Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Which OS should I use?

My office computer is due for an upgrade. It's because my super spiffy new office printer refuses to install its driver on my old and sluggish hardware. I'm thinking just a faster processor, new motherboard to go under it and perhaps a bit more ram. The hardware is the no brainer, what I am really scratching my head over is what OS to put on it. Here are my choices:

Windows 98
This is the current operating system and it has met our needs very nicely since about 1998. We are not going to make the upgraded machine jump through any new hoops and we mainly need a dumb terminal with a little word processing ability. This OS, although out of date, does everything we want. Like they say, if it ain't broke don't fix it.


  • It's free. I have about four paid for and legal copies lying around that I'm not using. Spanking one onto the new hardware is cheap and easy.
  • Superfast. Put old OS on new hardware = an OS that is faster than it ever was new.


  • It crashes. A lot. Fortunately all our critical business data is stored on a different machine in a non-Microsoft database accessed through a custom built web interface served from Apache and tuned to run in Firefox. So no matter how crashy the Microsoft gear gets it cannot corrupt or lose our data.
  • Gotta make sure the thing is behind adequate firewalls and that users follow best security practices for Email and web surfing. Security wise the thing is leaky like a sieve.
  • Win 98 cannot see more that 512MB of ram no matter how many chips you put in the box. Probably not a big deal, but the principle of it bugs me. The price one pays for running an out of date OS.

Windows XP


  • Familiar interface, no user training needed.
  • Upgrade to the latest greatest in Microsoft security and technology.
  • Fairly stable. Ample uptime, crashes are rare.


  • Blessed expensive. When you have a couple free options to chose from the cost of this beast appears staggering.
  • Product activation. This is the first Microsoft operating system to use a product activation feature and what scares me about it is that any product that has activation also has deactivation. There will come a time after the next version of windows is released that Bill Gates will decide it is time for users to upgrade and he will simply switch off the current running copies of XP. Buying XP means paying more now AND paying more later.
  • Bloated. Comes bundled with crap that I don't need and gets in my way. It's an office computer people, it does not need the Windows Media Player. It does not even have speakers attached to it. It does not need Internet Explorer. When is Microsoft ever going to learn that these things are extras, add ons. They are important to some but useless to others. There is no good reason to bind them to the OS. (In all fairness I have found IE to be a very useful tool. It is the perfect utility for downloading Firefox right after a new OS install. After that it should be deleted.)



  • Free. Even for the most modern and up to date versions possible.
  • Secure. Well, as secure as a computer can get these days.
  • Customizable. Almost to a fault. Gives me power to fine tune that is unheard of in the Windows world. Everything from what processes are running to the look of the desktop can be optimized for exactly my office needs. Plus there is no bloatware crap bundled to the OS. If I don't need a program I don't have to run it.
  • It does not crash. Properly configured the stability of this OS is legendary. Stability is such a given that I almost forgot to mention it as an advantage.


  • Ugly learning curve. Single biggest reason I am not more of a Linux guru. I spend so much time trying to figure out how to use it that I spend very little time using it. Worse, I will have employees of unknown backgrounds and computer abilities that will also have to lay hands on this machine. There could be some serious time wasted on just learning and teaching each other the computer. I have a business to run, I don't have time for this.
  • Not very suitable for desktop use. I love Linux servers. They rock. As far as I am concerned Microsoft has no business serving websites or databases or Email or FTP. They are just not as good at it as Linux is. But on the desktop, the layer between user and programs, Microsoft does a better job than Linux. And this computer is only used as the interface between user and programs.
  • Dubious support for the printer driver that is the whole point to this exercise in the first place. The jury is still out, the printer may or may not work from Linux, more testing is required.
  • Which one? There is Fedora and Suse and Ubuntu and Mandrake and Debian and… Gawd there we go with the learning curve again. Who has time to research all this to make a good choice.

Options that I wish were on the table but are not.


OSX kicks ass. Hands down the finest desktop operating system I have ever seen in my life. I oh so very badly want to spend my hard earned money on this. Do you hear me Apple? I am begging you to separate me from my greenbacks here. The problem. Hardware. I have a shitton of money invested in my hardware and the fact that Apple requires Apple hardware prices them right out of the picture for me. I have also seen Apple hardware take the march into obsolescence much faster than most other kit. If you guys could just sell me the OS part and let me run it on my own gear that would be the start of a long, happy, Microsoft free relationship.

Windows 2000.

Win2K pro is, in my opinion, the best operating system that Microsoft has ever produced. (I know, I know. Opinion people, it is the one I like, okay.) The problem is that my legal copy was accidentally destroyed years ago and they don't sell it any more. I can't get it anywhere. I am stuck with these damn Win98 disks. Backups people, never underestimate the importance of a good backup.

So my dear blog reading minions, I put it to you. What do you think? What operating system should I run?

My favorite for server or desktop is Gentoo Linux.
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