Let me begin by saying that I have been an Ubuntu user since 2005, and my last experience with Windows was XP many years ago. I managed to miss all the fuss surrounding Vista and 7.
Fast forward to present day, and I just recently purchased a new laptop from Dell. I was trying very hard to find one with the specifications I wanted that came preloaded with Linux. System 76's Galago and Dell's XPS 14 were both contenders. For various reasons that are beyond the scope of this post, I ended up grabbing a Dell 15 7000 that went on sale. Since it had a 1TB hard drive, I figured I'd dual boot again (like the old days) and see what Windows 8 was all about. Well, I found out.
Windows is indeed making great improvements in their OS, and by that I mean they are succeeding in making it much more difficult to install another OS alongside. First there is the "secure boot" issue, but also the way Windows (or Dell?) partitions things to make it nice and confusing. Anyway, to make a long story short, after years and years of problem-free Ubuntu installations, this one managed to go awry. The result was Windows being messed up so badly that I decided to wipe the whole drive and start over with a clean Ubuntu install (13.10).
After a couple of weeks of using the computer, I was feeling a bit ripped off. I had paid for Windows 8, but never really got to try it out. Unfortunately, Dell doesn't ship this laptop with recovery media, but just a recovery partition (now gone). A call to Dell support resulted in two recovery DVD's arriving in the mail. One with the OS, and the other had the drivers. An external USB DVD borrowed from family, and I was on my way. Or so I thought. The first problem was the product key for Windows 8. It's no longer a sticker on the bottom of the laptop, but hard coded into the BIOS. No problem, I thought, how difficult could that be to recover? Well, bloody difficult from Windows as it turns out, but Linux came to the rescue with a quick solution, and with my key in hand, I went on to install after backing up my Ubuntu partition.
Here's where it really started getting fun. First, the Windows installation didn't accept my newly purchased product key. What the? OK, no problem, I'll get one from the Internet, and fix it later with Windows "activation". So far so good. The installation went really fast, and I was surprised by this, until I realized that almost no drivers were installed with the basic set-up. OK, we're not done yet.
Now it was the second DVD's turn with the drivers. Apparently Windows only wants the drivers provided in a certain order, so like a good boy, I did what they said. First the chip-set, then the video card, etc. After most of the driver installs, you are required to reboot the machine. It was the video card that really screwed things up. It seemed to affect the chip-set drivers, whereupon Windows asked for the chip-set to be re-installed. Doing so made no difference. The drivers were so incompatible with each other and the hardware in general that I was witness to a parade of "Blue Screens of Death" the likes of which any Windows sysadmin could only have nightmares about. Every little change I tried to make seemed to result in an annoying little smiley on a blue background with a cryptic code and Windows telling me that the computer was being "shut down for me", like that's what I wanted in the first place. In a stable moment between blue screens, I thought I would activate my copy of Windows and get that product key issue resolved. Well, the Windows activation screen also didn't accept my legally purchased key either.
So what I was left with was a lovely new laptop with the processing power of yesteryears super computer, that could only spit out blue screens of death at me, and had a life span of a few months until Microsoft demanded a valid activation key (which I have but they won't accept).
Total time spent on project so far. 1.5 days. I kid you not.
That was enough. I picked up my USB stick with a new download of 14.04 on it and sparked up the machine again. I've never been so happy to see the Ubuntu logo in all my life. Within a few minutes, I had a fresh install of 14.04 up and running flawlessly. A few clicks, and all my favourite software was added. A quick backup form my external USB drive put all my files back, and it was like I had never left.
And I'm never leaving again. Thank you Ubuntu, the Ubuntu community, the Linux community, the GNU community, and all the others that support freedom in computing, and provide for a wonderful stable environment for those who value ownership in not only their hardware, but all those 1's and 0's on the inside too. You people are the greatest.