This is not a summary of the reasons I don’t like Windows: it would be a very long post if it were! It is just a recent incident, for which Bill Gates is not to blame; this kind of thing may be inevitable when a business grows too big.
Some years ago, I bought a Windows XP laptop from a big nationwide computer retailer. This was mainly for storage, but also it connected to my Psion (which, in fact, broke shortly afterwards). On their advice, I took out a service contract, but I never made use of it until recently, when the laptop caught the RECYCLER virus, from an infected USB stick.
This is not exactly an obscure virus; a quick Google search revealed several sites giving advice on how to deal with it. But it was a bit beyond my competence. (Disinfecting my USB sticks was not a problem, since I could use one of my linux machines for that.)
So, trustingly, I took the laptop back to the shop.
They promised to fix it in 3-5 working days. In fact, they took 3 weeks to ruin it. They deleted all my files (in their words, they “put it back to factory settings”), but didn’t remove the virus.
I didn’t know where this virus hides, but one of the symptoms is a hidden folder called RECYCLER which, not too slowly, fills up with junk, until presumably the hard disk is full and the computer becomes unusable. When I got it home and started it up, I found the RECYCLER folder, already containing a lot of stuff. So I took it back to the shop again.
They blustered, and tried to blame me for re-infecting the machine. When I opened a DOS prompt and showed them the RECYCLER directory, they attempted to claim that it was the recycle bin! (Remember, these are people whose job is to fix technical problems with computers.) Finally, since I wouldn’t go away, they called their own helpline. The guy on the line confirmed that I was right, and said that they had simply restored Windows from the “restore” folder (I think he said), in which the virus had probably hidden. It would be necessary to wipe the hard disk and re-install from CDs. Moreover, they would charge me for that. I protested that I had already paid them a substantial amount for the service contract; tough luck, they said.
I also discovered the reason they had taken three weeks. They had taken my work and home numbers; I told them to use the work number, since someone would take a message if I was not in. Instead, they phoned my home number (during working hours), and felt slightly aggrieved that nobody answered!
Naturally I am very reluctant to have any further dealings with this company. So instead of a Windows laptop, I now have a useless lump of plastic.
Meanwhile, my two linux machines soldier on. The first-edition Asus eee-pc is my workhorse; very connectable, very useful away from home. But some of the keys are beginning to wear out. (If there are “v”s missing from some recent posts, they were typed on the Asus.) Also, 2Gb of memory is not really enough to run lots of software, though not a problem for storage, since it has an SD card slot. The psiXpda (on which I am typing this) has 16Gb and a superb screen; I have begun learning to use the Gimp on this gadget. But when it arrived, the networking part was not working; I have been too busy (or too dependent on it) to have it fixed, so now it only connects via USB.
My ideal machine would be a combination of the two, with more memory. (But if you get a hard disk you lose robustness.) I supposed it had to be a linux laptop. So, coming back rather annoyed from the computer shop, I ordered one from a major international retailer of books and electronics by mail order.
The adventure was by no means over. They decided to send the parcel by white van rather than the post. (If the postman can’t deliver a parcel, the sorting office is only ten minutes walk away.) Of course, they couldn’t deliver, and left a card. I asked for it to be delivered on Saturday, and waited in all day, but nothing appeared. So on Monday morning I went over to South London to collect it. If you only know London from the Monopoly board, you may think that Whitechapel Road to Old Kent Road is a short hop; with the revived East London line, it isn’t too bad, but includes a 25-minute walk at the other end.
I don’t know whether it was the Curse of Gates on anyone buying a computer not running Windows; but, when I was nearly there, I tripped over a loop of wire in the road and took a bad fall, dislocating my shoulder. I lay there for a minute or so, unable to move. When I struggled up, I felt the shoulder click back in. It was very painful (it still is), but I got the parcel and was home by breakfast time. (I found that the train from Surrey Quays to Canada Water was the most crowded I have ever seen, anywhere.) In spite of the pain, and a crisis at work, and a very poor wireless connection, I managed to load it with the Gimp, LaTeX, and GAP, a day before my trip to Melbourne.