I recently wrote a post about 64-bit drivers and my moderately successful attempts to install 64-bit Windows on my new laptop. Just an update - I downloaded 64-bit open-SUSE to take it for a spin. Open-SUSE is the free version of Novell's very well-received Linux distro and I chose it for it's maturity and purported driver support.
Downloading the 5-CD set took longer than anything else. I resized my Windows partition (no problems at all with the tool built in to the SUSE installer) and had the system fully updated and dual-booting within an hour. SUSE recognized every device, including sound (the bane of my existence in 64-bit Windows), without fuss. However, I'm still struggling to get wireless up and running (SUSE knows it's there, but can't figure out how to use it; this seems to be a pretty common problem, so should be solvable with enough time). The interface is slick and, as with many other graphical Linux distros, adding software from any number of repositories is easy (and, of course, free) once you figure out Yast (SUSE's built-in software management and update tool that makes Windows Update look like child's play). It even offered to let me authenticate to my existing Windows domain during install. Pretty cool.
A couple other niggles cropped up, however. A java-based VPN application that wouldn't run under 64-bit Windows also wouldn't run under 64-bit Linux either. Similarly, the admins at the university where I'm taking classes told me that even if I get my wireless card up and running, they have not tested access for any 64-bit clients, except, of course, Macintosh. They already know that 64-bit Windows won't work yet. Hopefully, the widespread adoption of 64-bit processors in a predominantly 32-bit Wintel world, along with the availability of 64-bit Vista, will bring a much broader support basis for 64-bit platforms in general.
Suffice to say, Linux runs better on new hardware than old hardware. There's a newsflash - Aren't you glad you kept reading for that bit of insight? My previous experiences with Linux have been challenging, to say the least, given the age of the hardware on which I was installing. So has this converted me? If and when we manage to purchase new computers, will I buy whiteboxes and load them up with Linux? Not exactly - I still think Windows represents a cost-effective solution for a lot of Ed Tech enterprises, including my own. Vista appears to be a very competitive package and retains a familiar interface, easing training and support needs. Marc Wagner and I have also pointed out on several occasions that finding support staff for Windows enterprises is cheap and easy. Windows techs are a dime a dozen, unlike Linux/Unix techs. Playing around with SUSE has certainly reminded me just how much I don't know about the inner workings of Unix-based operating systems, whereas Windows administration falls out pretty easily for a lot of people in my situation. For better or worse, the ubiquity of Windows has bred a lot of people who can run and support Windows very effectively.
Regardless, I think it's fair to say that Redmond has some very serious catching up to do in the field of 64-bit personal computing. For my personal computer, if I can resolve my wireless issues, I can certainly envision myself using Linux quite a bit, especially until I can fully evaluate 64-bit Vista. I even found a free RDP client for Linux so that I can remotely manage my Windows servers (www.rdesktop.org). In my mainstream computing environment (read low-end 32-bit machines with users I don't have the time, money, or force of will to train and convert), Windows still has a lot to offer, and for ease of rollout/management will probably remain my choice. However, to paraphrase Ricardo Montalban, for me, it's SUSE (at least until Vista rolls out).
It may be Cordoba for Ricardo, but what is it for you? Take the poll below and let me know what you're using.