Seven or Ten

7 or 10

7 or 10

My “old” laptop (it’s always “old” isn’t it?) is running Windows XP Pro. So since my disasterous attempts to “upgrade” to Outlook (see my previous post here), all my Microsoft buddies promised me that all my problems will be solved if I upgrade to Windows 7.

Great news!

But this time I wasn’t going to get caught again. This time I wanted solid evidence, measurable parameters, clear results, before committing to my “new” laptop.

So I purchased a nice piece of hardware (Intel Quad-core, 8400 chipset, 4Gb RAM) with 4 SATA hard drives that I could swap out easily. The strategy is to install a clean operating system on a new hard disk and then emulate my existing workload and work methods and programs. One hard disk was pre-loaded with my document set (around 350Gb, mixed stuff like old documents going back to 1998 in Lotus Smartsuite, recent Outlook PST files, or even very up-to-date Office 2007 documents). The remaining 3 disks were used – one at a time – to hold a particular operating system. Programs ranged from basic Office suites to image manipulation and PDF manipulators.

Windows 7 and Ubuntu version 10 (hence the 7 or 10 moniker) would be the two main contenders, and my control set is Windows XP SP3 with which I am very familiar.

The results were astounding. I am still in shock!

Windows XP came first and within 3 hours my system was running perfectly. Check!

I decided to try Windows 7 next. Windows is Windows, the same, right? Never was I so wrong! It was sheer hell to learn the new interface, to find things, to get used to stupid UAC messages and indexing and searching … after 3 days (two of which were over a weekend with lots of time) I could say that I had a reasonable system up and running. I am still playing “Find-My-Documents” but I now know for sure that the reason MS improved the search facility is to help them find their own documents. Oh, sharing between my XP laptop and my Windows 7 machine is still not exactly seamless, but some kind soul posted a work-around. I was tired. I also have NO confidence that I will be able to make a ghost image of my system and restore it and boot it in a few minutes – a key requirement for when my laptop gets stolen and I have to rebuild to be on-the-air in minutes after buying a new machine.

If Windows 7 was so difficult to get used to, I said to myself, Linux (Ubuntu) must be even worse. I heard the rumours. So very reluctantly (I am now days behind on my customer commitments) I put in a clean hard disk and boot my Ubuntu 10.4 (so now you know why I called it 7 or 10!) DVD. In between doing customer calls, I answer some questions, I re-boot the Ubuntu system … and everything works!

No! Impossible! It cannot be! I try to share a folder … it works! I download a file … I can find it! I try automatic updates … it works! Everything works! Restoring ghost images too … wow.

OK something must be wrong. Try printing on my HP LaserJet 4600 … it also works!

At 9pm that evening I pour myself a glass of wine and sit down to reflect while listening to some music from my Ubuntu machine. I have nothing more to do. It is simply done. My Ubuntu system has gone in effortlessly in 4 hours, including getting used to the new user interface.

  • Cost of Windows 7 including Office, excluding hardware – at least R2500 (ZAR), + 20 of my hours
  • Cost of Ubuntu including Office and all the most important tools I use – z-e-r-o -, +4 of my hours

Both new systems had a steep learning curve. Things are not the way they used to be. You click in different places, you see new terminology. Both are pretty, both struggled with MTU sizes on my iBurst connection. I cannot say the one had a particular edge over the other.

But one thing is certain: Windows 7 doesn’t have any edge over Ubuntu. I cannot give Windows 7 more than 7/10. My recommendation is crystal clear: If you have to choose to upgrade from XP to a new system, don’t waste precious money on Windows 7. Rather use that money for a better sound system, TV or pretty clothes. It will give you more value.

It just proves the old adage: The cost of an item has no relation to its value.

Outlooking gets interesting twist



You may remember my previous post on Outlook? The experiment to move away from Lotus into the Promised Land of Outlook?

I’m still using Outlook, it has been a busy time and I didn’t have a chance to move back to Lotus or anything else for that matter. I just stuck it out. Like a bad storm. You are not happy but you build this Turtle-shell and you wait for the pounding to stop.

So today I came across this discussion on Slashdot about the guy who wants to archive his e-mails. Bingo! I am not alone! Amazing stuff – I recommend you read all the comments.

Moving on … I saw them mention a free product called MailStore Home … I downloaded, installed, archived from Outlook … and it just works. I am very pleased. It is not a solution to all my problems, but heck! It solved one of my major problems, which is searching my archives going back 10 years or more.

MailStore Home is free but it is definitely not an inferior product. It performed rock-solid, I loaded some 50 000 – odd e-mails, added my Google mailbox and then to add injury to insult I added my Yahoo! mailbox and guess what? It is all there, searchable in a second.

It turned out to be a very good, thought-provoking solution to one of my problems. Maybe the way forward is to think about my problem in smaller chunks and solve them one by one.

Thoughts, anyone?

Ramadan Kareem 2010

Ramadan Kareem

To all the Muslim friends we made while working in Africa and the Middle East, we wish you Ramadan Kareem. We hope that this year’s Fast will shower you with Blessings.

Ten Reasons I like Dubai


Ten Things

I arrived in Dubai one day ahead of my conference starting, and after inspecting my room briefly I decided to take to the streets and malls. Why do I enjoy Dubai so much?

10. I like walking around in my sandals without people looking at me funny. (Seems like everybody wears sandals 😉 )

9. I like walking around because they have these cute, air-conditioned bus huts where everybody ducks in to cool down.

8. I like looking into shop windows to see the products on display without trying to watch on the glass to see who is following me.

7. I like walking on the beach without kicking my sandals against tons of filth and waste and rubbish

6. I like taking my wallet out of my pocket to pay for a Coke at a vendor stall without feeling the hair raise on my neck.

5. I like getting into a taxi to take me home when I’m tired of walking, and I can be seated comfortably.

4. I like buying at vendor stalls without being mobbed robbed and jumped.

3. I can walk to my workplace with my laptop bag over my shoulder without fearing it will be ripped off my arm.

2. I like walking back to the podium after a break and I actually expect to find my laptop is still there.

And number one:

1. Actually, I just like walking around in Dubai. It is an awesome city. And it is safe.

What do you think? If you know a better city – let me know.