lunes, 2 de agosto de 2010

If Linux is not for Everyone, Neither is Windows

When contrasting Linux and Windows, one frequently hears the fallacy that Linux is not an OS anyone can use. Read this reaction about it. That recurrent argument is based on several misconceptions that I would like to discuss but, first, let us clarify something: there exists no such a thing as an easy, perfect OS. There is always a learning curve when using a system and the more you get exposed to an OS, the more "manageable" it seems. But easiness of use is only a perception, a mirage. Now, let us take a look at the misconceptions.

A. Simplicity:
Some people believe that you need to know many of the hidden arcane secrets of computer sciences to be able to operate a Linux system. They say "You must know command line to use Linux". That is not necessarily true. I will present you two cases in which Windows cannot beat the simplicity of Linux:
1. Erasing USB viruses
Those pesky .exe files become a real nightmare in Windows once they jump from your USB stick to your hard drive. Talk as much as you like, but neither MS Security Essentials, nor antiviruses beat the two-click solution in Linux to get rid those annoying viruses. Yes, in Linux, you just select the virus and delete it from the USB drive and the problem is gone forever. You need no scans for reassurance, with the implication of the waste of time. Clean and fast. A simple five-second operation...or maybe less than five seconds (that depends on your trigger-happy abilities with the mouse).
2. Installation
In Linux, you install only once and you get pretty much everything you need: the OS, the Office Suite, and a good assortment of useful programs, not demos. After installation, you just have to start using your system. No need for entering long strings of numbers to activate anything... In Linux, you forget about registering software, or unlocking, or downloading additional programs to unlock the OS features that you were supposed to get in the first place.

It is true that you might need the console if you want to do something additional with your system. However, that depends on two factors: what you intend to do and the Linux distro that you are using. About the former, most people I know only use the computer to do simple things, like browsing the web, making documents, and keeping in contact with others. All Linux systems excel at that, with the additional plus of security. Concerning the latter factor, if you use Mandriva, Mepis, Pardus, or PCLOS, chances are that you might not need to use the console. I'm not sure about Ubuntu, as it is based on Debian testing, but if you do not stumble with your hardware while taking your first steps, I think that even Canonical's distro can work for you.

B. Support

Who hasn't heard "Windows is backed up by Microsoft" as some sort of unquestionable guarantee of support? Linux, some say, does not have a company behind to help you when you have hardware problems. Now, we have to be open minded here. Who says that Windows will not give you hardware-related headaches? Remember that Windows produces the illusion of being efficient on hardware BECAUSE of the drivers released by hardware manufacturers, not because of the OS itself. What if your shiny Windows 7 lacks the driver to use, say, your scanner? That being the case, your scanner becomes an expensive piece of garbage in Windows. If there is no driver, then you either have to get new hardware or to downgrade. Do you remember Vista and its infamous hardware incompatibility? Many people were furious because, after paying for Vista, their printers did not work. But, if there IS a driver, (and you are sure because you had it on the DVD that you lost) then your option is to go driver-hunting online. If you are lucky and find it, then you have to install it... Going back to reality, the vast majority of people are so uninformed that will end up depending on a technician (who will rip them off) or on a friend who has more experience. I wonder how many of them actually depend on Microsoft every time they have a problem with their computers... I challenge you to try it: Next time your computer breaks, instead of calling a techie or a dependable friend, call Microsoft for in the case of Windows 7 and the laptop batteries that has been discussed to exhaustion...

I would like to finish with an anecdote. Last week, a person came to my office because he wanted to show me something online. I let him use my computer, which was running Mandriva 2010 Spring and, after ten minutes of use, this person realized that he was not using Windows because the ALT+64 keyboard combination did not give him "@"...He used Mandriva Linux for ten minutes and did not notice it was not Windows!

If Linux is not for anyone, I guess Windows domestication is not for all of us, either.

4 comentarios:

  1. Microsoft's aggressive advertising and training of their staff against Linux suggest that their business model is slowly crumbling down. More people appear to realize that the "up" in Microsoft's overused word "upgrade" actually seems to point downwards.

  2. The Ken Hess article from PC World is but another FUD piece in the long running campaign against GNU/Linux.
    Technology just gets better and it seems that microsoft can't keep up; it's a marketing company, They're good at selling not innovating.

    Microsoft tried to stem the flow of GNU/Linux on netbooks by injecting a 8 year(at the time) old OS. The Wintel sabotaging of the One Laptop Per Child project and other netbook makers is something no one should ever forget.

    There is more on the aggressive behavior and technical evangelism directed against GNU/Linux in the Comes vs. Microsoft pages at

  3. Even though I have not had any experience with Linux so far, I can tell that Windows is not for everyone, and especially, it is not for me! I definitely agree with the fact that the more exposed you are to an OS, the more manageable it becomes. However, I always have the same headaches with Windows, no matter how much time I have been using it). The recurrent problems with USB viruses are in the top of the list of problems I have found when using Windows. How frustrating is to try to open a file containing your work and realize that it is gone. No one knows where; no one knows how, but it is gone with no chances to have it back.
    Another problem that it is supposed to fix problem number one is the use of anti viruses. Two options are available: buy an antivirus or download it from the web. First option is not very convenient because most anti viruses are expensive. Nonetheless, option two is not feasible either when you use a slow internet service because the process can take hours and fail at the end. In conclusion, Windows is not for me!
    Mora, M.

  4. When I was in school, I remember that for at least 4 or 5 years we (my classmates and I) used Linux in the computer laboratory. Not until today I realize that we never had a problem with the operating system. For some unknown and inexplicable reason, the operating systems of the computers at my school where changed from Linux to Windows. Imagine our frustration when the computers stopped working properly for no reason. I completely agree with the fact that using Linux brings much more advantages than disadvantages. In Windows, there is no way to make viruses disappear. If you scan some and delete them, for sure you will get another one as a “prize” for the ones you have just deleted. Also, regarding programs, sometimes you will keep installing and installing programs and will never have all the programs that you need. In my case, I have a two-year-old computer with Windows Vista and I still have problem with some programs. All this problems give some people (including myself) headaches, stomachaches, or any other “ache” that exists because no one is able to fix completely the computer with Windows as the operating system. The problem is similar to the one with viruses: the technician comes to solve the problem, and he does it. Later on, you realize that you do not have the problem, but you have another problem that might be worse. It looks like a “fair exchange”, right? As a consequence, in order to avoid all this trouble, it is better to use Linux that even though it is not perfect (nothing in this world is), it is of a higher quality than the pervasive Windows.
    Maricela J. B.