Linux Vs. Mac: Which Should You Choose?

In our ongoing series of head-to-head platform comparisons, we take a look at the Mac vs. Linux, asking which is the better option for people looking to switch from Windows.

In our ongoing series of head-to-head platform comparisons, we take a look at the Mac vs. Linux, asking which is the better option for people looking to switch from Windows.

If you're the kind of person who reads the last page of a mystery novel first, to find out whodunit, I'll let you in on a secret. Our conclusion on which operating system is better: It depends.

If you're looking for maximum ease-of-use and minimum maintenance and configuration, then use a Mac, but be aware that you're locking yourself in to a single vendor. If you want maximum freedom, then choose Linux, but you're in for work getting everything up, running, and configured the way you like it.

But each platform has its strengths and weaknesses, and we give you the rundown on each, in nine separate areas, including installation and migration; hardware and power management; productivity; Windows compatibility, and more.

The reader comments are already rolling in, and they're an interesting lot. So far, readers seem to approve of the article. Some people take issue with some of the points we make, and that's terrific, we love disagreement so long as it's polite. Only one person so far has made a ridiculous attack dismissing the whole article based on a few words and one other criticizes while showing signs he hasn't actually read the thing.

I confess I'm a little disappointed with the reasonableness of the reader response. I was kind of geared up for a good, hot flamewar this morning.

You'll find many comments at the bottom of the article.

So far, 15-year-old Sebastian Lewis has the best critique of the article. He says he'd like to have seen more discussion between myself -- I authored the Mac part of the article -- and Serdar Yegulalp, author of the Linux side.

Slashdot picked up the article, generating some interesting discussion there.

"night flyer" notes our introduction asks, "If you're a Vista-wary Windows user who would rather switch than fight, should you move to a Linux distro or Apple's OS X?" He asks, "Why would they put MS into the equation?" Good question -- we did it that way because we live in a Windows world, where Windows has more than 90% desktop market share, and so every other desktop inevitably gets compared to Windows, kind of like the way every science-fiction space opera on TV gets compared to Star Trek.

Moreover, both Serdar and I are recent enthusiasts to our respective platforms. I used Windows and, before that, DOS, for more than 20 years before getting my first Mac in February. We look at our platforms through the lens of our Windows experience.

Mazin07 writes: "From the description I thought the Ubuntu user and the Mac user were going to fight to the death. Too bad." I agree, that would have been cool. But Serdar can probably beat the stuffing out of me, so it's just as well we didn't do it.

Previous articles in this occasional series:

What do you think? Which do you prefer: Windows XP, Windows Vista, the Mac, or Linux?

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
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Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing