It’s just data

Repave Periodically

Bill de hÓra: I don’t have time to change OSes

That’s scary.  When was the last time you installed any version of Windows?  For me, it was April.

My biggest concern is an involuntary need to reinstall that comes at a time that I can least afford it.

My kids are constantly asking me to repave their computers.  Luckily, semester breaks present a natural opportunity for resetting with little danger of data loss.  It also helps that their biggest data retention concern is iTunes.

The story is quite a bit better for grown-ups.  Unlike Windows of the mid-nineties which seemed to have a half-life of a year or so, Windows XP can be used for years.  However, eventually I had a registry corruption problem — even attempts to install .Net framework version 2.0 failed.  Add to that the joys of Windows Genuine Advantage and weekly down time due to virus scans, and it was time for me to switch.  This was over a year ago, well before it became the thing all the cool kids are doing these days.

My wife’s Windows XP has lasted a bit longer, but even it is getting progressively slower.  It looks like it is time for me to do a reinstall for her, just like David Weinberger recently did for his wife.

By contrast, I upgraded my server with a dist-upgrade.  I then backed up my crontab, and the /home/rubys and /etc directories on my laptop, formatted, and did a complete reinstall.  In both cases, I was back up and running in hours.  Every few days, I find something missing (I can understand why Ubuntu doesn’t automatically install build-essential, but curl?), but that’s readily solved with a simple apt-get.

Yes, I am quite capable of installing subversion on WinXP, but with Ubuntu, it is easier to install, I get a version that works with other software I have installed, and I get automatic updates.

I like the fact that copy/paste of utf-8 characters to command line windows “just works”.  As does resizing ssh windows.  And I like that no longer have to deal with CRLF issues.  Or directions of slashes in paths.  I also like pleasant surprises like command completion for scp works across machines — this seems to be new with Dapper.

My recommendation is that even if you don’t actually switch operating systems, it is still helpful to repave occasionally.