Some Things Linux Can Do, That Windows Won’t. 12/01/09

I had an interesting chat with a friend today, part of which dealt with the differences between Windows and Linux (hence this post). In a nutshell, he was trying to grasp why I really preferred  Linux. He wanted to get into the meat and potatoes of the issue – Why Linux?

Funnily, on the spot, I found it easy to surmise all sorts of motivations and reasons as to making Linux (in this case Ubuntu) my primary operating system. In particular much of the discussion revolved around the uses of various operating systems and different ways of doing the same thing in various ones. It occurred to me then to try and verbalize things I could do with Linux, that I could not with Windows. That (for me at least) was a harder task and I didn’t come up with as much until I had time to think; on my way home.

I’m sure others could add much more than my thoughts below, needless to say, the following (below)  are some things I find I can do in Linux, that I cannot in Windows – that for me at least are very important.

1) Operate a complete operating system for free.

With Linux I can legally download and install a complete operating, without paying money for it, and without it being considered software piracy. While I can appreciate that many people may think they can use illegal torrents to download software (and evidently they do), it’s still illegal and puts such individuals at risk from RIAA (and the likes), as well as being in danger of potential criminal charges. I don’t have to worry about that. This saves me money, as the last time I checked the cost of Windows 7 Ultimate, it was around $200 CAN.

2) Keep my OS secure without excessive applications.

In Windows, I find I need to run and anti-virus, a firewall, an adware / spyware blocker, and use these tools every day. Personally, I find they consume a lot of resources on my Windows system (slowing it down), that I don’t have to do on my Linux system. Sure a firewall is always good to install regardless if the system is Linux or Windows – That’s a fair statement! But, my routers have built in firewalls. And, in reality, the Firewall on my Windows system is to stop suspicious software from calling out!

3) Install all my applications for free.

Much the same as installing a Linux OS for free (above), I remember being astonished at the wealth and availability of free software for Linux. In particular was the fact that I did not have to manually download, then install files, rather it was via the use of one simple command (aptitude install <whatever>), that handled everything. I don’t need to go to a store to buy software, I don’t need to use my credit card to buy it online either. If you’re not aware of how much free software is out there, a small view is here: Top 100 of the Best (Useful) OpenSource Applications.

4) Automatically update all my software and the OS.

With Windows, I notice that there  are  regular updates, patches, security, fixes, etc. to the OS. With Linux, my updates include the OS as well as all the applications! Needless to say, I’m happy that I can obtain the latest features, fixes, updates etc. in one update action on Linux, without having to manually update each application (which I have to do on my Windows box).

5) Easily carry or transfer my application settings.

In Linux, my application settings are stored in my home directory (/home/roger). Each application has it’s own folder ./filezilla, ./mozilla-thunderbird, and so on. I can copy all of these to my bootable USB drive and have them available wherever I am. I can even use them to transfer all my application settings to another PC, if I move or upgrade. I know that my Windows box does have some of the settings in folders too, but I also found out that there are a fair number of them stored in the Registry as well.

6) Install software and most updates without having to reboot.

Because Windows stores a lot of data in the registry, I find that I almost always have to reboot after installing software, or after OS updates and patches have been applied. I very rarely have this issue using Linux. When my Linux kernel gets updated, I can continue working with the old one, until I’m ready to reboot into the new one.

7) Better desktop customization.

Using my Windows box, I can install desktop customization packages that will change the look and feel of my desktop, that much is true. However, I find that I’m limited to what can be changed, in reality, it’s still the same desktop, no matter how different I make the graphics look. On my Linux box, it’s a much different story. Sure I can change the graphics (“skins”) or theme, but I can also change the window manager, the engine (GTK), the environment and the effects managers. If I wish to get into the nitty gritty, I have even greater granular control by being able to manually edit various configuration files.

8) I get better support because the code is visible Open Source.

When I need to fix something on my Windows box, I often find myself combing through forums and eventually find myself in the Microsoft knowledge base. In many respects I do the same thing with Linux. However, there’s one big difference. With Windows, if the fix requires a patch to the operating system, I have to wait for Windows Update to install it on my computer. With Linux, if I have the skills, I can create (and share) the fix myself, or use the fix provided by the community – I have never had to wait for a Linux based fix.

Will I still use both Windows and Linux on the network? Sure I will. But it’s nice to know some of the specific, tangeable differences. ;)

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63 Responses to this article

Spode December 1, 2009 Reply

Some nice points. I find a lot of non-Windows users leverage too much on the cost aspect – saying they don’t worry about paying for Windows – esp. when it’s included in the machine price with a VLK.

As a Linux user – I don’t care about either price. Linux is just my preferred operating system – I’d still use it if I had to pay for it.

Important things for me (off the top of my head) are:

- Security
- Speed
- Simplicity of using apt-get
- X Forwarding
- Better multi-monitor support
- MythTV
- Gnome VFS and SSHFS
- Cron jobs, and the terminal as a whole
- Virtual desktops
- The fact I can put the HD in another machine and still boot
- USB Live Distros

But also the fact that I can change *anything*. My environment does not limit my imagination.

The problem is, people see Linux as a Windows “replacement”. It’s not. It’s an operating system in it’s own right – it’s like trying to compare a pick-up truck to a car. Close enough that you can try, but realistically – a pointless exercise.

