Friday, January 4, 2008

Interesting blog post: Distro hopping all the way back to Windows XP

The following is an interesting blog about Linux distros versus Windows XP.

I think his experiences can be quite typical for many experienced Windows power users. Interestingly I have some similar experiences with him on some of the Linux distros.

Kubuntu is really not good and it is said that Kubuntu 8.04 will not be an LTS version and I think it will remain a second class citizen in Ubuntu family of Linux. KDE is not really the problem as under PCLinuxOS 2007 it works fine for me. It is the KDE part of Ubuntu which sucks. Firefox under Linux is really not so good (interestingly I also have an ATI card). Mandriva 2008 refused to start X from the CD. So it may be really ATI card sucks under Linux. My OpenSuse experience is not as bad as the author but it is really slow (Gnome or KDE) even though it seems smooth. Linux updating can be a daunting tasks without a fast mirror. Luckily I have a 8Mbps cable modem connection. The speed was 6Mbps in 2007 but the ISP Starhub has since upgraded it to 8Mbps. My PCLinuxOS experience is in general positive but I have some reservation about RPM since once it failed to update some package due to conflict but later it was solved.

So far I have best lucks with Ubuntu 6.06/7.04. Ubuntu 7.10 initially did not run well because of my experiment with Compiz/Xgl which caused the system to be unstable. After removing Compiz/Xgl and going back to the open source ATI driver, Ubuntu 7.10 now works fine. I am not so sure why the author does not want to try out Ubuntu. It is quite good for the transition from Windows to Linux due to easy of use. I was trying out different distros before 2005 and had never really used Linux as the main OS at home. However once I installed Ubuntu 5.04 I am kind of hooked. Linux has been the main OS at home for me after Ubuntu 6.06 came out even though I still keep Windows XP and use it from time to time.

Apparently the author is an experienced Windows XP user since he is an IT professional. Windows XP SP2 is really quite good for experienced Windows user who is careful about protecting the system against virus/malware. I am also an experienced Windows user since 1997 (Windows 95 OSR2) and I have positive experience with Windows 95 OSR2, Windows 98SE and Windows XP SP2. Microsoft seems to do well in the third version. ;-) My limited Vista experience shows that Vista is actually not bad. My wife is now happily using the Vista notebook. But it will take Vista SP1 to get Vista more smooth for most users and for more business to adopt Vista (just like Windows XP SP1). It will take Vista SP2 to finally beat Windows XP SP3 (last SP for Windows XP).

For business users, XP is clearly dominant due to the fact many software packages are Windows only and many organizations standardized on Microsoft Office. The supported version of Linux desktop versions (Redhat/Novell) are not cheap at all.

One thing XP is better than Linux for home users is the driver support. It is not a fault for Linux but rather reflect the reality that XP is the main supported platform for peripheral vendors. Modern Linux distros actually support more device right out of the box than Windows XP. But there are some vendors who do not provide information to the Linux community so that driver is not so easy to be developed.

For home users, the other thing XP is better is that it has a better software ecosystem for many small ISVs. Those ISVs can survive under Windows world since they have the expertise and the market for them. Under Linux, they have to compete with free softwares in a small market. It is hard to imagine that small ISVs can develop a Winzip like utility and expect to earn money for Linux. Major Linux players earn money by offering support/subscription (IBM, Redhat, Novell, etc) or offer big and unique applications (Oracle, SAP, etc).

XP is also better for gamers. It is also better for hobbyists and SOHO developers of electronics because of the existence of free or low cost tool chains (IDE, compilers, debuggers, EDA). Linux has a long way to go in this front.

That being said, Linux is actually good for software developers like the author of that blog post. It is also good for home use (browsing Internet with Firefox, word processing with OpenOffice, etc). It is especially good for people who are not so good at protecting XP against virus/spyware and have simple usage pattens which are in general well supported by modern Linux distros.

The world needs more choices, so we need alternative operating systems like Linux and Mac OS X and others. We also need alternative office packages like OpenOffice which is really good enough for most users. Will Linux dominate the world any time soon? I do not think so. Will Linux get more and more stronger? I think so. Will OpenOffice beat MS Office anytime soon? I do not think so. Will OpenOffice gain more popularity? I think so. OpenOffice/Firefox will actually be popular for Windows user as well due to the high price for MS Office and problems with IE6/IE7.

The best is to try out both world and enjoy the good/bad of both world. Windows and Linux both have its strong point and weak point. Both can exist nicely with each other.


Marc said...

I'm probably going to stick it out with XP for a while yet and see how SP1 for Vista goes. If it makes the OS more tolerable then I'll probably install it. If not, then I can get at least another year or two out of XP because it begins to feel a little too old.

Xiaofan Chen said...

I can agree with you that XP is pretty good. I think Vista is ok and hopefully Vista SP1 will solve some of the issues.

As for Linux, it takes time to get used to it. It took me quite some years to really like it. Even so, I still use dual boot. You may want to keep on experimenting on the Linux distros. After sometime, it seems all are similar even though some is slightly easier to use and some are a bit more difficult to set up initially.