My windows box inches its way towards …. the window.

A while back I would have said that I have three reasons to maintain a Windows computer.

1) iTunes;
2) a couple of games;
3) tax software.

Yes, yes, I know, these things can be done with Wine or an emulator. But really, having the relic Windows machine sitting there has simply bee easier.

Tax software is now obviated because it all works on line. Ironically, one of Microsoft’s original ideas was to have the “browser” be part of the “operating system” which, we may guess, was a ruse to avoid orders to remove their browser from the shipped OS back in the early browser war days. But it turns out your browser CAN be your OS.

The games … well, as much as I’d like some day to p\full out the old Sim City and mess around, really we have not played a game on this old box in two years. Not since the Wii arrived, anyway.

Which leaves iTunes. How do I get rid of a need for iTunes? And, more generally, for the software that maintains my iPod?

I’m not sure. But what I do know is this: Both my Linux box and my Windows box sat here unused for six weeks. When I turned them both on, how many unnecessary mouse clicks did each of them demand?

Windows: 29
Linux: 0

I turned on the Windows machine to look for a file. But it demanded 29 clicks (yes, expecting this to be an issue, I kept count) that had nothing to do with anything I wanted the computer to do.

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28 thoughts on “My windows box inches its way towards …. the window.

  1. It is also possible to configure a single disk with both Linux and MS operating systems. When booted as Linux you have full access to the MS partition and any files on it though no executables will work. It is best to configure for Linux to be the default OS, otherwise since MS has no boot loader SW if it is the primary OS you will need a boot floppy for the Linux system.

  2. For getting rid of itunes, I suggest that you just get rid of the iPod. You can get mp3 players that just connect as a flash drive, thus work on any modern OS. I recommend a Sansa clip+.

    Failing that, go with Krubozumo Nyankoye’s suggestion and dual boot Linux and windows, with linux as the default.

  3. I had a similar problem. I agree with “get rid of the ipod” in theory, but I didn’t really want to spend more money on a music player when I already had one. I installed ipodlinux on my ipod, and it simply acts as a storage device with a NORMAL filesystem instead of Apple’s screwy “encrypted” filesystem. Now I “maintain” my ipod with nautilus, by dragging and dropping. On any computer, regardless of OS, no less. The ipod interface itself is certainly a little clumsier and slower, I won’t dispute that. But it’s worth the tradeoff to me.

  4. Should have said ‘iPod Touch’ in the blog post. Seems like you are SOOL. VM with XP seems best bet. or get a player with straight UMS support

  5. Yeah, get rid of the iPod. Any old player will do what iPod does for a lot less, plus the USB stands for “universal.” And I use Rhythmbox for maintaining my music library, and Easytagger and all those Linux fun things that are out there and “free” as in “free beer.”

  6. People keep saying “get rid of the iPod” as if it is only capable of playing Apple DRM tunes purchased at the iTunes store. Where would this idea have come from? It will play anything from anywhere except other distributor’s closed DRM files. If you already have one there is absolutely no need to dump it and buy something else.

    Except an iPad. iPad == iPod Touch * 6.

  7. This iTunes installation is maintaining four iPods, including an iPod Touch. It is not likely that getting rid of the iPod is a choice.

    Dual booting: I actually don’t recommond that for anyone.

    I’m about to redo my main computer, meaning, new hard drive and new system. After that, I may try virtual Windows. But the second Windows in a VM starts to give me crap, it’s “hardware” goes into the trash.

    I wonder if a Mac Mini would be a good option?

    Pity: I have a G-something titanium laptop. But it won’t run the current system. One of the down sides of Macs is that you actually have to upgrade your physical hardware now and then.

  8. I use Amarok (2.2.x and now 2.3.0) quite happily with a variety of iPods (classic, mini, nano). Reportedly Amarok also supports iPod touch, but I cannot confirm one way or the other.

  9. Your G4 laptop is undoubtedly a PowerPC so the last system you can use is Leopard – but snow leopard is a huge break anyway, and not geared to home use, really. The innovations in iTunes aren’t that impressive. Get the last itunes that you can run and it won’t insist you upgrade to use your ipods. you should get a “mover” like DiskAid/TuneAid so that whatever you do with your files, you control them. Newer iTunes is nothing special, I reiterate. Until a short while ago, I used my G4 titanium laptop as a music machine, with various accounts set up with up to 30G each in them for the various iPods involved, and no problems.

