I have learned better.
Successive versions of MSWin have added little if any functionality since WinME AFAICT. Conversely, they seem to have added hosts of maddening little idiocies that drive me nuts, for which there are no solutions.
When I loaded XP in 2002 and it started phoning home without my permission that was the end of the line; the straw that broke the camel's back.
By contrast, with Linux it is such a pleasure to have a machine that does exactly what I tell it to do or that at least asks permission, instead of executing a host of condescendingly stupid alternatives.
I have now bought two very expensive new machines in the past four years.
I do not turn them on even once before putting a Linux setup disk in the DVD drive.
Blowing off an investment? No. All that overhead is nothing more than the cost of doing business. Add it to your tax deduction at fair market value. (Disclaimer: Suggestion, I am not a tax advisor... :-)
Rather, doing so is recognizing a fundamental law of nature: There is no such thing as a free lunch.
All that suckerware is just that. And my crawling through it to delete it is a waste of time. So just nuke it all to start and then begin afresh with a new Linux distro setup disk.
Let me suggest that you investigate Linux Format, a UK magazine that each month publishes a "live DVD" with a different Linux distribution:
My favorite distribution at present is the SuSE series, currently at 10.2 (I have 10.1 installed), but have used Mandrake / Mandriva and Fedora Core. All surpass any version of the mainstream OSs in flexibility, usability, availability, reliability, and obedience, IMHO. SuSE issues a point update every six months, not every six years.
Any of these Linux distros offer at least two "desktops" - eye candy environments: KDE "looks like" MSWin, Gnome "looks like" Macintosh, but their applets can all be installed on the same machine. And of course, all other Linux software can be installed on either desktop framework.
However, beneath the eye candy is a raft of higher functionality.
Have you tried Firefox? Thunderbird? KHotKeys? Kwrite? Kate?
Konqueror blows away the legacy file and internet managers. It offers both file and Internet functions in one app, plus tabbed windows, multiple panes, direct internet connectivity, and a host of connection protocols far beyond ftp and http, e.g., smb, buetooth OBEX...
OpenOffice is fully compatible with MSOffice for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. It even now executes VBA macros. It has a DB function that I have not yet investigated. But then there is MySQL, cited below.
GIMP is a Photoshop clone. I use GnuCash in lieu of Quicken. Stellarium is brilliant. Rosegarden MIDI and score editing, XMMS audio player and equalizer, Audacity sound ripper and editor, K3b cd/dvd burning, Codeine/Kaffeine video players, Ekiga videoconferencing, GAIM instant messaging, the list is endless of highly useful, easy to use, reliable, robust, and powerful applications, all free as in speech and beer.
Stability? I honestly can't remember the last time I rebooted this machine. It's been weeks for sure, prolly the last time I had to shut it down to go on business travel. But since it is almost Easter, I guess I may do so tonight, just for old times sake.
File system? A raft to choose from. You can use FAT if you must, but then there are ext-2, xfs, and a host of others. I've used ext-3 and Reiser. All of these keep "journals" so that if you do have a crash before the data are saved you can recover. And they back themselves up, AND they error check and defrag themselves. So gone are the days of having to endlessly error check and defrag your disk. It just happens, in the dark of night while you are alone with your dreams.
Viruses? Generally fuggedaboutit. First, a well disciplined permissions protocol prevents access to critical files. Secondly, executables are all in one kind of a sandbox or another. Nevertheless the ClamAV virus search, cleaning, and protection system seems robust, although to date all it has found are old macro virii in old Windows DOC files and its own test files.
Development? Mono mimics .net. Then there is BASH, Perl, PHP, TC/TCL and a raft of other languages designed to do things simply. The flagship of web servers worldwide is LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. All open source and highly flexible, extensible, and usable. Not to mention the W3C standards for CSS and HTML. I have to write special CSS routines to accommodate MSIE, while the Rest Of The World read the authorized CSS styles just fine. XML seems to be an emerging standard for database formats, embraced by the LAMP community. A 'way cool app is Notebook:
This is an XML personal Wiki and database where you can easily store all your stuff. You can easily create a functional decomposition of your life and store away all those little snippets of information that you hate to lose and keep them a click away. I vaguely remember a proprietary Win app, InfoSelect I think, that sort of did this, but this is open and you can edit the DB with a text editor, which you could not do with InfoSelect.
The alleged "driver" issues are mostly solved except for perhaps the most arcane hardware. My Nvidia display, WiFi, printers, and USB peripherals work out of the box. Some folks, notably Nvidia, and others are now providing Linux drivers for full functionality, and the ndiswrapper protocol is doing a wonderful job of taking care of the rest.
There is still a problem with fringe proprietary software, mostly synchronization with PDAs and such hardware, e.g., Timex geek watch synchronization, Garmin GPS jock gear synchronization, Rosetta Stone language software, etc., but for those very arcane and limited applications there is VMWare as a full x86 hardware emulator into which you can install up to Vista, or CrossOver Office, which provides an enhancement of the Wine API to run Windows apps directly. Then there is Win4Lin, Wine itself, and others. I can transfer files between my Linux file system and my Nokia 9300i using Bluetooth OBEX but still haven't cracked the calendar, todo list, and contacts synchronization yet. Funambol and multisync promise this Real Soon Now (RSN)...
And on and on and on.
So you *can switch.
And most importantly, IT DOES WHAT I TELL IT TO DO AND NOTHING ELSE WITHOUT ASKING PERMISSION!
Obedience is good. I paid for this machine, it belongs to me, not some faceless corporation in the far far west.
So do yourself a favor by taking a look at Linux, especially the SuSE and Ubuunto distributions. And, importantly, Linux Format and SourceForge.net as excellent sources of up-to-date information on the latest developments.
Linux has not only arrived, it is clearing the brush and weeds of obfuscation and frustration from the Desktop forest.