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How Linux and Windows Stack Up in 2006 193

Posted by timothy
from the link-o-rama dept.
Jane Walker writes "How does Linux stack up to Windows in 2006? Experts weigh in on that question in these articles, comparing the operating systems' security, reliability and usability. Get insiders' views on Microsoft's proprietary stack versus open source software, as well as Windows-to-Linux migration tips."
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How Linux and Windows Stack Up in 2006

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  • As Linux becomes easier to install apps on and to configure for home internet usage, for regular folks it becomes more realistic to start out with it. I don't think a regular user could switch their machine from Windows to Linux with one CD and a reboot yet... right? Can anyone show us some links for how easy the switch is, and what wouldn't be supported in general after the switch?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kimvette (919543)
      You haven't seen:

      - SuSE 9.1 or later
      - Mandriva (formerly Mandrake)
      - Linspire

      FWIW, it's not a single CD. It's either several CDs or a single DVD, but yes, it is doable. Boot off the DVD, follow the install wizard, you now have a dual-boot (depending on distro your NTFS partition can be resized automagically), and you have to reboot only once during the process, unlike Windows' cryptic install screens, wiping out your MBR to prevent other OSes from loading, and having to reboot 4,281 t
    • Linux when it works is perfect. Linux when it doesn't is just weird and fucked up. I tried installing Ubuntu for a newbie recently, and sudo decided it just wasn't going to work. So I'm futzering around with weird commands and the Ubuntu forum for a couple hours, and yeah, my newbie was real pleased with her new system. Uh huh.

      Now my home Ubuntu computer has decided (again!) that flash doesn't need sound. No more Youtube for me anymore...

      • by Hercynium (237328)
        The problem with sudo is very strange - but having sound quit on Flash is not all that uncommon.

        I've found that using either EasyUbuntu or Automatix tends to help get the multimedia stuff working. If a package update breaks it again, I just re-run which ever one I used and it fixes stuff again.

        BTW: my own experience with these two utilities, if you haven't used them yourself --

        Automatix's tweaks tend to work, but the script is often buggy and not exactly user friendly. Their repository is also almost unusab
        • Yeah, don't worry about my friend. She's back with Windows.

          As for me, I've used EasyUbuntu, Automatix, and Ubuntu Guide, and I'm just sick of tweaking stuff. I have another friend who I gave Mepis to (see my journal) and she's all cool with YouTube and podcasts and all that crap now and I'm jealous. She's the newbie, why can she do things I can't? So I think I'm going to switch to Mepis.
      • by Eideewt (603267) on Monday September 25, 2006 @04:59PM (#16191205)
        I've had the opposite experience. Linux is great when it works. When it doesn't, it's always been broken in a sane way. I can diagnose the problem and fix a config file and be pretty confident that the problem isn't coming back. I may not have understood the problem beforehand, but after I get a handle on it the solution is obvious. Windows, on the other hand, has never made any sense when it breaks. I suspect that Windows is as rational and fixable as Linux underneath, but it's even harder to figure out the obscure tweaks that may be needed to fix it, which leaves you with solutions like "install the driver again and hope it doesn't break this time" or "try reformatting".
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Simon80 (874052)
          I totally agree with this, most, if not all, of my experience is problems like this that can be clearly diagnosed and then fixed. Any other problems are also almost always related to hardware/drivers. In response to the original request for the "one CD switch", Ubuntu is definitely what you're looking for, you burn the one liveCD, boot off the CD into an Ubuntu that is very similar to what will be on your hard drive, and then you run the installer using a shortcut on the desktop. 6 (I think) separate pag
        • Yes, Linux can usually be fixed, but if the "fix" involves running vi in a console then it's not really an option for Joe Public.

          This issue *is* common, it's the real reason Linux isn't making big inroads and it doesn't look like it's going to be fixed anytime soon.

          User: "How do I get Quake 3 to run in Linux?"

          Zealot: "Oh that's easy! If you have Redhat, you have to download quake_3_rh_8_i686_010203_glibc.bin, then do chmod +x on the file. Then you have to su to root, make sure you type export LD_A

          • Oh my God, can we please stop repeating this false, outdated "example". With Ubuntu (and many other distros) 90% of the programs that anyone needs are in the repositories, and installing from a repository is much easier than installing in Windows. Quake 3 doesn't happen to be in Ubuntu's repositories, but installing it doesn't have to be nearly as complicated as you make it sound.
            Step One: wine /media/cdrom/setup.exe (oh horrors! the command line! well, quake 2 is in the repositories if you're that sc
            • by lachlan76 (770870)
              Even easier actually. All you have to do is run the point update and copy the pk3s off of the disc.
        • by jakoz (696484)
          I disagree with that... in a sense.

          Windows can be very simple to diagnose, but you have to know where to go. You have your registry. You have your error logs. You have your startup locations. That's about it.

          Anti-disclaimer: I use linux as my primary OS, and have for a long time, plus several years as a server admin. However, I have spent a long time fixing windows

          You find it easier. However, you are not the norm. At least Windows applications try somewhat to play nicely... better than much half
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Eideewt (603267)
            I'm sure Windows is pretty easy to diagnose if you know your stuff, but I've found it much harder to get a handle on because I'm never sure what it's doing or how to make sure I've configured something as completely as possible. This is mainly because Linux is a more open system. For example, on Linux I can edit xorg.conf and be sure that I'm in control of what X is doing. If I'm trying to change my video card driver in Windows, I don't have a clue what Windows is doing underneath. The best I can do is coax
      • To paraphrase you:
        XXX when it works is perfect. XXX when it doesn't is just weird and fucked up.
        Yeah, I agree.
        Though for me it's usually windows that's being weird, as I'm much more familiar with Linux.
        • by tacocat (527354)

          Seems to me that it all comes down to a certain level of familiarity with the OS defines if XXX=Linux and YYY=Windows or the other way around. I think there is a fundamental difference in philosophy on how to manage an OS or how an OS should be structured to make it manageable.

          Personally I think there is a much higher level of detail available in Linux than there is in Windows. But Windows tries to be more self configurable than Linux. Proof? The configuration tool for Linux is VIM. The configuration

          • by Cobralisk (666114)

            The configuration tool for Windows is...

            Shudder... regedit. Actually there is nothing particularly evil about the tool itself. Some mechanism for comments would have been nice. The real wtf is the binary format, the "one big config file" for not only Windows, but all of your application settings as well, and the reckless abandon with which the monstrosity has grown. Single point of failure? You betcha. The actual implementation and use of the registry is a crime against nature. Somebody in Redmond should h

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              To be fair, the registry isn't nearly as prone to outright corruption when you're running it on NTFS 5 than it was in Win9x with FAT.

              Of course, like you say, it's such a monstrosity... you can't actually walk through it and notice a problem like you can with config files.

              The registry wasn't a bad idea (it's basically a standardized config file format with more efficient read/write and mutual exclusion), but the way Microsoft used it (HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT, anyone?) made it a mess.

      • Linux when it works is perfect. Linux when it doesn't is just weird and fucked up.

        I find it's the opposite. When Linux doesn't work, I might be able to fix it, or at least see why it's not working. With Windows, it's a black box. I can try to reboot and uninstall/reinstall various drivers, service packs, DLLs, etc., and if I'm lucky, I'll come up with a procedure that mysteriously works more often than others. Actual solutions are often nowhere to be found.

        Now my home Ubuntu computer has decided (ag

        • With Windows, it's a black box. I can try to reboot and uninstall/reinstall various drivers, service packs, DLLs, etc., and if I'm lucky, I'll come up with a procedure that mysteriously works more often than others. Actual solutions are often nowhere to be found.

          I wasn't comparing it to Windows. I like Windows even less.

          It's probably because (proprietary) Flash doesn't support ALSA, and ALSA is how you get software mixing. It's probably trying to get exclusive access to the sound card, and failing due to

    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:09PM (#16189057) Homepage Journal
      ``I don't think a regular user could switch their machine from Windows to Linux with one CD and a reboot yet... right?''

      It depends on how fancy you want to get, and on your hardware. Certain distributions (e.g. Ubuntu) make it very easy to install the system while wiping everything that was there off the harddisk, and they do a good job at autodetecting a lot of hardware.

      Things get more difficult if you want to set up a dual-boot system, preserve (some) of the data that was on the harddisk before the Linux install, customize what apps are installed, run Windows or Mac software, etc. etc. Whether or not this is beyond the reach of any particular user is mostly up to how much this user knows and is willing to learn; i.e. it's not particularly difficult to wipe off an Ubuntu install and install Koffice instead, but it does take a certain amount of effort and knowledge.

      As for hardware not being supported, there are certain classes of hardware that are problematic. Most generally, any new or unpopular-with-developers hardware that doesn't adhere to some standard and for which no specification is publicly available. In particular, WinModems (software modems), wireless network cards, and video cards (specifically, the hardware acceleration features) tend to be problematic. Having said that, in each of these classes there are plenty of devices that _are_ supported, and, of course, there are devices outside these classes that don't work. Also, sometimes things fail to work in Linux because they are broken, although they happen to work in Windows; e.g. I had a laptop once whose USB controller didn't work due to a wrong value listed somewhere in the BIOS; it (sort of) worked under Windows, but it took some patches to the Linux kernel to get it to work there.

      Searching the web to see if your hardware is supported is a good idea, and I recommend anyone buying hardware to consider Linux compatibility even if they don't want to run Linux; if you ever do want to run Linux, at least your hardware won't prevent you from doing so.
    • by mspohr (589790)
      Ubuntu Linux (and others) do install with a single CD and a reboot. My experience over about 10 recent installs is that all of my hardware (including WiFi) is supported. YMMV.

      The standard Ubuntu install comes with the usual office suite, browser, email, and many more additional apps than I've ever been able to use. If you're tied down to a particular app that only runs on Windows, then Microsoft owns your ass; otherwise, it's a piece of cake.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by burdicda (145830)
      I have no links but I switch on average one person a week from windows to linux
      The only panic is how they get on the internet
      A dialout modem is sheer panic....most of the time I will switch over to a known good modem
      Only once did I hit a network card that didnt work and that was a Davicom
      and then mostly the 2nd most feared thing is their printer....especially an all in one monster
      I've been lucky and never had to make an all in one work just print....or talked them into
      buying a laser printer.

      I love it when s
  • WTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xerotope (777662) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:31PM (#16188497)
    Where's The Fucking Article? A link to a bunch of links...great.
    • Just like Slashdot [] - a bunch of links to articles of various quality - with some supporting editorial text that doesn't explain the bias in the links...

      Got to love it

    • by sparkz (146432)
      Welcome to Meta-Slashdot, aka "slashdot lite". Irrelevant trivia, such as the actual article, are discarded as unnecessary ;-)
  • Windows Perspective (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tadrith (557354) on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:08PM (#16189033) Homepage

    I'm a computer geek who regularly uses Windows. Yes, I know, boo, hiss, whatever. My software development happens under Windows because that's what I learned on, that's where most of the market currently is, and that's what I've got a job doing. I'm not going to stop working for a company I like doing what I enjoy just because I happen to do my work on Windows.

    In any case, periodically I load Linux on an alternate hard disk in my machine to play around with it and see what I can get going. I do like to keep my knowledge of it up in the event that I run into it on the job (I also do field work from time to time), but I also like to see how far it has progressed. At some point in time, I really would like to use it as my core operating system, even if I still have to drop into Windows when I work.

