Comments On The Windows 7 / Linux Debate

This whole Windows 7 crushes or doesn't kill Linux deal has really sparked a lot of comments and raging debates here and on Digg. I thought I'd recap and talk about some of the comments readers have posted (thanks for reading, btw) that I found most interesting.

First from taridigrade...

What you say is true enough but you are still missing the bigger reasons that this will never happen. I have used Windows for years, 95, 98, ME(ouch), 2000, XP etc. and have also used Linux for my hosting servers. 2 years ago I would never have used Linux for the desktop, all that has now changed after two important watershed points. 1] ubuntu 8.04 and 2] One too many Windows blue screens.

I switched to Linux desktop 6 months ago and I will never go back to Windows as a desktop option. Here's the deal it's not the fact that it's free. It's the fact that it's a better user experience. A better desktop in Gnome and a more flexible and powerful environment for my needs. I am not compromising using ubuntu, it is a superior experience to using Windows XP and Vista. When you understand that, then you might see the real reason why Ron is so far from the mark.

Anyway keep up the good work.

Taridigrade's comment highlights a very consistent theme in many of the comments: ubuntu has made for a very positive Linux desktop experience for many users. If you haven't tried ubuntu, it really is an exceptional desktop interface.

On to another comment. Pat writes...

After installing the Windows 7 64 bit beta on my laptop this weekend, it used I believe ~685 MB of memory just after getting logged in and services loaded. If you compare that to the nice 185 MB I hit when fully loaded in Ubuntu... Basically that sort of thing is huge. I'm sure I could reduce the amount of resources used by both, BUT just from a standard install a fresh linux install takes up so much less. Thats one reason I didn't keep that Windows 7 HDD in. Also, I loaded up a couple games on it too, and on Windows 7 my framerate was ~ 10-15 lower than using WINE.

My own personal experience is that people running Linux as their desktop tend to be of the technical type. Developers, system administrators and network engineers. As such, they also tend to appreciate how much resources are being consumed on a box, particularly their desktop box.

Being efficient about consuming resources has never been a strength of Microsoft’s. Hard drive space, memory, processor consumption are all things Windows likes to chew up. Microsoft tends to ride the wave of price/performance benefits in computer technology assuming it’s okay if they consume it. In Windows, it’s just something you live with. Linux folk don’t tend to put up with that kind of thing much.

Next, this comment from dp

In my (probably biased) opinion, the support you get with Linux seems to be much better than any support I've ever had with MS. Take, for instance, the Ubuntu community. It doesn't matter what question you ask, there is usually a helpful reply withing minutes. Most of the time they can help you resolve your issue -- and from the time you downloaded the software to the time your support question was answered you are only out the 35 cents it costs for the cd you burned the ISO to. I'm a Windows admin, and I've spent my fair share of time digging around the Internet and on hold with Microsoft Tech support trying to resolve an obscure issue. I have never found support that was as fast, or as cheap (meaning free) as the support provided by the Linux community. Microsoft cannot touch that.

If Linux is about anything, it’s about community. Linux epitomizes the Internet community model. It’s pretty easy to Google for answers or get help on many active forums. Though there may not be an 1-800 to call, it’s pretty rare that you can’t find the support issue or question you’re looking for. And I’ve worked alongside with developers who’ve submitted fixes for code that’s been accepted and applied. That’s very inspiring to those who really get deeply into Linux or other open source projects.

This community based approach is described really well in the book The Cathedral & the Bazaar which breaks apart the very different models of open source communities vs commercial software and the cultures that drive them. The book’s been around a while but I think it is still a very relevant read. Check it out.

And lastly, this comment from Stupid (no, I’m not making that up – that’s what the guy called him or herself)…

Whoever wrote this article is just a linux fanboy without any real world experience…

What’s personally interesting to me about this comment is that I’ve never really been a major zealot about one technology or another, with the exception of being an Apple zealot which I got over from a long time ago (and for good reason.) Of course I get excited about technologies and product, but it’s never been appealing to me to only look at one side of the coin. I’ve used and built many products with Linux and open source software. Currently I’m working on a project that’s all Microsoft technology. I love them both. Each have their merits and their warts.

What do I think will really happen from all this Windows 7 vs Linux thing? If Microsoft blows us away with Windows 7 it could impair Linux and Mac encroachment onto desktops. If it doesn’t, they will continue to slowly gain share but I don’t think on the desktop we’ll see Microsoft washed away by either of these two options. Ubuntu has a great opportunity to keep chipping away and gain more desktops. Same for Macs.

While I’m impressed with the Windows 7 beta, it’s not really W7 I’m most enthused about. Yes, it’s fixed a lot of Vista’s flaws and warts. I’m most enthused by what Microsoft is doing in Windows Azure, Live Services and Mesh, and how those tie into the Windows 7 operating system. I suspect we’ve not seen all of what Microsoft has up their sleeves for Windows 7 and Microsoft’s move into the cloud. Now that could be a potential game changer.

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