UbuntuLinuxHelp December 1, 2009 Reply

@ Spode

Very good points, especially moving the HD to another box! I remember trying that years ago with another Windows box – Eeek! I forgot about that.
Without question, Windows has it’s benefits, like all OS’s do. And yes, well said about the “replacement”, Linux is not a replacement – Apples and Oranges.

gv December 1, 2009 Reply

Kind of related to 5) but an important point for me is the fact that my data is portable. For example, I can transfer my email from Thunderbird to Evolution to KMail whenever I feel like it.

There’s no “lock in” to some obfuscated proprietary file format.

LinuxLover December 1, 2009 Reply

Try this one: When an application starts behaving funny, take your hidden folder in your ~/home directory that applies to that application (starts with a “.” in the name), and move it somewhere else. Now, launch the application. The hidden file gets rebuilt with default settings and the application works properly again. Problem solved. Try that in Windows!

UbuntuLinuxHelp December 1, 2009 Reply


Nice… I never thought to do that one. That’s a great “quick fix” tip. Cheers!

dragonbite December 1, 2009 Reply

For the Desktop, try this; with the Xfce desktop environment you can have a fully-functional environment with no panels, no start buttons, no nothing on the screen. Main menu is accessible by right-clicking on the desktop and list of applications and desktops are with the middle-click.

Try removing EVERYTHING except the wallpaper and see how far you get in Windows, Mac, Gnome or even KDE!

Fedora, I believe still, allows you to set up a laptop or system with a wireless card as an ad-hoc wireless access point. If you have the laptop plugged into a broadband connection you can share it with others who access it via your wireless card.
Try testing a thin client setup for about 180 days. I don’t think Windows allows you to “test drive” that long, but with Linux you are able to set it up and try it for as long as you want.
Plug in your (pre-touch) iPod and you can pull your music off of it without having to go through iTunes and posterier-roto-rooting!
Take an older machine with 2 NICs and make it into a firewall. With Linux can do that in less than 1 hour time (even set up a content filter as well).
(I’m sure there’s more)

UbuntuLinuxHelp December 1, 2009 Reply


You rock! I’d love to play with that Xfce thing, that sounds pretty good. If you have a blog, and it’s easy to write, and you have the time, I wouldn’t mind reading the “How to”. :)
(Yes, Fedora is great that way too. I’ll probably be throwing up a Fedora box, to play with, in the new year). Thanks.

lefty.crupps December 1, 2009 Reply

The first four probably don’t really apply to most Windows users: their understanding of what they paid for Windows is wrong (they thought it was free), their understanding of security is probably wrong (outdate AV must still be ok, right? wrong), and the number of machines with their updates applied seems pretty low whenever I sit at a Windows machine.

For me, the benefits include, in addition to those previously listed:

1. Awesome networking support, especially in KDE apps with its ‘KIO-Slaves’ to access sftp:// network shares, or smb:// shares, or ftp:// or imap:// or any of the many more options. Or the ‘sshfs’ filesystems which allow for securely mounting network SSH locations, so that I can stream music or movies from my home machine to anywhere in the world and play them with any application (as they’re just seen as a local file when mounted).

2. SSH for secure remote administration and work, even if it is the command line (which people fear for some reason, probably because the options aren’t right in front of their eyes)

3. Command Line, i enjoy using it and its often faster.

4. KDE is just too awesome. GNOME drives me up a wall, but less so than a Windows box. At least it also has ‘Always on top’ in its Window manager, and I can use the Command Line if i need to.

5. Knowledge: the system is open and the documentation is good enough on a system and on the web that you can learn about and do things pretty quickly, if you know where to look. This knowledge stays with you and is applicable to many OSes and apps, if you care to learn about the system.

6. FLOSS apps are great and I love seeing how they grow over time when I update them. Its also amazing that I can always find a FLOSS app when I have a job that needs a specialized app.

7. The licensing behind FLOSS is what gives these apps such great power. Non-Free apps just don’t have this. ‘Open Source’ is a development model and its nice, but the license is the key.

8. Internet Freedom to Roam: sure, I cannot visit every site if it has some baloney, false reason to keep me out (Netflix Streaming I am looking at you), but I can also visit many many more sites on the web that would fry a Windows machine with malware.

There are many more reasons, but I do want to echo that I like that I can pull music off from an iPod onto my laptop without having to use my network to move music from one machine to another. Also, removing the config files to make an app go back to its default is great.

alex December 2, 2009 Reply

Some Things Windows Can Do, That Linux Won’t:


UbuntuLinuxHelp December 2, 2009 Reply


Okay, wasn’t expecting to read that. VERY funny! :)

dragonbite December 2, 2009 Reply

While I haven’t succeeded yet, there is (theoretically) a means to access your Google Docs as a folder on your system using Google-Docs-fs.
From the project’s website:

This project aims to allow you to connect to Google Docs and treat it as a file system. Combine the portability of Google Docs with the flexibility and power of using the office suite of your choice.

This will allow you to mount your Google Docs account as you would a normal filesystem. You will then be able to use it as if it were a file system on your hard disk, with all operations being transmitted seamlessly to Google Docs.

