Why Windows 7 Is My Last Stop on the Windows Train

by Rex Djere on June 4, 2013 · 24 comments


Post image for Why Windows 7 Is My Last Stop on the Windows Train


I have been a faithful user of the Microsoft Windows operating systems for over two decades, starting with Windows 3.1 back in the early 1990s. Over the years, I upgraded to Windows 95, 98, Millennium, 2000, XP, Vista, and finally Windows 7. When I started using GNU/Linux in about 2004, I happily used GNU/Linux and Windows side-by-side, effortlessly switching between the two operating systems. However, Windows 8 would take me along a path that I cannot follow. It is time for me to finally get off of the Windows train.

Departing the Windows Train At Exit 7

Departing the Windows Train At Exit 7 (Image courtesy Wikipedia)

The Comfortable Co-Existence of GNU/Linux and Windows in My World
When I became a GNU/Linux fan back in 2004, GNU/Linux and Windows were similar enough to each other that I could be productive on my Windows computer system without having to ever think about the operating system. That is how I still work today. On my Windows 7 computer system, I install many of the same Free Software programs that I use on my Fedora 18 laptop: Firefox, Chromium, LibreOffice, Gimp, FileZilla, and others. I can also use my beloved Gmail, Google Docs, and Dropbox on either system. The transition is so seamless that it is easy to forget which system I am working on.

The Beginning of the End: the Dreaded Ribbon Interface
However, the introduction of the ribbon interface a few years ago began the real divergence between my GNU/Linux experience and my Windows experience. I found myself actively trying to avoid the ribbon interface by avoiding Microsoft Office. Unfortunately, I was forced to use MS Office at work. In the freedom of my home, I was able to avoid the dreaded ribbon interface by using LibreOffice in my GNU/Linux and Windows computers. Now, the day has come where Windows has gone to a place that I cannot follow.

Meeting Windows 8 Face-to-Face
I recently visited a local computer store to test out a few Windows 8 laptops. I will not say that Windows 8 is bad. However, it is such a radical departure from the desktop experience that I am used to that I have no desire to go down that road. I am not a prude or a person scared of change. I welcomed the changes that came with Gnome 3 a few years ago. However, one thing that I have always loved about GNU/Linux is that you have A LOT of choices. If you hate the Gnome experience, you are free to try Cinnamon, Xcfe, or a host of other desktop environments. Unfortunately, the Windows world seems to be moving in a direction where unilateral decisions are being made for the user that leave him or her with no choices. I could at least avoid the ribbon interface. The active tiles, the use of desktop space, and other new features of Windows 8 are unilateral changes than I am not willing to accept.

How Could Microsoft Keep Me As a Windows User?
I gave this question a lot of careful thought. I would love to see Microsoft open source the entire Windows ecosystem, with the exception of the Windows kernel. They obviously don’t like the GNU GPL version 3 license, but they SHOULD allow developers to develop programs for Windows using whatever license they like, including GPL v. 3. Microsoft should create a reference version of Windows which presents the Microsoft version of the Windows experience. This would be similar to the Nexus Android devices that present the pure Google version of the Android experience. Let’s call this version of Windows “Windows Prime”.

Since Microsoft does not like GPL v. 3, all of the software that runs on top of the Windows kernel in the Windows Prime version would be licensed under Microsoft’s open source license, the MS-PL. This would help Microsoft in several ways:

  • An open source community would develop to contribute code to Windows Prime.
  • Microsoft would get a lot of great new code created under the MS-PL.
  • Microsoft would free up resources to re-focus its engineering staff on making the security and performance of the Windows kernel as good as possible.

