What is your operating system?


linux = smart

How many people use Windows vs. Linux vs. a Mac in working on the internet, generally? Are Scienceblogs.com readers different than the rest of the population? Are my readers different?

The following data for “The Internet” are from this source that I found via this cnet post on a recent increase in Mac market share. The data for Sb and my site are cooked up by me.

— Internet —

—– Sb —–

— Laden —

















Clearly, there is a pattern here. Smart people (the people who read Science Blogs and, in particular, my blog) use Windows less and Linux more (oh, and Mac too).


  1. #1 Stephanie Z
    July 4, 2008

    Aw, you left off the PS3. Of course, using that or the Wii to surf is not necessarily being smart, just being willing to work at being geeky.

  2. #2 llewelly
    July 4, 2008

    well – I ran Linux for years. Then one day I found that FreeBSD’s ports system for upgrading software was easier to use than almost anything linux had at that time. The only real competitor then was debian’s apt-get – and this was way back when debian was a real bear to install, even for a geek. I figured I’d soon switch back to linux anyway, but I found my enthusiasm for changing OSes had not only disappeared, but changed into an significant antipathy – even after debian improved their install process, and after other easy-to-install linuces started offering things like portage and apt-get, I still found myself unwilling to change OSes. It was as if playing with legos had morphed into cleaning the toilet. So I’m still using FreeBSD.

  3. #3 Carl Feagans
    July 4, 2008

    I use Linux almost all the time. I only load Win XP on those occasions that I need to sync something to my Blackberry or my wife’s Motorola or when I need to use ArcGis. These are about the only Win Apps I’ve found that don’t run in Wine.

    About a third of the time I browse Science Blogs (and others) on my Nokia N800 -but that’s Linux too!

  4. #4 GrayGaffer
    July 4, 2008

    Umm, Apple apparently now enjoys a 20% market share. (http://www.crunchgear.com/2008/04/03/apples-market-share-and-the-curse-of-success/). So I think those Windows numbers are seriously skewed. Also the total on that column is <100%.

    I wonder if the skew is because of people having to spoof their Firefox browsers to look like IE for all those lazily developed web sites out there?


    2 Mac PowerBook Pro's, one G4 and one Core Duo. On the latter I normally also run two XP Parallels bubbles and a Debian Linux bubble. I also run Microsoft Remote Desktop for Macs (free beta download) to access my clients' headless XP dev machines, and VNC to access their Mac Mini.

    1 XP laptop because Parallels does not yet bridge Firewire.

    1 XP desktop. Arrived with Vista Home on it. That didn't last long. Fortunately I was able to find all the XP motherboard drivers on the net.

    I have ditched Windows Mobile 6 on my cellphone. It sucked from Day 1, steadily got worse, and recently it has turned the phone into a $500 paperweight, less than a week after the warranty expired, and T-Mobile are not interested. So next month is iPhone and AT&T.

  5. #5 GrayGaffer
    July 4, 2008

    PS: I use all five OS’s (OSX, XP, Linux, WM6, Blackberry) for Internet Access, for varying reasons. Add the iPhone’s OS to that list when I get it. My pro-tem phone is a Blackberry, and I use that for Internet access too. I believe they have their own OS. Their browser sucks as bad as WM6’s did.

  6. #6 Bert Chadick
    July 4, 2008

    OSX.5 mostly, but I have to use XP explorer running under Parallels for my banking and a few other things that Safari doesn’t play nice with. I can run Linux too, but why bother? Command line is for those who can’t get over MSDOS.

  7. #7 mlf
    July 4, 2008

    My 5yr old machine runs XPSP3 and it works like a champ. I grew up tinkering with windows and plan on sticking with it for the foreseeable future.

  8. #8 decrepitoldfool
    July 4, 2008

    I read your blog on my Windows machine at work and my Linux machine at home or my Linux laptop when out and about. So I guess I’m dumbest at work…

  9. #9 Carl Feagans
    July 5, 2008

    I can run Linux too, but why bother? Command line is for those who can’t get over MSDOS.