Written in Python using the FUSE API, this tool should be portable across all systems that have a FUSE implementation (including Linux, Mac OSX, and FreeBSD).

alex December 2, 2009 Reply
UbuntuLinuxHelp December 2, 2009 Reply


That’s serious! Always helps to wait and get the straight facts first. Ouch…

Alan December 2, 2009 Reply

Great points! I find with Windows users that they can’t quite understand Linux and why it’s different. I’ve tried explaining it but have found that showing them is SO MUCH better! Windows users don’t thing there is really any alternative out there because “I can go and pick up a computer from Best Buy with Windows on it, so it must be the only thing that’s good enough!” (I get that quite a bit!) Thanks for you post.

Dann December 2, 2009 Reply

” I get better support because the code is visible Open Source.”

Actually that statement is false. A program can have its source open, but not allow you to modify and distribute it legally. It is free software that allows masses of programmers to work on a project legitamitely and without legal hinderance, usually when licensed under the GPL 2 or 3.
Open source is great, and a step in the right direction. But unless software is truely freedom-respecting, it falls short being truly moldable and a real solution to a problem.

You also forgot to mention that unlike WIndows, GNU and Linux systmes run on exponentially more hardware configurations, processors, and have support for thousands upon thousands more usb devices than any one WIndows install will have. Especially since drivers are modularly included in the linux kernel.

That said, a linux kernel can emulate real-time, unlike a windows kernel, and can be customized to run lean and without bloat. You can actually optimize linux-based applications if you build them yourself, unlike windows where everything is spoonfed and functionality is preferred over performance. Even functionality you will never use.

Nik December 2, 2009 Reply

How about Runlevels? Sure, Windows has Safemode but you can’t even uninstall an application / driver (which could be causing problem from booting into Windows).

For example my co-worker had a Windows PC which hangs hangs during boot. He thought it was a bad driver. He ended up Re installing the OS.

GUI’s are nice, but I like to have something to fall back on like easy to edit text files. Blacklist a driver, uninstall an app reconfigure the GUI settings, update all the applications all in the terminal.

Regular users shouldn’t have to edit text files to configure the PC, but as someone who has worked as a technician fixing PC on call for businesses and home users it’s an amazingly helpful ability.

Also with Linux I know if I setup a PC for my Grandma, wife or anyone I can leave that PC without interention and it will continue to work without intervention until the hardware dies.

8 December 2, 2009 Reply

In my point of view only minus on Ubuntu (or any other linux) is games. New games usualy support only Windows.
But 100% linux, 75% ubuntu on my computers nowdays, maybe getting old…

almostalive2009 December 2, 2009 Reply

Linux has compiz fusion! That right there is an awesome Desktop modification. usefull and pretty.

AdvancedLinux December 2, 2009 Reply

One of the best “Pro” Linux posts I’ve read in a long time. As of right now there is no doubt that Windows has only one single advantage over GNU/Linux. CD-Rom based gaming. Now dont get me wrong, GNU/Linux has a TON of great FOSS games. But no one can deny that Windows has the games ‘everyone’ wants to play. I doubt it will be very long tho, until steam etc are producing Linux variants of their games.

UbuntuLinuxHelp December 2, 2009 Reply


Add to that sites like where it does not matter if the client is Linux or Windows. Maybe this is the way gaming is going to go?

dragonbite December 2, 2009 Reply

My gosh, I can’t believe I forgot about multiple desktops! It’s one of those things I keep wanting to use when I’m in Windows and get disappointed when I realize it isn’t available in Windows.

lizardb0y December 2, 2009 Reply

Some of the things Ubuntu does that Windows doesn’t:

1) My digital camera works out of the box. In windows I have to install the drivers from the CD then go and update these from the manufacturers web site. In Uunbtu I just plug it in.

2) My 3G data card works out of the box. So does the USB stick. So does bluetooth tethering to my cell phone. In Windows I have to install drivers and do all sorts of things with special “dialler” programs to connect to teh Interwebs. In Ubuntu I just plug in and the Network Manger asks me if I want to connect. That’s it.

3) It works out of the box on my computer. Yep – I’m running the latest release of Ubuntu with all 3D widgetty goodness on a machine that was low-spec when I built it 3 years ago, and it runs blindingly fast.

4) My OS update service updates /everything/ – not just the OS. I get the security patches and bug fixes for my office suite, my web browser, my image tools (GIMP, dcraw) – everything – as they’re rleased, authmatically, and with no hassle.

5) I can boot a full OS off a CD for troubleshooting and portability. Out of the fracking box. What’s Windows got? BartPE? I spit on your BartPE, and frankly, fail to understand why Bart even bothered.

I’m sure there’s many more things GNU/Linux/Ubuntu does that Windows doesn’t, and there’s very little that Windows does that I don’t already do with Ubuntu.

anonymoux December 2, 2009 Reply

The article looks as though it is excellent, unfortunately a large part of it was buried by an UbuntuLinuxHelp twitter popup. Tried various ways to get rid of it to read the article, but only willing to go so far. I hope the author of the article reads this and realizes how many potential readers gave up because of bad webpage design.

UbuntuLinuxHelp December 2, 2009 Reply


Where is the pop-up? If you let me know I can take a look at that API and (if needed) remove it.


Update: I think it’s fixed.

markit December 2, 2009 Reply

For me the biggest reason why I run GNU is because is
Free Software (as in Freedom, Libre).
Being at no cost is the lowest motivation in my personal list, and one of the most depressing one that I read.
If you don’t value your freedom, you will loose it.

devent December 2, 2009 Reply

How about just to delete or edit an open file?

