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Linux vs Windows

This may not be a very structured and organised piece of prose on this issue, but it includes all of what i essentially think on the topic.  Please correct me if i am wrong on any particular technical issue.

Windows and redhat might cost similar regarding the enterprise edition of redhat vs windows xp pro, but the average person would probably just get the normal redhat cds or download the os and install it for pretty much next to nothing.  So from this perspective, windows XP is more expensive for a base system than is red hat.

Also, with a Windows system you do have to purchase MS Office to get a suite of products like openoffice which is free with red hat and new linux distros, or at least free to download.

Also with windows, you do have to purchase photoshop and a number of other tools for audio editing, programming, etc. You can get freeware stuff for Windows, but this is usually not as good quality and has less features and less support.  So you mostly have to pay if you want good quality tools for windows.

It can probably be argued that the applications that are free either with red hat or which can be downloaded free are as good and in some cases better than good Windows apps albeit sometimes with a few less features in the guis.

So all things considered, red hat (and linux in general) is a lot cheaper and more application rich at least from the standpoint of a base system.  And this is to be expected when you consider the GNU stuff and the open source notions surrounding linux/unix apps.

In addition, it is widely suggested that linux is a far more stable OS than windows, and certainly the filesystem (ext2 and ext3) is a lot faster and more efficient than fat and ntfs).  Linux is also known as a far better system for networking, web serving, and other such applications that are still dominated by unix style systems.  You do not have to reboot linux as often as windows, you can do more things without needing to reboot for those things to take effect, and you dont get as many system crashes with linux.

However, there is another side to the story.  Windows does come with full mp3 support, media players that support a wide range of media types, a web browser that does really support css and xslt/xml stuff properly (netscape and mozilla have a long way to go with css support, and in some cases, even tables and frames).  with the addition of ms office, you have a range of office tools that are very feature rich (still more so than openoffice), and an email client that is very easy to configure (although, i have serious issues with microsoft exchange, but that is another story).  while red hat 8.0 for their own perhaps reasonable reasons, have not provided mp3 support out of the box.

In short, from the cds of windows and office, the install process is very easy, it has worked well every time i have tried to do it, and once everything is installed, you can basically do everything right away without worrying about any special files to edit, things to compile in just the right way with the right files in the right dirs or they don't work, etc. etc.

The user interface of windows is still way ahead of gnome or kde, and way less buggy (in my experience).  The user interface is and has been more intuitive and incorporates far more accessibility features than gnome or kde (although, these x systems are moving in the right direction, they have a long way to go).  e.g. problems people have with graphics card support and fonts stuffing up and system hangs... and new issues arising after updates.

in windows, graphics and sound are supported right away.  just install the drivers if you need to and often you don't have to even do that... and it all works.  I have heard of very few problems with windows in the same way as those with red hat on this issue.

my experience with red hat (and other linux distros) is that the installation process is slightly more complicated than windows, but once you get it done, there are still many more things you have to fix to get it working properly.  there are excentricities with what red hat does have and does not have, excentricities with what yor given linux distro sets up as default as opposed to others, and even what is the default across versions of the same distro.  I find the maintenance of such an os much more messy than windows.  especially when you have to even play around with the kernel to get certain things to work properly that windows just does out of the box.

for example, red hat sets utf 8 support as the default, but in many common apps this is not supported, so you get strange characters in emacs, etc.  taking the utf.8 off from the i118n file leaves you with a font that does not support some highlighting, so you have to change this as well.  I know that gnu apps are seperate from any particular distro and i understand how these things interact, but at least windows is a single os with a single direction where all things that are intended to work together usually do so.

updates from red hat (or whatever distro) are often difficult to manage.  e.g. the glibc problems people are having, the issue of kernel updates being different from other ones, etc.  With windows, just installing the update and rebooting results in at the very least nothing broken that was not before.  I have seen many posts to the litsts recently where people say "i installed the latest red hat update and now application x does not work, but it did before... what has happened".  this has never occured for windows in my experience.

There may be some windows 95 apps that dont work in windows xp, but you can usually get newer versions for the nt style of windows anyway.  What i really mean here is that any updates to a particular version of windows (e.g. updates of windows xp) do not break any currently running apps.

I know that more immediate support with hardware is likely to be better for windows because most hardware like sound cards etc are comercial in nature, and thus usually come with windows drivers as a default.  e.g. creative labs sound cards.  This is understandable, and it is not a criticism of red hat or any linux distro.  However, if linux wantts to really hit the mass market, they have to learn three things from windows.