Microsoft could license the Windows kernel to developers who want to make alternative flavors of Windows. For example, the Gnome team might want to create a flavor of Windows that has a Gnome-like user interface, and one that supports GTK+ applications. They could also make it so that this Windows flavor would support native Windows applications. Let us assume that Microsoft charged a very reasonable kernel licensing fee: the Windows Gnome Edition developers would pay Microsoft a $250 license fee to use version X of the Windows kernel in an unlimited number of OS disks. For that fee, they would get a certain number of free kernel upgrades. Perhaps they would only have to pay a fee for each major kernel revision, but all minor revisions would be free. They could then sell copies of their Windows flavor, but they would have to pay Microsoft a small fee (e.g. $5) for each copy sold. The Windows Gnome Edition (WGE) developers would then charge a reasonable amount (e.g. $20) for each copy of WGE. Of course, Microsoft would not offer any support for WGE, they would only offer support for Windows Prime.

Windows Gnome Edition is an example of a Windows operating system that I would buy: reasonably priced, supportive of Free Software, and a Windows version that would allow me to make my own choices. I would still run GNU/Linux on most of my computers, but I would reserve space on one of my household computers for Windows Gnome Edition since there are people in my home who like to run Windows programs. Those is my home that like the “classic” Windows experience could always download and install an open source classic Windows desktop environment if they did not like the Gnome user interface.

Do I really think that what I have proposed here will happen? Probably not, but if sales figures for PCs and for Windows 8 do not improve, the ideas that I present here might be something that the management at Microsoft might want to consider. The free software/open source model is a smarter and more efficient model, and Microsoft could benefit from adopting it. Thank you for reading TLWIR 56!


n0body June 5, 2013 at 1:38 am

Retarded. Reactos is as close as you’ll ever get to a open source windows. And you can probably run gnome on windows already using cygwin. And if everything is free but the kernel, it’s not free software.

Overall, your idea is bad. Just use linux and forget about windows, it sucks anway

wpu June 5, 2013 at 2:38 am

Did you tried to learn how to use ribbons properly?
These are more powerfull than the classic menus/toolbars way and gives new features such as instant preview when hovering a style.

Also, did you tried to install 8 on your desktop and learn what has changed since the previous version?
W8 is not as terrible as journalists says and you are not forced to use metro apps at all. You will even see some improvements on the desktop part (explorer ribbon, task manager, ability to mount isos, …).

If you really want your w8 to work “as before”, take a look at http://www.stardock.com/products/ I personnaly like the ModernMix app. You want a tiling wm, take a look at http://palatialsoftware.com/plumb/ . There are plenty of possibilities! Perhaps not enough to take 1 entire week or more to customize it but you would be surprised by what is really possible ;-)
Also for office, they are plenty of plugins allowing to have the “old style” menus and toolbars.

I must say that I am also a user of linux wms like .gnome 2/3, xmonad or kde and tried many others. My preference is still a Windows 8 correctly tweaked to my needs (I even have working linux shell and softwares thanks to virtualbox, debian, ssh, putty and XMing \o/ ).

jza June 5, 2013 at 7:31 am

Why did you not just use Windows 7 as long as it is supported?

Bob Robertson June 5, 2013 at 8:01 am

“Do not try to teach a frog to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the frog.”

Microsoft hated the GPL long before the GPLv3 came out, because Microsoft knows very well they could not get away with cherry-picking from GPL code the way they have from BSD. (most obvious example, the entire Win95 TCP/IP stack lifted directly from BSD)

The Halloween Documents, in addition to the overt corruption of the ISO, show what Microsoft as a corporation really is.

Do yourself a favor and just walk away. You cannot save Microsoft, you cannot rescue Windows. You can only save yourself.

zgegator June 5, 2013 at 8:31 am

The Guy Is just sharing is own experience and it seems he is really frustrated

@wpu & @n0body
Are you S Balmer **** *******?

You can say what you want, KDE is the ultimate DE experience Really Orgasmic.

Next comment will be for OS X or may be E17

Let us use what we want and keep your so flate W8 as its design

Mike Frett June 5, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I was in the same boat, but my Windows usage was for 15 years and I ONLY used Windows. I amassed a closet full of Windows games and everything revolved around Windows. Until last year. When I started learning about the dark side of Windows: _NSAKEY, Backdoors for Governments and Law enforcement, DRM etc. My fear was no longer if I was going to get a Virus or malware; I already had one, Windows.

