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2/13/2009
02:18 PM
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Windows 7 Vs. Linux: The Battle For Your Desktop

Early reaction to Windows 7 is that it's a winner. Could the successor to Vista be Microsoft's last gasp, or does open source have a formidable new rival to Linux?

The obvious line about what's best about Linux is that it's free, but there are other things above and beyond that at this point. With Linux, I'm finding the single best thing about it is the way more and more of what's needed to run what hardware I have is right there, and runs with less tinkering. Example: Under Ubuntu, my VAIO notebook had support for everything from its memory card slot to its display brightness and A/V action buttons -- all out of the box.

With Windows 7 (and Vista before it), I had to go to Sony's site and manually download approximately a dozen and a half separate software packages to add all of that "native" functionality. It's something of a toss-up as to whether this is a Microsoft or a Sony issue -- I'm thinking it's more of a Sony thing, since many of the same things work as-is in Windows on other notebooks and don't require third-party drivers.




In Linux, my notebook's display brightness controls needed no extra software to work correctly, as it did in Windows.
(click for larger image and for full photo gallery)

The Single Worst Thing

"The single worst thing about Windows (or Linux) is" That sounds like the start of a setup for a punchline -- or maybe any number of punchlines. Jokes aside, there are legitimate criticisms all around.

The biggest problem I continue to have with all of Windows -- 7 included -- is how certain things have to be done Microsoft's way or not at all. It is not meant to be malleable except in the grossest sense of the term. This leads to situations like having Windows's boot loader overwrite and not migrate setting from any previous non-Windows boot loader.

Yes, it's possible to use a third-party boot manager to get around this issue, but it's still irritating. The aforementioned inability to run Windows from live media is another example. It's simply not possible without all kinds of ugly hackery not intended by the manufacturers. It would benefit Windows in the long run to embrace the idea of greater malleability and componentization -- something they've started to do, but which deserves a whole lot more investigation and effort.

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