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Nickolaus A. Pacione

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i tried turning it off and back on again. [17 Mar 2018|02:49pm]

A few months ago, the hardware in my iMac shit the bed one final time. Rather than replace it (Apple hardware is not that great, and certainly not designed to last), I decided to convert this epic Xidax gaming rig I have into my primary production machine.

It worked like a dream for a long time, and Windows 10 began to feel like a pretty decent OS, even if I missed some Mac OS UI features (hitting space to preview files, and easy keyboard screen shots were the two I missed the most.)

But about a week ago, something went wrong. Everything started slowing down like crazy, Chrome just quit working entirely, and even Firefox ran so slow, I felt like I was using a 386. So I used every bit of computer learning and troubleshooting I’ve picked up in thirty-five years of computer use, and I turned it off and back on again.

It wouldn’t start up.

So I booted from the DVD, and told it to repair the problem. That didn’t work.

So I attempted to reinstall Windows. That didn’t work.

So I formatted the drive that C: lived on, and tried to reinstall Windows. That didn’t work, and I lost a ton of media by mistake as a bonus (I have it backed up on a Seagate drive, but it’s still a pain in the ass to lose it).

I went to the Internet, and I downloaded a few Linux utility distros to check the hardware integrity on the machine. I booted from those CDs, ran their tools, and confirmed that everything was working correctly.

At this point, my lungs were aching for air.

I got super frustrated, because all the diagnostics I ran appeared to work, and every test told me that there wasn’t anything wrong. It just turns out that Windows won’t install, and it gives me the super helpful advice to check the install logs that I can’t read because when I boot from the Windows DVD, it won’t let me write to any of the mounted file systems.

So I’m moving my opinion dial from “Windows isn’t that bad” back to “Windows is awful garbage that is an affront to all good people in the world.”

Also, one kid seems to really love the Speedo Guy.

Spinning the dial was satisfying, but it didn’t give me a working OS that I could use to get my work done, so I grabbed the latest release of Debian Linux, and booted from the resulting live DVD. It felt familiar, and unlike my Windows nightmare, it Just Worked(tm). For longtime *nix users, especially the subset of us who started using Red Hat or Debian or Mandrake or whatever back in the late 90s, this reality — that Linux worked effortlessly and without any configuration hassles — will likely prove to be quite pleasing.

I wondered if there was a hardware problem that I hadn’t uncovered, maybe a failing HDD or something, and I decided that the best way to test it would be to attempt a Debian install.

About seventeen minutes later, I booted my machine from GRUB, and like a magical leprechaun, Debian just worked. I had to install a couple of drivers to get the most out of the graphics card, to get Flash and Java to go, and to update Chromium, but that was it.

I’m still annoyed with Windows and its lack of useful error messages, and I am confident that I’m not getting the most computing/processing/graphics/awesome power out of this epic machine, but I have an OS that is solid and stable, that is making it possible for me to do my work, browse the Internet, and read and send Email. There are some idiosyncrasies that I’m not crazy about, and there are a few mild frustrations (I can’t easily watch Netflix or Hulu because of stupid DRM issues, and some websites like Twitter are painfully slow), but I’m definitely turning my dial toward “Linux is awesome.”

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