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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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OS and Software - A Means to an End

by Namco In reply to Windows vs Linux - Home

Unless they have an interest in computing then an OS and any software is a means to an end. For many home users, getting results from a PC is about listening to the mp3, experiencing the game, booking the holiday online. Not the OS and software in between.

Same goes for business - we have a linux server for ERP solution, does anyone apart from me know it's Linux? no. do they care? would they understand? no. It's about results.

Ease of use, learnability, support and reliability are therefor paramount.

I therefor recommend windows for the novice home user if they are not interested in computing. sheer pervasiveness means information is plentiful, accessible (supermarket mags etc).

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good start, lousy finish

by apotheon In reply to OS and Software - A Means ...

You make some good points -- then screw the pooch with your conclusions.

The key points for the home user are ease of use, accessibility, support, reliability, and security. You came up with a slightly different, in my opinion less accurate, list. Your list was pretty good, though. Props for that. You're definitely in the ballpark.


Linux is easier to use than Windows, when you understand it. The problem is not ease of use: it is accessibility. Linux is not as accessible to the newbie as Windows, which hurts uptake among end users. It also hurts uptake among so-called "power users", end users who think they're experts. These are the people who call themselves IT professionals, then complain that Linux is too "hard" without having bothered to examine their assumptions to see if they might be measuring Linux by the wrong yardstick.

To determine whether someone is an end user or a power user, ask them about why they don't use Linux. If they admit they know nothing useful about Linux, and that they use Windows because they're already used to it and it's just simpler to use what they already have, they're end users. If they blame Linux for being too "hard" despite never having bothered to learn the difference in basic operating assumptions between Linux and Windows, they're power users. Power users are end users who think they're powerful. What gets really scary is when these power users get into the business of pretending to be network administrators.

Support is an interesting thing to try to measure when it comes to choosing an OS. Truthfully, if you want good community support, a community Linux distribution is the way to go, and if you want good corporate support, a corporate Linux distribution is the way to go. Windows support is universally awful. When Microsoft technical support tells you that the only way to fix a problem without reinstalling from scratch is to edit the registry, and informs you that doing so voids your support contract on that install of Windows, there's a severe problem.

If you think Windows has any edge in reliability and security as compared with Linux, there's no point in continuing this discussion: I try to avoid debate with fools.

Ultimately, the one major advantage Windows has going for it (other than marketing FUD campaigns) is accessibility. This is, in large part, simply because computers come with Windows pre-loaded. There are some accessibility advantages beyond that, but they are quite minor in comparison.

If you want a PC that allows listening to MP3s, playing games, and booking holiday trips online, Linux is every bit as good as Windows. Slap a default install of some big-name Linux distribution on a machine with Cedega, and you're in business. In some ways, it might be slightly less obvious than doing the same things with Windows, but in other ways, it's quite more obvious. Add to that a preconfigured install of all the necessaries, such as provided by Dell, Gateway, and Compaq/HP for Windows, and the arguments for Windows evaporate.

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my 63 y/o mother could install KANOTIX herself with a little coaching

by lucifer_sam_siam_cat In reply to good start, lousy finish

...and she's no compu-geek. How much easier than that does it need to be? It took about 15 minutes for the install to run. Compare that to the hours I've spent trying to get windoze to run on an old compaq i was given installing and reinstalling from the supplied compaq system restore discs because it missed a proprietary driver or it forgot to install the nic.... The only things that weren't natively figured out and supported by KANOTIX were my Echo Mia soundcard and my Midisport 1x1 USB MIDI adapter. It comes with ALSA, though, and there *is* a driver for the Mia--I just need to build it. Haven't checked for the 1x1 driver yet, but the device name shows up in the USB device list, so it's at least recognized by KANOTIX if not directly supported. It did find and install the on-mobo lame-o AC97 sound device, though. I've been busy sorting out a car issue, so the base install and my email was all I've had time to get done so far.

The bottom line: the next time my mother complains about her windoze box crapping out on her, I'm going to send her a KANOTIX disk.

I think the big issue is that there aren't ports of the more popular games coming out simultaneously with the windoze versions (along with a bunch of the other popular software like turbotax and such), which is a big minus for the "gotta have it yesterday" consumer, and the fact that the majority of end users are fairly lazy and don't want to have to learn something new--even if it is better.

