I don’t know how many of you out there use operating systems other than Microsoft Windows. For personal use, I use a Windows machine like most everyone else, but for work, I use Linux, since that is the platform on which our application runs.
It’s interesting to compare the 2 systems because they seem to come from different cultures. The Windows environment is created by a large corporation in a proprietary format, whereas Linux is “one of the most prominent examples of free software and open source development; its underlying source code can be modified, used, and redistributed by anyone, freely.”
I’m not a computer expert, but my smart computer friends tell me that Linux is more stable than Windows. That seems to be the case, as we can leave Linux running for days and weeks on end. Personally, I really like the Unix-ish command line interface, that makes it easier to move around in a file system, if I know what I’m doing. I also like the window management system better, as I can type on a window, even if it is partially covered by other windows, a major downfall of Windows.
The disadvantages is that, in many cases, you get what you pay for. With a Linux release, it’s not uncommon to have parts of the OS that simply don’t work. With SuSE 10.1, the update system was broken, along with several other bugs. Granted, they do have an Enterprise version that is supposed to be more tight. Windows is not free from bugs, but surface-level flaws are much more rare. Bugs found using some Linux versions would not make the first version of Windows software.
Also, Windows has been much easier for the common person to use. Programs internal and external to windows are installed with a few clicks of a mouse. Linux, however, is mostly designed by computer geeks for the computer geek. For many distributions, a Linux user needs to use the command line interface and deal with “tarballs” and “makefiles.”
Some may look at the battle between Windows and Open Source as a microcosm of capitalism vs. say, socialism, but I don’t know if the analogy is apt. Microsoft is, no doubt, an example of capitalism, but open source is not exactly a parallel to socialism, primarily because of its voluntary nature, although many advocate for open source to be the universal standard.
But perhaps, open source software may show why, in life, voluntary acts are better than coerced ones. I think open source software is great, but I would not want it to be the only thing out there. I would not want an environment void of any intellectual property or where the only software available was developed by unpaid programmers. But perhaps I am just attacking a strawman, as I am not completely familiar with all the objectives of the open source community. And maybe the lesson cannot be extrapolated so easily.
I can get on board with open source as long as the community respects the rights of other people to sell their software if they wish. If someone wants to offer their software for free, great, but don’t feel like having a free operating system on your computer is a right. I suppose this matches with my life philosophy. I believe in generosity and not always being guided by a profit motive, but at the same time, we should not feel entitled to the work of others.
To me, open source software just shows that people can do creative work without being paid for it. Some people enjoy programming just like some enjoy building a table from scratch (and usually these two groups do not overlap). Like one must consider if they want a table a friend built or one from a store, they should consider operating systems.
By the way, here is an article comparing Ubuntu Linux to Windows Vista.
And yes, I also know that Macs exist, I just haven’t used one enough to know anything about them.