The confessions of a dual booter

Yes, that’s right.  I dual boot between Windows and linux.

I have actually been dual booting or multi-booting since around 1990.  At that time I was dual booting between DOS (IBM-DOS or PCDOS) and OS/2, using the OS/2 boot manager to handle the system selection.  I quickly found that I was mostly using OS/2.  By 1995, I had a computer capable of installing linux.  So I set that up for triple boot (OS/2, Win95, linux – slackware).  It probably took less than a month before I found that I was mostly using linux on that system, and I have been pretty much a linux user ever since, except for a period of trying solaris.

So why do I dual boot, when I primarily use linux?

There are several reasons.  The most important is that I teach operating systems, so it is useful to have experience with several systems.  Additionally, other family members use Windows, so dual booting also makes it easier for me to help them with computing questions.

My current home desktop computer has linux (openSUSE 12.1), WinXP and Vista.  It came with Vista, which I initially found quite frustrating.  So I reformatted the disk, reinstalled Vista from the recovery media, but on a far smaller partition.  Then I installed XP (I already had the install CD that I had used on the computer that was being replaced with the then new desktop.  And I tried to install linux, but was initially frustrated.  The install of XP was a desperation move to get me something that I could use until I could get linux onto it.  I eventually succeeded with linux by booting the install media with “nolapic” as a kernel option that avoided a BIOS bug.  I had to install 32 bit, because the 64 bit version at that time did not work with my ethernet card (though 64 bit is fine now).

My current practice is to boot to Vista and XP twice a week, primarily to allow the anti-virus to update.  If I have something that really needs windows, I may boot to that at other times.  Most of the time I can fit any needed windows use into the twice a week reboot.

So what do I run on Windows?  These days, very little.  The one Windows application that I still need is the income tax software.  My periods of running a Windows system will be longer around the income tax return time.

There is other software that I run on Windows.  The main one is adobe update.  It seems that they are forever finding security holes in their applications, requiring an update.  Then there’s Windows update as the next most popular Windows application.  And then Java updates as a less frequent requirement.

I have not bothered to try wine or a VM on linux.  It is easy enough to reboot when I really need Windows, and the need is rare enough that it isn’t particularly disruptive of other things that I do.


About Neil Rickert

Mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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