    On pure linux, i’ve tried combinations of Rhythmbox and Amorak, and had decent results.

    The process I would follow:

    get tuneaid/diskaid – best software to use without jailbreaking. don’t sync ipod X to itunes until you’ve gotten all the itunes files off to the hard drive of the laptop. then say, okay, sync, and add all the saved files to the library. make that titanium laptop an itunes machine, and call it good.

  10. Figure yourself some bandaid to get things to your ipods for now. When upgrade time comes around just make sure each replacement is something that works with a real standard. Eventually you can ditch the itunes.

    I have yet to use itunes. I can’t figure out a reason to rent my music at full price on a lossy format. I buy CDs online at discount prices, they come in the mail and go directly on the computer in FLAC with EAC. From there I guess I have a drawer full of backups.

    I was also unimpressed by the actual sound quality of ipods. My cheap little sansa clip is much better. For their prices ipods should be putting out 24bit.

    note: if you’re happy listening to music through your $3 earbuds then audio quality probably doesn’t matter to you in the least.

    Confusion: how is it that a guy who’s all about open formats and freedom of software got tied to apple’s content control system in the first place?

  11. You don’t *have* to upgrade an old mac to new hardware if it’s doing what you want. My daughter had a G4 mac mini that can still run the latest version of iTunes and maintains her ipod just fine. I have a Fujitsu laptop running OS X and it maintains my iPhone just fine as well. If you’re building a new computer anyway, check the OSX86 wiki and get hardware compatible with OS X and install it to a VM to manage the various pods.

  12. Alex –

    The Sansa Clip+ is an excellent player, except for some rather serious problems with audiobooks. I finally had to give up on Sansa because more often than not, I use my mp3 player for audiobooks. Unfortunately they have a tendency to randomly shut down and often the controls randomly freeze.

  13. Spiv: As time goes by, I become increasingly convinced that my philosophy and Linus’s are very similar.

    I have several computers. Including the ones I don’t use but maintain for others: Three desktops, there laptops, two Kindles, a Chumby, an iPod Touch. Among these I run Apple software on one Windows computer, and that maintains the iPods and the iPod Touch.

    To have a pure open source philosophy that insists that everything would be opensource, the following would have to be true:

    1) I would not use wireless with my laptops because there happens to not be an OSS driver for the wireless card …. I use an OSS wrapper on a proprietary driver. I chose to do that instead of limiting myself at hardware purchase time.

    2) The other computers I have, not mentioned above, would have to be ditched. My wrist watch and my car have computers, and I don’t know that they run Linux … probably not.

    3) I’d have to mess around more than is worth it to have an iPod to go to the gym with.

    (BTW, I can distinguish among lousy and better sound quality, but I do use only the 3 dollar headphones when I am at the gym!)

    Marion: Does the “last usable” iTunes maintain the iPod Touch? Will it continue to be upgraded to maintain the Touch (i’m talking software, not music)? That’s a factor.

    Anyway, these are all great suggestions.

  14. Understood; there are certainly places where it’s ‘unreasonable’ to go truly open (your car, for example, could be converted to MegaSquirt fuel injection. Not without significant time and/or financial expense).

    I think I generally draw the line (to use the car analogy) at when the manufacturer decides they want to control how I drive. I avoided itunes in the beginning because of drm. I avoid it now because I havn’t figured out a use for it. If ipods are the players you’ve got to have, I guess apple gets to tell you how to drive unless you’re willing to make some sacrifices on principle.

    I really appreciate manufacturers who simply let the device act like a usb flash drive when plugged in. I can drop the audio files on regardless of operating system and what software is loaded. It also lets me drop songs off on a carPC without it having to be tied to an operating system. Or a dedicated music box (which sadly is windows right now because me, linux, and bit-perfect are not good friends yet. But will be. I hope).

    *I use the 3 dollar earbuds at work.

  15. I think I generally draw the line (to use the car analogy) at when the manufacturer decides they want to control how I drive.

    Strangely, I use a similar analogy in the post I just put up!

