Linux is almost as good as Windows. Snark.

There is a recent “PC Pro” magazine article comparing Windows 7 to Ubuntu, which concludes that Ubuntu is almost as good as Windows 7.

This would be roughly like Michele Bachmann comparing Ronald Reagan to Edward Kennedy and concluding that Edward Kennedy is almost as good. So, we can safely conclude that Ubuntu kicks Windows butt.

I hated the article for several reasons, but could not bring myself to write a review or response. But, JH at Linux in Exile did: Windows vs Ubuntu.

Comments

  1. #1 Tyler DiPietro
    September 29, 2010

    Ubuntu sucks. SuSE is the best *nix.

  2. #2 MadScientist
    September 29, 2010

    @Tyler: No! FreeBSD! Or, according to Oracle, RedHat. Then again according to Andy Tannenbaum it’s MINIX. Then again …

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    September 29, 2010

    The distro does not matter, as long as you boot straight into emacs!

  4. #4 Peter McGrath
    September 30, 2010

    Have just rived Windows XP off my netbook and loaded Ubuntu. A colleague saw the results, went home and brought back his virus-addled Windows Vista laptop, now also buzzing along nicely with Ubuntu. Good decisions all round, I think.

  5. #5 BrianX
    September 30, 2010

    I’m okay with Ubuntu; I mostly just use it because I know other people who do. I do NOT like Gnome though — apart from Nautilus (which was designed by people who were actually competent, and in the case of Andy Hertzfeld, qualify as demigods), Gnome just seems to me to be an attempt to be Mac OS without really understanding why it was designed the way it is.

  6. #6 Wyatt
    September 30, 2010

    KDEs sucks, Gnome roolz.

  7. #7 Fargo
    September 30, 2010

    @BrianX
    Isn’t nice being able to choose what desktop you use then, instead of being stuck with whatever MS or Apple decided was best?

  8. #8 Roland
    September 30, 2010

    The power and flexibility of linux (and Unix in general) can only be appreciated by people who are accustomed to using their brains. This limits its market share considerably.

  9. #9 BrianX
    September 30, 2010

    Fargo:

    Actually, I happen to like the Mac desktop, which is what I’m typing my response on right now; my Ubuntu systems are desktop systems and are at home, while I’m out and about on a MacBook. That said, yes, it is nice, though it’s not always the main concern, nor should it be the primary concern. A desktop is an abstraction, and how it works depends a great deal on a) how it was designed and b) how it was integrated into the distribution. Ubuntu does an excellent job with the integration end of things, so even Gnome brain damage is frequently bearable (however, on both of my Ubuntu systems I’ve excised gnome-screensaver in favor of Xscreensaver, and I’m none too fond of Brasero either).

    The truth is, most people simply aren’t going to take advantage of the ability to change desktops; with distros like Ubuntu that come in multiple desktop flavors, the need to do such a thing isn’t even going to be on the radar nine times out of ten.

    Wyatt:

    Nope. Wrong. My gripe with Gnome is how it takes functionality away from the user without giving a reasonable backdoor way to access it (like, say Mac OS resources). Rerolling your own when it should already be there is a sign of a very broken design (and Gnome’s incoherent use of the menu bar fails on so many levels I don’t even know where to start). As I said before, I really like Nautilus — it’s a near clone of the OS X Finder, and a very slick and well-implemented one at that — but the rest of Gnome is only barely acceptable. (Also, Qt > GTK+, but that’s neither here nor there.)

  10. #10 Pirvonen
    September 30, 2010

    I put Ubuntu on to my blogsurfing machine. My boyfriend put Ubuntu onto his laptop. In both cases, earlier OS was WinXP.

    The amount of tweaking that was needed to get the installation to operate was several times more demanding and time-consuming than for the Windows. Even after multiple consultations with bithead nerds in our social circle, either machine will sometimes require several boots to present the full desktop. The Firefox shows signs of memory leak or something that over a few days causes the computer to crawl ever slower, requiring a maintenance reboot — and then we are back at the “multiple boots for desktop”.

    But when the linux works, its flexibility compensates for a lot.

    I do wish the cult of linux would pause in their chanting of the slogans and entrenching in their attitudes, and give us something that also the slightly less technically dedicated can use with a bit less bemusement. Granny-ready, linuxes are not.

    (20 years ago I wrote system software for process control computers. Now I can’t even make a general-purpose OS sit up, let alone beg any more.”

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    September 30, 2010

    My gripe with Gnome is how it takes functionality away from the user without giving a reasonable backdoor way to access it

    Brian, have you tried? Almost every dumb-ass little thing is adjustable by altering the values in a text file, just like they should be.