    Recently (about a week ago), I decided to try a couple of different distributions. They all seem to suffer from one problem -- the USB keyboard no longer works when it hits the installer. "You forgot to turn on legacy mode for USB in your BIOS!", is the first thing most people would say, except that I haven't forgotten to turn it on. It works perfectly fine for the BIOS-based boot menu. I even triple checked it, thinking I was missing something. I tried numerous options to try and get the damn thing working, to no avail.

    Yes, I could get a USB to PS2 converter and yes, it does work fine after that. But that's not the point -- I shouldn't HAVE to do that. Critical things like that will kill any interest your average user will have in the operating system. But, for what it's worth, I was very pleased with what I saw after I did finally get it loaded. It's come a long way from the operating system I tinkered with 6 or 7 years ago.
    • Which distros?
      • by Tadrith (557354)
        Well, I downloaded Fedora Core 5 to try it out. I haven't touched anything by Red Hat in some time (I have a habit of using Slackware whenever I play around, for some reason). That was the first one that didn't work. I also tried the evaluation version of SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10. I used to do a lot of work with Novell Netware back in the 4.11 days, so I thought I'd revisit Novell. I also tried Ubuntu, but I used an older version that I had lying around (Warty), so that's not exactly the best test.

    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``But that's not the point -- I shouldn't HAVE to do that.''

      You know, not saying you're wrong, but I'm getting tired of hearing this argument. Since when is it not your responsibility that your hardware is compatible with the software you want to run? Windows doesn't support every piece of hardware that Linux supports, either. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if, say, Ubuntu supported more hardware out of the box than Windows XP.
      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        If Linux supports the USB keyboard when it's fully installed, there's no reason that the installer shouldn't except the programmers of it didn't bother to do any sort of QA process what-so-ever.

        If you go to (to use an example) Ubuntu's website, and check the specs, and it says right there in black and white "supports USB keyboards," then that means it should support USB keyboards all-around. If it doesn't, it should say "supports USB keyboards (PS/2 keyboard required for install)" or something tha
        • by Tadrith (557354)
          Actually, the keyboard doesn't work at all, regardless of whether it is during the installation, or post-installation. It flat out doesn't work when it's plugged into a USB port. ;)

          Honestly, more than anything, I wish I knew why.
          • by ratboy666 (104074)
            So, now I am curious. What motherboard, are you using a USB external hub, if so, which one, and which keyboard?

            Secondary, which distribution(s)?

            • by Tadrith (557354)

              I mentioned the distros in another message, but I'll post 'em here:

              Fedora Core 5
              SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10
              And I tried an old version of Ubuntu (Warty)

              I would really like to use Fedore Core 5, though. I finished getting it running with a PS2 converter, but it still doesn't work with just the USB. From what I've used of it so far, I like it. I know I can just leave it like that, but it's bugging me, and I would like it to work without it. :) I'm not using an external hub, just the ports on the motherboa
              • by ratboy666 (104074)

                I currently on contract with ATI/AMD, but I'll see if I can squeeze out some cycles to look at this (again, I am intrigued). Not tonight, though...

                • by Tadrith (557354)

                  I agree, it is a really odd problem. I did a lot of looking on the web, but nothing came of it.
              • IThe problem stems from the fact that the ISOLINUX used to boot the live CDs and installers does not load USB modules- USB detection and support is done by coldplug later in the boot sequence. Windows loads the drivers into its "live kernel" right when it starts up- that's why it takes minutes to get to do anything after you stick in a Windows CD to install but the Linux boot prompt shows up immediately. If you want to get this fixed, perhaps the guys that do ISOLINUX need to be contacted to load some USB H
        • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
          ``If Linux supports the USB keyboard when it's fully installed, there's no reason that the installer shouldn't except the programmers of it didn't bother to do any sort of QA process what-so-ever.''

