February 10, 2002

Windows XP

Okay, I gave it an honest shot. I got a new Gateway Laptop about a month ago, and it came preloaded with Windows XP. In the spirit of scientific investigation, I decided to give it a whirl for a while and see how it stacked up against not only Linux, but also Windows 2000. The upshot -- avoid Windows XP as if all the hounds of hell from The Hound of the Baskervilles were after you. Why?

First, it's slow. I mean, *really* slow. My laptop has a fairly zippy Celeron 850 in it, and XP makes it act like a Pentium 75 with 4MB of RAM. Everything just crawls. I don't know what kind of crap Microsoft layered on top of Win2K to get XP, but whatever it was, it slowed things down quite a bit.

Second, the "enhancements" are mostly eye-candy. Windows XP is mostly Win2K with prettier colors. If you already have Win2K, you'll be getting zero with XP. Don't bother.

Third, Microsoft's "product activation" (while relatively painless) is draconian and mostly unnecessary. The same for Office 2002 -- if you don't register, the product simply stops working after 50 start-ups. Forget that shit; Microsoft can take their software and jam it up their collective asses.

Fourth, the default Luna theme, while nice-looking, wastes a lot of screen real-estate to no good purpose. Microsoft *did* clean up the desktop a bit, but I don't know that they made it any easier for newbies to use. It seems like they were simply making the "skinners" happy without really addressing any of the usability issues. (For what it's worth, Apple made the same mistake in OS X.)

I should add that the best thing about XP was the ClearType font system. It really made the fonts on my LCD screen sharp and clear. After that, it was really difficult to go back to X's lousy fonts. I'm glad that anti-aliased fonts are getting more common in X these days. Fonts really are the weakest point in the X Window system these days.

Finally, I found that Windows XP's vaunted "usability" on the desktop was no better or worse than Ximian's GNOME. That's why I don't understand the constant refrains that "Linux isn't ready for the desktop". It is ready, and Ximian's GNOME is the proof.