Monday, September 20, 2010

Windows v Ubuntu

PC Pro ran an article recently that I found very interesting: Windows 7 vs Ubuntu 10.04. It's a good comparison of two desktop operating systems. I happen to prefer Fedora, but Ubuntu is a very nice distro as well.

I'll give PC Pro this: they give credit where credit is due. From the intro:
However, something rather extraordinary is happening in the Linux world. Amid all the distros that have come and gone over the years, one finally has the potential, the momentum and the commercial backing to at least challenge the Windows hegemony.

Ubuntu 10.04 is the most mature, user-friendly and feature-packed Linux desktop OS to date. From the Wubi installer – which installs the operating system with the ease of a regular Windows app – to the built-in music store, online backup service and comprehensive driver support, Ubuntu 10.04 has the unmistakable demeanour of a mainstream OS. It even looks nice.

The review compares entertainment and bundled apps, performance and mobility, drivers and compatibility, and suitability for business.

If you don't want to read the whole thing, I'll spoil the ending:
  • Linux: 38/50

  • Windows: 41/50

Windows just barely squeaks ahead, only 3 points ahead. The tone of the article's conclusion is very encouraging, as well:
Our overall scores show a narrow victory for Windows 7. Does that mean we urge you to remain firmly entrenched in the Windows camp? Most certainly not.

[..] And with a new version of Ubuntu never more than six months away, more new features are just around the corner.

Ubuntu is clearly an operating system on the rise. If we repeat this feature in a year’s time, will it have closed the gap? We wouldn’t bet against it.


  1. It's good to see an article from a mainstream technology (maybe?) magazine writing up a serious review like this without letting preconceptions of each OS get in the way. I also like how they take Ubuntu's loss not as a sign that Linux will never be ready for the desktop but as a sign that given how close it is now, it could easily beat Microsoft Windows in a few years.
    a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

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  3. So... "more new features" equals better? I guess that's what I'd expect a Windows-loving magazine like PC Pro would say.

  4. I disagree with part of that quote from the article - Ubuntu is easier to install than many MSWin programs and definitely easier to install than MSWin itself.

  5. Mad: Unbelievably so. The difference is astonishing. I assume when I see a statement like this that some moron is looking at installing from source, as if the average Ubuntu did that any more than the average Windoze user does (and of course, you can install from source on Windows if you want, and can get the source, which you can't)

  6. george w. -

    That really depends on whether you would like to see more Linux, less windows, or would rather keep Linux to yourself.

    Two years ago I would not have gone to Ubuntu, nor would I have gone even six months ago. I know this because I have installed Ubuntu alongside Windows several times over the last two years. I finally kept it in a few months ago and a few weeks ago removed Windows from my machines altogether (even managed to resurrect a netbook that died - after replacing the processor).

    The only reason I was able to do this is because of those "more new features," you seem to be wondering if they = improvement. I am a student/single father and have little time to spend learning how to functionally use a non-intuitive, non-user friendly desktop enviro. I am not trying to bash Linux - believe me, I am loving being Winfree (Apple products have never been an option for me - I despise the Mac OS and the hardware is uberoverpriced). But I could not be Winfree if it required reading several books to learn the language and constantly paying attention to what's going on. I'm learning Russian now and Mandarin is going to come on it's heels - those are enough new languages for me to learn (though I am sure I will slowly pick up Linux as I fix random crap on my machines).

    While more new features may not = improvement for you, they are the difference between me being stuck with Windows, or having another option. I am extremely grateful to have this other option. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the people who have taken the time to create distros that are user friendly enough for people like me, who don't have that time. I also greatly appreciate the people who are, who are so fond of Linux that they, encouraged me (and others) to switch.

  7. Hey, DuWayne, I hope you like the transition as much as I have. My frustrations with Ubuntu and Mint have been short-lived each time I run into them because there are so many sources available with instructions for how to do things that are decidedly not windows-like.

    I have found so many cool things that have no Windows equivalent that do things that I had never thought of when I was using Windows. I would never go back to a Windows system now that I have been using linux Ubuntu and Mint.

    Also, I like the price of all the apps.

  8. Glad to see everyone's back, and a few new names. :-)

    I think it's great that a more "mainstream" magazine like PC Pro is running an article like this. That Linux compared so favorably speaks well to the community and organization around Linux and open source software. These kinds of improvements don't come out of a vacuum, folks. People had to write those new features. And it's not due to a single distro, but all of them learning from each other and borrowing from each other to make something great.