How many tools or reboots would be unnecessary in Windows, if the user can just delete a .dll or .exe, or the OS can just override an used .dll?

How many times I need to find an application and close it, only because I need to rename or delete a file that I opened?

Why can’t I edit the same file with different tools?

linuxjunkie December 2, 2009 Reply

I didn’t read through all the posts above(I’m at work!) but one of the more obvious things that I show to my Windows friends is the workspace functionality in Gnome, KDE, etc. To be able to open different windows on different workspaces really opens their eyes, and is one of the things I miss using on my work laptop (Windows 2000 believe it or not – alas the corporate world where our CIO is an accountant by trade).

dragonbite December 2, 2009 Reply

Oh, and don’t forget the non-requirement of adding some 3-letter extension in order to tell what a file type is.

Or the ability to scan through text documents for specific words without having to load a huge GUI application! Heck, it could be done in a command line so it could be done on a remote computer using SSH. Like, say, looking for key words in a server’s log files?!

Karl O. Pinc December 2, 2009 Reply

Installing cracked warez, via bittorrent or any other means, is like going down to the local homeless shelter and picking a random person to house-sit while you vacation in Europe. Sure, a lot of the time it’ll work out just fine, but some of the time you’re certain to come back to a house emptied and damaged.

It’s beyond me why anyone would install untrusted software if they care at all about _anything_ the machine is used for. See:

Eats Wombats December 2, 2009 Reply

4 and 5 should be killers for anyone who puts a price on their time. Microsoft’s failure to get these right is the single biggest brake on their sales, and they’re still their own worst enemies here.

I looked to help someone install a cheap (student) copy of Windows 7 yesterday. Turned out to be on an XP machine (argh, I had suggested taking advantage of the offer thinking it was runing Vista Home Premium). After running the upgrade advisor and looking at how much work was going to be involved I decided not to proceed due to a shortage of time. It turned out that a clean install wouldn’t be an option either because of missing CDs and one borrowed corporate license for MS Office.

I’ve never done it but with a home directory on another partition I understand that it’s possible to change linux distributions easily.

It would be good if some distro could virtualize an existing Windows XP installation using virtualbox or similar during the install.

Jayce December 2, 2009 Reply

Two extra things:
1) linux (generally) understands the concept of “I’m the boss, and I said so”. I.e. I can delete a file, even if its a Bad Idea. I had to boot a linux CD once to get rid of a corrupted file in windows.

2) I’ve _never_ had to reinstall a linux box because things had just gotten too full of crap. Unlike the registry.

dragonbite December 2, 2009 Reply

@Eats Wombats

Look under Clonezilla. I thought there was an option or capability somewhere to take an installation and convert it into a virtual machine somewhere.

JohnP December 2, 2009 Reply

My main reasons for using Linux:
a) cron
b) scripting to easily make a computer do WHAT I WANT, not what someone else thinks I want.
c) managing 5 or 5000 computers is almost the same effort with Linux and can be performed with free tools.
d) ssh and all the tools that work with it like rsync, cssh, puppet, rdiff-backup, sftp, scp, and X/forwarding.

Tuqui December 2, 2009 Reply

You forgot, run the fastest supercomputer on the world. Its always says that Linux can only have 1% of the desktop market, but Windows can only have 1% of the supercomputer market.

Eats Wombats December 2, 2009 Reply

Had a look, didn’t see it. Seems to be a poor man’s Altiris?

Ninad Pundalik December 3, 2009 Reply

Ever tried moving/resizing the C:/ partition in Windows? I doubt it’ll live to see a reboot. If you want to do that on Linux, boot from a live, resize with the awesome gParted, update GRUB’s memory of the partitions, and voila! you have more/less space in your root partition :)

linuxtowindows December 3, 2009 Reply

Nice article.. I m not a Linux guy.. actually i use to be. I wanted to migrate on LInux but !!!

so considering what u said. the advantages u mentioned doesnt convince any one to migrate.

Point 1 +1 point to linux

Point 2 +1 point to linux Though i dont use any spy ware etc

point 3 I install application for free onlyl on my windows as well… It has nothing to do with OS it is More about the company who is invloved in manufacturing the software.
(no point to any one)

Point 4. Is it really an adavantage !!! windows update it self and leaving the rest of third party S/w updates to user self.

Point 5 : +1 point

point 6 : +1 point this is a big advantage

point 7: seriously +1 point compiz fuzion(good one) and it increase system temprature as well :P .. ever noticed this.. My friend burnt his NVdia graphics card cos of this.. but take 1 point.. i m not intrested in revolving Boxes on my desktop .

Point 8 .. U get a better support because code is open!!! it is again related with s/w not with OS.. Yes the Linux code is open (ur os code is open ) .. are u trying to manage ur own interuppts some how.. are u kernel hacker!!!

okay now lets see cons of Linux.

Linux comunity has great support for some specific set of hardware. which is Nvdia , Intel others also have got support but not as good.. u can google this.. The bes h/w for ubuntu will be Intel and Nvdia .. its mentioned ATI doesnt has such a good support. Now no one would like to replace its H/w for OS when both solves the purpose. most of the hardwares have restricted drivers.. -1 point to Linux. Irespective of this problem is cos H/w industry has not made its drivers open.

