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Windows vs Linux - Home

By rkuhn ·
Scenario - Cheaper/generic components, no experience with anything but Windows, little to no support, time with job and family more important than fixing PC, ability to obtain a wide variety of software (taxes, games, office, CD-burning, DVD making, security (AV, antispyware, etc), replaces PC maybe once every 4-5 years, dialup and broadband users, etc.

Let's hear your opinions. Hey, it's the "typical" user who likes Doom, Barbie games, surfing the web, sending emails and making CD's from their MP3 collection.

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by Deadly Ernest In reply to

Not sure what it is like in the USA but here in Aust the tech people often get asked to recommend on what peripherals to buy at work and by friends - many of the better techs run Linux at home and make a point of only recommending peripherals that do have Linux drivers as this simplifies the after sales support that they have to give (already familiar with the hardware having usually bought it themselves) and also with an eye to buying some more when the company replaces it later.

However, on the plus side some of the latest versions of Linux come with a range of default drivers that will run most hardware. I recently installed Fedora Core 4 and found it had default drivers to run my latest video card, printer, scanner, modem etc using default drivers and also had drivers for some older equipment for which I could not get Win XP drivers for (no longer supported thus no new drivers).

Another problem you do not have in the USa that we have in Aust is that with some modems Windows does not recognise the manufacturer's Australian drivers and will kill them and load default Windows drivers for the USA, our phone systems are slightly different and thus the default drivers have to be tweaked in order to get them to work. Don't you love a system that decides the specific driver is no good and gives you one that does not work properly.

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driver "support"

by apotheon In reply to

Providing effective driver "support" for Linux is much, much easier than for Windows. For one thing, supporting Windows means something different every couple of years when the next Windows version comes out and all the APIs have changed: once you produce a driver for Linux, it Just Works forever after. For another, the APIs are sane and time-tested. Third, you can actually get the full API for Linux systems because it's open source, whereas for Windows you get Microsoft providing partial and/or faulty information because they want to protect their information monopoly regarding Windows internals.

Finally, and most importantly, the hardware manufacturers don't have to develop drivers at all to provide good support for them under Linux. All they have to do is provide information needed for rapid and effective driver development and the open source development community will write the things for them. The major reason it takes a while for open source developers to produce drivers for less than universally popular devices is simply that they have to reverse engineer the hardware's programming interface before they can write a driver. Remove that obstacle by providing the technical specs, and hardware vendors will almost certainly get better driver support in Linux than Windows every friggin' time.

There's already better driver support in many cases for Linux than for Windows. People think driver support is better for Windows because of consumer tunnel vision: buy a system with Windows already installed and preconfigured, and you think everything's easy to set up. Try installing an OS other than Windows (which means having to do it yourself), and suddenly you have issues.

If you think Windows has better hardware support than Linux, you clearly haven't done some of the consulting work I have, where you end up having to reinstall Windows for some idjit that lost all his driver disks. That's especially problematic now that has turned into a fat turkey that is rarely helpful at all. I suspect that happened largely because of recent intellectual property law issues.

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about all that

by apotheon In reply to why would

I can understand not wanting to produce drivers for cheap hardware on a minority OS for that hardware's use. These companies typically produce a piece of hardware based on a leased design, repackage the drivers that came with the lease, and push it out with a different label. They do not have in-house development and don't want to pay for outside development.

What gets me is the lack of willingness to provide the information to facilitate open source driver development. There's a sort of culture of spiteful secrecy that has grown up in the computer/software industry because of the market conditions fostered by two decades of predatory practices by Microsoft, such that people default to never sharing any information at all, often even when it would be advantageous to do so -- let alone circumstances where it simply wouldn't hurt to do so. As a result, open source driver writers are forced to reverse engineer interfaces before writing the drivers. This creates additional overhead for the work involved, which causes many to simply avoid fringe hardware rather than developing open source drivers for it.

Network adapter support for Linux is, of course, awesome. Running into a NIC that isn't natively supported by Linux out of the box is a rare thing these days. Windows actually has atrocious native NIC support: it only gets away with it because new NICs come with driver installer CDs, and better yet, Windows mostly comes already installed on hardware with the heavy lifting done by the vendor. This means most Windows users never get to meet the driver support nightmare boogeyman unless they decide to load an OS from scratch -- a rare thing indeed.

Linux is awesome with network printers. All you need is a network printer with Postscript support, and you're in business. If only Windows were so accomodating. Linux, in fact, is generally among the best platforms for anything medium- to high-end, and Windows tends to be lukewarm on those fronts at best. There's an important point of truth in the claims that Linux doesn't support low-end hardware as well as it might, though. Getting a cheap inkjet printer from a garage sale is not any kind of guarantee that it will work with Linux, sadly -- especially when the inkjet in question is so cheap that it actually requires its control systems to be directly manipulated by the computer to which it is connected. While I in no way think this means Linux shouldn't be used by home users, I at least understand that this means it won't be used by many home users. That doesn't mean the home user shouldn't use Linux, though: it only means the home user is a knucklehead that doesn't know any better and, as a result, won't use it.

You made a much overlooked point in these debates, of course: lack of device driver support is not an OS issue.

I'm curious about where you're getting your Linux usage statistics. Can you provide sources?

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sources of data..

by Jaqui In reply to about all that

new reports over the last two years about the directions of it in third world countries.

press releases by countries that they are either moving to linux, or are already using linux.
[ china, around 18 months ago, press release that they will be standardising the entire country on linux including home user systems, windows will not be available as an installed os ]
south africa [ from head of it department for the power company, a mandriva cooker team member ] The entire power company is standardised on linux, Mandriva to be precise.

most news sources, are not based in the USA for accurate reporting of linux use, as the us based companies are all using ms products almost exclusively, and they want to get good rates for support.

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by apotheon In reply to about all that

That gives me some ideas of where to start looking for data. Your posts seem to provide some fairly specific statistics, though, and I don't know that I'll be able to find the same numbers on my own.

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by CharlieSpencer In reply to that's because

"microshaft pays hardware makers to only write drivers for windows."

Jaqui, can you provide any documentation to support this position?

What part does the number of server installations play in a discussion of home users?

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reasons for driver support

by apotheon In reply to Huh?

The more use there is of a given piece of hardware under Linux, the more reason there is to provide drivers for that device under Linux. It doesn't matter whether you're using a given NIC as a home user, a business user, or a government sekrit agent user: as long as it's one more instance of a potential customer that is deciding between devices based in part on driver support, there's reason for hardware vendors to provide that support.

This means that business and server use (not necessarily the same thing) both provide more reasons to develop drivers that could help the home user.

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Sorry Jaqui, but that's biased rubbish...

by brummy21 In reply to that's because

most hardware makers know full well that 95% of their sales are for Windows PCs and they are simply not going to expend serious money writing drivers for a tiny, tiny porportion of potential sales revenue. As for servers, they do not have fancy 3D graphics cards, TV cards and the like in them. They have serious SCSI/RAID disk controllers, tape drives, high performance NICs etc. Go onto sites like Adaptec or Intel's server mainboard section and check out all the Linux driver support. When a hardware maker knows they will sell serious numbers into Linux servers, they will make the effort to write Linux drivers, otherwise, and quite rightly, they won't bother.

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by apotheon In reply to Sorry Jaqui, but that's b ...

You're right, most servers don't need fancy 3D graphic adapters and TV cards. So what? That has nothing to do with anything.

Business use of high-end workstations requires more "fancy" 3D graphics use than home users. Try running Maya with a twenty dollar graphics adapter some time. You think you're running some sh*t-hot graphics adapter at home with your ATI Radeon, but the truth of the matter is that there's a whole new level of graphics adapter you're not even aware of, most likely: try using a serious workstation-grade graphics adapter like the ATI FireGL. That thing will make you sit up and take notice. It will also impoverish your World of Warcraft gamer's budget in a heck of a hurry. It doesn't matter whether you're using a Radeon or a FireGL, though, to Linux: there are Linux drivers for both, including both vendor-supplied drivers and open source drivers.

Where Linux driver support is lacking is in cheapass half-baked devices like onboard integrated graphics using shared RAM from some also-ran motherboard manufacturer using leased chipset specs and developing English-language manuals by running their Korean-language manuals through babelfish. Of course, I learned a long time ago that it's a bad idea to use that crap-end hardware for Windows as well as Linux.

Try addressing the lack of hardware support that actually exists, rather than attacking Linux for poor support of something that is actually well-supported.

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yes and no

by apotheon In reply to that's because

I do recall running across reports of Microsoft offering the equivalent of payment for hardware vendors to produce drivers only for Windows (mostly in the form of incentives rather than direct payment), but I doubt it's a very common practice. If you have some information to the contrary, please direct me to it.

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