1.  for the gui, it has to have a very intuitive and device independent accessible user interface, or at least accessible as far as being a template for making applications that are accessible to a veriety of access apps like screen readers etc.  By device independent, i mean mouse + keyboard + whatever oelse access, to ALL THINGS in the interface, not just one or the other, with keyboard access being limited in some ways.  Gnome and kde are on the way, but have a long way to go on this.  I know that windows screen readers and access apps are expensive, and emacspeak and speakup for linux are free, but the windows GUI offers rich features that are graphical PLUS accessible to a screen reader.  whereas at the moment in linux, screen readers only work in the text environment.  If you want a graphical web browser that is accessible, IE is currently the only one (but you have to get a screen reader of course).

2.  Maintain compatibility with older ways of doing things.  Linux could be ahead with this.  i.e. providing good text based applications with rich user interfaces as well as the gui apps.  But i find it disappointing that new versions of distros of linux cut out old apps like linuxconf in favour of only having gui based apps, leaving text users to have to edit conf files etc.  This cuts off continuity leaving people wondering what app they have to use now to configure their system as opposed to what was available in 7.3 where it is now different in 8.0.  Windows may use different styles and ways to do things from win 98 to win nt to win xp, but the apps are fundementally the same in the way they are accessed from the desktop.

3.  it has to work really well out of the box for the average user with the kind of hardware that people are buying now as well as older stuff, not only the kind of hardware that people had available a year ago.  e.g. creative labs audigy 2 requires significant kernel patching to work, and even then people have issues in linux.  All apps have to work well together without conflicts, and the package management system has to automatically install and configure dependencies etc.  the dselect and apt-get stuff for debian is slightly ahead of rpm on this latter score.

It has to be powerful and app rich, and linux is just that, but it also has to offer the basic user a wide range of ready to go applications that people want to use every day with minimum of fuss to get them going and no sudden rude issues of something not working right after an in-version update or patch that fixes an old bug.

In short, out of the box, windows is intuitive and ready to go right away with minimum config and maintenance issues, and a wealth of support for new hardware.  While many modern linux distro versions claim this, it is usually not quite the case, or at least not yet.

so which would I choose?  There are pros and cons of both.

If i have time to muck around, install and re install, configure, experiment, work out how this and that works, and i have time and want to learn the finer points of networks and programming etc, i would choose linux. or maybe even free bsd! and i might choose to live with the exentricities, taking them as a challenge.


If i just wanted to start doing work, edit documents, write email, chat on the net, browse the net, play audio stuff, and do all of this right away with a minimum of fuss... I would use Windows with no hesitation, and i would live with the issues of instability.

and that is all i can think of to say at this point.


Mat Mirabella
Centre For Accessibility
Telstra Research 03 9253 6712
Member:  W3C WAI WCAG Working Group.  http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL

-----Original Message-----
From: Ed Wilts [mailto:ewilts ewilts org]
Sent: Wednesday, 26 March 2003 1:10 PM
To: psyche-list redhat com
Subject: Re: Red Hat 9

On Tue, Mar 25, 2003 at 06:29:04PM -0500, Gerald Henriksen wrote:
> So your average person at home now has a choice of Windows XP at $300
> or Red Hat Enterprise Workstation at $300 ($60 a year after the first
> year for access to security fixes).  Guess what, XP comes with full
> multimedia capabilities including MP3 and DVD, as well as a full range
> of software available for purchase including games, tax software, etc.
> Which would you choose?  

And Red Hat Linux comes with a full office suite, a Photoshop clone, a
bunch of other utilities, web development tools, and a whole bunch more.
You don't need to pay extra for Microsoft Office, Photoshop, and other
imaging software, nor a project management suite.  Add them all up and
you'll see that Windows is a *lot* more expensive.

>And by the way, so far at least Microsoft
> still offers free security fixes in the base price.

As does Red Hat.  However, your pricing is suspect.  Windows XP Pro is
$299.  Red hat Enterprise is $179/year for the download edition and $299
per year for the standard edition.

In the first 90 days, Microsoft offers you absolutely no support.  Red
Hat offers telephone and web-based support.  If you need assistance
setting up a desktop, this could save you a bunch.  The standard edition
includes both phone and web support with service level guarantees and
extends this for the entire year.  Microsoft support costs $245 for
phone support *per incident*.

Ed Wilts, Mounds View, MN, USA
mailto:ewilts ewilts org
Member #1, Red Hat Community Ambassador Program

Psyche-list mailing list
Psyche-list redhat com

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