Windows, Mac, Linux image
For the past 5-6 months I’ve been using a MacBook in my office and at home a I’ve a laptop which dual boots between Windows Vista Home Premium and Ubuntu Ultimate Edition 1.8 64 bit. So I thought, I could write something comparing these three operating systems.
First, I would like to start with Linux or more accurately GNU Linux. I really admire the idea of free software and open source. I’ve experience with Linux since I bought my first computer long back in 1996, which was a Pentium MMX 200Mhz. I installed Redhat (not sure about the version. think it was Redhat 4 or 5) when I got enough confidence to play with Partition Magic and boot sector. Thanks to my computer, everything including an ISA sound card and PCI VGA graphics card were detected correctly. Because of my success in installing Linux, my friends were also got interested and asked me to install it for them. It was a tough job and because of that I learned many new things.
* Free software – No cost, no restrictions – complete freedom.
* Plenty of flavors optimized for different tasks like multimedia, web server, music creation.
* Excellent community – Most of the Linux distributions (or simply called as a distro), especially Ubuntu has excellent community support. So if you ran into a problem, just seek help from the community.
* Frequently updated – A good Linux distribution changes its version atleast twice every year. Compare that with Microsoft Windows. How many years in between the release of Windows XP & Windows Vista.
* Easy installation on standard hardware (by ’standard’ I mean, common and popular) – You may be surprised here, but it is true. If you’ve standard hardware, Linux is the easiest OS to install. Some distros even allow you to play games while it is installing in the background.
* Easily updatable on a good broadband internet connection – To install a new application, all you need is to search for the application in the distro’s package manager and install it. All dependencies will be taken care of automatically.
* More secure and stable – Well, this depends on the distro you choose and the packages (applications) you’ve installed. But generally Linux is considered as one of the best stable operating systems.
* Works on low end machines – While some distros are recommended only for high end machines, you can always find a distro which can make the best out of your old hardware.
* Targeted less by viruses & spywares
* May be difficult to decide which Linux flavor. The options are plenty and a ‘non techie’ user may be confused to choose the right distro. But Linux has an excellent community and just ask your questions in the forums or user groups. You can always find a linux distro for almost all of your need.
* Unstable – While it is true that Linux is one of the most stable and secure operating systems, you might’ve experienced many crashes. Well, the culprit in most cases is the packages which are not stable. For eg: popular distros like Ubuntu comes bundled with some unstable packages like Compiz Fusion, Awn etc. While these packages make Linux more eye-candy (Believe me, you don’t want to turn it off, if you enjoyed it once – even if it is unstable), it has a price to pay and that is stability. One solution to this is, one should always stick to stable packages. For eg: Debian has an excellent stable distro which comes bundled with only stable packages.
* Installation may be difficult if your hardware is not standard (less available or less popular). You might need to recompile the kernel to support your hardware. This can become a nightmare for an average user. But chances are high that, the same problem has occurred for another user and the linux community has already solved this. So just google around and find the solution.
* Updating / Installing additional package can be difficult if you do not have an internet connection. While it is extremely easy to update/install packages if you’ve an internet connection, it may be very difficult if you don’t have one because of the possible package dependency issue. So you need to manually install all dependency packages before installing your desired package.
* Lack of high quality professional software – While it is true that, Linux comes bundled with almost all applications that you need for general use, high end professionals may not find an alternative for their needs. For eg: though, there is GIMP for image editing, professionals may not find it as a real alternative for Adobe Photoshop. Same is the case with Blender for 3D modeling. It is not a real alternative for Maya or 3D studio Max. This is also the case with games in general. Though we can find some good open source 3D games, we can’t play high end games like Crysis or Need for Speed. But this is not the problem of Linux. As the use of Linux as a platform increases, software companies will be forced to release Linux versions. But a question may arise – Won’t this paid, proprietary softwares violate the Linux motto of "complete freedom"
While I was studying for my bachelors degree in Computer Science, most of the computers in our college were running on MS DOS and a few were running on Windows 3.1. When I bought my first computer it was pre installed with Windows 95. I have tried all Windows versions till now – Windows 98, Windows NT, Windows Me, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows 2003, Windows Vista and the latest Windows 7 release candidate. According to many statistics more than 85% people uses Windows flavors (mostly XP). Does this mean the majority is satisfied with the Windows world? No, at least a good percentage of people – who are not ‘techy’ are forced to live with Windows because most of the computer manufacturers pre-install a Windows flavor in their machine and the non techy user may not even know there are alternatives. Also, because of piracy, people doesn’t consider the cost factor. In most cases they get it free and don’t want to try alternatives; even if they wanted to, they don’t know how to. In my experience, most people are more more comfortable with Windows versions (because they are more familiar with it) even though Linux flavors offers a lot more customization, logical grouping of programs etc. People can find programs from Windows – but don’t know where to look in Linux even though it is more logically organized. Also, the best part regarding Windows is the availability of software, device drivers etc. People think that, Windows has all device driver support and high quality softwares and compare it with Linux and think, why Linux can’t provide drivers. But, they fail to understand that, it is not Microsoft but the device manufacturers are creating drivers for it. In the case of Linux, the device manufacturer doesn’t care about providing a driver – so the Linux community has to do it and it will take time. This will change once Linux get more wider acceptance and the device manufacturers will be forced to release drivers for Linux as well.
