After using SUSE Linux 9.3 for a while in a virtual machine, and then fully running SUSE Linux 10.0 on an IBM T23 laptop, I feel I'm ready to provide an un-biased (hmm, maybe not so much) list of pros and cons of both Linux (albeit the SUSE distribution only), and Windows XP
Most likely if you're an advanced user, you'll take exception to some of these. But I'm writing this from the perspective of a basic to intermediate user. After all, they are the majority.
- It's Free! SUSE Linux is now distributed as Open Source, and is therefore completely free. The only cost is the bandwidth to download the software, and optionally the CDs to burn the images.
- It's fully loaded. SUSE is packed full of additional free software. There is great software for web browsing, email, image editing and album management, music player with awesome features, CD burning, printin and scanning, web development, project management, and even a full Office suite.
- No fragmentation. I'd estimate that 80% of all Windows users start to complain that after a year or so of use, their computer is 'sooooo slow'. This is quite often due to file fragmentation, which requires regular maintenance, and much frustration. SUSE Linux uses the Reiser file system, which does not fragment!
- No viruses. There are almost no virus threats whatsoever for the Linux system. Currently for Windows there are over 100,000.
- No spyware/trojans. Spyware and trojan applications for Windows abound, but do not work on Linux. No one will turn my computer into a zombie machine, or steal my personal information!
- Highly customizable. While the user interface is pretty cool out of the box, you can still tweak it however you'd like. You can add transparency on menus, change themes, button styles; heck, you could even make it look like Windows if you really wanted to.
- Reliable suspend mode. I'm an impatient person, I don't like to have to shut down and boot up my laptop every time I want to use it, so I just close the lid of the computer to put it on 'Standby' mode. But each time I suspend the computer, the resume delay gets longer and long, until I have to reboot the computer. With Linux the suspend mode works reliably every time.
- Wine! Who doesn't appreciate good wine after all? This Wine however, is the framework that allows me to run many Windows applications inside Linux. I'm inching closer to deleting that XP partition every day…
- Community.By running Linux, you get the distinguished privelege of taking part in the Open Source community. This is a much different feeling than surrendering yourself as a mindless minion of Microsoft.
- I'll add to this list as things come to mind
- Steep learning curve. Though SUSE Linux 10.0 brings Linux far closer to the reach of regular users, it's still not quite for the faint of heart. You need to feel comfortable with some low-level hardware concepts, and be ready for a few hours of tweaking, and more hours perusing the Linux help forums.
- Hardware support. Although SUSE has made incredible strides, I still had to buy a new wireless NIC to be able to use Linux on my laptop wirelessly.
- Software. Although there is a plethora of great software available for Linux, I won't kid myself into thinking that I can do absolutely everything I need to. I still have a few vital applications that are Windows only. And some just don't work flawlessly with wine (yet). But I would estimate that 60% of users would find all they need in the default package set.
- Fonts. There's still that slighty 'chunky' look to Linux fonts. It's faint, but it's there.
So, how about Windows?
- Easy to use. Let's face it, Windows is just plain simple. Microsoft has poured millions of dollars into behavioural studies and user interface design, and they're reaping the rewards. You plug in a digital camera, and XP asks you if you'd like to transfer and order the pictures. Major Linux distros are starting to incorporate many of the ease-of-use functions from Windows, and I'm happy to see it.
- Conformity. Everyone uses Windows. Your neighbour, your mother, your mother's neighbours ex-roomate's uncle. No need to be different, easy to fit in. And if you can't figure something out, just ask your 6-year-old nephew, because he already has MCP certification.
- Hardware support. If Windows doesn't already support your software when you plug it in, then you can be 100% sure that there are Windows drivers on the CD that came with the product.
- Software. All programs are available for Windows, due to point #1.
- Oh boy, where do I start? How about the cost? To purchase XP Home edition, you're expected to shell out over $100. Now you may argue that it came bundled with the new computer you bought, but you'd better believe that the computer would have been significantly cheaper without the Microsoft fees. And the majority of people (geeks) who have the ability to build their own PC, also have the ability to obtain a free, less than legal copy. Basically Microsoft has successfully created a world of petty thieves, with thousands if not millions of burning consciences! (maybe a little harsh, but all in good fun)
- Security. Or more accurately: the complete lack thereof. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't remember all the people I've assisted whose computers have been turned into zonbies, or are riddled with viruses and spyware. Not to mention that by default every new user is an administratot. Who's the genius behind that move?
- Reliability. one word, or acronym rather: BSOD (definition)
- Not customizable. Oh no wait, you DO have a choice of UI: blue, silver, or olive. Lovely. To seriously tweak the UI, you need 3rd party software such as WindowBlinds.
- It gets sloooowerrrrr… and… sloooowerrrrr. Fragmentation is the curse of all Windows systems. The only way to fix it is regular maintenance, and it's a hassle to say the least.
- Rebooting. After the simplest of updates, your computer needs to be restarted. What's up with that?
- Antivirus software. As I mentioned previously, there are over 100,000 viruses for Windows. It's difficult to survive without a good antivirus. And of the course the software itselfwill cost you additional money, as well as CPU and memory resources. What a waste.
- Anyhow, I will no doubt also add to this list as I think of things
As you can no doubt detect, I'm heavily favouring Linux at this point. You should give it a shot. Grab yourself a copy of SUSE Linux 10.0, throw it on a spare machine or just dual boot with Windows. I'm sure that soon enough you'll be wanting to sever your own XP tether rope!