    Command line? Oh, yeah. That’s how Linux used to run back in the day. I’ll let you guys spend $$ on XP, Vista, & Mac machines & OS’s… I’d rather put that cash in cigars and single malt scotch.

  10. #10 Andrew
    July 5, 2008

    I use Linux at home, Windows at work, the opposite of what makes sense.

  11. #11 themadlolscientist
    July 5, 2008

    Mac user exclusively since 1990, when I bought my SE-30. I take great pride in living in a M!ขฎ0$0f+-Free Zone!

  12. #12 cuddlefish
    July 5, 2008

    Andrew: I’m Unix a work and Linux at home. This makes sense.

  13. #13 MH
    July 5, 2008

    Long term Windows user here. I got a new laptop in February which came with Vista. Replaced it soon after with XP (exactly the same functionality but less resources; almost like an upgrade!), and added Ubuntu ‘just to try it out’. Been using Ubuntu almost exclusively ever since! Now I only switch over to XP to back-up DVDs (though that’s because I haven’t got round to finding a Linux equivalent to DVDdecrypter yet).

    Things I love about Ubuntu: don’t really need to worry about security; stability; tons of free programs that auto-update; can customize it like a Win user would believe; great community support; all my hardware was automatically detected and no extra drivers were needed; and it’s free!

    Things I don’t like: Zero! Though the transition wasn’t without some initial frustration.

  14. #14 MH
    July 5, 2008

    Typo: can customize it like a Win user would not believe.

  15. #15 Beowulff
    July 5, 2008

    Basically I use Linux when I can and Windows when I have to.

  16. #16 Randy
    July 5, 2008

    Try thoggen. Also, DVDshrink runs under Wine

  17. #17 clinteas
    July 5, 2008

    Never got into Mac at all,so cant comment on it.
    Linuxer for 10 years,dont need anything else ever,unless want to watch Soccer streams on the Net,which requires IE for the particular software plugin,although even that would be possible in Linux with a few hacks.

  18. #18 Carl A. Hein
    July 5, 2008

    My first PC was the original IBM PC; earlier I was a scientific programmer on IBM, Control Data and DEC systems.
    My experience with Microsoft OS’s has largely negative from
    the beginning, and I was appalled at the poor quality of their
    systems. I was an early user of Linux and Unix, and used them
    for subsequent software development.

    In the past five years I have been an active user of Linux,
    OS-X and Windows XP, but limit my software development to
    Linux. XP has been the only Microsoft OS that I have found to be reliable! Slow, but reliable.

    In contrast, on my newest systems (Dell Dual Core 64 bit)
    Linux 64 bit are speed demons. XP (32 bit, single CPU OS)
    performance is only slightly faster than my aging MAC OS-X dual G4 system.

    However, the best software applications packages that I use on Windows XP were published by Apple!

  19. #19 MH
    July 5, 2008

    Thanks for your suggestions, Randy.


  20. #20 J. J. Ramsey
    July 5, 2008

    Bert Chadick: “Command line is for those who can’t get over MSDOS.”

    Errm, you mean the Messy-DOS command line that doesn’t have command-line completion and other amenities? No, thanks. I find that the command line can be more useful than a GUI at times, and I even use the terminal on Mac OS X.

  21. #21 Greg Laden
    July 5, 2008

    JJ: I agree. Also, it is not the case that Linux derives from some Dossy-period, though that seems implied here. First there was Unix (well, some other stuff first, but we’ll ignore that). DOS was something else. Unix dates to ca 1970, Dos to 1980 or 81. Microsoft stole the idea of a command line from Linux (then Unix). Bastards.

  22. #22 JanieBelle
    July 5, 2008

    Your goal seems lately to be to shame me into braving the OS switch, Greg.

    If my computer crashes forever, I’m coming up North for a very unpleasant visit.

  23. #23 Greg Laden
    July 5, 2008

    Don’t you have a spare second computer laying around?

  24. #24 JanieBelle
    July 5, 2008

    It r broked.

  25. #25 Randy
    July 5, 2008

    However, the best software applications packages that I use on Windows XP were published by Apple!

    Like, which ones?

  26. #26 Greg Laden
    July 5, 2008

    Janie: How broked?

  27. #27 Randy
    July 5, 2008

    It r broked.

    Just pop in a Knoppix live CD and start evaluatin’ the situation!

  28. #28 Greg Laden
    July 5, 2008


    The PS3 had moved down the list and was replaced by the WII in its position at the top of the pack of the utterly esoteric or highly specialized.

  29. #29 Stephanie Z
    July 5, 2008

    Pack, huh? What other sorts of oddities, er, esoteric specialties do you get?

  30. #30 andy
    July 5, 2008

    Only using Windows because Linux doesn’t want to do WPA with my hardware.

  31. #31 Matt Penfold
    July 5, 2008

    I do freelance IT support. As such I need to use Windows. I do however run an Ubuntu powered server.

  32. #32 Randy
    July 5, 2008

    What do you mean LInux does not WPA your hardware? Do you men that it does not work with a wireless network connectio? Go mess with /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf.

  33. #33 Greg Laden
    July 5, 2008

    The list of operating systems that have accesed this blog since it’s inception, in rank order:

    iPhone “not set”
    Nintendo Wii

    Playstation is number 9 for the last 10 months for Sb as a whole.

    I think the playstation showed up on my blog’s stats because of a spike on or about July 1st.

  34. #34 Steve P.
    July 5, 2008

    Linux (Ubuntu), Windows (XP), & MacOS (Leopard) at various times each day, at home and work.

  35. #35 JanieBelle
    July 5, 2008

    Janie: How broked?

    Like, I had a finicky power button, two broken keys, and needed a new battery and/or charger and took it to the Geek Squad and gave them like $80 to look at it because it was out of warranty, and they sent it off and wanted to charge me $800 for a new keyboard controller (which it didn’t need), and when I got it back the power comes on but the screen remains black and I’d like to go kick the Geek Squad right in the fuckin’ nuts, broked.

    Pretty broked. ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. #36 JanieBelle
    July 5, 2008

    P.S. It still needs a battery and/or charger. It only comes on at all if it’s plugged in and I hold the cord just right…

  37. #37 Greg Laden
    July 5, 2008

    Not worth it.

  38. #38 Zeno
    July 5, 2008

    Greg Laden: Microsoft stole the idea of a command line from Linux (then Unix). Bastards.

    Didn’t Microsoft inherit the command line when it purchased Tim Paterson’s “Quick & Dirty Operating System” (itself patterned on CP/M) for its first version of MS/PC-DOS? In that sense Microsoft stole the command line from Unix only to the degree that Gary Kildall was inspired by Unix in his design of CP/M.

    If I’m wrong about this history, I’m sure someone here will be kind enough to clear it up.

  39. #39 Stephanie Z
    July 5, 2008

    Janie, I’m guessing that if you ask around, you’ll find someone who recently upgraded hardware to run Windows because it was too slow. Their older box, which will be collecting cobwebs because they haven’t figured out where to get rid of it, should run just fine if it doesn’t have to deal with bloatware.

  40. #40 JanieBelle
    July 5, 2008

    No, Greg, it’s not, intrinsically. I could buy a brand new cheap laptop for half that, and it would still outclass the broked one. My real loss here is the data on the hard drive, even more so than the laptop itself.

    Nevertheless, I won’t be returning to the Geek Squad, for obvious reasons.

  41. #41 Greg Laden
    July 5, 2008

    You can get the data off the hard drive. Just pull the drive and hook it up to another device with a similar hook up thingie.

    Zeno: You are probably right. Sounds right, anyway.

  42. #42 JanieBelle
    July 5, 2008


    I’ve actually now got two such boxes, though I can’t seem to get them to stay running long enough to do much more than log in to Windows. (One is a 1.2 GHz Celeron, and the other a 2.3. I haven’t messed with them yet – I think they’re both virus infected.)

