On the 7th Chris Pirillo posted an article by Jimmy65, 5 reasons why Vista is better than Linux. As is common with articles like this it is chock full of presumptions, strawmen and holes. So here are my 5 rebuttals to the 5 points brought up by the original poster.
Jimmy65 starts off with software compatibility. He points out that, rightly so, Linux is not itself compatible with Windows software. But, of course, he is ignorant of the fact he is talking about Windows software. This is evident when he says, “Nearly every piece of software that is being developed currently is being fitted to run on Vista.” This ignores the simple premise of the previous paragraph where he says, “…you needed to find replacements for most, if not all, of those tools, and in some cases there was no replacement.” Replacement for the tools you run on Windows? Those replacements he speaks of are pieces of software. They are written for Linux. But, I thought he said nearly every piece of software that is being developed currently is being fitted to run on Vista? Fact of the matter is he is discounting the plethora of software developed for other OSs which also have no counterpart on Windows. This goes both for commercial OSes like Apple’s OSX to open source such as Linux, FreeBSD, etc and for completely different architectures such as IBM’s iSeries. However, this is not always true. Many open source software is available on Windows. So by switching to these sensible and high quality alternatives one can achieve a measure of OS Independence.
There is his complete fabrication about open source software being “…full of bugs, instability, slow or lack of updates.” Firefox, the browser that has solidly cracked Internet Explorer’s dominance, was able to do so because IE was left wallowing in bugs and instability for years. It was only after Firefox gained a modicum of market share that Microsoft woke up and realized they needed to continue to support this critical piece of software. In fact the same goes for the base OS. Microsoft’s XP was originally released in 2001. It’s successor, Vista, was officially released in 2007. 6 years between releases. Ubuntu, the most popular distribution of Linux and arguably the most polished, has a set release schedule of 6 months. To put this in perspective Ubuntu was started in 2004, 3 years into XP’s life as defined by Microsoft. Since that time it has had 8 releases to Windows 1. Full of bugs? Wasn’t it just recently that Microsoft patch a known 7 year old bug in Windows? Instability? Was it not Windows that made the letters BSOD ubiquitous? Lack of updates? 6 years vs. 6 months.
Finally, Jimmy65 seems completely ignorant of projects such as Wine and its descendants Cedega and Crossover. If those don’t meet one’s needs there is always full virtualization in both free, VirtualBox, or commercial, VMWare, flavors.
From my perspective it is Vista that is lacking since it is incompatible with entire swaths of open source software that is routinely of higher quality with a quicker release cycle.
He next beats the tired drum of Hardware Compatibility. The fact of the matter is Linux is proven to support more hardware out of the box than Windows. More often than not with Windows you need to go to manufacturer websites to obtain drivers. This is especially true of the latest drivers. With Linux they come standard and are updated with the same mechanisms one updates the rest of the OS. Hardly a manufacturer website in sight. Let’s not forget that the largest complaint about Vista when it launched was its lack of hardware support. This is still the case as many viable pieces of hardware lack Vista drivers.
He then challenges, “Have you ever plugged a Webcam into a PC running Linux? Did it work off the bat? There will be mixed answers, but the majority of the time it will be no.” Of course he is starting from the position of the OS being installed. Let’s get a tad more basic. A few weeks ago I had to work on getting a new machine up and running for my father. What OS did I use to be able to do that? The KDE variant of Ubuntu. When I booted into Windows from the hard drive the wireless network card was not recognized, the video was in low resolution and I had an endless stream of hardware wizards that wanted to install drivers… from the network. Kind of a problem, wireless card not recognized, needs to go over the network for the drivers. How did I solve this? I booted KUbuntu from a live CD where it recognized the wireless card, I had full 1600 x 1050 resolution from the start, it auto-mounted the NTFS partition and I was able to find the required drivers and moved them to a place Windows could find them. If hardware driver support were an issue that situation should have been reversed.
Support is a simple rebuttal. He asks if we, the reader, have ever had a problem we can’t solve in Linux and how we would have to go to community support to get the answer. Casting this as a bad thing. He then goes on to say, “The case with Vista is it has built in trouble shooting, and if you can’t find a solution there, you can always do a quick search on Microsoft’s website which will usually lead to a good solution. If you need to though, you can always fall back on your good ol’ over the phone tech support…” First off I have never, and that is not hyperbole, never found a decent answer in Microsoft’s knowledge base. I have found pat answers that in no way addressed my problem. I have also never used the phone support since there is a charge to do so. The most common place I have gotten Windows answers is from the very same community he puts down. In fact community support is such a common and valuable method of support that Microsoft hosts its own community support forums! Furthermore he concludes that sentence with “…something that you’re hard pressed to find for Linux.” This is simply not true. Purchase a support contract from Red Hat or Ubuntu and what they are selling is live, over the phone, tech support. Same as Microsoft.
Ease of Use
Another common drumbeat is that Linux is that it isn’t easy to use. First off this is strictly opinion since it is hard to quantify ease-of-use when issues such as bias for past experiences come into play. OSes are like religions, the one you grew up with is probably the one you’re going to find easy-to-use/correct because it is familiar. However I can say that there are times that I certainly found Linux easier to use because of the tools it provides. Tools that people like Jimmy65 denounce as difficult to use because they are unfamiliar. How do I define ease of use? Simple, if a task that would take me 30-40 minutes of tedious work in Windows is done in seconds on Linux I believe one can make a case that Linux is easier.
Also in this section he shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the basis of how the maintenance Linux distributions work. He says, “…and best of all, no repositories to hunt through.” The repositories he speaks of are the locations where all the supported software for the release of the distribution of Linux you’re using resides. For some distributions, like Debian or its descendant Ubuntu, this is tens of thousands of pieces of software. Let’s compare how Windows and Linux differ because of this powerful concept. As I mentioned above lots of Open Source software is available for Windows. So let’s take a simple example. A user is using Open Office for his office suite, Firefox for his browser, is doing all of this on Windows and the KDE derivative of Ubuntu, KUbuntu.
All those pieces of software are updated. He first has to apply the service pack from Microsoft for Windows. Then he either has to start Firefox and have it tell him that there’s an update and install it or he goes to the Firefox site to get the update. Then he has to go to the Open Office website to get the update and install it manually. 4 different (possible) processes, 3 different locations.
The Linux method? Start up the package manager and apply changes. All the latest changes for KDE, Firefox, Open Office all download and install automatically. One process. One location. Easy! That’s repositories.
Finally we come to style. While I have been verbose up to this point I will be brief here. Jimmy65 asks, “but have you ever heard of ‘useless eyecandy?'” Jimmy65, if you don’t like Compiz, turn it off. I have heard of useless eyecandy. Let me ask you a simple question, I have a server several states away that I only access from remote. Tell me, how do I turn off Window’s useless eyecandy and dedicate the resources of the GUI to the primary purpose of the server? Oh, right, I can’t.