TapThe challenge of abandoning Windows

…some may say “at last!” But why am I now considering doing it? It really comes down to only one thing—reliability and hence for the sake of my health as I get so mad with it every time it Blue Screens. After all this time they should have made it self correcting. It is no excuse to say that “Windows has shut down to avoid damaging something or other…” or whatever it says, everything is still in memory so it just needs an integrity check and refresh anything damaged, not just to throw it’s hands up in despair.

A second and lesser reason is that to move on I would have to consider Vista and things would need to be rethought anyway as some software I use is very old and almost certainly not compatible.

Arguments against are that it would mean learning a new interface, software and admin but that is mitigated by the fact I am already familiar with server unix. Also that some things that are essential are Windows only which leads me to considering the options.

The options

  • Linux, but which flavour? Ubuntu seems to be the current front runner.
  • Mac. There are a lot of ready made applications and it is a unix based OS but requires proprietary hardware.
  • Dual boot. It takes too long to switch over.
  • Virtual machine, e.g. VMWare is attractive. I don’t know much about the alternatives available or the costs.
  • I need to use the existing hardware as it is not very old and I can’t justify replacing it at the moment.
  • The existing XP licence is available for legacy applications.

When designing a system the first and most important question is “what applications are required?” In this case, as it is an upgrade, the question is “How can the existing applications be migrated?” This is a list of what I use and do at the moment and will need to be considered for replacement.


  • Firefox. With addons and plugins. Linux and Mac versions are available.
  • CuteFTP (Paid-up) for upload. mac available but not Linux I think.
  • Zoom search engine generator (Paid-up). The engine is CGI, PHP or JavaScript, the problem is the builder which is Windows only.
  • [edit] HTML Tidy—another one I had forgotten because it is not “Windows installed”. Many other platforms exist.
  • [edit] Xenu Link Sleuth broken link detector.


  • Thunderbird. I would want to transfer my mail archive. Mac and Linux versions are available but I don’t know how compatible the data files are.
  • PopFile anti spam system. Written in perl so portable.
  • Pop Peeper minimal POP server status. Windows only so an alternative will be needed.
  • Exodus Jabber IM client. Windows only but there are a number of alternatives.

Document processing

  • OpenOffice for word processing and spreadsheets. Other platforms are available.
  • PaintShopPro (Paid-up) for picture editing. Windows only but I am not locked into this so anything decent would do. Ideas?
  • NoteTab (Paid-up) for plain text editing. Windows only. I will miss this as it is an excelent program though I would probably have used vi(m) if it was available.
  • Adobe Reader—because PDF’s keep coming.
  • OmniPage (Paid-up). OCR (not often used). There is a Mac version but not others. I doubt that there is a viable competitor on the Linux desktop.
  • CutePDF pseudo printer driver (not used much). GhostScript may be usable direct.
  • DjVu image viewer (occasional use). There do seem to be other platforms available.

Family History

  • Family Tree Maker for Windows (Paid-up). Not available for other platforms. As the database is large this would probably remain as a legacy Windows application.
  • Resource File Viewer—Windows only, another legacy application though there may be alternatives.
  • [Edit] Ged2HTML—I had forgotten about this. It is not used often and is not “installed” in the Windows way. There is a Unix version which uses the same base code but without the GUI but I am not sure about which flavours.
  • Some home grown software. Written for Unix anyway.

Music—preparation only, not listening

  • Rip—Exact Audio Copy with Accurate Rip. It looks like this is Windows only. The alternative, dBpoweramp, looks like Windows only as well.
  • Digitise—Wave Corrector (Paid-up). Windows only, but they do say it works on Linux under Wine.
  • Encoding—LAME. Multi-platform.
  • Edit—Audacity. Multi-platform.
  • Library & Tagging—MediaMonkey (Paid-up). Not available for other platforms. I have media in WMA and MP3 formats.
  • Control—Sonos Desktop (occasional use only as it is rarely needed, most control being done by the hand-held unit). Mac version available. A shareware alternative exists driven from a web server.
  • Download—µTorrent. Windows only but there is bound to be an alternative. [edit] I realise now that, although this was first installed for music download, in practice that is not what it is used for. It is more for software download and project data sharing.


  • Garmin MapSource (Paid-up). Another Windows only product. No alternative that I can think of so will remain on the legacy system.


  • EasyWorship to maintain church master database and prepare schedules. Not available for other platforms and would remain as a legacy Windows application.
  • Video rendering—K-Lite codec pack (for testing only). Interface to EasyWorship so only Windows needed.
  • MS PowerPoint Viewer. Interface to EasyWorship so only windows needed.
  • ChipmunkAV (Paid-up). Never actually used but for Windows dev. purposes only.


  • AVG anti virus. Windows only but less critical on a non Windows platform anyway 🙂 There may be alternatives.
  • ZoneAlarm firewall. There are native Linux firewalls but they are notoriously unfriendly.
  • GnuPG encryption. Available for other platforms but may not have the GUI interface
  • PINS password manager (Paid-up). This went out of effective support years ago. I rely on this being portable between office, home and other places and really needs cut and paste into applications so it is a bit of a problem.
  • [edit] PuTTY secure shell. Although other systems are supported there is not a lot of point as most other systems have native ssh clients.


  • MinGW Minimal GNU for Windows with C compiler, make etc. This won’t be necessary as the alternatives are Gnu compatible environments anway. I will just need to get the compiler.
  • Tortoise CVS versioning system. There must be a good alternative.


  • Backup4all (Paid-up). Managed backup system (uses ZIP files). A backup systems needs to be simple, foolproof and reliable. This one is Windows only and I haven’t looked at alternatives yet. If a Legacy Windows system is kept then it will still be needed anyway.
  • Pen Drive Manager (Paid-up)—replicates and backs up memory sticks, no longer supported.
  • WinZip (Paid-up). I get and send a lot of stuff in Zip format. As the name suggests this is Windows only but there are bound to be alternatives. Even command line would be acceptable.

Other software installed but only occasionally used

  • Eraser—disk nuke system. Windows only but I think GnuPG can do a similar job or use the bootable DBAN for whole disks.
  • FreeUndelete—File recovery.
  • MediaInfo—codec viewer.

What hardware

Will it work with selected software?

  • AMD 2600+ with 1GB memory. I would get a new Hard drive to build a replacement system on.
  • Matrox P650 dual head graphics card. A Linux driver does seem to be available.
  • 2 x 1280×1024 LCD monitors running an extended desktop.
  • EMU 0404 Professional sound card and its interface Patchmix DSP. I can only find a Windows version of this. [Edit] The ALSA project offers hope that there may be a community supported driver.
  • SCSI connected Canon Scanner & ScanGear driver.
  • External NAS for music store and backup. No problem.
  • Network connected Canon MP600R Printer/ScannerI can’t find any Linux drivers. Turboprint claims to support it.

Is there anything else to consider? It is only when you go through the stuff like this that you realise how much of a monopoly that Microsoft has.

I will be looking for help and suggestions in the coming months while I consider all the options.

[This post will be updated to add additional information as discovered]

References from other web pages (Pings and Trackbacks)

  1. Order of the Bath » Blog Archive » Virtualisation of the desktop

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