    Gnome’s incoherent use of the menu bar fails on so many levels I don’t even know where to start

    Yes, it totally sucks and every now and then they adjust the suckiness of it, which is kind of funny. I’d love to see a project, a new gnome menu bar. (I use the debian menu thingie, makes more sense, but it is still just a submenu in gnome)

    I keep thinking I should give KDE a try because it looks fun. Then I try it and it is less fun than I thought it was going to be. I may try again soon.

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    September 30, 2010

    Pirvonen: The amount of tweaking that was needed to get the installation to operate was several times more demanding and time-consuming than for the Windows.

    So, you had previously put WinXP on a machine that had been assembled and designed with for the purpose of running Linux OS and that came with Linux OS? Because that would be the fair test. Most likely, though, you were installing some version of Ubuntu on a machine originally pieced together to run a totally different operating system.

    Also, Ubuntu over time has broken itself (as we’ve discussed here) with some of it’s “purist” approaches to drivers.

    will sometimes require several boots to present the full desktop. The Firefox shows signs of memory leak or something that over a few days causes the computer to crawl ever slower, requiring a maintenance reboot — and then we are back at the “multiple boots for desktop”.

    I promise you that is not an issue with Linux. You’ve got something bad happening with your hardware or something very strange is happening when you boot. Is your hard drive free of other OS’s? Or is this a dual boot machine or are you running off a stick or something?

    I do wish the cult of linux would pause in their chanting of the slogans and entrenching in their attitudes, and give us something that also the slightly less technically dedicated can use with a bit less bemusement. Granny-ready, linuxes are not.

    I partly agree and partly disagree. Did you make sure to say the same thing to Bill Gates all these years as he claimed his OS was great for all uses, including by granny in the home? Today’s Linux once installed (and again, installation is never the issue for granny who buys an HP or a Dell with Windows installed, so it is not a fair comparison) is more grandma ready than most earlier versions of Windows were. It’s all relative. And depends on granny.

    But yes, these days I prefer to say “Linux is not for everybody, just for smart people who love their computers”

    And everyone else can use the lesser OS.

  13. #13 BrianX
    October 1, 2010

    Brian, have you tried? Almost every dumb-ass little thing is adjustable by altering the values in a text file, just like they should be.

    Well, that actually gets into a more interesting issue about standardizing text file interfaces or just using binary resources — with ResEdit, there were TMPL resources that showed ResEdit how to create a uniform high-level interface to the contents of a binary resource, and the XML and .plist formats that Apple uses do the same thing in a text format by design. And that still doesn’t change the fact that to this longtime Mac user, Gnome still comes off as an incompetent parody in terms of usability and design.

    This gets into one of the big weaknesses of the Linux development model — it’s possible to create a standardized interface like that, but it requires a substantial level of involvement by the distro creators with the software packages they want to use, on top of convincing the package maintainers that what they’re suggesting is a good idea in the first place. (After all, not every free/open source maintainer is someone like Alan Cox. There’s quite a few Theo De Raadts and Eric Raymonds out there doing stupid things to good products because they’re on terminal ego trips.)

    Mac OS Classic had, since System 6 or so, something called the Gestalt Manager, which gave the programmer access to environment variables on a much lower level than, say, shell environment variables. It’s almost impossible to do this on an open source-based syndrome.

  14. #14 Greg Laden
    October 1, 2010

    Brian, yes, I get that Mac is the best, is perfect, nothing else will ever be close. But the binary configuration settings thing is a windows anomoly and has never been standard in any *nix environment. Everything is a file, and it better well be a text file. Fundamental. In Linux, even music is a text file try using “cat” to output the contents of a music file and pipe it in to the Linux music system. You’ll get music.

  15. #15 BrianX
    October 1, 2010

    Actually, I always found the idea of writing the prefs files for Perl scripts in Perl so the script can load them directly into the program text — it’s horrifyingly silly from a security standpoint, but clever…

    I’m not arguing the point about text files being better, but the binary thing came about at least as much because of memory and storage limitations as it did from any particular advantage. The XML approach (or something similar to it) is kind of a best-of-both-worlds approach; the advantage of text files are pretty obvious at this point. (XML is actually kind of unwieldy IMHO, but some similar standardized format that’s a little less wordy would be fine.)

    My real point is really the matter of standardization. If you could get that in an open source project like Gnome, that would pretty much eliminate a big part of one of my major objections to the design. After all, it’s really just a key-value pair thing; a prefs file manager library wouldn’t be hard to write. It’s just getting everyone on board with it that’s the problem.