    You just don't find that kind of IT "ecosystem" with Windows. Maybe that's why I view Windows (and Microsoft) as falling behind.


  9. Mad & Greg:
    "... the Wubi installer – which installs the operating system with the ease of a regular Windows app..."

    I also think Linux is way easier to install than Windows. (Especially that I can boot from a USB drive, and run a system from that to test things, then install it.) But I assumed that quote was in the article because people who have only used Windows won't have any other frame of reference. If you say "easier than a Windows app" then that doesn't mean much if you have only used Windows apps. So saying it's just as easy helps to "lower the barrier" for these users.

    My $.02


  10. I also think Linux is way easier to install than Windows.

    Heh. I did a clean install of Win7 64bit and it took at more than 6 hours. Installing Ubuntu on the netbook that has the not quite correct processor (it is an intel atom and they are not generally interchangeable) only took about two hours. My laptop took about twenty minutes, while the only delays on my desktop were getting the boot drive changed to a thumb drive.

    That doesn't take into account getting a windows desktop set up the way I want it and getting an Ubuntu desktop set up. There is less to get rid of and what there is is easier to dump.

  11. I put Ubuntu on to my blogsurfing machine. My boyfriend put Ubuntu onto his laptop. In both cases, earlier OS was WinXP. And no Greg, it was not from source, it was from a install CD burnt directly from whatever the official download site is.

    The amount of tweaking that was needed to get either 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.)


  12. Wow, lots of comments.

    I think how you compare Linux to Windows installation depends on what you consider to be the actual installation. If you just count the initial installation, I'm not sure what all you people are doing that Windows is really noticeably harder. At this point, both systems ask you more-or-less the same questions. About the only things you can say is that (1) the Windows installation takes freaking forever for whatever reason (all unprompted though), (2) Windows makes you press an "I agree" button, and (3) Windows gives you a dialog like what I imagine what you'd get if you told Ubuntu you wanted to choose partitions manually. (Disclaimer: I don't actually know what that looks like, or what the installation shows you if you've got Windows on there already and want to dual boot; I've only installed Ubuntu on a clean virtual machine with more-or-less default settings. I also don't know how Wubi looks.)

    The real problem with Windows installation comes post-... well, post-installation, when you have to update the system, often through two or three reboots. (I just did another virtual machine of XP from what was probably fresh SP3; that took two reboots.) That *is* obnoxious.

    Also terrible is the XP setup, which alternates between asking questions and installing for a while, so you can't even just answer questions for 5 minutes then walk away for an hour like you could with older Linux installations. (My first couple Linux installations were Red Hat 8 and Mandrake 9, or Red Hat 9 and Mandrake 10, or something like that, back in late 2002. Both of those were already way better than XP was -- they had similarly-complicated installers even on the easy route, and much more complicated (but also more functional) installers if you choose packages and such), but they asked for everything they needed up-front.

    On my front, I also recently got to switch back to Linux at work. This makes me very pleased, because it means that when I'm at home and at work my OS is annoying me in different ways instead of all the same way like it was when I was on Linux at work. ;-) I've also got my tiling WM back which is very nice for work-type stuff. (I run Windows at home, and I think that's pretty clearly the right choice. I game enough and stuff like that where if I were to use Linux I'd be probably spending lots of time either trying to work around games not working or rebooting to switch OS. Most of the good things about Linux I find apply rather less at home than they do at work too. YMMV of course.)

  13. No body understands what user want other than Microsoft coming to user experience. At present Ubuntu is free but the reason behind the popular Ubuntu is the distribution of Cd's and Dvd's for free. I think in few years after Ubuntu become popular they will charge for services they offer. Why google is distributing its android platform for free because they are seeing profits in near future and succeed. Same thing with Ubuntu but for desktops and laptops Windows 7 is the best. I used ubuntu and for a long time and don't like the interface but installing packages is very easy. fast boot and shutdown despite there is last of some features that windows offers. Any one can use windows operating systems with ease unlike Ubuntu.

    But i like Ubuntu as well as Ubuntu they both have their own capabilities and following. I am using Vmware now to test different linux distribution on my windows 7 platform.


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