Daily Archives: April 18, 2009

Ubuntu vs XP Home – Race to Setup

The VPS which hosts  The SlayerCafe and will soon host Myth Games, as well as a bunch of other sites, runs Ubuntu.  I’ve been very impressed with the speed and stability of the server, so I’ve decided to try a desktop setup with Kubuntu.

There’s a discussion on UbuntuForums about the readiness of Ubuntu for the desktop, and one recurring theme is how long different OSes take to set up, so I decided to do a little test.

My niece got a laptop for Christmas.  It’s a good machine, way more powerful than what she needs – Dual Core, 2Gig RAM, big hard drive.  The only thing ‘weak’ about it is the graphics card (shared graphics memory and outdated shaders), but since she isn’t really a gamer it’s fine.

Her desktop machine is slightly older, but has a Shader Model 3.0 capable Geforce 7600.  She stopped using the desktop as soon as she got the laptop.  We all assumed it was because she liked having a webcam built in to the laptop, plus she could use the laptop to IM friends while watching TV.

It turns out, though, that the desktop has been broken for quite a few months.  It kept blue screening on bootup.  We arranged to take the machine back to ‘the lab’, and check it out properly.  We tried all the usual stuff – check drivers, change out graphics card, change out memory, virus and spyware scan, but nothing obvious worked.  The machine wasn’t used for anything important, so we decided that rather than spend ages trying to salvage a Windows XP Home install that could have been abused in any number of ways, a reinstall was the best bet.

So I’ve decided to do a test.  XP Home install time vs Kubuntu.  For the purposes of the test, ‘Installed’ is classed as booting to desktop, drivers installed, and internet access working, with the ability to watch YouTube videos and play Runescape.  No customization, no office apps, just a working base PC and the bare basics needed for web browsing.

It took 53 minutes to get XP Home booting, but then another two hours to get the Wireless card to see the network (most of that was spent on Windows Updates + some annoying driver issues), plus 30 minutes to download and install Java and Flash.  After all that, my niece decided she didn’t want the desktop machine back because she prefers her laptop.  That machine has had the graphics card replaced with an older one, and will now be used to run a webcam to watch over the back yard.

The Kubuntu desktop is installing right now.  I’ll keep track of the time and post once it reaches ‘ready’ stage.

The test isn’t all that scientific – the Kubuntu machine is a lot slower than the Windows one – it’s even installing from a slower CD drive, but I’m still curious which one is ‘faster’ to set up.

Speed of setup doesn’t mean much long term – in theory you should only be installing an OS when you do a major hardware upgrade or there’s a new release.  I know I don’t rebuild very often, even on Windows, but the discussion intrigues me, so here goes.

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