I'm still a fairly basic Linux user (as these pages will show, undoubtedly - I've only been using and learning Linux for three years) which is why I still find it valuable to try out competitors for some perspective. Seeing as I had a Windows XP and several CD Keys, I decided to try it out again, to see if my memories hold up.
I also had other motivations, such as a couple of new PC Games that I received over the holiday break. Keep in mind that my desktop is not very powerful relative to the average gaming build, and that it used to be running Windows 7.
Everyone who has installed both Windows and Linux on a bare machine knows that it's no contest: modern Linux distros are so much easier to install that it's unbelievable. Windows 7 isn't as bad as XP, but it still has a way to go. I'm also surprised how finicky the CD-Key system is - it sure goes through a lot of fuss to activate your copy of Windows. I found myself wondering when the activation server will shut down, leaving XP dead in the water.
My CD of Windows XP also turned out to be Service Pack 1, whereas Microsoft has released Service Pack 2 and 3 since then. Thus began my slow crawl towards security. This is possibly why Linux distros try and release every two years or so - I've never installed so many patches and bugfixes in my life, and the constant restarts were baffling. While that was going on I managed to install my drivers, but only because I used Ubuntu before I started to find out the names and model numbers of my wi-fi and graphics card.
After that I combed the internet for my favorite windows applications (it's been a while since I used Foobar2000), which made me appreciate package management quite a bit. Then I went into the settings, turned mostly everything extraneous off (such as that blue and green interface) and got to work on installing my games.
On my box, Windows XP uses under 200 MB of RAM, where Windows 7 uses over 550 MB. A strategy game, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, runs much better in XP than 7, where it barely ran at all. I cannot say that all games run faster (they're still downloading at this point) but Firefox is certainly snappy, though not quite as quick as a well oiled Debian install.
This all just reminds me that in all of the progress that we've made in the past twenty years with computers, software has simply used it all up to display pretty graphics and flashy buttons. For what? An endless hamster wheel of progress where we never actually move forward.
Am I hypocritical for buying a handful of games and a cheap HDMI graphics card? Seeing as this poor beast can barely run anything vaguely new (2007 seems to be the age limit) I'd like to think not. Gaming is a fun hobby for me and, like computers, I have more hand-me-down game consoles than I'll ever find the time to play with. I probably don't need even the light gaming PC I have, but it's hard to turn down Christmas presents when the older, cheaper PC games are actually a lot of fun and I can install Windows XP in an afternoon.
In any case, I'm glad I downgraded to XP for the benefit of my games' performance, and it reiterated my usual thoughts on why I use Linux. My conversion is complete and at this point, there's no returning.