• February 10, 2008 /  No Comments

    Making a Choice Between OSes

    Installation
    The simple answer: Most people find Windows easier to install.
    The explanation: Most people do not install Windows themselves, rather they
    ask someone to do it. So basically, an installation for them is as simple as
    buying a computer, phoning a friend, or bringing their computer to a
    computer shop. You may argue that one can just as easily phone a Linux-user
    and have the OS installed. True, but these people don’t even know Linux.
    Hence, when challenged to do a Linux install, of course they’ll say Linux
    installation is harder.

    On the other side of the spectrum are people experienced in installing
    Windows by themselves. If you have no idea what /, /root, /home, etc. means
    and you have another partition you want to preserve, there is a high chance
    of messing things up in Linux, even with the newest graphical installers.
    Also, you will need to set at least 2 partitions in Linux, root and swap
    (technically, you can do without swap. Technically). On the other hand with
    Windows, you have a few simple choices: create and delete partitions, choose
    one of those partitions to format to only 2 filesystem choices: NTFS or
    FAT32. However, if you use Windows, be aware that regardless if you have
    another Linux partition on your system, Windows will happily install itself
    as the ONLY OS on your system’s Master Boot Record; you surely won’t mess
    things up, because Windows will gladly do it for you.

    Driver Issues
    The simple answer: Driver Hell in Linux is a myth; it’s in Windows as well.
    Let’s be honest here, you’re still keeping all your driver CDs because you
    KNOW you’ll be needing them. Driver CDs for Linux are non-existent, both
    because hardware manufacturers seldom provide Linux drivers on their discs
    and those that do provide crappy software, and also because most drivers
    you’ll ever need are already built-in into the latest Linux kernels. On my
    particular laptop, my video card, sound card, PCMCIA WiFi adapter, USB
    controllers, touchpad, webcam, PCMCIA USB 2.0 hub, and just about everything
    works without me ever touching any driver files. Unfortunately, since my
    laptop isn’t blessed with an NVidia, ATI, or even an Intel graphics card,
    OpenGL is out of the question.

    Some may argue that most everything can be automatically detected using XP
    with service pack so and so. Why do they need service packs anyway? To fix a
    Windows release that’s broken or limited? Anyway, on the same particular
    laptop, while default XP drivers will display something, it won’t even
    display the maximum resolution of my card. And I don’t know anyone who would
    want to stick with the default XP drivers, whether it displays the correct
    resolutions or not. Windows XP can’t make sound work and neither WiFi, among others (these devices came with driver discs to make them work. Say what? You misplaced them?).
    Think Vista made this problem any better? It’s actually gotten worse.

    Virus Issues and Other Bad Stuff
    The simple answer: There are no viruses in Linux
    At least not yet anyway. Let me explain two things first: why Windows gets
    so much viruses and how viruses and vulnerabilities are resolved.
    Windows gets so much viruses first because there are so many holes. With
    each iteration of Windows, they always say “improved security”, but even in
    Vista, I doubt much vulnerabilities have been resolved (see 10-year .ANI vulnerability). Most likely, they’ve
    created more secuirty holes. Aside from being an easy target, another reason
    Windows gets so much viruses is it’s the bigger target, and not just because
    of ill-feelings towards MS. Virus makers will target the operating system
    with the most users to infect.

    Now on curing viruses and preventing hacks, first people must detect them.
    People, not antivirus software. Before any anti-virus software catches a
    virus, the virus type must first infect an unfortunate somebody who would
    report it. And then a mix of paid virus-pharmacists, anti-virus companies,
    and MS security guys alike develop protection for these viruses and hacks.
    And then they release an update, either for your antivirus software, or an
    update for Windows, which a lot of people seem to ignore until it’s too
    late.

    There’s a similarity between virus-makers/hackers and Linux; they’re both
    large communities.While antivirus companies and Microsoft have quite a huge
    number of security developers on their payroll, there are much more in the
    Linux community watching for vulnerabilities. To be secure, the ratio of
    good guys (those that fix holes) and bad guys must be at least balanced.
    Even for Microsoft, matching that number of guys is a huge feat. Linux was
    built from the ground up with security in mind. Security is not a FEATURE.
    It is one of the core values of Linux. While technically there are viruses,
    it’s time “in the wild” is much, much more short-lived to be of any effect.
    Spyware, adware, and other malware just can’t be installed in Linux due to
    this rock-solid security; by default, practically anything that can do harm
    that tries to install itself on your computer needs root/your permissions.
    You would have to deliberately make your Linux unsecure.

