Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Stoning the Glass Windows, Microsoft's OS

It's been 6 months in my current organization, GrocerMax, an online grocery retailer by veterans in the retail industry. But I could use Windows initially only for a week, then I had to retreat to the cozy comfort of CEntOS whereas the IT infrastructure here have been predominantly Windows, except for a few laptops where Ubuntu sits on, in the development bay. Windows, the OS, is no more a means to do some task, it's a road block. Most often I see people working for the Windows, not on the Windows. Put Windows on how shiny or superb hardware you've, it will soon crawl on the knees. Ours are mostly i5 dominated laptops with (unnecessarily) nVidia 820 gpu for graphics. Forget the heavy-lifting on these machines, most are barely able to use them. I'll explain the reasons for this bad experience, and how we're planning to break open the windows for a greener vista outside. For starters, we've to struggle on spreadsheets ridden with macros and formulae. Follow the run.
  1. Ever-growing footprint: For the sake of compatibility Microsoft has been offering the full stack of 32bit libraries even if you're running a 64bit edition. The result is heavy footprint of several GBs, on the upper side of 30GBs or so. The scenario is so worse that you can't have a pure 64bit experience and get the benefits of performance. Gross! If delve down, you'll know there are thousands electronic waste bytes. A proof - Windows 10 still supports 16bit executables, has a heavy compatibility layer for this architecture.
  2. Vendor appeasement: Microsoft parasites mostly on OEM subscriptions and enterprise copies in this side of the world, south and central Asia, where 90% of the self & retail installations are pirated copies. So, to appease vendors you must have support for their devices, for this get drivers ready in the install base. Take any Windows, 7, 8, 8.1, or 10, you'll find 1000s of residues. Your specific computer may have 10 something subcomponents for audio, video, internet and communications. On the brighter side, Windows won't ask you for drivers if you put on old hardware, say 5 years or more. But on the downside, you have to carry along the truck load of device drivers. Besides, OEMs slug the system down further with their home-brewed bloatware. Take Dell for example, it bundles more than a dozen of its applications in its preinstallations, which nobody uses.
  3. Controversial decisions: Surprisingly Windows XP still sits on 14% of the consumer user base. And has a cult following. It was an insecure shit hole, a virus paradise for sure, however, it opened the world to a trusted paradigm of computing, the start screen and menu, feather-weight install base and almost guaranteed unobtrusive operation, till a virus/malware took the control. Then on, the world has seen controversial decisions starting with Vista, be it the moronity called metro interface of tiled shit that gave a Halloween experience on the press of a start button, or the never ending upgrade trips consuming hours of your productivity.
  4. Insecure by design: Gates offered Windows, sounds punny? Not so if I say, Bill Gates put together Microsoft Windows. His was a good idea, bring an appliance like model to the Unix dominated computing space. He gave passengers the steering wheel, or put them on auto-pilot mode. Yes, that's what you do if you give the user user all the administrative rights including adding/removing software with that click-click-go or bingo pattern. Sadly, viruses and malware are also some software, albeit malevolent or faulty, they take the administrative rights too. Of course, windows has options to create a local user without administrative privileges and changing the accounts to that effect, but average Joe doesn't know or care. Do you know Windows is the only OS that requires an antivirus software, and the reason for the boom of many IT companies baking these contentious software? Apple went a different route, re-engineering unix base and building on it. The Mach kernel on your Macbook borrows heavily on Unix. Inherently more stable and safe. And it brims of commercial gloss on the outer layers.
  5. Growing entropy: For the sake of ease and familiarity (not UI, but operations) Windows has been patching here and there. It has become so cluttered that there is almost no way out to fight the devastating Windows rot (a popular term that describes how Windows gets slower with time). In windows world there's no way to uninstall an application fully and cleanly, removing the entries from registry and killing the configurations from the accounts folder (that Applications and Settings directory). Windows updates from one version to another is highly unreliable and take up lots of disk space. After you update it, I bet you'll get orphan bits from previous version at many places. Sadly on Windows 10 most updates are shoveled down your throat, choosing and managing your updates is very tough, though not impossible. And the real safe mode went for a toss in the recent versions. It's there, but nested deep inside. It's really difficult to debug, and Microsoft's operations are so vast that they are not approachable.

What to do?

The Microsoft way: Nliting/Viliting (taking unnecessary bits out from the install image/iso). Deploying that on user desktops/laptops. Administering the machines with proper group policy, moderating the user rights, imposing active directory, filter/saving data through a proxy server.

Or the Unix/Linux way: Success is not guaranteed. But cultural shock is for sure, because most are unfamiliar with this platform. And those in the know use a Toy, Ubuntu (Microsoft wannabe of Linux world). The real tool CEntOS is not that easy though it's a saner alternative that requires blue pills initially. CEntOS install routines and customization is definitely more difficult. Some components are not supposed to work right out of the box like it does automagically (wrong word with a right meaning) on Ubuntu. But once done, you get 10 years of support, painless computing and much goodies on the way.

Be it *Buntu or CEntOS, transition from Microsoft Office to a certain alternative such as LibreOffice or WPS Office is tedius. I'm sure getting a hang of power-user options on these free suits will be time-intensive. And there's a certain amount of FUD if all can emulate their Windows habits.

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