This I tested on my frnd system
config : Intel c2d . graphics card i dont know.. but was either nvdia / intel dedicated /ATI

he played Youtube / that is flash content .. System aux temp increased to 100+ and cpu core shooted as well
Give it a shot on ur system as well. If u dont agree with this google it. Ubuntu has this bug reported with some number I dont remember . And I know this problem is not due to linux kernel but the way flash interacts with firefox and the way firefox interacts with X window system result in consuming all cpu cycles. But ubuntu comes with GNome, X system so U cant play Youtube on ubuntu. (how many negative points should be given:-) ) -1

in fact system wil heat up when u are using compiz as well

sudo apt-get install !!! hmm this is nice.. though i m not a big fan of this..but okay fine..
If the software is not in the repository then.. and DEB package is also not available.
i tell u the comands
make install
awesome comands
I reject it.
i prefer double clicking
-1 point

on windows u can have multiple installation going at the same time .on ubuntu its not at all possible. u may try it.

some nice laptops.. i dont say very good. but good ..Can only play audio from head set connected.They are unable to play on the speakers of laptop. Thats not for all laptops. but people have got problem. AND the thread is still unresolved.
-1 point

Now how to change the resolution of screen If some how ur system is not displaying correct resolution in the menu.
go to /etc/X11/xorg.conf
calcutalte horiz/ vert refresh rate edit it and restart ur X system.
sorry this is very complicated. Thoug I am able to edi these kind of fact I did it for my system as well.( the reason i started to give second thought to linux)
-1 poiint.

I had a friend he use to compile kernel and was using linux for , say 15 years. He said I like linux .. and the reason i like is it gives me the knowledge of computer achitecture .

oh with architecure It reminds linux architecure.
It has /etc /lib /bin /temp and blah blah folders .. kool
but when i install some thing. some lib files goes to lib folder . other files goest to their respective folder .. perfect.
But in windows it is /program files/ /

i guess in this windows is better.
If some of u have worked on eclipse/net bean etc u have workspace / and seems cleaner to me and the same system is in windows.
u can search for the concerend software files by going into its concerned folder and searching it.

give this point by ur self.
I am a s/w coder and OS is not my issue. I just code. But i know if my os has got some problem on windows i can fix it easily but for ubuntu I have to google it a lot.

and if ubuntu is so better why do they have numerous number of threads going on (that to un resolved for most of the Systems) for so many different problems.

This will sound rude but we say that linux is better than windows cos “It sounds more intelligent.” this is for those who barely know about linux.

And I know there are some greatr things that linux has on it but unfortunately it doesn’t fall in my scope in fact within the scope of lots of people when it comes to daily life.

Onan the Barbarian December 3, 2009 Reply

Live CDs.

Technically, I suppose Microsoft *could* do a Windows live CD (except that *every time* you start the live system you’d also have to install all the required third-party drivers to make everything work — and how would you install them if the CD drive is already being used!).

But the point is that they don’t *want* to. They want you to buy a license for each machine you run Windows on. It’s their core business model and unlikely to change anytime soon.

u64 December 3, 2009 Reply

Linux has no crippeware ‘Editions’.
Linux never have to ‘upgrade to a better edition’. Linux is always Linux Ultimate Edition.

Zero-cost Upgrades.
No need to buy DOS Win3.1 W95 W98 WinME W2k XP W2003 XP-64 W2003-64 Vista Win2008 Win7 Win8 Win9…etc etc

Perhaps to help Windows users to migrate we should from now onward, always say,
And also tell Windows-users that they can get
it for 320$ per computer.

Linux should also get sexier fake-versioning,
and longer names.
Linux XP Pro
Linux Vista Ultimate
Linux 7 Ultimate
Linux 8 Ultimate

(that hurt my brain)

And always name it the year ahead.
Ubuntu 2010 Ultimate Edition 320$

Jady L. December 3, 2009 Reply

Linux = I can install my OS and apps on a USB stick and take them with me, boot any PC and go. It just works.

Windows = I have to buy another license for each PC I use my stick on, then I have to install all sorts of 3rd party stuff on each PC, then I have to…

dragonbite December 3, 2009 Reply


I will grant that Linux is not perfect. The other thing is different distributions have different focuses and levels of achievement. From your comment, I am guessing you use Ubuntu.

I have flash installed, and watch YouTube, Hulu, etc. without any issues. Actually my only issues is my slow bandwidth but that has nothing to do with Linux.

I don’t go into the command line to install anything, including 3rd party (non-repository) applications. Double-click on the .deb file and it opens a window that asks if you want to install this.

As for multiple installations, I think I would prefer to have one-at-a-time so they don’t collide anywhere. Although if they are all coming from the repositories I can have a hundred selected and installing by the system instead of having to double-click on a hundred *.exe files.

I change the resolution of the screen by going into the “Screen Resolution” menu item. Why make it harder than it has to?

Just because you don’t want to take the time to learn the file structure doesn’t mean it is a bad thing. It just means you don’t know. There are explanations of what each one is for and their purpose on the web. Since it isn’t required knowledge to use the computer, you’ll have to Google this one.

Speaking of which, if you have a problem with a system you know about it is ALWAYS going to be easier to figure out how to fix it than another system. Is it Apple’s or your fault you don’t know your way around a Mac?

So, these “negative points” (and note, I did not comment against all of them because they are not all wrong) exist with Linux but not with Windows? or Mac? If you think so, then you need to Google a bit more.

