Linux on Windows

I was somewhat bemused by the story of a judge mandating a hacker convicted of a felony to use only Windows rather than Linux:

Scott McCausland, who used to be an administrator of the EliteTorrents BitTorrent server before it was shut down by the FBI, pleaded guilty in 2006 to two copyright-related charges over the uploading of Star Wars: Episode III to the Internet. As a result, he was sentenced to five months in jail and five months’ home confinement.

McCausland–who also goes by the name “sk0t”–has since been released from jail, but on Tuesday he reported on his blog that the terms of his sentence meant he would have to install Windows if he wanted to use a computer during his probation.

Now, I don’t want to hijack my own post by commenting on the issue of whether such a prohibition is legally defensible; though one might reasonably wonder where the line can be drawn. Mandating an operating system strikes me as on the intrusive side of things, regardless of where you fall on felons’ rights. What struck me more about this was the utter toothlessness of such a prohibition. It’s not like Windows and Linux are oil and water, or matter and antimatter. It’s quite possible for the two to co-exist, and even play host to one another.

For example, you could set up VMWare to run Linux as a virtual machine on Windows (the VMWare client is absolutely free). Or, you can setup your machine to multi-boot into Linux; the Wubi project makes doing so as painless as “installing” a program under Windows with no need to mess around with disk partitions or boot sectors or whatever. You can even run the Linux kernel natively within Windows with no software emulation or multi-boot required (more details here on setup). If it’s just the Linux environment you want, and don’t care about the apps, you can even run Cygwin and vi to your heart’s content.

From reading the guy’s blog entry, he’s adopting full victim posture, probably for the sake of his pending lawsuit (to which I have some sympathy, I must confess). But seeing as he’s experienced with Linux already, I doubt for a moment he isn’t aware of these alternatives. Probably it’s wiser from his perspective to protest the briar patch than to show his hand.

Incidentally, if you’re itching to try Linux, the Ubuntu distribution comes highly, highly, highly recommended. Most of the methods described above standardize on Ubuntu.