* Most popular operating system
* Easy to use – I think, this is because most computer users started their computing with Windows and are familiar with it. However, for a hard core Linux user, Windows may be difficult to use, cluttered, unorganized Operating System.
* Applications & driver support – Undoubtedly Windows has the most number of applications – so it is preferred by professionals to Linux. Regarding driver support, I think it is "driver availability" rather than built in support by Windows. If compared in that way, Windows natively supports only a few while Linux supports the most.
* Not free, restricted, no freedom
* Not very stable – Windows is synonymous with the infamous "Blue screen of death" (BSOD). But Windows XP has changed this to an extend as it was reported as the most stable OS by Microsoft.
* Doesn’t come pre installed with good applications – All the applications – yes, no exceptions – provided in Windows OS are inferior to other commercial or even freeware alternatives. So you need to install good applications, may be even pirated softwares for doing common tasks.
* Because of the high usage, most spywares and viruses are targeted to this platform.
Mac OS X
Mac OS X is built on Darwin, an open source OS by Apple – Darwin is again based on another open source OS, Free BSD – I have only 6 months of experience with Mac. In my office, I use a MacBook(2.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB RAM) with Mac OS X 10.5.6. Undoubtedly, Apple is the King when making user interface. All the eye-candy without sacrificing stability and performance. Believe me, it never crashed in the six months. I like the way of installing software on a Mac. I’ve successfully modified my Linux distro to mimic almost like the MacOS interface. While it is true that you can almost mimic every aspect of MacOS in Linux, there is a problem – stability. All those are experimental packages and might crash X-Window. Unlike Windows or Linux, Mac OS X is supposed to be installed only in Mac machines (I am not forgetting that some people have successfully installed Mac OS X on normal PCs – but this is not officially supported or allowed). I think the stability of the operating system has a major role in this decision. They already know all about their hardware and how to make the most out of it.
* Excellent user interface and usability
* Stable & Secure – I didn’t mean it is more stable than Linux, Linux is also stable if you don’t install any experimental package. But I have to agree that, with all the eye-candy Mac OS X is stable as any Linux distro – this cannot be true with Linux. You have to decide between eye-candy interface or stable OS, not both – well, at least until this time. Regarding security, it is considered as one of the best – but some tests conducted on Mac reveals that it is also vulnerable to attacks but it is less targeted by hackers (only below 5% of people use mac).
* Applications – A large number of excellent professional applications are available in this platform and hence preferred by designers and other professionals.
* Easy installation of applications
* Targeted less by viruses & spywares
* Though, based on open source operating systems, it is still proprietary.
* The Operating system is limited to a specific platform
* Cost of ownership is high – User is not free to try it out by paying for the operating system alone, instead the user is forced to buy new hardware at premium prices.
If compared purely on performance and stability, I think Mac OS has an upper hand. Also unlike Linux, there are lot of commercial software available, which makes it the choice of professionals. But can we say Mac OS X is the best? Certainly not. First of all, as said above, Mac OS X is not like Windows or Linux. It is created for a particular hardware and won’t work with another hardware. Just think about Linux, it supports almost all hardware platforms – be it Intel, AMD or anything, Linux works just fine. If Linux was targeted for a particular architecture, it would’ve been more stable than Mac. Secondly, the high cost of ownership – it doesn’t give you choices, it will force you to buy something that it supports with a premium price. So, still my vote is for Linux – it will give you choices, it will give you freedom and it will make you a better human being who is not greedy and willing to share his knowledge for the fellow human beings.