Have you tried installing Windows lately? I did, on two systems and with both of them I had to use a separate system to download the drivers. Like a Linux LiveCD which sees the network interfaces, and a USB pen drive to download the drivers onto.

These are the same exact systems that Linux has found everything for out-of-the-box. I even got my Broadcom wirless card, a not very well supported card, working out-of-the-box.

Luckily, they were Dell computers so I could go to the Dell site and put in the service tag. That narrowed the choices down a lot and anything I wasn’t sure which version it is I just typed in the command line “lspci” and it spit out the info I needed there.

So no need to troll, move along. Use whatever it is you want and we’ll use what we want.

Nobody Real December 3, 2009 Reply

Of course there are some counter-arguments. Things you CAN’T do in linux. (And yes, I know I harp on the “legal” part, but you made a big deal about “illegal torrents” in your post)

For example:

* Legally watch DVD’s (though there is an OEM version of PowerDVD or something that is almost impossible to find, but even if you have that you can’t legally watch Blu-Ray disks)

* Legally purchase music or apps from iTunes

* Watch online Netflix movies

* Natively play most recent PC games (and in Wine play a somewhat smaller subsection of recent games)

The list can go on, but you get the point. It all boils down to what you use a computer for, and if Linux can do everything you want it to do.. then more power to you… otherwise it’s an exercise in frustration every time you find yet another thing it can’t do.

Jeremy Coleman December 3, 2009 Reply

For me one of the most frustrating things Windows seems unable to do is realize that I want to use my mouse scroll wheel in the window I am hovering over vs the last window I clicked in.

At work I constantly find myself trying to scroll an article unsuccessfully because the last click I made was in outlook on my secondary monitor. Then I end up missing a new email when coming back from lunch or whatever because my Outlook is no longer scrolled to the top where my most recently received messages are.

Linux at home has definitely spoiled me by understanding how unlikely it is that I want to scroll in an application that I am not hovering over.

dragonbite December 3, 2009 Reply

@Nobody Real

Not being able to purchase music or apps from iTunes, while it may effect some but not me, is a decision by Apple. Should Linux be faulted for that?

I’m not sure what Netfilx uses but almost all of these points are issues that are reliant upon vendor cooperation. It’s like complaining why Microsoft Windows doesn’t run on PowerPC chip machines! Ok, maybe that isn’t the best comparison.

For legally playing DVDs, have you looked at Fluendo’s DVD player?

Their Complete Set of Playback Plugins includes the ability to (legally) play:
Windows Media Audio Decoder (Windows Media 7, 8, 9, 10, Pro, Lossless and Speech)
Windows Media Video Decoder (Windows Media 7, 8, 9 and VC1)
Windows Media ASF Demuxer
Windows Media MMS Networking
MPEG2 Video Decoder
MPEG4 Part 2 Video Decoder
DivX 3.11 Alpha ;-) Video Decoder
H.264/AVC Video Decoder
MPEG2 Program Stream and Transport Stream demuxer
MPEG4 ISO Demuxer
MP3 Audio Decoder
AAC Audio Decoder
LPCM Audio Decoder

During lunch, one of my coworkers was talking about how the SD card that his son’s (in-law?) video recorder does not come up as recognized on his iMac. Our System Admin person (also a Mac and BSD user) first thought was that it may be a newer version of WMV. So these codecs are still a moving target.

Plus, I believe Dell includes the playback codecs with their Linux-installed systems. They are probably sucking up the cost to have these codecs installed and passing it along to the consumer.

I remember installing Windows 2000, and when I tried to play an MP3 I was given a bunch of choices.. that I had to pay for.

Playing MP3s are not illegal. It is making a program that uses the MP3 algorithm or decompiler that they want you to pay them a royalty.

Nobody Real December 3, 2009 Reply

Regardless of who’s at fault, it doesn’t change the fact that choosing Linux means choosing to do without some things.

I wasn’t aware of Fluendo’s stuff, looks like it was just very recently released.

I didn’t say anything about MP3′s, so i’m not sure why you’re making a point about it. And no, Windows 2000 has never offered any kind of payment deal required to play MP3′s, it had the primitive version of Windows Media Player, but it included MP3 playback.

Zach KS December 4, 2009 Reply

Actually, the killer feature in GNU/Linux, at least for me, is the general atmosphere of users wanting to understand how their systems work. On Windows or OS X, if you have a problem and you ask for help the first step will be “restart your computer.” It may work, but you’ve learned nothing. If you have a problem with your GNU/Linux system and you ask for help, people will try to help you understand why it failed in the first place.

If you want to use a free operating system, it has typically been a requirement that you care how your system works This is changing a bit, for better or worse.

almostalive2009 December 5, 2009 Reply

Linux can help me sleep at night, me knowing there’s pretty much a snowball’s chance in hell that I got a virus or aqcuired anything else on the web that is going to destroy my computer. Knock on wood. Sure there is a virus here and there, but rarely a destructive one. Security is a big issue for many, and I would say that linux surely does ya right on this one, whereas windows even now doesnt patch up their already vulnerable OS fast enough or well enoough. I’m no expert but If you’re an OS and you can be as secure as a linux system than you got my vote.

Interesting comparison—->

Ron Ruble December 5, 2009 Reply

Beter multitasking: what’s really depressing about Windows is not that it can’t multitask well, but that MS put so many little hooks into various things to integrate them into Explorer that it blocks multitasking frequently.