Me, I'm anxious to try out Ardour, so once the car's sorted out, I'm going to be all over getting the Mia and 1x1 set up.

C ya,

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Grandma, gods love her.

by CharlieSpencer In reply to my 63 y/o mother could in ...

"It comes with ALSA, though, and there *is* a driver for the Mia--I just need to build it."

Could Grandmother have done that?

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Horses for courses

by Deadly Ernest In reply to Windows vs Linux - Home

There is no 'average user', each has their own perspective, attitude and aproach. Many non-tech savvy users strongly desire to stay that way and will not switch operating system if it means having to learn. Yep that includes not upgrading from the Win 98 that they learned to later versions of Windows.

I love MS Windows as it has given me about 85% of my work over the years - users needing systems rebuilt or reconfigured or new hardware and software loaded so that it will work. Damn little repeat business from non-tech Linux users.

Recently a client was faced with changing their operating system and wanted advice on how to go - his old Pentium 133 gave up the ghost and the new gear had no drivers that would run in Win 98. He wanted a system that he could reload the operating system himself, to save on tech calls and charges.

I went over and took my copies of Win XP Pro and Fedora Core 4 - went through the process of loading FC4 and looking at how it worked, and did the same with XP Pro. He went with FC4 as it auto loaded all the right drivers for the fancy video card he had and it gave a better image than the XP. Also he could rebuild the system with FC 4 and Cedega in half the time it took to load XP and the video driver; and he could do that easily.

FC4 + Cedega = better performance and video than XP + video driver as far as he was concerned.

I know others that decide the other way - very much a personal call.

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Easy as Pie

by jpb In reply to Windows vs Linux - Home

A regular low end home user will on most cases never switch a OS unless a new computer is purchased with a different OS installed. But since this is about Linux with people who have limited IT skills lets look at it a different way. If the person is a complete virgin to IT then they have no experience using either Windows or Linux so it is all new and has to be learnt. So if you give a version of home low-end user friendly Linux like say Yopper with the basics like Open Office installed they should not have anymore difficulty learning than if the pc ran Windows.

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Virgins? VIRGINS? We don' need no steenkin' virgins!

by CharlieSpencer In reply to Easy as Pie

I agree with you completely, but where are you going to find these mythical IT versions?

Now if this was 1995 you'd probably be able to find them easily. They once roamed the plains like bison; their numbers would blacken the skies when they flew. Now most of them are in wildlife preserves.

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by apotheon In reply to Virgins? VIRGINS? We don ...

Roaming the plains like bison. Blackening the skies while they fly. Hilarious.

j00 win t3h intarn3ts

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by rkuhn In reply to Virgins? VIRGINS? We don ...

That was pretty damn funny.

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here's the deal

by apotheon In reply to Windows vs Linux - Home

I have two separate responses to this question, one which favors Windows, and the other Linux. I'll start with Linux:

As far as I'm concerned, Linux is the better option. It is more stable and secure, has far better online support available, and does everything Windows does (and then some) in terms of functionality. There are different gotchas in the Linux world than in the Windows world, and people used to Windows gotchas are going to see Linux gotchas as new and frightening things that make it "harder" than Windows, but the truth of the matter is that early on it's mostly a matter of perspective, and once you know the system well Linux comes out on top, generally speaking.

On the other hand . . . you seem to have already decided that Windows is the "best" option for home users out of the two options about which you asked. You give me this impression by attacking any Linux-supporting argument that points out certain types of problems with Windows that most people never have to see. For instance, most people never see driver issues with Windows because they buy a computer with the OS and drivers already installed and configured, and never have to touch them again. This tends to make things seem very "easy" with Windows, and you're absolutely right: end users don't care whether it's an OS issue or a hardware issue, they just want it to work. The fact that it "just works" with Windows more often in practice for home users is entirely based on the fact that they bought a computer with Windows already installed, though. It has nothing to do with the OS having any capabilities that make things easier. So, in the end, since your restrictions on what is allowable as reasons to choose one OS over the other for home use mostly consist of "Which is already installed when you buy the computer?" the answer can only be Windows. There just aren't enough vendors selling Linux systems out there for the answer to be otherwise.

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