Information Week published a comparison of Ubuntu and Windows Vista (link to a print version, original is posted in a way forcing you to view ads on 8 pages). It covers several different issues - installation, hardware support, software installation, networking, word processing, local search, multimedia, photo management, and backup. The conclusion: a tie. The author, Serdar Yegulalp "is a former Senior Technology Editor with Windows Magazine (also Winmag.com), and has been writing about and working with NT and related technologies since its 3.51 release". Now's the time for our side of the story.
In general, it is a decent comparison. I found, however, a few deficiencies. I'll jump briefly through most of them and will write about the major one at the end. TFA doesn't even mention any topics that's been the strongest points of Linux:
- openness - free-as-in-speech issues aside (not everybody has to care about ideals), it has a major benefit for end user. Hasn't it ever bother you that you need to deal with magic while using Windows? You almost knew how things work, but you couldn't know for sure, as it was hidden behind EULAs, patents.
- ease of maintenance - remember taking care of antivirus and antispyware software, defragmenting your hard drives, cleaning up registry and manually removing those programs that for some reason (ehm...) didn't include an uninstall option? Not to mention those occasions when antivirus didn't manage to save you... . Under Linux I don't have to clean anything and apt-get takes care of security. I don't think I spend even half an hour per month on maintaining my system.
- command line - even if we'll ignore the power that it brings to those that are willing to learn it, there's a life-saving quality of CLI. Ever tried to explain how to do something in a GUI application that requires several clicks? It's time consuming and prone to error. Once you have an OS that allows you to do most of things in command line, all you need to tell to a newbie is "open a terminal and paste this:...".
- SSH. You can do pretty much anything with your computer remotely. Every time I connect to my computer while visiting a friend I get the same question - "You can do that?!?"
- performance - Ubuntu is generally better in comparison with XP, especially after few months of usage, when Windows gets slower and slower. On top of that, Vista requires really powerful hardware to begin with...
- security - I guess nobody wants to read about it for the 100th time, right?
- interoperability - TFA gives points to Vista for working with Vista better than Ubuntu does. I have yet to understand why people often claim it to be Linux'es fault. Microsoft deliberately does all it can to make it harder for any other operating system to work together with Windows. European Union has been pressuring MS to open up (for a price, unfortunately) its networking protocols, so things are likely to get smoother.
To be fair, the article doesn't mention some of traditional weak points of Linux, either. It doesn't have many games and is missing some proprietary programs that are a must-have for certain kinds of users. The day Autodesk releases Auto CAD is the day I'm moving my girlfriend's business to Linux.
In the beginning I mentioned that TFA has one serious flaw. The author decided that Vista's and Ubuntu's software installation utilities are equally good (or bad :P). If I had to choose one thing that's the strongest feature of Linux, I'd say package management without much thinking. Implications of the way apt-get handles software installation, upgrades and removal are endless.
Windows add/remove programs utility lets you... remove programs. Windows can also download and install updates, but only to Microsoft software, leaving the task of upgrading everything else to the user. Every time you need to get some functionality, you need to search for the software, go to the website, do anything they want you to do before downloading (it can be as quick as clicking on "download", or as bothering as registering and/or paying), scan the file with antivirus and finally run it and click "next" several times, paying attention not to agree to install some other crap that often comes bundled. If it doesn't sound unpleasant to you, that's just because you haven't experienced the simple way.
On Ubuntu, it's so much better that calling it "equal" seems really unfair:
- you have an instant access to ~20000 packages. Free, both as in beer and speech. That means whatever you need to do, there's a pretty good chance you'll find at least several programs that provide that functionality. No need to search, leave your e-mail to anyone, pay and pray. I'm a pretty heavy-duty user and I can count all software that didn't come from Ubuntu repositories on two hands. All Ubuntu packages are carefully selected and tested. On Windows you don't know what you're installing most of the time.
- you get security access to all of those packages.
- once you upgrade your system to a newer version (think XP->Vista), all of your packages are upgraded too. Yeah, dist-upgrade is wonderful. In Ubuntu it's simplified to the point that it's hardly any room for improvement. You open update-manager with a "-d" parameter (which tells the program to look for newer version of the whole system, not just packages), click on "upgrade" and watch as new versions of every package are downloaded and installed. AFAIR (don't quote me on that) after XP->Vista upgrade you need to install everything from scratch.
- Ubuntu users can assign rating to packages. Not sure which image viewer you want to try first? Just look at the ratings and choose the one that others like the most.
- On Linux, libraries are shared between applications. That means you don't download, store and run the same piece of code twice. Free RAM is not a bad thing.
- And finally, you can easily and quickly remove any application. Although I wish there were some statistics that would let me know which apps haven't been used in a long time. Or maybe there is such feature and i just don't know about it? On Linux, you never stop to learn. And you keep admiring it more and more.
As I've said in the beginning, it's a pretty decent comparison - definitely not biased on purpose. Rather, it's a review written by someone who comes from a Windows environment and doesn't have much knowledge on Linux besides having used it for a short time. Linux is not Windows - it has it's unique qualities and you discover them one by one. One thing I liked in particular is that no matter which logo (Ubuntu or Vista) you click, you're going to ubuntu.com :)