Windows 8 vs Ubuntu
2012 has already seen a major update of what’s arguably the most important Linux desktop: Ubuntu 12.04 and we’re also seeing the most radical update of Windows with Windows 8 Metro coming since Windows 95 replaced Windows 3.1. So, which will end up the better for its change?
1. Desktop interface
Both Microsoft and Canonical have received considerable flak for the default user interfaces in their respective OSs. In Microsoft’s case, of course, it’s the Modern UI, formerly known as Metro; in Canonical’s case, it’s Unity. Both are designed with touchscreens in mind, and borrow heavily from the mobile world.
In Unity’s desktop geography, your most used applications are kept in the left Unity Launcher bar on the left. If you need a particular application or file, you use Unity’s built-in Dash application. Dash is a dual purpose desktop search engine and file and program manager that lives on the top of the Unity menu Launcher.
Windows 8 Metro is, if anything, even more of a departure from its predecessor than Unity. At least with Unity, you’re still working with a windows, icons, menus, and pointers (WIMP). Metro has replaced icons with tiles. In addition, by default, you can only work with applications in tiles or in full-screen format. Even such familiar friends as the Start button are missing.
True, there’s also the Windows 8 Desktop, which still doesn’t have a Start button, but otherwise looks and works like the Windows 7 Aero interface, but it’s a sop to users who don’t want Metro. Sooner rather than later, Microsoft wants everyone on Metro. Of course on some platforms, such as Windows RT, the version of Windows 8 for ARM tablets, Metro is the only choice.
For ages one of the bogus raps against desktop Linux has been that there hasn’t been enough applications for it. That was never true. What Linux didn’t have was the same applications as Windows. To an extent, that’s still true. You can’t still get say Quicken, Outlook, or Photoshop natively on Linux. Of course, with the use of WINE and its commercial big brother Codeweaver’s Crossover, you can run these, and other Windows programs, on top of Linux.
On the other hand, I find some Linux programs, such as Evolution for e-mail, an optional program in Ubuntu, to be far better than their Windows equivalents. In addition, if like more and more people these days the program you really use all the time is a Web browser for everything then Windows has no advantage what-so-ever. Chrome, as my testing has shown time and again, is the best Web browser around runs equally well on Ubuntu and Windows. On both, however, you’ll need to download it. Ubuntu defaults to using Firefox and Windows 8, of course, uses Internet Explorer.
There has been a lot of debate over whether a open environment is intrinsically more secure than a closed environment. The problem being that when we compare the security of Windows with Linux the argument is always trotted out that because Windows has such a market domination, that the attackers target Windows and if Linux had the same level of usage then it would be found just as vulnerable.
But this is not the case.
- Windows was designed, back in the day, as a single-user system. Linux, on the other hand, was built with a multi-user architecture.
- In Linux, all your system files are owned by root. They’re locked down and can not be edited by the casual user. Windows gives free range to the system files.
Windows UAC is the current implementation to restrict access to these system files and settings. Linux has this security built in from the ground up, making it more reliable and tightly integrated into the user experience.
For every single Mac virus or worm, there have been thousands of Windows attackers. And, that while Linux can be attacked as well, in practice, it’ more secure than either Mac OS X or Windows and there has never been a significant Linux desktop security worm.
Could it happen? Sure. But, get real, I do run Linux with virus protection, ClamAV, but I’m paranoid, and even so I’ve never seen a single attacker, much less suffered a successful attack, in almost twenty years of using Linux desktops. I wish I could say the same of my Windows systems.
4. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
Thanks for Active Directory (AD), it’s long been easy to manage Windows desktops, but then thanks to Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) and tools like Landscape, it’s no problem in Ubuntu Linux either. Indeed, since you won’t be able to use AD to manage Windows RT systems, Ubuntu Linux actually provides a more unified management system.
Also, remember what I said about security? You can’t forget anti-virus software or patching Windows for a minute. Linux? Yes, you should use anti-virus programs and patch regularly, but relax, you’re not asking for zero-day doom all the time the way you are with Windows. Besides, the upfront cost of Linux? Zero. Windows 8? We don’t know yet, but we do know that Windows 8 PCs will be more expensive than their Windows 7 brothers.
If you’re really serious about cutting your desktop costs, Linux is the way to go.
5. Ease of use
One of the perpetual myths about Linux is how hard it is to use. Oh really? I am using Linux from 3-4 years now. I don’t think its difficult to use.
Metro, on the other hand… well you know I don’t like it, but I think it’s telling that a Bing search-not Google, Bing-showed 3.32-million results for “Windows 8 Metro sucks.” Many users, including our own Scott Raymond, would like it if Microsoft gave users the option to turn Metro off. That’s not going to happen.
Another plus for Ubuntu is, say you really can’t stand Unity. No problem, you can switch to GNOME 3.x, Cinnamon, KDE, whatever. With Ubuntu while they want you to use Unity, you can choose to use another Linux desktop interface. With Windows 8, you’re stuck with half-Metro and half-desktop.
All-in-all, Ubuntu is going to be far more successful for its changes than Microsoft will be with its operating system transformations.