          Right. So we'll mandate that people acquire every possible piece of hardware on the planet before they're allowed to put together a Linux distribution. Because, you know, the Windows installer also supports all makes and models of SATA drive and SCSI controller that an installed Windows supports, without requirin
          • by Blakey Rat (99501)
            Right. So we'll mandate that people acquire every possible piece of hardware on the planet before they're allowed to put together a Linux distribution.

            That has nothing to do with what I said. What I said is that if the distribution claims to support a particular piece of hardware, they should QA their install process to make sure that particular piece of hardware works. I was assuming when I wrote that that the USB keyboard worked after the distro was installed but (as the original poster replied) it turn
            • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
              ``That has nothing to do with what I said. What I said is that if the distribution claims to support a particular piece of hardware, they should QA their install process to make sure that particular piece of hardware works.''

              But they didn't claim to support _that_ particular piece of hardware, they (allegedly) claimed to support "USB keyboards". The unfortunate user has a single USB keyboard that doesn't work. You claimed this meant the distributor didn't perform "any QA process whatsoever". Apparently, to
              • by Blakey Rat (99501)
                As a side note: don't you just hate it when manufacturers make different, mutually incompatible devices, and stick identical names on them? How are we supposed to know what we're buying, that way?

                It doesn't matter, because (regardless of the sub-model of device) they all work flawlessly in Windows. The OS they're advertised to work with.

                The problem is the Linux users who lied to me about their working, when at least one of the people who told me this KNEW that not all WinPVR 250 cards works. All the IVTV
            • They may not have been intentionally misleading you. I have a video capture card and if someone asked me if it worked under linux then I would say yes. Then if it later came out that there were different versions of that card being sold under the same name I suppose you could say I was misleading you. But it would be more accurate to say the manufacturer was misleading you by saying that your card was the same as my card when it wasn't.

              Not sure why you'd blame Linux for lying to you when it was the manuf

  • LINAPCP - (Score:3, Informative)

    by Burz (138833) on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:21PM (#16189301) Journal
    "Linux" is not a Personal Computing platform. It's a kernel that's wedded to the GNU toolchain, which is meaningless to most end-users and young developers starting out. Its a boon for people who 'do infrastructure' (including managed thin-clients) or gizmos with custom UIs. But thin-clients != personal computing. This only looks like a platform if you're a sysadmin or systems-oriented coder.

    To anyone just wanting to run their PC, get user-oriented applications on CD or downloaded as a file... or experiment with some code that their teachers and pals across town can download as a file and run... "Linux" (nee Fedora, SuSE, Ubuntu, Linspire, Xandros, etc, etc) feels like a big headache. Your friends are trying out "Linux" too? Well, you've probably got to learn packaging, dependencies, repositories, etc. before you can expect your experiements to run at all on anyone else's system. The fragmented distro scene is like chlorine against budding application developers needing platform stability in order to express their creative urge.

    So in the crucial desktop PC space, Windows and Mac will continue to have a considerable edge.

    People here often forget what makes the PC experience special: The uniformity of a platform aimed at *their* needs (not just those wanting to experiment with new encryption and packet-switching schemes), primarily the ability to install apps and drivers at will (and before you issue the kneejerk response, no Mac OS does NOT suffer by advancing these essential platform qualities).

    Anyone wanting GNU/Linux + Whatever to shine as an alternative for PC users should get behind the new LSB Desktop spec. that is due this December/January. At least then ISVs (not just system hackers) will have something uniform to target as far as APIs and other features are concerned, and we should see more creative and wonderful applications that can draw end users to the platform.

    To those who don't care or hate the idea, perhaps because of the notion that elitism is what keeps GNU/Linux good and secure, I suggest adopting a tolerant and polite attitude instead; No one will be forcing you at gunpoint to use distros conforming to LSB Desktop. The desktop PC needs a workable free alternative, and we're looking to geeks to either help or get out of the way.

