Ubuntu Linux Vs. Windows Vista: The Battle For Your Desktop
Is Linux finally ready to take on Windows as a desktop OS? We tried out both Vista and Ubuntu on individual PCs to see which works better. Here's who won.
The prevailing wisdom about Linux on the desktop runs something like this: "I'll believe Linux is ready for the desktop as soon as you can give me a Linux distribution that even my grandmother can run."
For some time, the folks at Ubuntu have been trying their best to make Granny -- and most everyone else -- happy. They've attempted to build a Linux distribution that's easy to install, use, configure, and maintain -- one that's at least as easy as Windows, and whenever possible, even easier. As a result, Ubuntu is one of the Linux distributions that has been most directly touted as an alternative to Windows.
In this feature, I'm going to compare the newly-released Ubuntu 7.04 (codenamed "Feisty Fawn") with Microsoft Windows Vista in a number of categories. To keep the playing field as level as possible, I'm looking wherever I can at applications -- not just in the sense of "programs," but in the sense of what the average user is going to do with the OS in a workday. Sometimes the differences between the two OSes are profound, but sometimes the playing field levels itself -- OpenOffice.org, for instance, is installed by default in Ubuntu, but adding it to Vista isn't terribly difficult.
I tried to stick whenever possible with preinstalled software, although this rule sometimes had to be bent a little -- for instance, to see what backup solutions were available for Ubuntu through its own software catalog.
Also, while I was tempted to compare Vista's Aero interface to the Beryl window manager (which has a similar palette of visual effects), I decided that pretty graphics, while nice, had more to do with personal preference than efficiency. In addition, Beryl isn't installed by default in Ubuntu, and Aero isn't available on all PCs.
In each case, I've tried to look at practical benefits rather than theoretical ones -- what works, what doesn't, and what you have to do to get certain things done. I should also note that, despite being a big fan of Vista, I've tried to keep my enthusiasm for it from overriding my judgment. Everyone needs something different, and not everyone needs (or wants) Vista -- or Ubuntu -- so I've done my best to keep my mind, and my eyes, wide open.