Installation Hell

I got a new PC and a new Netbook which quickly drove me into an installation hell, two-hit-combo for Windows and GNU/Linux

My Gawd, it’s not often that I can get annoyed at both a Windows and a GNU/Linux system at the same time but I managed to do it this weekend. You see, me and my girlfriend bought some new toys this Saturday: She got a new Netbook (Acer Eee 1001HA) and I got a new compaq PC (This time I didn’t build it myself). Both systems came with Windows (XP and 7 repsectivelly) which meant I had some tasks on my hands.

Specifically I needed to bring my Windows 7 system up to date to a gaming standard and then install my normal GNU/Linux workplace while I needed to wipe the XP from the Netbook and replace them with some netbook friendly GNU/Linux flavour.

I started with the Netbook and chose the Ubuntu Netbook Remix initially since I’ve lately been playing most with the Ubuntu distros. The installation went pretty smoothly to the point that the girlfriend could do it herself. However the problem appeared as soon as we tried to connect to the wireless. As always, the fucking wireless curse struck again and the card was not recognised. After some futile attempts, I ended up trying to the old favourite of searching around the nets for info on this. *Sigh*. I hate it that still not at the point where one ends up doing google searches to get a basic functionality from their PC. I knew what I was doing and I knew what to look for but by the Gawds, someone with less knowledge or patience than me would have given up far sooner.

Why is it so goddamn hard for the system to point out that a wireless card has been found but there’s some problem with it? Why do we still expect users to guess what the hell is going on or go to fora and ask. This is so fucking backwards! Can’t the system put a notice saying something like “A wi-fi card has been detected but we can’t get it to work: See Help (Insert link here)”. Something ffs! It’s better than pretending that nothing exists at all.

I recognise that this is mainly the fault of the hardware manufacturers die not giving any drivers but who do you think a user is going to blame? At least put some awareness out there!It’s even more annoying when looking at the Ubuntu Netbook Remix  Hardware compatibility page I saw my model as working perfectly out of the box. My Arse!

And of course, after I looked around for some solution, I did find a forum thread linking to another forum thread linking to a ppa-launchpad package for a new driver for this. Ok then, lets install this package and get this working. Repository Added. Trying to update my package lists…404. Repository not found. Aaaaaargh! Fuck that! Wipe Ubuntu, Lets try Mandriva (which I saw has a Moblin interface available)

Mandriva behaved a bit better. At least it recognised that I had a wireless card even though it was not able to use it but at least during the wireless setup wizard it asked me if I wanted to use the windows drivers (ndiswrapper) with it. Seeing at it wouldn’t work any other way I didn’t have an option. Unfortunately an online search returned crappy results (mostly the launchpad entry which didn’t work). Fortunately the Asus Eee came with a CD (which is weird because the Netbook has no CD drive) from which I copied the drivers to a USB disk and then loaded them up using the wizard for ndiswrapper. Score for Mandriva.

Unfortunately they’re very flaky. Wireless keeps dying at random (mostly if I try to logout or if it goes to sleep) and can’t be restored without a reboot. Then when you try to reboot, the system hangs just after halting and can only be restored with a manual power-off. Then I tried to create a new user for me in English, but I can’t install or activate the english language (it’s not even an option anymore). And finally the Moblin interface simply doesn’t work at all which is the most annoying part. At least my girlfriend is satisfied with a gnome interface so it’s not all bad.

Still though, the experience has left me a bit sour. But not as sour as the Win7 one did.

You see, my own PC came with Windows 7 Home Premium in German, which means I couldn’t navigate worth a shit and all programs insisted on installing themselves in a language foreign to me. There’s not way to switch the system language like you can in GNU/Linux, because MS expects you to pay 220$ for the privilege (You need to buy Win7 Ultimate). Fuck that!

Ok, I can live with crappy navigation. Maybe it will help me improve my German. But noooo, it couldn’t be that easy…

The first thing I tried to do was upgrade my Nvidia drivers. Seeing as the system was 64bit, I downloaded the appropriate package from Nvidia. However during the install progress, I noticed a weird warning about my new driver’s kernel (It was in Deutsch so I couldn’t parse it). Oh well, system seemed to work and I tried to play a game to check my new Power.

Queue Blue Screens of Death.

By one driver update, I ended up with around 4 BSOD. In desperation I tried to quickly replace it with the international version of the nvidia driver (just in case that was the problem). It wasn’t. After a few more BSOD, I tried to uninstall and reinstall. Only as soon as I tried to login and install the drivers that came with the PC, Microsoft tried to be helpful by automatically reinstalling the broken drivers without any prompts. Queue hair pulling.

Remember, during all this time I’m trying to nagivate a  German language system and can’t figure out almost anything.

In the end, the drivers were stable enough to play Half-Life 2 and I left it at that, as I started downloading an English version of Win7 Home Premium Super Awesome Aqua Force. Next day, I tried to install this using my current serial which fortunately worked. Unfortunately I didn’t notice it was a 32 bit one. I have no idea what the difference is between a 64 bit windows 7 and a 32 bit windows 7 running on a 64 bit processor. Most apps are 32 bit anyway so I have no idea if I’ll be missing anything. Nevertheless, I started a download for the 64 bit of Win7 home premium and still waiting. I fully expect that I will then have to pass through an activation hell.

