I spent the whole of last Sunday trying to clean a couple of hundred viruses off a family friends computer. The installed anti virus claimed to have quarantined the viruses but they kept on coming back. There was a virus that created an autorun.inf file in the root directory of all the drives that went on calling an executable that had some control characters in it so I could not delete it (or maybe the files were locked or something.) The only alternative was to do a complete reformat of all the drives. A fresh install of Windows without the reformat would just bring the viruses back.
Now my family friend had all his data on this machine and as most non geeks never considered backing any of it up (most non geeks have this idiotic notion that computers are magical machines that never fail, go on chugging on and on and can magically generate all of their accounts for them.) The machine was so badly messed up that I could not even get the data written to a cd. The cd writing application went on failing (was probably infected badly) and after creating a couple of coasters I realized another approach was required.
I needed to get rid of all the files that Windows would not allow me to delete and yet preserve the data. My solution was to use System Rescue cd (http://www.sysresccd.org/Main_Page). The is a Linux boot disk that comes with utilities to help you recover from a disaster. It even lets you mount a NTFS partition and perform rescue operations on it.
I first booted into Windows and copied all the gentleman's files from the desktop and his other folders into one common directory. This was to ensure that I wouldn't lose any of his files on the desktop etc when I deleted the Windows directory. I then booted in System Rescue cd, mounted the NTFS partitions in Linux and deleted the Windows directory, Program Files directory and all the dlls and vbscripts the viruses had left in the root of all the partitions thus deleting only Windows, the viruses and leaving the gentleman's data intact.
I then booted off the Windows XP disk and did a clean install (installed all the drivers etc.) Made sure the computer was not connected to the broadband connection (unpatched Windows on the net is a no no), installed a couple of hundred patches that Microsoft has released since XP SP2 (from a disk I had), installed an anti virus (AVG), connected the broadband connection, updated the anti virus signatures, did a hard drive scan once more just to be sure and was done! I rescued a Windows system with a Linux cd, isn't it ironic!
This left me thinking. Critics of Linux claim it is not ready for the desktop, I however contend that if we install Linux desktops for people who aren't familiar with the best practices of keeping a Windows installation spyware and virus free, we will have less infested machines spreading malware on the net thus making the world a better place. The Linux desktop has evolved over the years and you can be as productive on KDE and Gnome as you are on Windows.
Before going on, I'd like to confess that I have been an evangelist for Linux myself, I like the idea of people around the world building something amazing and giving it back to the community for free. I love the concept of the free exchange of ideas. The hippie in me believes this is the way the world should be i.e. the unrestrained flow of knowledge and ideas for the betterment of everyone. I have a Windows desktop (a dual boot with Linux actually.) Some of my favorite applications are on Windows and that is what has kept me from taking the complete plunge to Linux. There was something that kept me booting back to Windows, that is until I found this article: -
The author lists alternative applications in Linux for the functionality he can't do without in Windows and goes on to show how to setup Fedora Core 7 with these applications, making it the perfect desktop for home or business use. I found that the applications I cannot do without are a subset of the applications listed in the article and I could actually stop using Windows.
For an office application I am already using Open Office (http://www.openoffice.org) on Windows. MS Office is too buggy and prone to viruses for my liking. Yes feature wise Open Office is not a par with Office 2007, it is more comparable to MS Office XP. I have never used or needed to use all the functions in MS Office XP anyway and nor do I use every feature available in Open Office so I have no problem with this and it is completely functional for me.. Open Office is also available on Linux so I am all set on the office front.
For email, I use Mozilla Thunderbird. That's is available on Linux, so I'm good to go there as well.
My browser of choice is Mozilla Firefox, also available on Linux. Awesome!
The application most used on my home computer is Azureus, the bit torrent client, it runs even when I don't (I leave it downloading in the night when I'm asleep.) Available on Linux as well! Great!
If you are a user who uses his computer for browsing, mailing, printing letters etc. (soho apps), Linux comes with everything you need (at OS installation time). However if you are a professional who is used to certain dtp apps, photo editing apps, etc, you will find good alternatives in Linux but don't expect your favorite applications from Adobe / Macromedia to be available on Linux anytime soon. You guys are better off migrating to Mac OSX if those apps are required. Also gamers are better of sticking to Windows, most game companies don't support Linux. For gaming a console would be a better choice.
Microsoft was heavily promoting the security features of the new Windows Vista, yet a five year old virus can infect it! After six years of development, the capitalist monkeys at Microsoft have come up with the abomination that is Windows Vista. I say “Hasta la vista Microsoft”, I'm off looking for greener virus and malware free pastures. Years of development have only produced more eye candy in the OS and eye candy that requires an unbelievable amount of horse power to run. If eye candy is important to you, google search for the screen shots of KDE 4 (still under development), looks much better than Windows Vista I think.
Thanks to the good people at http://howtoforge.com for that excellent write up listing alternatives for all my favorite Windows apps, I'm finally taking the plunge to Linux (avoiding booting to Windows for everyday tasks). I will update you on my experiences as I go along.
As you can tell from my previous posts, I only post a blog entry when I feel passionate about something or I'm pissed off about something. So thank you Microsoft for ruining my Sunday trying to fix that abomination of an operating system you call Windows. People are migrating in masses away from you to Mac OSX and Linux, serves you right for creating crap and trying to sell it to us for a shit load of money!