Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ubuntu vs Windows Vista?

This guy asserts that the battle for our desktops is between Ubuntu and Windows Vista. He's not alone... I've been reading a lot of this since Ubuntu 8.04 was launched.

This has a lot to do with the massive failure of Windows Vista on lower-end machines. While €300 laptops are trumpeted as "Vista Ready", they don't support the vast majority of new features included in the new Microsoft OS, and they run incredibly slowly.

I was first introduced to Windows Vista at work, where I sell cellular devices that work with PCs. Before Vista I rarely, if ever, saw a customer in store with their laptop. The devices worked well with anything from Windows 2k onwards and Mac OS users were used to sorting themselves out, as were Linux users. Suddenly, I was working on several laptops at once, all low-spec machines running (or crawling!) Windows Vista. I remember explaining to the guy at tech support that after 5 minutes of silence that the laptop was still in the process of restarting.

The issue, of course, was that the defacto OS on most new computers is Windows Vista. This means that those who know the least about computers, spend the least on them and are largely uninterested in finding out how they work are all now saddled with one of the worst operating systems I have ever used. (And I've used just about everything available since my TRS 80).

In my senior year of High School I was the editor of the school newspaper. This is where I first met Macs. I fell madly in love with them and my first computer of my own was a Mac Quadra 605. I had that for almost 6 years. Ultimately I made the decision to buy a Windows 98 laptop because I had gotten sick of not being able to get software and peripherals for my computer locally.

My new laptop has Windows Vista on it, and I've used it. It's workable, and on my reasonably spec'd laptop, it runs quickly enough. The killer on Vista is the training wheels, guardrails, plug covers, rubber rounded corners and child proof cupboards. Using Windows Vista is like being told you're incapable of making wise choices, every minute. No matter what I try to do, a box jumps up and tells me that changing this particular thing might change something. No shit sherlock. It's seriously annoying. Not only that, but if you turn "Account control" off, Windows warns you you've turned it off all the time... and will not let you turn off the warning. The Aero effects are pretty, but I don't see any particular improvements on XP, which I think was possibly Microsoft's Golden Age. In summary, Windows Vista is pointless.

After I got my computer, I installed Ubuntu 7.10 on a small partition to try it out. Years ago I lived with my best friend and she used Linux on everything. I remember watching her setting up a new printer on it (all command line!) . I was so intimidated by it I promptly borrowed some money and bought my own computer with Windows 98 on it... which will go down in history as the worst computer I ever bought! Linux is a different beast these days. My first install was totally uneventful and it was love at first sight. It's pretty, very customisable and all the software I'll ever need is available in a little database. I just tick the stuff I want and Ubuntu installs it for me. I had to fiddle a few things (see my last post) but the information was readily available and command line makes things so quick. I've lost my fear of it now and am currently in awe. I hope someday that will all give way to understanding.

My point is that I don't think Windows Vista is a worthy opponent for Ubuntu. I've been reading however that Microsoft have far from buried XP and will likely be promoting it on lower spec computers, like the Asus eee (which first sold with Linux) in order to compete with the rise in Open Source operating systems and Free software.

It's still anybody's market but I don't think Linux-based operating systems can be dismissed out of hand. I also don't think Vista is going to be a real threat... in fact it may well be what drives some ungeeky users to trying the likes of Ubuntu.

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