Some of you may know that several years ago I went over to using Linux on my computers. At first, I tried changing over my desktop computer. I don’t like change, and especially not change for change sake. I don’t need the newest shiny thing, and find that re-adjustment is usually more work than the benefit.
So, I had this Windows 98 computer that I kept going for years. I’d fixed it a bunch of times, and upgraded it so it worked fine. But one day, I just couldn’t fix it any more (the Operating System – the hardware was fine). So the time had come to get something new. I resolved to get off the upgrade merry-go-round.
So I loaded up Ubuntu, and I couldn’t be happier. Installation was fast and easy, and it had most the things I needed in a computer already there. And there was more too! I had a native web server and databases. Installing great accounting packages for my personal and business needs were just a few clicks, and free!
So, I made my laptop dual boot, and rarely used Windows on that any longer. And over the years, on the rare occassions that I booted into the Windows side, Windows got slower and slower. This was amazing since I very rarely used it. Meanwhile, the Linux side still performed quickly. The laptop I’m using right now is 6 years old. The keys are worn. The battery has been replaced several times. But it is still more than adequate, but I can’t stand going to the Windows side.
So I’ve grown to hate Windows. I hate the nagging messages begging for maintenance. I hate the slowness. I hate the interface changes. XP was the best for usability. Vista was a pitiful mess. Win 7 kept the horrible changes to the Start Menu that came with Vista. The Aero interface was visually distracting and I had to reset the theme. I wouldn’t use it if I didn’t have to. But I must.
So, I’ve purchased several programs that will help me with SEO (search engine optimization). And they run on Windows. One will ostensibly run on Linux, but Adobe Air just wouldn’t seem to run. And I don’t want to have to shut my laptop down and restart in Windows to run these programs. I don’t work in Windows, and I always use several programs at once.
So here are my options:
- Set up a desktop computer running just Windows 7 (forget Windows 8 – that is a monstrosity that deserves a post all its own)
- Try to get the Windows XP partition on this laptop to run in a virtual machine
- Get a cloud hosted Windows 7 VM
- Set up my own Windows & VM
I don’t want to commit a hardware investment, nor the electricity to running a computer I use infrequently, so I’m excluding the first choice. Besides, it would be a Wintel machine and I’d be back to the maintenance nightmare – like that lovely little houseplant from Little Shop Of Horrors! I’d have to buy Anti-Virus software for it. Eventually, it would slow down. I’d have to get a new computer, re-install software again. It’s a merry-go-round. I’m off it already.
I went looking to see if I could get a cloud hosted VM running Windows 7. At first I looked at Amazon AWS and their EC2 service (Amazon Web Service / Elastic Cloud Computing). I figured for a few dollars a month, I could fire up my VM, do what I needed, shut down, and go happily about my business. No Dice! Windows 7 will not run on EC2.
So then I went looking to see if anyone offered Windows 7 virtual machines as a service. Now, there is a ton of hype about cloud computing, but finding a hosted Windows 7 VM service requires that you use the right keyword phrase. Use: Desktop As A Service. Bingo! There are a bunch of companies out there offering this. It is a fledgling product. There are several cool services available, like Windows Desktop in the cloud for iPad.
What I found though, is that most of these services:
- Are offered for companies – not for individual accounts. They have user minimums and setup fees.
- Restrict the software the user can install on the VM.
- Don’t disclose cost on their web site or cost more than makes sense for my needs.
Desktop as a service has it’s merits. By using thin clients, an organization can get away from some of the maintenance problems of desktop computing, and supposedly reduce their costs. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the solution for me.
So, I’m going with the last option. My desktop computer needs and upgrade anyway. I have an HP workstation with Dual Xeon processors and 8GB of memory that needs re-purposing. I picked up a pair of terabyte hard drives for it. I’ll move my data off my old Ubuntu desktop onto the new one, and transfer the settings to. Then I’ll install Windows 7 as a virtual machine running inside either VirtualBox or VMWare. I’ll be able to VPN into the Ubuntu desktop computer, fire up the VM and be able to reach my Win7 computer from anywhere.
It is early, and I have to roll my own, but desktop as a service is something to keep an eye on. As we move to various devices like iPad, Android tablets, Android and IOS phones, and Chromebook netbooks (they tell me at the computer store that netbooks are being phased out – big mistake), we’ll still need access a Windows desktop. It’d be nice if we didn’t need several of them because we are mobile.