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.