Linux vs. Windows 7

The Linux and Windows OS battle will obviously continue for years to come. If you ask me I will say that it is inevitable; Windows has succeeded as a commercial product while Linux is developed as an open source product. Both from different realms fighting to stay at the helm of the best operating system in all fronts – speed, performance and beauty and of course this has gotten users from both sides to scream the virtues of their favorite operating system.

Windows 7 has landed and is proving itself to be a favorite in comparison to its predecessor Windows Vista, but putting the two head-on on war front would be unfair – since Windows 7 has obliterated Vista. In this case we will match up Windows 7 with a worthy contestant and arch nemesis in the battle of Operating System supremacy.

In this feature I will be talking about a few Linux features that I think should be employed in Windows 7, this does not mean that I am overlooking Windows 7’s strengths, but I will give credit when I see that it is due irrespective of the camp I come from.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Compiz

Windows 7 as surely improved the interactivity that Aero offered in Windows Vista. However,  no matter how clean Aero gets, I don’t root for the flat panel single-workspace desktop environment that Windows 7 offers. We are gearing for the future and we need a modernized desktop working environment that Compiz offers. Many, would argue that Compiz is just eye candy. Compiz provides for usability through quick access via key combinations to multiple workspaces in addition to the eye candy. Having Compiz on Windows will certainly elevate the desktop environment interactivity experience for users.

2: Multi-user

Integration of Trustworthy Computing in the latest version of Windows has surely come with obstacles. Sure, one can have multiple user accounts on a Windows 7 computer but this does not truly reflect multi-user. The default Windows 7 settings don’t allow for concurrent user sessions unless you download a third-party tool. In Linux, multi-user is available by default and should also be in Windows 7.

3: Log files

The Windows Operating System has complicated the reading of logs by use of heavy tools, in comparison to Linux system logs that can be read through a simple text editor. You can access (with sufficient rights) the Linux system logs by navigating to the /var/log directory. Linux log files are also flexible in that a system administrator can follow a system log in real time through the tail -f command in the terminal.

4: Centralized application installation

The new approach in cloud computing has changed the game for open source software products and commercial software (will be available in Ubuntu Software Centre version 3) products all the same. The Ubuntu Software Centre is a centralized location for Ubuntu Linux application installation. From one source, you can search from hundreds of thousands of applications and install any one you need.

5: Cron

The essence of computing is automation of tasks. Cron jobs enable you to easily automate tasks. With Windows operating you will have to install third-party software to help you automate tasks, but none will offer the flexibility that comes with cron job. Cron allows you to schedule as many tasks as you like, at any time you like, from a simple command-line tool (or a GUI tool, if you so desire). And cron is available system wide — for both administrative tasks and standard user tasks. A built-in task automator for Windows will surely come in handy.

6: Regular release cycle

This is one of the strengths of open source software and Microsoft should take it seriously to have  a regular release cycle. Most Linux distributions release their updated distributions on a regular basis. Better still, they stick to these schedules to the best of their ability. For instance, Ubuntu for each release there is a .04 and a .10 version. The .04 version is released on the fourth month of the year. The .10 version is released on the 10th month of the year. This happens like clockwork. So Ubuntu 10.04 will release April 2010 and Ubuntu 10.10 will release October 2010.

7: Root user

According to me UAC in windows was derived from Linux strength to control running of applications with elevated privileges. In Windows by default the average user can do too much and as a consequence it becomes very easy for one to write a nasty little virus that can be spread simply by opening up an attachment in an email. With the way Linux is set up, this doesn’t occur. For damage to be done to a system, generally speaking the root password must be known. For example, if a user clicked on an attachment from an email and that attachment demanded the root (or sudoers) password that would be a quick indication that the attachment was malicious. Windows should separate the administrative user and the standard user by default. The first thing Windows users should have to do, upon starting up their new computer for the first time, is create an administrative password and a user password.

8: Pricing

Well, I can’t say that Windows should be free. But they can cut down costs by offering one version each for the desktop and server. If you take a look at Windows 7 we have premium and ultimate without a clear indication of which is better. We also had Home, Professional for Windows XP and al these version come with different price tags. It would be advisable to save the users all the confusion and come up with a standard price for the desktop and server editions for the operating system releases just as Linux has done. Linux is free though.

9: Installed applications

The number of pre-installed applications available in Windows is close to zero for a good reason – making money. These applications are sold separately for more profit and yet without them you can’t do any word-processing, manage your data sheets and so on and so forth. But with Linux, once I install the operating system it is ready to use for the average user. There are pre-installed graphics software, online tools and word processors.

10: Hardware detection

Windows 7 has truly tried to improve on the driver support, but at times you can install the operating system thinking that all your hardware drivers will be installed, but then you end up with the good old 800×600 screen resolution. You now know that your graphics card has not been supported driverwise. The next step of operations will be to check with the device manager and find out what drivers you need so that you can download them from the internet, there isn’t enough information you now have to open up your computer case and check out the chipset. In some worse cases your ethernet driver, has not been installed and so you can not even go to the internet from your PC to get the drivers – how unfortunate.

But if you were using Linux you could at least issue the dmesg command and get some information right away. And if dmesg didn’t help out, you could always fire up the Hardware Drivers tool, which will, might discover a proprietary driver you could use. In Windows, if you don’t know the card, you’re going to have fun finding the drivers. Although Windows hardware support is better, Linux hardware detection is better.

Your take

These are some of the features in Linux that I would like to see in Windows. Maybe you have more features you might add or you disagree post some comments and let me know what you think.

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