Example: on my work PC, there is an Office integration tool that has an “Install on demand” setting. At various times I’ll do something and it pops up the dialog to “insert the CD”. I have to hit Cancel 6 or 8 times, and while the dialog box is up, Explorer is not responding _at all_.

Other MS apps talk to each other, and if one is running a long task, all the others stop responding as well.

It’s not CPU limits; every non-MS app on the system is running just fine.

Linux ‘just works’ and Windows doesn’t, using the criteria that ‘just works means’ ‘does what I tell it to do’

Sam December 6, 2009 Reply

Most of these points I can relate to, except for point #2 – it’s actually near impossible to block outgoing connections with a firewall in Windows. Nice thought, but it’s a false sense of security.

For more information about how malware can get outbound connections, check out

UbuntuLinuxHelp December 6, 2009 Reply


Zonealarm blocks outgoing connections for Windows. :) It can deny all outgoing connections if you configure it that way (which would also mean no web access).

Sam December 6, 2009 Reply


Yes in theory, however this is Windows. The EULA for later generations of Windows’ gives Microsoft the right to access the computer it is installed on, which means one of 2 things:

a) Firewall vendors are violating the Windows EULA by blocking Microsoft, or

b) Firewalls have been programmed to *NOT* block access to/from Redmond.

UbuntuLinuxHelp December 7, 2009 Reply


I removed the link in your post as it was redirected to some sales page, it didn’t have the relevant content alluded to.
I did a Google search and could not find any relevant documentation that Microsoft has the right to access computers with Windows installed.
So… I’m not too sure that this is true. Does anyone else know? (Maybe I’m just using the wrong search terms?)

almostalive2009 December 7, 2009 Reply

Microsoft is like “big brother” I hated how they would meddle with my computer, by giving me updates and other crap that slowed me down. Scared to not download the latest updates and patches, but scared to F up my computer letting the updates flow in. Linux has never updated me and left me slow or frozen. anyway . . .

Eats Wombats December 7, 2009 Reply

or c) neither

a) The violator would be the user not the vendor. However, the remote access would likely be locally initiated via an update function–which Microsoft probably has backdoors in, placed with the cooperation and knowledge of the NSA on an as needed basis (targeted machines rather than all).

b) Very unlikely since this could permit all kinds of security problems by compromising an upstream DNS. Although DNS is not likely to be the only means of authenticating incoming traffic as genuinely from Microsoft, a commercial firewall would not know about and reject traffic on the basis of many other criteria.

These are conjectures, but more plausible ones I think.

Sam December 7, 2009 Reply


a) Yes I know that, since the EULA refers to end users rather than developers/vendors. Also, (re: remote access would likely be locally initiated via an update function–which Microsoft probably has backdoors in) was pointed out by the link to radsoft. I posted the same link again below.

b) That was what I was exactly referring to when I mentioned the “tooleaky” test in my above post.


Hi again. The part I was referring to was in the EULA itself, and was pointed out by a group of hackers a couple of years ago called “Radsoft”. The proper link is:,00.shtml

I remember reading it when XP was about to be released and stuck to Win2K SP2 ever since then…

…that is until I switched to GNU/Linux.

Eats Wombats December 8, 2009 Reply

I read the Radsoft piece and frankly it seemed a little overblown to me. There are, as far as I can see, three general circumstances in which Microsoft might want to influence how your computer operates.

1. You are running pirated Microsoft software and the company has decided that you should no longer be able to do so with impunity. It has done this in the case of XBox recently. However, Microsoft is well aware of the advantages of piracy in establishing its products as market standards so it is relatively unlikely to take comparable actions on the desktop, but it reserves the right. Unless you assert that you have a right to pirate intellectual property this is not entirely unreasonable.

2. At the behest of the National Security Agency. In this case, Microsoft is likely to be able to compromise a specific system at the government’s request. Microsoft itself has neither the time nor the resources to take any interest in what you keep on your computer. (It’s business is making money).

3. Taking out security-compromised computers that represent a threat to Microsoft or to the US government–machines infected with malware. If MS has any such capability we may only know about it during a cyberwar. It is unlikely to be deployed in any way that reveals the capability ahead of time.

I don’t have a problem with any of that.

OMG Microsoft can delete software on my computer!! The sky is falling!!


UbuntuLinuxHelp December 8, 2009 Reply

I skimmed through the Radsoft post. While it’s not difficult to track everything in a system, and as many programmers have told me, there are designed backdoors in some software; perhaps a more pragmatic perspective needs to be taken. – I think it would be a PR nightmare if any OS development company started releasing such data. Think about it… their sales would probably plunge, their stock take a nose dive, and so on.

While I don’t doubt that some companies have released software that contains questionable code, that perhaps skirts ethical issues, at the end of the day Caveat emptor prevails. It’s up to people to educate themselves. With regards to Operating Systems, we do have a choice. My network contains mainly Linux boxes and one Windows box.

Yes there are things I can do in Linux that I cannot in Windows. And while I favour (and prefer) Linux, the Windows box has not caused me any problems for about 4 months now.

Is any code in that Windows box accessing my system and reporting what it finds to another server? I don’t know. While I think such things are an invasion of privacy, in my case I’m not worried because my files are on a file server (Linux based). While I don’t think the average home user keeps a file server, I do think that if they are doing nothing wrong, they have nothing to hide.