So I had enough. After lots of research and finding alternatives for my Apps and Games, I settled on Xubuntu. An official Ubuntu derivative using XFCE. People will tell you to use Mint, but Mint or any other Linux OS doesn’t have a Software Center where you can BUY Games and Apps. This was extremely important to me.

I installed it in full, no Windows on my Hard Drive. I removed the dock at the bottom and moved the top bar down to the bottom to be more familiar. I actually wrote a little post on my blog on how to do that to help others. I did all this last year (2012) and let me tell you right now, I will NEVER go back to Windows or use another Microsoft product as long as I live. Switching to Linux has felt empowering; It’s like removing your slave chains.

Wine runs most of the games I liked, but to be honest I replaced most of them already with Native games like Torchlight, ZigFrak etc. I’m a happy camper and the future is looking fantastic. Which is more than I can say for Microsoft, phone not selling, OS not selling and their new Xbox One is looking more like a DRM monster than a Game Console.

Anyway, just do whatever is best for you. You don’t have to listen to any of us, It’s your Computer and your Life. =)

Guy June 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Ermm … I had to help a friend with his Windows 8 & it IS terrible – worse than my expectations. You can get add ons but why should you have to in a paid product. Why should MS dictate what is ‘best.’ when their customers plainly hate it (& they do – they are voting with their feet).

MBarland June 5, 2013 at 5:23 pm

20 years of Windows experience, off and on (mostly off) Linux experimenter since the late 90′s, and started hitting Linux heavily around ’09. I have not used Windows 8 and have no desire to. I agree that the ribbon is a horrible design philosophy. I am forced to use it at work and it literally halves my productivity. I’m sure at some point I’ll be forced to use (or worse, support) a Win8 system, but I will not until forced. I’m quite happy running Linux, moving each of my many computers to Ubuntu, Mint, or CentOS when I’m sick of dealing with Window’s BS and just want it to work. It even passes the wife acceptance test, and with SSH, is infinitely easier to support and manage.

bureado June 5, 2013 at 6:47 pm
Pierre June 5, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I won’t use Windows any more, at least on my own PCs.
However it does exist on some of the family’s PCs.
But I prefer to avoid them, – where possible.

wyz June 5, 2013 at 8:36 pm

@ Rex Djere I too will be departing the M$ express before Eightsville. It’s now perfectly clear to me that Microsoft is clueless to the needs and wants of the desktop users. In that arrogant we know best style we’ve seen so many times before M$’s upper management is trying to foist upon desk and laptop users a touch screen interface. No way is this going to fly. Worse is to come. Even after so many negative reviews excoriating Window’s 8′s awful design I have faith that the micro brains at Microsoft will not adequately rectify their errors in Windows Blue (version 8.1), but instead make changes to the operating system that will be little more than cosmetic. Having a train going nowhere isn’t enough for the poor fools at Redmond, oh no, they’re hell-bent on derailing it too.

@ zgegator Yes, KDE is the ultimate desktop enviroment for me also at this time.

Frenk June 5, 2013 at 9:08 pm

I imagine you as a user who goes on well with win3.1 and 95 but win 8 is not good enough.
Quite a bizarre picture.

will grimes June 5, 2013 at 9:40 pm

I have bought every os ms put out including SCO. I have been using BSD for years along with windows. I use the os which does what I want with the least amount of work. I have used win 8 since the beta. I actually bought a copy of 8. I don,t like 8 and will never use it on my laptlp or de. sktops.. It is real easy to make it look like win 7 if one needs that. there are quite a few things I do which are easier to use windows than linux. I started to use ubuntu with 6. I really loved 6 and my windows use went down to 4 programs I had to run on win. there was a 8 _10 group of new coverts to use ubuntu. 10.04 came with unity and now I am the only one who still uses linux (mint). I hardly use linux any more and when I need to I Cuss out unity. one positive thing I can always say about win you always know how to use it unlike different flavors of linux which change on a whim.

