These are the three different operating systems that I run on my home computers. Linux on my server, and dual boot on my desktop and my old laptop, and my new laptop can installed with Windows Vista. Here’s a quick review of the three different operating systems.
My operating system of choice is Linux. It is stable, available absolutely free. Unfortunately I can’t move completely to Linux because there is some software that I run that is Windows (or Mac) only. In some cases there are alternatives, but perhaps lacking some of the functionality or ease of use. I think that this is a temporary situation, Linux has improved greatly in the time that I’ve been using it, and more and more software is available. Even better most of this is, like the operating system, completely free. The main applications that I would like to see on Linux are:
- Adobe Studio – mainly Flash
- Better Video Editing – some is available, but not as good as Adobe Premiere Elements
- More user friendly interface to The GIMP (graphics / photo editor) – to rival Adobe Photoshop Elements / Paint Shop Pro
- Better Vector Graphics Software – something to rival CorelDraw, it’s getting closer than ever with some great improvements in the open source alternatives
- Games – I don’t play many games, but enjoy the occasional game of Civilization, Stronghold or Sim City
Once those applications are available on Linux and working well, then I’ll probably ditch Windows all together, but for now I run both side by side.
If you don’t use any of this software (and some of it is a bit specialist) then I think Linux is already able to satisfy most peoples needs.
Windows XP has two advantages, one is that it runs all the software mentioned above, the second is that is has been around a while so software actually runs on it (compared with Vista). The main disadvantages are cost and security problems.
Cost affects more than just the initial cost of the operating system, but also the cost of additional software to run on it, and the cost in personal freedom as you are greatly limited what you can do with it from a license perspective. For example if you have an OEM version of Windows XP it is unlikely you’ll be able to transfer this to a new PC, even though you may no longer use it on the old one.
From a Security point of view there are far too many viruses, worms, spyware and exploits. So much to the point that some people find they have to completely reinstall Windows to get it back into a usable state.
Windows Vista has all the cost disadvantages of Windows XP, with even more problems in that it doesn’t support all hardware or existing software. I have bought a laptop pre-installed with Vista so most of the driver issues have already been worked out, but I have tried some software which will not run at all.
For example, Stronghold 2 does not run at all, Civilization IV doesn’t run correctly, and it’s not just limited to games. I have a number of errors / software hangs whilst installing Adobe Premiere Elements, and I’m sure there is more software that won’t run. Although there will be bug fixes over time, Vista has been available for a few months (although only for home users since last month), and have been available for developers for longer than that. Microsoft has also had plenty of opportunity for ensuring that the operating system runs most software, but doesn’t appear to have been successful in fixing the issues.
On the plus side the security is increased, although only time will tell whether there are still vulnerabilities that expose the operating system to the same problems. Prompting whenever an application runs is very annoying, but should help to stop some spyware installing itself.
Most of the changes that you see in Vista are cosmetic and many of the fancy windowing features have already been available in Linux (e.g. using Compriz) for some time.
Software support for Vista should improve over time, although I’m sure there will be many applications (in particular games which have a short shelf life), that never get fixed.
My personal preference is to use Linux where I can. If you do need to run Windows then I recommend avoiding Windows Vista for a few months to wait for improvements in the application support.