  16. #16 Pirvonen
    October 1, 2010

    Greg (12),
    as a matter of fact, I am well known for loudly and frequently telling people that the latest solid operating system from Microsoft was MS-DOS 3.2

    As for the fair test, the claim I had been hearing from the Linux crowd is that hardware that runs any Windows, will run Linux better. And I had not been aware that there are any systems that were designed for Linux; my impression had been that Linuxes have been designed for common off-the-shelf hardware.

    For all what it is worth, while I would dearly like to let my computer use its processor cycles for something worthwhile instead of bloatware, all too often I get the feeling that I am being condescended to when I express my less than total enchantedness with the Linux experience.

  17. #17 Curt Howland
    October 1, 2010

    I spend about the same time on a new install of Windows as I do on a new install of Linux, getting things set up for the particular needs and desires of the users.

    The biggest difference is that when someone (like my Mom) who wants to try Linux gets a fully functioning machine with all the applications they want.

    The Windows user ends up with Windows, and OpenOffice, Firefox, Battle for Wesnoth, VLC, pretty much the same base applications.

    The Windows user then comes back for help for viruses and such, while the Linux user might ask how to find something or two, and that’s it.

  18. #18 Greg Laden
    October 1, 2010

    as a matter of fact, I am well known for loudly and frequently telling people that the latest solid operating system from Microsoft was MS-DOS 3.2

    Pretty close to freedos, still maintained!

    As for the fair test, the claim I had been hearing from the Linux crowd is that hardware that runs any Windows, will run Linux better.

    That is true. Indeed, various incarnations of windows in the past have had major install problems and there are way, way more people who can not install Windows Vista, for instance, on their older hardware than there are people who can’t install Linux. That’s a fact.

    This does not obviate the fact that most people are making this comparison unfairly. Perhaps you aren’t but most of the time this is the case, and a small perusal of the intertubes can demonstrate that. Almost everyone asking for help on their first install of Linux on a computer is installing that system on a computer that was formerly running windows, and in almost every case that windows install came from the factory with their computer via mailorder or Best Buy or whatever. That’s like 80 or 90 percent of the new linux desktop market.

    And I had not been aware that there are any systems that were designed for Linux; my impression had been that Linuxes have been designed for common off-the-shelf hardware.

    Actually, there are, and it is bit surprising you don’t know of them. Pick up an issue of Linux Journal or Linux Mag and look at the ads for the hardware. There won’t be a LOT of Linux desktop or laptop personal systems, but there are several.

    But yes, Linux distros are designed to load on a maximum range of different systems, and it does, it works. You need to understand, though, that your particular horror stories are very very odd and unusual. I’m not sure if you initially presented them to make the case that typically Linux installs cause computers to do the things you are claiming, but now you seem to be defending that position. But it simply is not true. You’ve got something different going on than typical.

    all too often I get the feeling that I am being condescended to when I express my less than total enchantedness with the Linux experience.

    No, just be realistic and intellectually honest. Please do read what I’ve said above about who should use linux and who shouldn’t. The vast majority of Linux systems were installed by and are maintained or operated by people who do not push the operating system at all. The new enthusiasm for the desktop market,a small piece of the overall Linux world, should not be discouraged, even if it is a bit fannish.

    On the other hand, I grow suspicious of people who insist that enthusiasm for Linux should be realistic and accurte while saying nada, zip, zilch about enthusiasm for other less deserving systems. Especially when such wet blankets come along with implausible horror stories.

  19. #19 DuWayne
    October 1, 2010

    Privonen –

    I do wish the cult of linux would pause in their chanting of the slogans and entrenching in their attitudes, and give us something that also the slightly less technically dedicated can use with a bit less bemusement. Granny-ready, linuxes are not.

    Bullshit. And for the record, I am not a Linux cultist. I was still running Win7 on my laptop as of three weeks ago (though I was primarily using Ubuntu a couple weeks before, as a Wubi install). I finally switched to Linux because Ubuntu has become user friendly enough to suit me. While I am rather more competent than Granny, if I had to teach my grandma a OS, I would pick Ubuntu or Mint hands down. I am however, extremely glad I do not need to – although after she gets the hearing aid, something like that might not be so daunting.

    While my mother is well and stuck on Windows, she really loves OpenOffice and uses that over the copy of MS Office she paid for. She also really digs on VLC player, because it is less confusing than WMP. I have even managed to get here to play around on my Linux laptop and let her meander through the various apps that are available just in the default repository with Ubuntu and she was rather impressed with the variety of and ease of install of the software (I even let her install some of the “fun and exciting” bible games to give them a spin).

    The only reason she doesn’t give up the Windows is a combination of paranoia and good old “I paid for it, so I’m going to use it.” Even against that, I have a feeling that she might just go with it at some point here. I am going to do a Wubi install for her, so she can use the “fun and exciting” bible games with her Sunday school kids.

    BrianX –

    My big problem with Macs (besides not liking the OS – largely because I am far more familiar with Win) is the expense of the hardware. For the same “oomph” as it were, that I got in my $500 PC laptop, I would have had to spend considerably more than twice what I paid for it. I am not even sure there is a home Mac desktop that comes close to the desktop a friend of mine just built.
    Asus mobo – $149
    AMD 3.2Gz, 6 core CPU – $250
    8Gb Corsair memory, with room for another eight – $219
    OCZ 128Gb SSD for his boot drive (PCIe) – $315
    2x2TB Western Digi Caviar Green HDD – $210
    Cooler Master box – $140
    Corsair Power supply – $129
    Corsair CPU cooler – $100
    Video cards – scavenged out of his last box, at least $300 between the two – probably more

    When he turns on the hybrid OS switch, his email is staring him in the face before his hand comes up from the button. It takes less than thirty more seconds for his computer to boot completely – less still when he boots Linux. He’s a totally nutty gamer. Even running Windows (for gaming only) everything opens fast as he can click.

    I am not entirely sure what you can get in a Mac desktop for less than two grand, but I know full well it isn’t anywhere near close to that.

    My real point is really the matter of standardization. If you could get that in an open source project like Gnome, that would pretty much eliminate a big part of one of my major objections to the design.

    And there is some sort of standardization from other OS’s? I’ll have to take your word for it, because I’m not seeing it. I know there are a lot of issues with putting Macs and WinPCs on the same network – at my school they solved that by setting up the network with Linux. The machines used to admin the network are Linux – though there isn’t a single student use box in the school that runs Linux.

    Though the guy who runs the network has rather enjoyed helping me with the odd problem that has come up for me on my Linux machines – including showing me how to enter my account in the network through my desktop – this gives me the advantage of not having to log in to use the school wifi and also views my in network document files as another drive on my computer – a hell fo a lot easier than dealing with the browser based bullshit.

    Digression aside, I really don’t see any problems with standardization. As far as Linux applications, while installing software that isn’t in a given repository can be a bit of a pain, at it’s worst (with one exception) it isn’t worse than Windows installs. As far as Windows based software goes I have yet to have a problem with anything using Wine, though apparently it sucks for games. And I’ve never had any interest in Mac apps. For that matter, I generally used open source software when I was running Windows.

  20. #20 BrianX
    October 1, 2010

    DuWayne:

    That’s certainly cheaper than the base model Mac Pro, though I’d have to know a bit more about the specs of the processor to compare it with dual quad-core Xeons. However, I’ve been of the opinion for some time that the Intel-AMD debate is futile — unless there’s a driver issue that makes it a problem, it really doesn’t matter so you’re better off going with whatever’s cheaper.

    As for the standardization matter, I think there you’re getting into two similar but separate arguments over interoperability vs. interface. I thought Steve Jobs made a very interesting point in his big Flash smackdown — with interoperability, what really matters is the protocol level. (Which is why, IMHO, Skype and AIM for the same reason Jobs said Flash does.) The proprietary hardware argument is a third debate entirely; being a Hackintosh fan, I don’t care to debate that because to me it’s moot. But the interface thing is a different story yet again, and to me that goes back to the reason the Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines were created — the learning curve for the user is vastly eased when developers agree to stick to a common set of commands and interface language. That’s where the buyin issue becomes a problem, and, like I said, it’s one of the biggest weaknesses of the open source model.

    On the UI level, you’d have to get the Gnome, KDE/Qt, Java, and probably other groups to agree on a set of guidelines that more or less reflect the common subset of what all the toolkits can do and still allow for things like theming. On the backend level, like I said, adopting a common standard (Apple’s CFLite XML parser is one example; a simple key-value pair standard (probably little-endian) would probably be more acceptable politically) is technically a simple matter, but is inevitably going to get caught up in the same sorts of flame wars that led to the BSD forks or the explosion of international languages that almost no one uses. These sorts of thing could presumably be handled through LSB; the question is, could enough stakeholders get on the same page long enough to even agree on a common syntax and API?

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