sanyo June 6, 2013 at 1:08 am

Purchasing of W8 is good to get the latest free of charge Visual Studio Express

dca June 6, 2013 at 1:50 am

If Windows was afforded the same Linux ability of multiple DEs it’d be just as less-used as Ubuntu… It’s that choice that’s forcing Linux not to be big on desktops…

Thank God Shuttleworth has it right. When you go to a store and purchase the next vers of MS Office, it will say ‘compatible with: Windows Xp, Vista, 7 & MAC OSX 10.4+ (AND) Ubuntu 12.04+’… Nevermind any references to Linux as a whole.

john June 6, 2013 at 2:59 am

yep, sent it out m$

ulric June 6, 2013 at 4:10 am

“but they SHOULD allow developers to develop programs for Windows using whatever license they like, including GPL v. 3.”

dude, you already can, and there is an infinite number of GPL software for windows, some of it even distributed by Microsoft itsel in the resource kit.. and you can replace the windows shell or run gtk+ app already. there is even a gnome port out there.

name June 6, 2013 at 9:17 am

@Mike Frett

Mint is compatible with Ubuntu’s repositories so it’s highly propable that Ubuntu Software Center will run just fine on Linux Mint. Haven’t tried it, though.

Peter June 6, 2013 at 9:40 am

Windows user at work (Win7) and converted to Linux at home many years ago.

I used to like Windows, used it at home. Then came activation, but I was still fine with that. Then came WPA, and my PC at work (duly licensed under a site license) popped up the dreaded “not genuine” message. IT guys took care of it, but I began to wonder if Microsoft was still at the top of their game.

The final straw was (wait for it) the upgrade to Office 2010 with the “ribbon”. Yes, I have learned how to use it, but to my mind, it is an unnecessary change, though one I would tolerate…IF there was a way to use the old menu structure I had grown used to. Sadly, Microsoft has decided not to offer that option. I am philosophically against change for the sake of change (or profit), and the changes to Windows are coming fast and furious these days.

So, while I must use Windows at work, I’ll not be using it at home (except a copy of XP in a VM for those apps, usually for GPS or cameras, that require it. I prefer the classic Gnome 2 UI, which I am still able to get, although I am now forced to move from Ubuntu to Mint.

The big advantage of Linux for me, is the richness of development and experimental tools available on the platform. I know if I can’t find a program with a GUI to do something, I can always fall back to the command line. Sadly, Windows seems to be moving in the opposite direction, towards being a content delivery platform.

No Such User June 6, 2013 at 10:24 am

I solved the problem of the ribbon: I don’t use Microsoft Office. Not even at work. I use LibreOffice and no one can tell the difference. Windows 8 will improve with time, especially once M$ backs off from the Metro UI requirement. Bring it back to looking like a proper Windows system. As it is now, it is beginning to look like MacOS, which is a travesty of design as well.

Sam June 6, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Do you really think Windows 8 is any more difficult to learn than Linux for a new user? But, given the price of windows, if you’re going to suffer it might as well be free.

Now if I could just figure out how to make my mouse pointer bigger…..

notzed June 7, 2013 at 12:24 am

Well there is another way. In the 23 years since 1990 i’ve only used microsoft software for about 3 of those – and only at work.

It’s easier living without it than with it.

Edu Guy June 7, 2013 at 5:09 am

The worst thing about Windows is the lack of choice. Why not have a user pick his own Window Manager?

Peter June 7, 2013 at 12:32 pm

@Sam : Do you really think Windows 8 is any more difficult to learn than Linux for a new user?

No, I don’t. What I object to, is having to learn a new UI (and having no option to use the one I have become used to) simply because some wanker UI designer at Microsoft thought it would be fun to use a completely different one.

Look: the Windows UI (whichever one you like) is not hard to learn, but you should only have to learn it ONCE! From then on, you should be getting better with it…more efficient, fewer clicks, etc. I’m getting too old to “embrace change”, but I’ll make an effort, as long as it’s not change for change’s sake. There’s a reason all hammers and circular saws look alike.

Previous post:

Next post: