Ubuntu 9.10 Cleans Windows 7's Clock

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Okay, I'm a Linux guy you already know I'm going to come down in favor of Ubuntu 9.10.. But, I actually like Windows 7 as well. Which lead me to the question, why do I still prefer Linux?

1) Security

Windows 7 is no more secure than Windows has ever been. Is it better than Vista? Sure. Is it faster than XP? Not so much. Does it run a ton of popular applications? You betcha. But is Windows 7 still prone to an endless array of malware programs and stuck with a pre-Internet security model? Yes — yes, it is.

I'm able to keep a Windows PC safe. I run my own Windows PCs and servers and help with friends. While I'm good at computers, I'm sure anyone who's reasonably smart can manage it as well. But I'm lazy: I don't want to always be keeping my eye on Windows threats; I don't want to worry about being hacked while shopping online; and I don't want to be careful about avoiding clicking on a crooked link in yet another malicious e-mail letter.

With Linux, I can be lazy and safe.

2) Cheap

I'm also cheap. I use older computers until they fall apart. I have Ubuntu 9.10 working great on a 1.4GHz Pentium IV HP with 512MB of RAM — a machine I got back in 2000. I could no more get a decent version of Windows 7 (Home Premium or above) to run on that box than I could get my old Toyota RAV-4 to break 100 MPH on the highway.

But forget about the hardware: let's talk upgrade prices. You can get Windows 7 now quite cheaply. For example, Windows 7 Home Premium lists for $119.99 as an upgrade, but you can do a clean install for the same price. With some shopping around, you can easily get that version of Windows 7 for around $50. Compare that to Ubuntu, where the price is... uh... zero.

3) Easy upgrade

This is how I upgraded Ubuntu: I downloaded and burned a CD, booted up my Ubuntu system with it, and installed the new version. I was done. Total time, just short of an hour.

This link describes how I upgraded my XP PCs to Windows 7. It took me eight hours. Here's the short version: I had to use two additional programs — Windows Easy Transfer and LapLink's PCmover — besides my installation DVD. When I do this for a business, I replace Windows Easy Transfer with User State Migration Tool 4.0.

It isn't easy. Unless you love playing with technology for its own sake, don't do it. If you really want Windows 7, and you're currently using XP, buy a new Windows 7 PC. It's not only easier, but when you consider how much time the process takes, it's also cheaper.

The upgrade path from Vista is much easier, but it's still time-consuming: Microsoft itself estimates that it can take up to 20 hours.

4) Hardware compatibility

There is a persistent delusion that Linux only supports a limited set of peripherals. Wrong. Ubuntu Linux supports pretty much every piece of hardware out there. Yes, there are some items, especially graphic cards and chipsets, for which you may need to download a driver to get the most out of your graphics.

What does this have to do with comparing Windows 7 and Ubuntu? A lot. Even though Microsoft did a much better job of supporting hardware with Windows then they did with Vista, it still has gaps in supporting commonplace devices.

For example, there's the already infamous iPhone synchronization problem, which seems to be a combination of 64-bit Windows 7 and certain high-end motherboards that use Intel's P55 Express chipset. Or how about this one, which I find hard to believe but it's true: many HP printers still don't have Windows 7 drivers.

How can this be!? The last time I checked with IDC, HP still had 54% of the U.S. printer market. Amazing. Simply amazing.

5) Applications

Conventional wisdom is that Windows has the software advantage because it has more polished applications than Linux does. And it does. But how many of those do you use? Sure, if nothing but Adobe Photoshop will do, then you're not going to want to run Linux. Of course, my question to you then is why aren't you running Snow Leopard on a Mac — but that's neither here nor there.

But, with the exception of games, I don't see any reason to favor Windows. Ubuntu Linux comes with a free office suite, OpenOffice. If you want an office suite for Windows 7, you're going to be paying extra for it. Want an e-mail program? Outlook Express doesn't come with Windows anymore. Ubuntu has Evolution, the best e-mail and groupware client on the planet as far as I'm concerned. Need to back up your system? Both can do that, but only Ubuntu has its own online back-up service, Ubuntu One, with 2GB of storage.

Want a program that doesn't come with the operating system? Easy. Use the Ubuntu Software Center, Ubuntu's new one stop application "store." I put store in quotes because it's all free. With Windows, you know the drill. Go to your local store, poke around what's available on Download.com and Tucows, etc. etc. Just be sure to have your credit card ready since a good deal of Windows software isn't open source or free.

I don't expect really to convince any Windows fans out there to switch. What I do hope for though is to give you some food for thought. Give Ubuntu a try; there are many easy ways to try Linux without changing anything on your Windows PC. You may just fine that Ubuntu or another desktop Linux will do everything you want to do on a computer with a lot less trouble and money.

This story, "Ubuntu 9.10 Cleans Windows 7's Clock" was originally published by Computerworld.

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