Damn Les, I'll never understand for the life of me how you could tell me with a straight face about a year and half ago that you were going to stop using Linux because it was too difficult, with too much undocumented shit to learn. I'm not bagging on you; I'm glad you perservered, but I'm here to say that Windows issues and workarounds are just as much tribal knowledge as Linux stuff is.
What's the source of my discontent, you ask? Well, for the last half a week, I've been trying to get some version of Windows to work for me. My friend Susie is in need of a laptop for school related stuff. Lisa's old NEC Versabook (Versa 2530) has been sitting around unused since she got my iBook about a year ago. It's nothing special; Pentium 133, 800x600 screen (sorta splotchy), 48 MB RAM, and a 1 gig drive. Too little to run modern stuff, but perfectly adequate, I thought, for putting on an older OS and some sort of Office type app for Susie's use doing reports at school and such.
So as it was, the laptop had a fresh install of Windows 98 on it from when I was ebaying it, and the winning bidder didn't end up paying. Since all of our local libraries have Wi-Fi access, I thought I'd throw in my old Wi-Fi card so she could surf and do research without having to use stinky library machines. So I get the Netgear install stuff, and "Add new hardware", and guide it to the appropriate directory. It does it's thing, and "my new hardware is now ready for use." So I pop the card in (it's PCMCIA), and everything appears to go great. But no workie-workie. Winipcfg shows that it's got a valid DHCP lease, and everything should be going fine, but nothing is going. It boils down to this, if the machine is rebooted, and the card is plugged in, it will acquire a lease (usually), and if the very first thing I do is try to ping a host, exactly one packet will get through, and then networking fails altogether. If I just try to surf, I get nothing at all. So I attribute this to general suckiness, so I do the typical Windows solution of uninstalling and reinstalling the drivers. 69 reboots later and still no workie-workie.
At this point I give up on Windows 98 (all the 9x Windows sucked anyway), and look around for a better option. Just to see what would happen, I give installing Windows 2000 a try. The installed filled the 1 gig drive up with about 450 meg of crap (I'm guessing; usage was about 575 or so, but Win98 was some of it) and then decides that it won't go since it need 600 meg free to install. Well, I guess it's unsurprising. It would have run pretty damn slow anyhow. So I try Windows NT 4, which may be the best option, as it should be the best option as it's a non-sucky, kernel based Windows (at least as non-sucky as you can get and still be running Windows). I'm now on my third install attempt. I've just now figured out that I need to create a temporary partition for this thing to put its files. Unfortunately, I've only learned this after I've gotten through all of the time-consuming things that the NT installer wants to do (like create boot disks and copy about 115 meg of files to the hard disk) before the installer fails. Every time this happens, I end up having to start from scratch. Booting from a Windows 98 startup disk (which, to Microsoft's credit, is a pretty handy utility disk, with fdisk and format and other stuff, not to mention CDROM support, on one floppy. Then I reformat the hard disk (I'll need to repartition it next time), and I do the requisite reboots (because MS fdisk won't re-read the partition map without a reboot). Then, maybe if I'm lucky, I can boot using CDROM support from the 98 floppy, start the WINNT installer, and go through the floppy creation process yet again (never mind that I have three perfectly good floppies already), and copies a zillion files back on to the hard drive.
Anyway, all I'm really trying to say is that Windows has just as many gotchas as Linux (or other open-source software) does. But people don't really think about it because they've been investing the time learning them without even thinking about it. It still sucks, though. For the life of me, I have no idea why people pay money for Windows (yes, I even mean Win 2k and Win XP). GNU/Linux has gotten really damn good in the last few years. The only place I think it's behind in is a consistent desktop appearance (where the general feel or windowmanager or whatever of GNOME doesn't change with every new RedHat/SuSE/Mandrake release; this is really more a fault of the distro maintainers). The only other place where OSS seems behind is laptop support, and that's going to be a difficult battle. Perhaps as the uptake of Linux continues in the far east, the Taiwanese manufacturers of everybodys' laptops will start to be more forthcoming with their hardware specs.