  • by David Gerard (12369) <slashdot AT davidgerard DOT co DOT uk> on Monday September 25, 2006 @05:42PM (#16191909) Homepage
    The Linux pride, or simply pride, campaign of the open source movement has three main premises:

            * that all people of all computing orientations should be proud, not ashamed, of being young white middle-class Linux-geek men;
            * that computing diversity is a gift to young white middle-class Linux-geek men;
            * that computing orientation and operating system type are inherent, unless of course you dual-boot Windows and FreeBSD and are therefore only fooling yourself.

    Pride Parades are held worldwide, wherein young male white middle-class Linux geeks of all colours, ages, operating system types and backgrounds can walk down the centre of the main street of their city and commemorate the original Stallmanwall printer driver riots.

    Many parades still have at least some of the original political or activist character, especially in less Linux-positive settings. However, in more Linux-positive cities, the parades take on an installfest-like character. Large parades often involve floats, coders, Mountain Dew, venture capitalists, and amplified music; but even such celebratory parades usually include political and educational contingents, such as local politicians and marching groups from open source institutions of various kinds. In some countries, Linux parades are now also called Linux Pride Install Festivals.

    Even the most festive parades usually offer some aspect dedicated to remembering victims of Stallmanwall and anti-Linux FUD. Some particularly important Linux parades are funded by governments and corporate sponsors, and promoted as major tourist attractions for the cities that host them. Other typical parade participants include local Linux-friendly churches such as Emacs Community Churches and BSD Universalist Churches, PFLAB (Parents and Friends of Linux and BSD), and the nerd employee associations from large businesses.

    Though the Stallmanwall riots themselves as well as the immediate and the ongoing political organizing that occurred following them were events that were fully participated in by BSD users, X11 people and future Sun founders as well as by white middle-class male Linux users of all races, genders and backgrounds, historically these events were first named Linux, the word at that time being used in a more generic sense to cover the entire spectrum of what is now variously called the Red Hat, SuSE or Debian community.

    By the late '80s and early '90s, as many of the actual participants had grown older, moved on to other issues or passed away, this led to misunderstandings as to who had actually participated in the Stallmanwall riots, who had actually organized the subsequent demonstrations, marches and memorials and who had been members of early activist organizations such as the Linux Liberation Front and Linux Activists Alliance.

    But eventually the language caught up with the reality of the community and the names have become more accurate and inclusive, though these changes met with initial resistance from some in their own communities who were unaware of the actual historical facts. Changing first to Linux and BSD, today most are called GNU/Linux/X11/KDE/GNOME/Mozilla/gcc (GLXKGMg) Pride Parades. But only by the sort of geeks even the other geeks don't want to hang out with.

    Remember: just because you have a personal coding output of zero doesn't mean that you can't take full credit for the programming genius of others for a lifestyle of Slashdot, caffeine and masturbation.

    And believe me, you haven't lived until you've seen twenty Linux geeks clad only in silver jockstraps. []
  • Desktop? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Monsuco (998964)
    It seems like Linux is now becoming a major competitor to Windows and Mac on the desktop. It hac come a long way. With the advancment of binaries like .deb, .rpm, .bin, and scripts it is getting easier and easier to install things on linux. Wine has gotten so that most Windows software with exception to some games and programs that need drivers will run. I can easily run IE, WMP, Shockwave, the latest Flash, Outlook Express, Office, and the like. More and more hardware vendors have been supporting linux. Th
    • This issue needs the attention of distribution teams. Bug #1 on Ubuntu's bug-tracker indicates their issue with Microsoft's dominance; Mark Shuttleworth should be sending delegates to OEMs to have a live Ubuntu experience included on the computer. The possibility of giving OEM's an edition of Ubuntu to be usd as the restore software for a broken Windows install (with the option of living with the Ubuntu recovery desktop or installing a fresh Ubuntu instance instead of recovering Windows) would be a good s
  •! &btnG=Google+Search&meta= []

    Its really that easy to make your own article to submit to slashdot.

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