I suspect that the post at Radsoft might be exacerbatory in the way it’s phrased, possibly contributing to an environment of FUD. I don’t share the perspective of the writer, but I do agree that people should make themselves aware of the activities of their computers, stealthy or otherwise.

Sapere aude!

o e December 8, 2009 Reply

Linux is so good now in quality among the modern distro’s ranging from CentOS to Ubuntu to Puppy, that I’d pay big bucks to use a supportted version if such was required, Meanwhile with MacOS and Windows I’d expect to BE PAID in order to have to use them with all of their problems, artificial limitations, and lack of stability and quality. Ironically, the main problem Linux faces regarding widespread adoption among those not in the know, is that it’s free (as in beer) which most of us also then associate with as cheap (as in quality) and so therefore is “not worth your time”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sam December 9, 2009 Reply


The radsoft link isn’t the best, but it’s one that struck me the most long ago.

Exaggerated? Probably.
Contributing to FUD? I wouldn’t think so, but I wouldn’t rule it out either.

There are better articles that point out what MS do with updates and restrictions imposed by the EULA. =P
Admittedly, I haven’t used Windows for nearly 10 years so I only keep track of really drastic issues that strike the OS.


I already know all that, but that isn’t what my point is. I don’t care what Microsoft, the NSA or whichever government department want to do, they aren’t the threat I am talking about.
Perhaps I’m not making myself clear o_0
and if that’s the case then I’d better point out the obvious ^_^.

When point #2 in the article I commented on stated “And, in reality, the Firewall on my Windows system is to stop suspicious software from calling out!” there are a few technicalities that made me raise an eyebrow.

1) Microsoft have access to/from just about every PC with Windows running on it–LEGITIMATELY–according to the EULA. I’m not going to be overly specific with how or what with, I’m just pointing out that they do, and usually via updates *WITH* the user’s knowledge.

2) The “tooleaky” test by Zensoft shows that all a program needs to do is masquerade as a legitimate one to bypass outgoing firewall filtering.

So by now if it’s not obvious, filtering outgoing connections is no easy job. All a virus/trojan/spyware needs to do is identify itself to the firewall as a permitted programme (for example, windows update) to gain outgoing network access.

Granted, Windows /is/ more secure with antivirus, firewall, spyware and adware protection installed, so I wouldn’t expect a black Friday or Armageddon with Windows computers if there was an outbreak of viruses. But in the case with Windows, more secure does not equate as secure.


Stephan Beal December 9, 2009 Reply

Your arguments are mostly re-wording the same: “i can do [a, b, or c] without paying for it.”

How about the technical merits? For example, try removing a data file while it is opened by a process. This simple trick cannot be done on Windows (and is a necessary component of secure temporary files on Unix, where the file is deleted immediately after it is opened, but the handle stays valid until all handles pointing to the file have been closed).

How about the technical superiority of the software development tools on Linux? Yes, they’re Free, but they also run circles around the Windows equivalents when it comes to supporting the latest standards (e.g. C++0x).

Speaking of standards compliance, how about all of the tools which use standard formats? DOZENS of email clients which inter-operate using the various mailbox standards/RFCs, whereas MS Outlook doesn’t inter-operate with anything other than other versions of MS Outlook.

Price and freedom are not the only benefits of Linux.

UbuntuLinuxHelp December 9, 2009 Reply

@Stephan Beal

RTA. There are technical issues in it. Application settings, customization, updates and so on.

Not to forget mentioning the incredible input from readers, including your mention of moving a data file while a process is open!

Darryl Gardner May 31, 2010 Reply

I’d like to tell you about a case for stability.

I’ve used Windows XP Pro for about 5-1/2 years. During that time I have had to reinstall at least twice a year, more likely 3 to 4 times on average.

About the same time, a friend built a computer for his wife and installed a then-current version of Linux (I don’t recall, but think it was Debian).

On my Windows machine, and on others I am familiar with, some were turned off after using, others were left on. All required a complete reinstallation at least once per year.

My friend’s Linux machine was never turned off. It ran for well over a year without crashing, eating itself, or whatever description you prefer.

What finally brought it down? He lives out in the country. Someone in a car wrecked near his house, knocking the power pole down. They were without power for about 4 hours. Battery backup was meaningless.

Maybe some of the current Windows versions will run for a year without problems, but they certainly wouldn’t 5 years ago.

aersixb9 May 7, 2012 Reply

Uh…you can customize windows desktop pretty good, kill explorer.exe and replace it with any other .exe , with file browsing, use c++ or c# lol or the tons of aftermarket software…

While noting all the open source software, works great on windows, and yeah if you really wanna do embedded or perhaps mod the code a bit…while noting it’s break when the devs test with windows too, and yeah if you notice the .libs they start to look pretty similar too….while Linux is perhaps more free and open source too, no money flows thru it, and if you customize explorer.exe with the sdk add on or a replacement and it’s good, you might get paid, and perhaps compiling this stuff for windows and maybe ‘packaging’ it a bit, is a good way to make cash with gpl shit, either ubuntu/redhat style where you keep all your additions proprietary, such as boot scripts that are custom or some images, or debian gun style, where perhaps you make a nice video editor from gpl , that maybe works good in windows and has a nice site and tech support, and has the downloads too, most people are willing to pay to make the video stuff work too, and perhaps noting locally you can use it a bit too, the patent on adobe means i’m headed to sealand again too.

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