Linux versus Windows - How to Choose Which to Use

First Impressions - Linux versus Windows - How to Choose Which to Use

by Larry Neal Gowdy - Updated October 6, 2013)



It is an easy thing to find fault in a person or product, but what is not always quite so easy is to find the good and useful things that are positive and beneficial. In this article I hope to point to the things that are not just positive but also important reasons why a person might be best pleased with Windows®, Linux®, or another operating system.


Which Programs Do You Need?


If all that I needed was an operating system without running any additional programs (no word processor, no spreadsheet, etc.), then I would immediately consider a minimalist floppy installation of DOS while completely ignoring Linux and Windows. However, an operating system without programs is not much useful.

The programs themselves are what dictate which operating system is favored. If Lotus® 123 were good enough for my needs, and I needed no other programs, then I would happily choose DOS for the OS. If an Apache® server were good enough for my needs, and I needed no other specific programs, then Linux would immediately be the favored choice for whatever additional utilities that I might want. If speed were not important, and all I needed was to print a single page of text once a year, then I would use a manual typewriter and get rid of my computers.


What Hardware Do You Have?


Stability, speed, aesthetics, and hardware compatibility also dictate which operating system is preferred. If an individual’s choice of computer hardware is limited, then the individual will favor the OS that best functions with that specific hardware system. Neither Windows nor Linux are viable choices if neither will function correctly on your hardware.

Generally, we must choose or eliminate an operating system through applying the logical steps of determining what features of an OS are most important to us personally. (1) Does the OS work on your hardware? (2) If the OS works on your computer, then is the OS sufficiently stable enough to use? (3) Is the OS speedy on your hardware, or is the OS too slow? (4) Is the visual appearance of the OS acceptable to you, or is the OS aesthetically repulsive? (5) Does the OS that works on your computer support the programs that you need to use? (6) Are you sufficiently experienced with computers that you can manually install hardware drivers and reconfigure command files?

Any one of the six features can be important enough to cause an individual to choose or eliminate an OS. Some people need speed more than aesthetics, some people need stability more than speed, and some people need aesthetics more than all else. The individual who can write their own command files may not be much concerned about any of the other five features since the person could simply rewrite files as needed to make the OS work as s/he prefers.

Since there is no one feature preferred by all humans, then there can be no one best operating system. The best operating system for you and I is the OS that works best for our personal needs, and since everyone is different and has different needs, then different operating systems will sometimes be the best choice while at other times be the worst choice.

I will list the main purposes for my comparing Windows with Linux, and then list the ten main programs and preferences that I personally need. It is useful for everyone to create their own list of requirements and to then judge for themselves which operating system best fits their personal needs.


Moral and Legitimate


The primary reason that I am interested in Linux is for me to be able to install an inexpensive operating system on an inexpensive used computer that does not have the original Windows disks. I am very much opposed to making copies of proprietary software, and I want my customers’ computers to not only be legitimate but to also reflect the high moral standard of insisting that nothing on the computers is illegal or plagiarized. I sincerely do want to find a good and stable distribution of Linux.

It is reported that approximately 80% to 95% of Windows operating systems sold in China are pirated copies, while about 20% of all software in the USA is illegitimate. The theft of intellectual property has already greatly stunted new technologies – there is no incentive to create a new technology if we starve while thieves make illegal copies – but even when quality programs like Word® and Excel® are offered as free ‘in the cloud’ online programs, thieves still prefer to steal Microsoft products rather than to choose Linux and other free software.

If for no other reason, I would like to see Linux succeed at becoming a stable and easy to use operating system so as to become a suitable alternative to theft. Thievery is the behavior of low intelligence, and enabling a person to behave with honesty betters the individual as well as the world. The world desperately needs an easy no-brainer version of Linux.


Music


Working in silence is not an option. Music influences the emotions, and emotions influence one’s speed and quality of work. While it might be an acceptable alternative to play CDs on a stereo, it is much more convenient to choose a list of MP3s to be played by the same computer that I am working on.

Media Player® and Zune® are both good in Windows, and Audacious® is a good choice for Linux. I prefer the look and feel of Microsoft® music players, and Pandora® is a favored radio when I want to listen to a new variety of music, but I would not feel disadvantaged with Audacious.


Word Processor


The choice of word processor would not be overly important if I only used a word processor for one or two pages of text, but I often work with manuscripts of three-hundred to over one-thousand pages. I need a word processor that is speedy, stable, and has a quality display of text as well as a psychologically agreeable menu theme.

The only known word processors that are capable of handling large document files - and are visually appealing to me - are Microsoft Word® versions 2003 and 2010.

The new Libre® Office Writer can be reasonably attractive to the eyes when the tool bars are removed and the color scheme is altered, but Writer is not quite as good as Word for the quality of display nor for the handling of large documents. Libre is an improved version of OpenOffice®, but at present Libre does not yet meet my personal needs.