    Many people argue that you just have to have common sense and protection,
    and you’ll have as virus-free experience in Windows as in Linux. I’ve been
    using antivirus software since the age of DOS, 386s, 5 1/4 floppies and
    Vir-X, and yet I still got infected. I once tried reinstalling my computer
    in my university lab and it gets trojans faster than you can say, “hello
    world!”, and long, long, long before you’re able to download service packs,
    security patches, and antivirus updates. When I was still learning Linux, I
    would try cleaning my Windows partition from Linux using ClamScan, because
    Windows got infected from the heavily-firewalled-and-virus-protected office
    network and also through my personal anti-virus software. And that was the
    last straw for me. Goodbye, anti-virus software. You’ve been my childhood
    friends, but it’s time for me to move on.

    Applications
    The simple answer: There is no simple answer
    For many people, the applications you can use in Linux is more than enough
    for both work and play. For general office needs, there’s OpenOffice, though
    for some people this can be a problem since they need to work on proprietary
    MS office files. Although OpenOffice does quite a good job in converting
    Office files, some things don’t translate properly. Photographers have all
    the photo tools in Linux, like Hugin, Gimp, F-Spot, Krita, and RAW image converters,
    then again, some photographers prefer to stick to Photoshop. 3D artists can
    use Blender, although Maya is essential for a lot of professionals (although it’s possible to install Maya on Linux). Gamers
    with the right video card can play most of the popular Windows games through
    Wine, but some gamers prefer to play in “pure” Windows. Even developers have enough tools in Linux to develop even .NET software. Web
    developers won’t miss much with site development IDEs and Adobe Toolkits,
    but they will find that they’ll miss Flash IDE (no equivalent, but Flash 8
    works in Wine), Swift, etc. At the end of the day, it really depends on what
    programs you’ll need; there are plenty of equivalents in Linux, and then
    there are those that do not.

    For those applications which have no equivalent, there is the option of
    running it inside a virtual machine running Windows. For those who are more
    experienced with Linux, Wine is a great option for running many Windows
    applications in Linux, but recently, playing with Wine has gotten easier by
    using Wine-doors.

    Ease of use
    The simple answer: Windows is harder than Mac and Linux
    And yet, why do so many people claim that it’s hard to use Linux? Firstly,
    you must put yourself in the right mindset. You’ve had your whole computing
    lives before you to get you to this point of Windows familiarity. You can
    never know more about something new than what you know about something
    you’ve used for years. So first you have to think about it detached from
    your whole Windows experience. For most Windows users, they don’t question
    the Windows design anymore. They believe that “Shut Down” being inside the
    “Start” menu makes perfect sense. They believe that having all your programs
    inside “Programs”, inside “Start” is more orderly than “havin’ that ol’
    Linux automatically categorize them into ‘Office’, ‘Internet’, and what-not!”.

    Forced Obsolescence
    What is forced obsolescence? For the uninitiated, it pertains to perfectly good hardware being told it’s too slow/too old by software, in this case, the OS. When using 3D-modelling programs and other high-performance applications, it is certainly a viable reason. However, when an OS tells you that you need a new computer to browse the web, which you could do perfectly before on your old OS and computer, and then the OS maker pulls the plug on support for your current OS such that it eventually gets less secure with every security update that they’re NOT providing you anymore, thus creating a need for you to dump that perfectly good computer and operating system, and buy a new computer and OS, that’s forced obsolescence.

    I have gone through four upgrades of my Ubuntu operating system, and I hadn’t had a need to upgrade my hardware yet. I upgraded my memory, true, but not because the OS required it, but because I wanted it. There is obsolescence in Linux, just not forced.

    You may say, “ever since I was young, upgrading has always been a fact of life. You need newer computers to run new programs.” When we were young, software continually pushed computer improvements and research, and the trend of computer growth can be described by Moore’s Law. In recent trends, however, many well-written software can no longer catch-up to the speed of computers; there is simply is so much power in our computers today that upgrading isn’t necessary as often as before. While games and other 3D applications still manage to push the envelope, most day-to-day applications such as browsers, office suites, etc. have little to gain by offering a few more bells and whistles just to take advantage of that new power. Having a 4-year old laptop means nothing to me anymore, since I know that Linux can manage the power I have better than Vista can manage the power of a newer, faster computer.

    The Choice
    Perhaps one of the most important things you will find out when learning
    Linux is not its technological breakthroughs, not the difference between
    Windows’ and Linux’s filesystems, not their differences in efficiencies, but
    the concept of software freedom and choice.

    In a world where practically everyone is raised in Windows, a lot of people
    are unaware that their exists a choice. They think that computer = Windows.
    When these kind of people by a legal copy of Windows, they are immediately
    under the control of a large corporation. “I need to upgrade, because my
    computer says so.” Since when did the computer become a master of man?

    But their is a choice: a choice to choose something different. Perhaps
    better in some respects and worse in others. Freedom from being coerced,
    which is just a lovely word for “being forced” and “blackmail”. “You cannot
    have this and that feature unless you give us money…er, upgrade your software
    to have them.”

    In the end, I am not saying that you switch to Linux. I’m saying that a computer is not equal to Windows, and it would do you good to check out the competition like Mac and Linux or even something else. Either choice is better in my opinion, but that’s me.

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