  16. I had a bit of trouble with the Rhythmbox/Amarok programs because they didn’t update the software on the iPod, which caused it to suddenly stop charging when I connected it to the computer (even in Ubuntu!). Weird, but I’m doing the dual-boot thing, so maybe that makes a difference. My excuse for keeping windows is I couldn’t get Ubuntu to show up properly when I used dual monitors (I connect the laptop to my TV to watch downloaded shows). I also couldn’t find anything to download my podcasts that worked as easily as iTunes, but I’ll admit I didn’t try all that many programs. I will say the next player I get will probably be non-iPod. My first player was a Creative Zen, which was simple, had a lot of space, and kicked the comparable iPod’s ASS in terms of battery life, which was very important for my use. Then a few years later when it finally died, I found that every player on the market cost about the same as an iPod, i.e., too fucking much, and they all had pretty much the same specs, so I bought the iPod. I’ve been happy with iPod’s performance since then, I just hate spending that much on something I carry all the time. I buy reasonably-priced phones and digital cameras because I don’t want to shit my pants if I drop or lose it.

  17. I’ve been using VMWare around my house for years. Right now I keep Windows as my main OS because I play a lot of games, and have a linux Virtual Machine that I boot up any time I need an X server. It works great, and boots up pretty fast, resumes from suspend even faster.

    I’ve also run Windows 2000, and 2003 Server in a professional setting using VMWare server on Ubuntu Server. Again, it worked great.

    Having a newish CPU with VM extensions helps tremendously with performance, but you still shouldn’t expect it to do anything that requires graphics acceleration. Otherwise it’s not too different from having two physical boxes.

  18. I have a Sansa Fuze that I like very much. Having the microSD slot is essential for me. I mostly just transfer the music to the card via a cheap card reader, and it’ very quick. I will never buy an iAnything because of the unreasonable DRM issues, even if Apple has changed things. It started out with it, and I still resent it. People report that Amarok, Rhythmbox, and Banshee work with iPods, but I can’t verify that at all.

  19. Greg:

    Re: not having to upgrade OS to upgrade iTunes, and not having to upgrade iTunes to keep your ipod touch or iphone working, even if you upgrade their OS:

    So far, very much so. This is because there’s no connection whatsoever to the software version of the iPod Touch/iPhone/ etc. and iTunes software version.

    Also, all or nearly all of the iTunes are back-compatible. I still have the titanium G4 and it happens to have the latest iTunes on its Tiger OS. I use Tiger only for PowerPCs, because that way I can use my old Classic programs, and because Tiger and Snow Leopard are low-RAM systems, and Leopard seems like a RAM hog in comparison.

    I found jailbreaking a nuisance after a while, and never did for my iPhone, because I worried about warranty and applecare. that’s why I recommend DiskAid/TunesAid (from the same company. The photo program they also make, if memory serves, is 2 x the cost and almost entirely worthless, so I never “got” that business model, though maybe it was based on how hard it was to do.)

    The only thing I routinely keep jailbroken is my first iPod Touch. Somehow its wifi chip got broken irreparably, so it only has net through ssh and bluetooth or the usb cable, and every time I upgrade the OS, I have to re-jailbreak if possible, then build everything back up from scratch to get it internet again. Which, as I said, is not that different from having to build my wifi driver from scratch every time I upgrade ubuntu on my Acer.

  20. Resist the urge to fling things out the window – it’s a potential lawsuit that’s hard to win.

    I’m cursed to run Winduhs thanks to annoying clients who insist on attempting to do their work on Winduhs. I just wish I had enough work that I could tell those clients to go away.

  21. I have been using VirtualBox on Ubuntu to support a Windows VM for some time now. However, I don’t use iTunes so I can’t say whether it would work in a VM or not.

    Actually, I can’t remember the last time I booted up the Windows VM to actually use it (I run it every so often to get security updates). I keep it around for “just in case” business reasons.

    I’ve become a big fan of VirtualBox – it’s a good way to test run new versions of Ubuntu (and other Linux distros). I just hope Oracle keeps it free and supported.

  22. Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx supports out of the box both jailbroken and unjailbroken iPod Touch 2g/3g, iPhone, iPad. Plug in your iPod via USB, open either Amarok, Rhythbox or gtkpod and your iPod shows up and it _just works_. No need to compile or install any packages (well, except mp3 playback and Amarok if you choose). Can copy to/from iPod and supports cover art. What more can one ask?

    Oh btw, you can try it all without even installing Ubuntu. Just use LiveCD.

    Good-bye M$ Windows…

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