I got a laptop from work to use. A very pretty Sony Vaio VGN-FW45GJ, I decided to dual boot. I installed Windows7 and Ubuntu 11.10.

Installing Windows7 was a HUGE mistake, but it did allow me to discover what an absolute scam the Windows ecosystem is. And to make matters worse, I decided to write this post from my Windows7 boot while installing a load of Windows updates. In writing these short sentences, I have been interrupted by FOUR popups, one to reminde me to install IE9, one to inform me that some of the updates did not install and two from the two Driver Downloaders that I tried to get Windows working on this machine.

The Current State Of Affairs

Right now the situation is as follows:

Ubuntu: Installed, all machine peripherals working save possibly for the built-in Dialup Modem. I was a bit concerned about the ATI graphics card that the laptop comes with and the issues that Linux has been known to have with ATI drivers. I am happy to report no issues whatsoever. I had to download exactly one driver, the ATI Catalyst driver, and even this was done from within Ubuntu as part of the Drivers Utility.

Windows7: Windows is a different story completely. Mouse: Scroll does not work, Graphics Driver – I am still not sure if I am using the correct one. Keyboard FN keys – none of them work, Media keys on the laptop? None of them work. Trying to make sure which devices I have that need drivers or driver updates? Well Windows _did_ inform me that there is one “unknown device” that needs a driver. Thanks a lot, Microsoft.

Even the Driver detector that ATI provides did not succeed in installing the newest driver for my graphics card. “Uncompatible Hardware.” Yeah.

The Scam

So I try and hunt around for drivers, Sony falls short here as well. My Laptop is not listed on their site. (BTW, the “OOF LOL I INSTALLED UPDATES AND NEED TO REBOOT” popup window just appeared and STOLE KEYBOARD FOCUS while I was typing. I have no idea what I just OK’d. I am waiting to see if my laptop reboots to finish updates.)

Back to the scam then…

I download a free driver detection utility. First off, it does not play nice with my proxy server. I have to disable it to get the utility to connect to their server and tell the software vendor lord knows what about me. At least (0nce I have coaxed it to connect to their database) it detects about four or five driver updates for my machine, and that one “Unknown System Device”. Click to install drivers, and I have to buy the software to get to free drivers.

Fuck.

Right, try another free driver utility? Same story. At least this one does not struggle with the internet connection. Still, I need to buy the software to get to drivers my laptop.

So this leaves me at this conclusion: Windows does not allow the user an easy way to get to drivers for their hardware, but does allow the installation of software that extorts money from users to get drivers from third-party vendors.

Microsoft thus engages in scamming money from users.

BUT WAIT!

SURELY the third party vendor should be the one held to task? Yes, this is true, but I submit two arguments against this.

  1. Sony is not the only vendor that is guilty of not providing easy access to software drivers for their devices. In fact, besides that I did not easily find an EXACT model match to my laptop on their site, there is a range of models with similar model numbers that I am able to find drivers for – save for that “Unknown System Device” that Windows did not detect. My favorite vendor here is Intel. They have a nifty utility that you install and run that detects ALL the hardware provided by them and gets the drivers and installs it for you. Bear in mind as well that Microsoft spends a lot of money on convincing vendors to “recommend Windows”.
  2. My second argument is a philosophical one, Linux often gets keelhauled whenever an unsupported device is found. “Not ready for the mainstream” and “not desktop ready” are terms bandied about by people on-line and in discussions. A friend who often struggles with his laptop often tells me “Oh but I do not have the time to constantly fiddle with my machine to keep it working.” – his laptop is at their in-house tech support almost monthly. In this case, and every single time I have done a comparative install with Windows and any of a range of distributions, Linux has come up top.

But Your Machine Was Built For VISTA!

Yes, yes it was. Vista Pro 64Bit came with this machine, not Windows 7. Quick question though – was it “Built For Ubuntu”? No? I run Ubuntu without driver issues, your argument is invalid.

Summary

Think back to the last time you re-installed Windows, or the last time you helped a Windows using friend with his machine. Can _you_ honestly claim that Windows is more Grandma Friendly than Desktop Aimed Linux?

As far as I am concerned, where base installs are used as a measurement, this is no longer the case. And has not been for several years.

Users are fast approaching a simple choice – Use open Operating Systems, or shell out money to a third party to use an Operating System the paid for, on hardware they paid for.

Highway robbery, I think.

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  3. I got GUTSY!