HTML Editor


An editor must have similar qualities as a good word processor: stability, speed, quality font display, word wrap, predictable cursor movement, keyboard shortcuts, and be capable of changing tag font colors within an environment of a psychologically attractive menu theme. The editor should never automatically insert nor alter characters that the user does not himself choose to enter. Shortcuts to easily validate HTML and CSS through W3C is a big bonus and highly desirable.

In the past I used medium quality HTML editors simply because I did not know that high quality editors existed. Search engines typically only list the lower quality free and low cost editors, and the lack of publicity for high quality editors has not been a good thing.

I abandoned all previous editors when I discovered the usefulness of Script Editor® in Microsoft Office® 2003. Now that I have found Expression® Web 4 Professional – which is as about ideal as I can imagine that an editor can be – I cannot see myself returning to medium grade editors ever again.

While BlueFish® is a useful editor in Linux, and I could use BlueFish for HTML/CSS if necessary, Expression is literally hundreds of times superior in speed, appearance, and usefulness. A person that is familiar with Word should feel quite at home with Expression.

The similarity of Windows programs’ appearance, commands, speed, stability, and over all feel is very favorable and helps to increase a person’s speed and productivity.

The typical online price range of an Expression upgrade is around $50.00 for anyone who has a version of Microsoft Office, any Expression product, or any Adobe® creative suite product. The upgrade cost is similar or considerably less than medium grade editors. The Microsoft Visual Web Developer 2010 Express® is also an excellent choice that has both code and a WYSIWYG visual editor, and VWB Express is a free download from Microsoft. BlueFish is free but slow when compared to Expression, and if time and life is money, then Expression is far less expensive than all other known editors by a factor of thousands to one.


Bitmap and Vector Graphics


I need a graphics program that can quickly modify photograph colors, brightness, and contrast as well as crop, resize, and create layered graphics. The program must also be capable of creating quality text, transparencies, and vector graphics within an environment that is visually attractive as well as having menus and commands within an order that is logical to me.

I am accustomed to programs like CorelDraw®, Jasc® PaintShop Pro®, and Serif® DrawPlus®, all of which are relatively well laid out and easy to use. After twenty years of using software with similar controls and menus, it is felt to be uncomfortable when a program does not share similar layouts. There are several quirks in Corel and PSP that I am not pleased with, but I am accustomed to working around the difficulties.

I do not have much experience with Adobe and Linux-based vector graphics programs primarily because the programs that I currently use do the job that I need, and at present there is little reason for me to seriously consider alternative programs. I have seen good quality graphics created by Linux programs, and so I do believe that the programs would be capable of performing most of the tasks that I need if I were to choose Linux, but I have not yet found a Linux-based graphics editor that can easily create a simple transparency-fade effect. It is possible to run some Windows programs within Linux, but to me it seems awkward to choose an operating system and to then invest additional time into adapting programs that were originally designed to work with the operating system that I chose against.


Internet Browser


A browser must be stable, speedy, share a compatible color theme as my other software, and not install unwanted add-ons.

Since my business includes web design, and because many government agencies now require tax payers to access the agencies online, I absolutely must use a browser or be out of business. The major browsers – Internet Explorer®, Firefox®, Opera®, Safari®, and Chrome® – all work well in Windows.

It is peculiar that browsers like FireFox work so well in Windows but are excessively slow in Linux. For me, I cannot afford to lose an extra hour or more each day while waiting for a Linux program to do what a Windows program accomplishes so quickly.


Email


I need an offline email client that is stable and speedy, a client that I can use to store important emails, to compose lengthy emails with attachments, and is visually attractive so as to not be psychologically distracting.

While it is possible to use online email, again the problem of slowness is prohibitive for any choice other than using an offline email client. Outlook® and Windows Live® are without question the best email clients for my needs, and I have not yet found any other that comes close.

Thunderbird® and Evolution® both appear to be good, as is also the email function within the Opera® browser, but they do not fully meet my personal needs for speed, stability, and visual appearance. If I were to choose Linux, I am confident that I would immediately choose Evolution as well; it is reasonably attractive and has a calendar layout that I might enjoy using.


Speed


When a program command is clicked on, I expect the command to be executed immediately. If the command requires sizable RAM then I may expect a short delay while the program loads, but I do not expect the same delay when the command is executed more than once.

The best and most sure method of my appreciating my primary computer is by working on a slow computer for an hour and then sitting back in front of my main monitors. The increase of speed, accuracy, and quality of display is tremendous. My primary computer only has 2 gigs of RAM and is not top-shelf, but its response is almost instantaneous except when I have far too many programs running simultaneously.