Of course that doesn’t mean that the system is currently stable. I just had a BSOD when simply trying to open Computer Management…

There was also the sharing hell I had with Win7 which steadfastly refused access to my GNU/Linux boxes, forcing me to pull stuff instead of push as I wanted. The byzantine sharing settings did not help at all. And not to mention other annoying things like Electric Sheep not working, endless security confirmation dialogues and the like.

So here I am at the moment. With a Netbook which has a flaky wireless connection because RaLink can’t write drivers worth a shit and a WiP new PC because fucking MS wants to milk money for a simple language change. Hopefully soon enough things will settle down and I’ll at least get to enjoy my old PC as an XBMC.

But as always, things just couldn’t stay simple could they?

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Interoperability my arse!

Microsoft once again shows that their anti-competitive colours are still flying. Only now we have to deal with appeasers from the GNU/Linux side trying to apologize for them as well.

Windows XP Running On Linux
Image by paradoxperfect via Flickr

Roy says it best about the new Windows 7 installation. Once more, for all their rhetoric, Microsoft’s actions show yet again that they don’t care about interoperability or playing nice with anyone else. All they care is maintaining their desktop monopoly and part of that tactic is not making it easy at all to setup a dual boot setup.

While in 2001, when XP came out the excuse “Only hardcore geeks use GNU/Linux so why should MS even consider them” might have had some basis, 8 years later, when desktop GNU/Linux is more than viable through distros like Ubuntu and where it is quite likely that people might consider trying this other OS while wanting to keep the Windows option open, it fails to convince.

This is nothing other than the same ol’ spiteful, monopolistic tactics on behalf of MS. This capability, to install multiple OS’ without screwing up each other has existed for ages so it’s obviously not rocket science. As such, MS’ refusal to implement it can be nothing but deliberate.

And if that’s not enough, we now have GNU/Linux users defending such actions! So now, among the atheist appeasers, Women “feminist” appeasers we have to add GNU/Linux appeasers as well. If Microsoft apologists were not enough. Of course, that there are those who would sell-out to MS in order to get ahead in the marketplace is nothing new, but plain users? Those who are the ones getting the most annoyance out of such tactics? Why do they feel the need to apologise  for MS?!

Here’s some of the classic excuses (and my counter) you’ll see on why this isn’t really a problem, move along, nothing to see here:

GNU/Linux users are a small minority. Most desktops will be Windows only so why should MS even implement a dual-boot consideration?

Because even though GNU/Linux is small, it is also showing accelerating growth and even a small percentage of desktop users, when seen on a global scale means quite a few million people. People who will all be inconvenienced when they need to upgrade their installation or repair/reinstall it when it will (eventually) break down.

Because MS has been blabbing about “interoperability” for the last few years and they need to be called on their bullshit at some point. Their rhetoric has never been honest and their actions prove it again and again.

They didn’t really make it hard to install Windows 7. It could have been far worse.

Gee thanks…

Should  we be thankful that Microsoft doesn’t go out of their way to prevent GNU/Linux installations now? Should we praise MS for not making our task more difficult than it already is? What kind of fucking stupid slave-mentality is this? “Golly thanks for using lube while screwing me in the ass, sir!”

And you know what? They did make it harder than Windows XP. Slightly so but nevertheless true.

You don’t stop criticizing someone when they act less evil than they could have been. You stop criticizing people and corporations when they stop being evil.


All you need to do is hack , #2 and #3.

Which is obviously something all people who’d like to try out the system can do right? No, of course not. And MS knows this and they know it will further reinforce the perception that GNU/Linux is only for hardcore geeks. You know what the regular user will say when you mention hacking the goddamn boot loader? “Huh wut? No thanks”. Which will mean that it will always require a power user (and perhaps more than that) to simply set it up (and then again and again when Windows invariably breaks down and requires reinstallation).

Compared to the possible scenario where Windows acted like an OS of its generation and recognised that “hey, there are other OS’ out there, perhaps we should be considerate to those of our users who might be dual-booting”, and have Windows autorecognise the MBR is taken, and provide sensible options on how to work with it that a simple user can follow, you know, like GNU/Linux has been doing for what, 8 years now?

Of course it is better to make it seem as if only IT nerds can setup and maintain a GNU/Linux installation alongside Windows 7, even when they difficulty has nothing to do with GNU/Linux and everything to do with MS’ refusal to play fair. Thus they can keep their ignorant audience locked in and happily continue spreading their FUD, only they have some appeasers from the GNU/Linux camp on their side as well who will make their point for them by saying stuff like “Oh it’s easy. Just reinstall Grub and then hack the bootloader“.

Other OS’ and even some particular GNU/Linux distros are worse than that.

A Tu Quoque is a logical fallacy. If other OS’ are doing even worse, then they are worthy of even heavier condemnation. And about those GNU/Linux distros that do it (see Moblin, IPCop etc), you do know they are meant for a single OS installation right? You do know that Moblin is for netbooks which are unlikely to have a dual-boot while IpCop is a firewall right? Don’t you think it’s just a tad intellectually dishonest to bring those up as examples of such faults?

You wouldn’t would you?

So while there can be other who can be just as bad, if not worse than MS, this does not constitute an excuse of any kind, especially since they hold most of the desktop market and their actions are clearly deliberate. And if Free Software OS’ are doing this without having a reason to do so, then you can always change it by contributing or even convincing the developers of the errors of their ways.

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