The dual boot: it’s the answer to all of life’s mysteries. Well, okay, so maybe not all of them. But the biggest one, of how to enjoy the security of Linux whilst still being able to use all of your Windows apps and play all of the latest games. Because as good as Linux is, it just isn’t gaining any popularity, so most software is still in the demesne of Windows.
Well, okay, so in theory there’s also Macintosh in there somewhere. But honestly, who cares about that?
And, again, another theoretical solution is to use virtualization, like VMware, to run one OS natively and the other on virtualized hardware from inside the native OS. Except that’s not really the solution that it should be. If you run Linux native and Windows virtual, it’ll work, sure, but the point of a lot of people of running Windows is to play games that Linux can’t, and even though VMware has made some great strides in graphics virtualization, now that they actually virtualize the 3D acceleration as well, there’s still a significant performance loss running on virtualized hardware. Which rather defeats the purpose. Who wants to play their games slowly? But the alternative, running Windows natively so that you get full performance, and virtualizing Linux, is frankly even more useless since you’ve just thrown the whole Linux security advantage out the window. And really, what can Linux do that Windows can’t? So then what would be the point of using Linux at all if you were going to make your base OS Windows? You could just use Windows.
So the answer is to dual boot. Install Linux and Windows side-by-side and choose which one you want to load at startup. It’s supposed to be easy. And solve all of your problems.
Except for when it isn’t, and doesn’t.
Frankly, Linux (and all things related) is really starting to piss me off.
To start with, I decided to try a distro I’ve never touched before, because I’m old school I guess: Ubuntu. It’s cute. It’s snazzy. Shame it couldn’t properly recognize my RAID0 array and trashed it each and every time I tried to install it. Having installed Windows first in the process, that meant a lot of re-installing Windows, drivers, etc. It was a royal pain in the asterisk.
But I’m nothing if not persistent. I switched from using my Intel Matrix RAID controller to the dinky JMicron one that I don’t trust worth a darn, and voila, Ubuntu stops trying to access the component drives separately and treats the RAID0 array as a single disk. Windows, mind you, had no problem properly using either.
That settled, move on in time. To a procedure I’d put off perhaps a little too long: making my first backup.
Here’s a freaking rant in and of itself. Windows Backup in Windows 7 can’t be used because the Linux bootloader partition used by GRUB I stupidly partitioned and formatted for Linux. You might think “duh” there, as what else would you do? Well Windows 7 has a stupid shadow copy technique used when backing up drives. This is poorly programmed, and requires so much free space on each partition. And yes, you guessed it, Windows both is smart enough to recognize that it needs to backup that bootloader partition, but too dumb to know how to read any Linux-formatted partitions. So unless you were smart enough to make that bootloader a FAT32 or NTFS format, Windows Backup fails each and every time because it can’t shadow the bootloader partition. Never mind that you could have literal terabytes of space free on your drive. The shadow has to be on the partition being copied, and if the partition format can’t be read by Windows, you’re SOL. And, in fact, I can’t even be sure that making that partition Windows-readable will fix this Windows Backup woe, because I have yet to try it. It’s only a theory that it might make Windows Backup usable on a dual-boot box.
But honestly, it’s no big deal. That’s okay, because Windows Backup is a PoS anyway. There’s so much better software out there, right? Comodo, for example, is free and does a much better job. I would have just used my old copy of Norton Ghost, like I have on so many Windows XP boxes past, but it’s not compatible with Windows 7. Oh, sure, some newer version is, but I’m not going to stump-up cash for that if there’s a free alternative that meets my needs. And besides, I don’t want to just back up my Windows partitions anyway. We’re talking dual boot. We’re talking Windows and Linux living side-by-side. So a Windows-only backup would be darn stupid anyway. Just as a Linux-only backup would be.
So let’s try bringing in something truly multiplatform, that can read NTFS and Linux formats equally well, and will respect the whole of the hard drive, the master boot record, the partitions, everything exactly as they are. Why not try something like Partimage Is Not Ghost (PING) then.
And then watch during a routine backup as PING totally destroys the Windows partition so badly that no Windows or Linux tool can restore it without reformatting the whole NTFS partition Windows used to be using before it was slaughtered by bad programming and heavy Linux hands.
Honestly. Can anyone tell me why anyone would think a typical Windows user would, at this point, having had his Windows install raped and slaughtered repeatedly by Linux, be even remotely interested in trying to use Linux at this point? At all? Ever?
I can’t think of a single reason.
In fact, I feel pretty damn stupid for even giving Linux this many opportunities to nuke my Windows install.
I honestly have no idea why I’m so determined to use Linux at all. Dualboot is just not working here. I don’t know why not. It’s a freaking simple concept. I know Linux works just great on its own. And Windows, well, is Windows. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. So…
…I keep on trying.
But if anyone has ever wondered why Windows users don’t switch to Linux for the better security, lower overhead, and easier access to a plethora of wonderful free software? There you go. It’s because of all of the bad things that Linux does, that Windows doesn’t. Like happily deconstruct a RAID array and then write to the drives individually, destroying the array. Or blithely nuke Windows during a routine hard drive backup, when it should only be reading from the Windows partition in the first place. Not many Windows users would be happy to reinstall everything from scratch because “oops” we had a little bug.
I’ve decided that I really don’t like Ubuntu though. So maybe I’ll go back to openSUSE. Or Fedora.
But later. Much later. When the seething anger has gone back down to a dull ache and I can burn a distro to DVD without wanting to throw it across the room, grind it into pulp, etc.
I really never thought I would cherish anything Microsoftian this much. But I’m about damn ready to mount my Windows 7 disk on a wall. With those holograms, it’s even kind of shiny…