Open Source

10 Windows features I would like to see in Linux

Jack Wallen recently looked at how certain Linux features might improve Windows. Now he lists some things about Windows that could improve Linux.

Jack Wallen recently looked at how certain Linux features might improve Windows. Now he lists some things about Windows that could improve Linux.


I recently shared my list of 10 Linux features I think should be included in Windows. Today, I'm going to challenge myself by finding 10 features in the Windows operating system that I would like to see make their way to Linux. I am not going to play the typical fanboy and make a joke of this by saying there is nothing in the Windows operating system that would be welcome in the other camp. We all know there are plenty of outstanding features in the Windows operating system. But I might stretch the nature of the word "features" to include a few items that are less inherent in the OS and more about the community or business model.

So with that said, let's dive into this ocean and see what we catch.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Marketing

I have to start with the big guns. There may be only one IT-related business with a better marketing machine than Microsoft — Apple. But that's a big "may be." And everyone knows how small and inefficient the Linux marketing machine (or lack thereof) is. I feel fairly confident in saying that if the Linux operating system could enjoy the marketing that Windows enjoys, no other operating system would stand a chance.

2: Hardware support

I say this somewhat half-heartedly, because the hardware support Linux enjoys has come such a long, long way. But there are still areas where it could use a huge bump. Specifically, wireless. Most often a lack of a working wireless connection in Linux is due to having an unsupported chipset. And although the list of unsupported chipsets is getting smaller and smaller, it still exists. When potential new users come across an issue like this, they inevitably run back to Windows because they know their hardware will work. They may have to spend an hour (or a day) looking for drivers, but they know they can get it to work.

3: Smart phone syncing

Regardless of the type of smart phone you use, one of the biggest benefits of using it is that you can sync it with your PC. At least you can in Windows. Many smart phones quickly become slightly crippled when plugged into a Linux machine. Even my HTC Hero, which uses the Android operating system, can't sync with Linux. Yes, you can add music to your Android phone. But try to sync contacts, calendars, or email with Evolution or KMail and you're in for a never-ending nightmare. On the Windows operating system, this task is a complete no-brainer.

4: Enterprise presence

On so many levels, Linux is a perfect match for SMB and enterprise usage. Be it the desktop or the server, Linux could help improve the efficiency of workers. But that has not and could not happen without some real change. Exactly what that change is, I am not sure. But I do believe most of the change needed is on the end of the business — and we all know that is not going to happen. But if Linux could enjoy the presence that Windows has in the enterprise, the whole landscape of IT (from business to home use) would change.

5: Workgroup setup

I can get Samba set up pretty quickly, but that is after years of working with Linux. The average user would seriously be put to task to get this working. Joining a Windows machine to a workgroup is simple. Linux needs to gain this user-friendly ability to see and work with Windows machines with very little setup (and especially no editing of smb.conf).

6: Touchscreen

One of the big to-do's with Windows 7 was the improved touchscreen support. Linux can work with a limited number of touchscreens (see #2), but to do so often requires the user to work with the xorg.conf file. And since X11 is now working with a xorg.conf-less setup, this is even more difficult. Although I'm not a fan, touchscreen could be the future of computing. It has worked majestically for the iPhone, so why not for the desktop PC? If that's the case, Linux better get some Windows-like support worked into the picture.

7: Pre-installs

This could easily dethrone #1 from the top spot. A handful of companies (System76, for instance) offer pre-installed Linux solutions. If anything would give a better boost to Linux acceptance than pre-installs, I'd like to know what it is. Pre-installed operating systems are what gets the OS into the hands of the user. Sure, anyone can install an operating system if they want to (and have the IQ to do so - and we're not looking at Sheldon Cooper levels of IQ), but this doesn't happen on regular basis.

8: Support

This is a tough one. If you have a problem with Windows you can call Microsoft tech support (so long as you have the time). If you have a problem with Linux, who ya gonna call? You can call Canonical for Ubuntu support, if you've purchased a support package. You can call Novell for SuSE support, if you've purchased a support package. You can call Red Hat for Red Hat support, if you've purchased a support package. But what happens when you buy that shiny new computer, wipe off Windows, install Linux, and have a problem? Most likely, you're going to hear that you have invalidated the warranty or support contract by doing so. PC makers need to learn to support the Linux operating system.

9: Software installation

I want to preface this by saying the Ubuntu Software Center will eventually negate this point. But for now, we'll continue on as if USC doesn't exist. To install an application on Windows, you simply download the installer and double-click the file. To install an application on Linux, you have to search for the application in a tool like Synaptic, mark it for installation, and apply the changes. After you click Apply, you have to hope that all dependencies have been met. And if you can't find the software within Synaptic (or whichever tool you use), you have to add the repositories that house the software you need. I am a big fan of how Linux is evolving (thanks to tools like Synaptic and Ubuntu Software Center). New users expect to be able to download a single file and double-click it to install.

10: Direct X

One issue that keeps many features from migrating to Linux is Direct X. What would this do for Linux? In a word, games. Games are the reason so many people will not migrate to Linux. There are a lot of gamers out there, and until Direct X comes to Linux, those games will not find their way outside of any operating system that does not support Direct X.

More features?

That's my list of Windows features that Linux could benefit from. But is it a complete list? If something is missing, tell us what the feature is and how Linux would benefit from having it.


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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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