardware shows that it found my printer and the Wintv card. I now retract everything I’ve ever said about hardware and Linux.

10:50 I tell the system to use the ATI driver and it configures my system properly. I now have a fully functioning video card. Take that Vista! I also tell the system to install the 121 updates waiting to install.

Now 121 updates may seem like a lot of updating compared to the 26 I downloaded for Vista, but they download and install in under 5 minutes. They are also updating several non-OS related programs like Firefox. Now that is something you do not see in the MS world.

11:00 I have a fully functional Ubuntu 7.04 machine, with the exception of it being a media server. A quick search online leads me to MythTV. I download the packages and install the software. The whole process takes less than 5 minutes.

Note, I have not configured MythTV at this point. It would not be fair since I have not (and cannot) configure Media Center yet. Once I get everything squared away, I will put both media servers to the test.

So less than 3 hours into this experiment, I have both Vista and Ubuntu installed and patched. Both systems are stable, more or less, but both systems have quirks. Neither system worked perfectly, but much to my surprise the Ubuntu system worked better, (once I got the keyboard working). More hardware worked without needing to download additional drivers. More over, there is moreover, the desktop that I do have is more functional - applications like GIMP, Open Office, and a slew of multi-media apps are far more useful than Wordpad, Paint and the slew of crap that Vista comes with.

That is not to say Vista is without its strengths. It is visually better looking (out of the box) and integrates better onto my work network. The security features are more robust (or at least more obvious) out of the box with Vista. I like the wireless utilities in Vista better (even though this connection is wired). Certainly, software support is better, but that is a different topic. However, at the end of the day, I am left with the feeling that Ubuntu passed the install test with a higher mark than Vista. While it may lack some of the polish of Microsoft’s flagship product, in this test, on my machine, it was the better OS.

Who would have thunk it?

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22 Comments in 22 threads.»

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Trackback by Anonymous
2007-12-13 10:16:41

Gallery Toless

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Pingback by Top Unix News » Vista Ultimate vs. Ubuntu 7.04 - Which Install Is Easier?
2007-11-13 08:27:30

[…] read more | digg story […]

Comment by Chris mankey
2007-09-17 13:00:26

“So is Ubuntu easier to install? Undoubtedly. Is is easier to configure? No way.”

All I had to do is install envy and click on “install nvidia drivers” to set up my video card.

Comment by Devon Buchanan
2007-09-01 09:33:41

Vista support will get better over time, but the opacity of a setup.exe driver means that if it decides not to work, you can’t do anything about it.

Linux support is always getting better. In feisty I can just choose to enable desktop effects, and it will automatically download and install the drivers and I get the effects, no fuss. Or I can install my nVidia drivers from apt, run one command and have direct rendering without even needing a restart. If neither of these work I can wade in and edit my xorg.conf with help from the interweb. All of these have worked for me, I have manged to get a better-than-vista GUI on a live cd by downloading beryl and the drivers (wirelessly) on a machine that doesn’t have a chance in hell of running aero.

These give me more options if I am reasonably intelligent (and open to the idea of using the terminal) than the windows “click and pray” approach.

In Ubuntu 7.10 there will be a graphical method of editing your xorg.conf, making it event easier for users ot set up their computer. Plus a proper version of compiz-fusion will be installed by default (not the cut-down version of 7.04), so nobody need feel inferior to vista.

(P.S. ATI has awful linux support, go for nVidia)

Comment by David Gerard Subscribed to comments via email
2007-08-20 06:56:32

With hardware, if Linux supports it then it supports it brilliantly … if it doesn’t, then getting it to work is an exercise in pain. Basically, if you want a supported hardware setup, you have to choose your hardware carefully. If you take a bit of care, you can have Mac-like levels of “it just works.”

Thankfully there are the twin effects of (a) more and more hardware being supported (b) common hardware becoming more generic and thus a big target for becoming well-supported. This applies even to laptops - most of the brand names are now actually built by Quanta in Taiwan.

With wifi in particular on Linux, you often have the choice of (a) messing around with compiling your driver and finding firmware or (b) just spending ten quid on a card with a well-supported chip.

(The systems I use every day at home are a Mac G4 running MacOS X 10.4.10, a Compaq N410c running Ubuntu 6.10 and a Dell D600 running Ubuntu 7.10 alpha. The Compaq is running the old version to support the horrible old Orinoco USB wifi because it’s built into the lid, meaning I don’t need a PC card sticking out the side. It’s so bad I’m considering gutting it and putting a known supported chip in …)

Comment by Branden
2007-08-18 22:14:20

hi nice post, i enjoyed it

Comment by Casper Gielen
2007-08-16 15:04:31

In my experience Linux has a much better chance of supporting hardware out of the box. Many times new hardware will work immediatly after pluging it into the machine, even without a configuration dialog. On the other hand, most hardware manufactures make drivers for Windows. It may take a bit of work, but you’re almost guaranteed to get it to work eventually, as long as the hardware is fairly new.

With hardware older than the Windows version, the problem often is that manufacturers don’t care about writing new drivers for their old hardware. They would prefer people to buy new hardware.

As long as you pay a little attention when buying hardware Linux works just fine.

Comment by Tod
2007-08-16 03:39:37

@ mobster and admin:

WRt “upgradeability” and the supposed lack thereof on Macs, what exactly do you hope to accomplish by upgrading? What are you upgrading anyway - software or hardware or the OS? When you state that the mac is not upgradable, what is your goal in upgrading? I know of many Mac users who are using six year old machines and have upgraded the OS to the current tiger system. Their applications have gone through several upgrades and they have kept them current.

Is it just to brag about the crotch rocket of speed or is it about usability?

And please don’t slap the “lack of software” monkey; it sounds too much like Bush invoking al-Qaida when he talks about Iraq. There is plenty of software doing all sorts of great things on the Mac. What kinds of applications are lacking? Specifically what Windows or Linux applications don’t have Mac analogs? That argument is so lame and beneath your level of reasoning.

Comment by admin
2007-08-15 21:26:05

Henaway, I would agree with you up to Vista, but if you turn on UAC and don;t do someting stupid, Vista strips you of the “root” ability pretty nicely. Sure it’s annoying to us users who constantly get prompted if we really want to do something, or to give a password, but it is pretty effective. The biggest challenge is poor software that is written to force a user to need admin rights. Blame microsoft for lots of stuff, but that’s mainly a 3rd party issue.

Comment by Henaway
2007-08-15 20:22:23

True, one day linux MAY need an AV app. BUT because it is designed to be a multi-user environment - TRUE multi-user environment that is - it has inherit security advantages over Windows where every user (no matter what label they tag on it) is essentially ROOT.

If a non-admin user gets a virus, it’s still going to tank your whole system. On linux, all the user is going to do at worst is tank their account. Anything they don’t have rights to will be safe.

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