18-NOV-2012: On Using Microsoft Windows as a Workstation OS

Cygwin makes it bearable

I recently switched employers. At my new place of employment management has made no provision for UNIX administrators running a UNIX-based workstation OS. So for the first time in about 10 years I am (attempting to be) using Microsoft Windows as a workstation OS.

From this experience I have gathered a few things:

  1. The Microsoft Windows user experience has not changed in any noticeable ways
  2. A significant number of third party applications are required to make Microsoft Windows a usable workstation OS for a UNIX administrator
  3. Cygwin has improved significantly
  4. Cygwin is still incomplete, and slightly buggy

Here are some of the things I have done to improve the situation on my installation of Microsoft Windows:

  1. Install Cygwin (it may be slow, incomplete, and slightly buggy but it's better than the nothing Microsoft Windows ships with)
  2. Install PuTTY's SSH Agent (pageant) (actually, PuTTY SC's SSH Agent, for smartcard support)
  3. Install "charade" to connect Cygwin OpenSSH to PuTTY's SSH agent
  4. Install VirtuaWin to get multiple desktops
  5. Setup Cygwin/X
  6. Install Google Chrome
  7. Install Mozilla Thunderbird

At this point I only see the warts of Microsoft Windows when the Cygwin abstraction fails.

The UNIX team has requested a UNIX workstation installation image for our systems, and the workstation management team has responded that they have never heard of this "UNIX" application.