Slow computers not only rob a person of their life, but slow computers also dull a person’s creativity through the boredom of having to wait for programs to execute commands. It continues to be my experience that Windows 2000 and newer versions are sizably faster than all known Linux-based desktop operating systems.

During a recent week-long series of tests with numerous different Linux distributions on two desktop computers, Windows 2000 was faster than all tested Linux-based systems for boot time, shut down time, screen writing, program loading, and networking.

As an example, the Puppy 4.3 Linux Live CD is handy and performs well enough for its intended purposes, but only if used on a computer that has compatible hardware that Puppy recognizes. With a blank hard drive, Puppy required about 125 seconds to boot from CD while the user had to remain at the keyboard to answer prompts, and about 15 seconds to shut off while again the user had to stay at the keyboard to answer prompts. On the same computer, a fresh installation of Windows 2000 loaded in about 50 seconds and shut off in about 3 seconds. Windows 2000 with service pack 4, all hardware drivers, and with automatic updating required about 75 seconds to boot and about 7 seconds to shut down. Puppy is advertised as being able to load extraordinarily fast, but in the dozen or so tests on my computers Windows 2000 ran faster, was more stable, and had a higher quality display than all Linux-based operating systems.

About ten days after the tests, with my still being determined to find a suitable Linux distribution, I found that Puppy’s newest version 5.2.5 loaded and worked well. After allowing Puppy to install configuration files on the hard drive, the boot time dropped from over two minutes to about sixty seconds and with about fifteen seconds to turn off the computer without the user having to baby-sit the start-up and shut down processes.

Puppy 5.2.5 found the ethernet and audio cards, and after quickly and easily installing FireFox I was online. Puppy has the main ingredients that a typical user most often wants: browser, email client, word processor, music player, a video player, and a few games. Although Puppy Live CD is too slow for my personal needs, I believe that Puppy is good enough to serve as a working operating system that a customer can use until the customer decides whether to purchase and install Windows or else to install Puppy on the hard drive.


Stability


I have things that I need to get done, and I do not have time to repeatedly stop and repair problems. Software and hardware absolutely must be over 99% stable.

To date the very most stable operating system that I have ever used – other than DOS – has been XP. Puppy 5.2.5 is the only stable Linux desktop distribution that I have seen on the six or more computers that I have used for testing Linux, although I surmise that surely stable distributions do exist if a small percentage of the population has found a satisfaction with Linux.


Visual/Psychological Symbiosis


Does the software create a quality symbiotic bond with the user? Does the software enhance the user’s mood which then enables the user to create higher quality work? Is the computer fun to use?

Just as it is a simple thing to gather a fair idea of a person’s inward nature by what clothes the person wears, by what type of car the person drives, and by what vocabulary the person speaks, so do the colors and styles chosen for computer displays describe the user. Where there is a choice to change colors and graphics, we can then enhance our environment to better suit our personal needs, but where there is no choice, then the environment manipulates us to suit its needs.

At present there is far less choice of scenery within Linux-based programs, and worse, the vocabulary of menus and documentation are too frequently of a negative grammar which with time molds the user’s thoughts to use the disquality language. Bluntly stated, some Linux and Windows programs dumb-down the user, and within the programs there is no reaching for higher standards.


Cost


I need quality software that I can afford, and if I cannot afford quality software, then I would prefer to choose no software at all.

Windows 2000 can be found online for about $25.00 to $80.00 (update Oct. 25, 2011 - I recently purchased an XP Pro upgrade for $29.50 including shipping). Windows 2000 performs well while Linux is free, and yet many Linux distributions annually consume hundreds of hours of a person’s life due to instability, slowness of operation, and psychological numbing. For me, I simply cannot afford a slow operating system.


Conclusions


If I were wanting to use software to control machinery, security systems, or some other industrial use, then I would likely consider DOS and Linux as good and easy methods to deploy control software. But for a personal computer that I must work with for hours each day, Windows remains to be the one and only viable choice.

It appears that since most all known Linux distributions require the manual installation of hardware drivers and a semi-custom setup before the OS would be ready for use by an inexperienced customer, then I need to weigh the cost of a Windows CD versus the cost of my time. If I can buy a used or old-stock Windows 2000 CD for around $25.00 and install the OS within an hour while not having to baby-sit the installation process, then it would not be worth my time to install Linux, especially not if the Linux installation resulted in customers telephoning me later to ask me how to perform various tasks.

Nevertheless, some live CD versions of Linux are a viable choice where there is a need to keep prices down while still giving a customer a working computer. Puppy and Ubuntu seem to work reasonably well as live CDs, and I believe that a viable option here is to simply include a free copy of Puppy with each used computer and let the customer decide which operating system s/he prefers.

Once you write your list of wanted programs and personal needs, you will likely quickly recognize which operating system is best for you.



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