    I’ve been thinking of wiping the HDs completely and starting over. The 2.3 was KaylaFace’s, and I’d like to get some photos and stuff off before I go the “wipe it all and let the Hardware Gods sort it out” route. But I don’t know if I’ll manage that and retain my sanity.

    I just don’t know enough about them. Will the 1.2 run Linux OK if I wipe it and start from scratch? I think I understand Greg to say that Linux is way more efficient than Windows and doesn’t require the same amount of resources. Is my assessment accurate?

  43. #43 JanieBelle
    July 5, 2008

    You can get the data off the hard drive. Just pull the drive and hook it up to another device with a similar hook up thingie.


    I tried to shove it in the Geek Squad guy’s butt, but the plug wouldn’t match and he wouldn’t hold still.

    What ever happened to Customer Service?

  44. #44 Stephanie Z
    July 5, 2008

    Janie, you can always give it a try. What do you have to lose–aside from time, temper and all respect for Greg’s tech advice? ๐Ÿ™‚

    And yes, I say this as a Mac user who, after getting home from wrestling Windows boxes and apps into submission all day, is perfectly happy to let my personal machine be someone else’s problem.

  45. #45 JanieBelle
    July 5, 2008

    I intend to Steph, I think I just need a push over that last little hump of fear.

    Well, that and a clue as to what I’m doing, of course.

  46. #46 taliesin
    July 5, 2008

    Long-time Debian user here.

    Yes, Debian installation used to be confusing and difficult, but Things Have Changed(TM)

    Now it’s only mildly confusing! ๐Ÿ˜›

    For laptop/desktop users thinking of trying it out, I strongly suggest using the netinstall version of the latest ‘testing’, (currently Lenny).
    ‘testing’ is really quite stable, so only install ‘stable’ (Etch) if you need a rock-solid production server-type machine.
    Visit http://forums.debian.net/ (very newbie-friendly!), and look for information on doing a minimal installation, using the KDE desktop if you’re coming from a Winderz user background.

  47. #47 decrepitoldfool
    July 5, 2008

    JanieBell, take out the laptop drive and install it in a 2.5-inch external drive enclosure, which you can get off eBay for about five bucks plus shipping. Plug into a USB port on your desktop system and explore the drive. You will most likely be able to copy your data to your desktop machine.

    After you recover your data, format the laptop drive and you have a cool external hard drive small enough to put in your pocket. Yea!

  48. #48 Mr_G
    July 5, 2008

    Your data is borked. Doesn’t match with sources quoted: 0.08% is wrong for Mac. More like 8% with new computer sales in the teens. Get a grip on reality.

  49. #49 Don Smith, FCD
    July 6, 2008

    3 things.

    Your data is definitely borked, as Mr_G says.

    Zeno is correct – MSDOS copied CP/M’s interface (I actually saw CP?M running once circa 1977)

    JanieBelle, maybe you can boot a Knoppix CD on your 2.3 machine (that might be virus infected) and get the pictures off that way. That’d be way safer than plugging the infected drive into another MS machine.

  50. #50 hornlo
    July 6, 2008

    Fedora or Red Hat on home machines. Fedora on work desktop. Fedora on personal laptop, with Windows in a VM for work.

    I recommend this Vantec adapter for working on disks, if you have to do that a lot: http://www.hornlo.org/isotropic/2008/06/14/disk-adapter/

    MS-DOS was the 16-bit “upgrade” from 8-bit CP/M, and actually (later) incorporated features from Xenix (the MS(?) unix-like OS).

  51. #51 Greg Laden
    July 6, 2008

    Your data is borked. Doesn’t match with sources quoted: 0.08% is wrong for Mac. More like 8% with new computer sales in the teens. Get a grip on reality.

    Mr. G., Don… Those are not my data. I agree that the data are borked. Go to the link I provide, figure out why, and report back with something interesting. Soon, please. I’m very curious. (My data refer to the Sb general and my blog, and those data are fine)

  52. #52 Greg Laden
    July 6, 2008

    hornlo: Thanks very much for that suggestion.

  53. #53 JanieBelle
    July 6, 2008

    Thanks for all the help, folks! I’ll be on that this week, I think.

