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'A Week with Windows 8' and Other Tales of Linuxy Virtue

By Katherine Noyes
Sep 10, 2012 5:00 AM PT

Few would deny that the Seven Heavenly Virtues are all characteristics worth striving for, but lately the Linux blogosphere has afforded more than a few shining examples.

'A Week with Windows 8' and Other Tales of Linuxy Virtue

Linux Girl would like to highlight two of them.

Exhibit A: Charity and Kindness

First, in response to the appeal circulated throughout the blogosphere last month, the Linux community wasted no time in stepping up to the challenge and went above and beyond to help legendary advocate and hero for kids, Ken Starks.

"I don't want or need any more money," Starks wrote in a follow-up post at the end of the month. "Thomas and I decided that donations should be stopped when we reached, the then unheard of amount of 50 thousand dollars.

"I want to thank you. A lot of you," Starks added. "I've just experienced the power of the Linux Community."

That's an A+ for Charity and Kindness, Linux geeks, and Linux Girl isn't too proud to admit that it brings tears to her eyes.

Exhibit B: Diligence and Humility

Then, perhaps near the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, there's Kev Quirk's brave effort over at RefuGeeks.

"Windows 8 hasn't exactly got the best rep at the moment," began Quirk, a committed Linux fan and Ubuntu user. "The general consensus amongst most IT professionals and users alike is that Windows 8 is a disaster waiting to happen.

"A while back I wrote a review on Windows 8, but when writing a review they tend to be more based on first impressions rather than how a system actually grows on you," Quirk added. "So, in the interest of fairness I have decided to give Windows 8 a fair crack of the whip."

Specifically -- brace yourselves, dear readers! -- Quirk undertook the highly selfless and altruistic effort of spending a week on Windows 8.

O the Diligence! O the Humility! There are scarcely words to describe such breathtaking sacrifice. It was certainly no task for the faint of heart.

'I'm Sticking with My Linux Desktop'

Quirk did survive his adventure, Linux Girl is happy to report, and what's been particularly interesting is that it has not been the only analysis of Windows 8 by a Linux fan in recent weeks.

Hitting the wires soon afterwards, for example, was "Windows 8 is awesome... But I'm sticking with my Linux desktop" over at Network World -- followed by a lively discussion on Slashdot.

Then, too, there was the side-by-side comparison of Ubuntu and Windows 8 over at TuxRadar and the review on Dedoimedo.

Few have been so brave as to emulate Quirk's Herculean effort, but there's no doubt Linux geeks are doing their best to understand Microsoft's infamous new operating system.

Down at the blogosphere's Broken Windows Lounge, FOSS fans haven't hesitated to share their opinions.

'Fundamentally Misguided'

"There is no way that Linux users are going to suddenly defect to Windows 8 -- it looks like a dog," opined Google+ blogger Kevin O'Brien, for example.

"I think the problem is that trying to have a single interface for a phone, tablet, and PC is fundamentally misguided," O'Brien explained. "You get something that probably performs equally badly on all platforms.

"I noticed that Nokia's stock is tanking since they went to the Phone version of Windows 8," he added.

'I Shudder a Little'

Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza had just this to say about Windows 8.

Indeed, "I think comparisons of new (and old) Linux desktops and interfaces to Windows 8's interface is less relevant than what Microsoft has done," chimed in Slashdot blogger yagu. "It looks like (and I haven't used it yet) Windows 8 is aesthetically and ergonomically deficient, certainly based on many reviews out there."

Superficially, "the look of Windows 8 is, to be kind, ugly," yagu told Linux Girl. "The blocks/tiles are clunky, and a simple 2-color motif seems too retro to be cool.

"Every time I've seen a snapshot of the new screens for Windows 8 I shudder a little," he added. "Windows 8 offers 'live' tiles too, and that's cool tech, but the gestalt of live tiles and clunky tiles disappoints."

'Weird at Best'

Looking ahead, "users are in for a surprise when they try to really use Windows 8," yagu opined. "I've seen at least two videos of users trying to navigate their way through and around Windows 8 with little success and much frustration. Even experienced users struggle.

"Windows 8's split personality, desktop/mobile, doesn't offer choice -- it creates tension," he explained. "It is a user-dilemma."

In an informal poll of his peers, in fact, yagu "found unanimous agreement that Windows 8 is weird at best, off the rails and horrible at worst, and no one expressed any interest in having Windows 8 on any of their computers," he said.

In short, "Windows 8 may be Microsoft's new Vista," yagu concluded. "It will be for me. Vista was the ONLY release of Windows I never owned, the only one. Is Windows 8 next?"

'A Similar Flop to Vista'

Windows 8 "is not something I find exciting except M$ will kill off '7' and replace an OS reported to be actually worthwhile with something totally different," blogger Robert Pogson offered. "That's another bump in the road for Wintel."

Microsoft's attempt to "lock down the ARM platform," meanwhile, "is annoying," Pogson opined. "I expect some anti-competition suits this year if they do manage to make ARMed PCs unbootable by GNU/Linux. Who will do the suing is up for grabs."

Governments should probably be the ones "because the violation of anti-trust law is so obvious," he suggested. "OEMs may well do it because M$ is messing with them once too often."

From Microsoft's perspective, meanwhile, "I expect '8' will be a similar flop to Vista," Pogson predicted. "Rather than the OS being broken, the repertoire of knowledge among users will be lost, making migration to '8' a similar difficulty to migrating to Android/Linux or GNU/Linux."

In other words, "M$ has killed its longstanding 'barrier to entry' by making migration to '8' difficult for users," he concluded.

Who's Emulating Whom?

Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, saw good things for Linux in Microsoft's new operating system.

"Windows 8 has struck me as being Linux-inspired ever since the early previews," Travers explained. "I can see why Linux fans would like it. After all, it more or less reverses who has been trying to emulate whom.

"Having Windows attempt to emulate GNOME 3's success on the desktop also will certainly not hurt desktop Linux in any way," he opined. "Perhaps that success is best seen as a chance at controversy and hence press, but it also means that Windows is following the UI decisions that began on the Linux side, which is new and shows how things are maturing."

'We Have a Good Opportunity'

Still, "telling me I would prefer Unity to Windows 8 is like telling me I'd rather be punched in the stomach than the face," consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack said. "It is probably true, but the actual reality is that I would rather not be punched at all.

"We have a good opportunity to take advantage of the bad will Microsoft is generating with Windows 8, but we need to compete with distros that aren't going to annoy users with Gnome 3 or Unity," he opined. "If we can't do that, we will lose them to Apple."

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

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