    Kisses to you all.

  54. #54 Mr_G
    July 6, 2008

    The title of the CNet article is “The Mac approaches 8 percent market share: Is it ready for popularity?” The other source has Mac share at 7.94%.

    Don’t know where you got your numbers.

  55. #55 Greg Laden
    July 6, 2008

    Oh… NOW I see the mistake. Right. My spreadsheet is OK, something must have happened during the translation to HTML. … Fixing it now.

    My data were borked.

  56. #56 Mr_G
    July 6, 2008

    Easy to tell a real scientist from an advocate.

    My respect.

  57. #57 jj
    July 8, 2008

    XP and OS X @ Work
    Linux and XP @ Home

    Ohh yeah, I still use DOS on an old rig

  58. #58 Greg Laden
    July 8, 2008

    what do you do with the DOS rig?

  59. #59 Marbux
    July 10, 2008

    Yup. MS DOS began with Q-DOS, renamed to 86-DOS, which Microsoft acquired for $50,000, and renamed as MS-DOS and PC-DOS.

    The 86-DOS command line interface was in fact cloned from CP/M. Here is its developer Tim Paterson’s explanation of the reason, as quoted by a judge in a later related lawsuit:

    “SCP was a small company with no clout in the industry. To get major software developers to port their products from the 8080/Z80 to the 8086, I decided we had to make it as easy as possible. I had already written a Z80-to-8086 source code translator (hosted on the 8080 and CP/M). My plan was that running an 8080 CP/M program through the translator would be the only work required by software developers to port the programs to the 8086. In other words, the interface used by the applications to request operating system services would be exactly the same as CP/M’s after applying the translation rules.

    “So 86-DOS generally had all the same application-visible elements as CP/M — the function codes, the entry point address, part of the File Control Block layout, etc. I used the 1976 CP/M Interface Guide for my description of the requirements.”


    Tracing backward from CP/M, “CP/M’s command line interface was patterned after the operating systems from Digital Equipment, such as RSTS/E for the PDP-11.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CP/M

    So CP/M’s command line interface derives from the DEC line of operating systems that predate Unix.

    But the command line graphical user interface predates DEC’s first computer, the PDP-1, whose development began in 1959.

    “The concept of the CLI originated when teletype machines (TTY) were connected to computers in the 1950s, and offered results on demand, compared to ‘batch’ oriented mechanical punch card input technology.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Command_line_interface

    Unix was initially developed in in 1969, but the command line graphical user interface is roughly 50 years old. Its conception was during the consummation of the marriage of computing with the TTY (teletypewriter) telegraphy keyboard I/O device.

    The command line interface was a natural because asynchronous “Baudot” telegraphy code was inherently binary and TTY punched paper tape was already in use in computing as data I/O media.

    Indeed, the famous World War II Bletchly Park Colossus was designed to process German enciphered radio telegraphy five-bit Baudot (TTY) messages that were intercepted, then rendered in punched paper tape form before being fed to Colossus.

    No giant mental leap was required to bypass paper tape for direct *system* I/O by programmer / operators in the 1950s by more completely hardwiring a 5-bit TTY teletypewriter to a computing system.

    The only delay in doing so was the need to matur computer hardware enough that programming could be done without manually rewiring logic boards and moving jumper cables, by directly manipulating *system* I/O via code.

    The teletypewriter was the same hardware used to feed and render tape containing data to Colossus. All that was added in the 1950s was the ability to use the keyboard and typewriter output as well for direct real-time *system* I/O in a more readable and writable language than binary punched paper tape.

    (By the early 1970s, most mini-computer programs were distributed in ASCII, a later telegraphy code, written on 8-hole paper or plastic tape.)

    The command line graphical user interface was born before data was commonly stored in “files” on electromagnetic disks and long before the Microcomputer Revolution.

    I don’t think Microsoft can accurately be accused of stealing the command line interface from Unix. Both the MS-DOS and Unix CLI were stolen from earlier technology. ๐Ÿ™‚