posted by Nick Comtois on Tue 11th May 2004 18:59 UTC
IconOne day while doing my daily browsing through the web, I came across a message board post that was in response to a Linux zealot's rant. It went a little something like this, "If Linux had the market share of Windows, and Windows was the underdog you would be saying how great, and easy to use Windows is, and how it just works." My first reaction was of anger and dismissal, "Linux is open source Linux uses protected memory..." But the more I thought about it the more it disturbed me because I knew it was true. What do you do when you think an opinion you have may be in jeopardy of being wrong? You compare the facts and sort out the myths.

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Myth #1: Linux is the operating system that "just works"

This myth is simply untrue, Windows is the operating system that just works. Whether the Linux folks would like to admit it or not, Windows is easy to get going. You put in one CD, install, boot, double click on Internet explorer, and download whatever programs you feel like. Then double click on the program, and 1, 2, 3 you are up and running. If it were flip flopped and Windows was in Linux's shoes the Windows zealots would go on and on about how complex, difficult, and limited package managers are, "See look we can get what we need right from the developer with an installation routine customized for their application!"

Myth #2: Windows is insecure

Okay maybe this isn't a myth, Windows for the most part is not, as secure as Linux. However, to Microsoft's credit, most of the time the crackers get their exploits from patches already released from Microsoft. We give Microsoft a hard time for, "taking over users computers to download security updates." Well what are they supposed to do when no one downloads patches? Windows zealots would be going on about the convenience and incredible support they get. "That's right my computer is constantly securing itself with the latest patches, no recompiling and patching source code for us!" The bottom line is this, most of the "insecurity," of windows comes from spy-ware, which comes from Internet Explorer, if you were to use Netscape or any of the Mozilla's then you would have drastically less of these annoying critters.

Myth #3: Windows has better hardware support

It is true that there are some devices Linux simply does not support. At the risk of sounding predictable I am just going to come out and say it, "Try and run windows on a Mac." Linux has excellent hardware support, especially if you use a run of the mill desktop PC, or for that matter, you use a run of the mill high performance cluster farm, or you use a run of the mill really, really, old hardware. You get the point. My personal experience proves this point. I have had the pleasure of installing Linux on several machines, the two most common were a dell dimension 8200 and a dell laptop. Both are recent, but not really recent, meaning they were in their driver support prime. Windows detected everything on the Dimension except the sound card, the IBM optical mouse, the CD burner, and of course there was only basic support for my graphics card, a geForce2 MX. Additionally I had to go through that awful "Setup your Internet connection wizard." On the Dell laptop Windows detected nothing, it gave me a tiny resolution screen, a mouse, a keyboard, and read functionality on the CD writer. I could not even get on my home network to download the 6 or 7 drivers. I had to go out and pull down the drivers from their perspective manufacturers, burn them on a CD, and then proceed to install each one, and reboot after every install. Both computers ran Slackware, the most "Linux version of Linux." with 100% hardware detection, all of course, except for graphics acceleration on the dimension, whose drivers had to be downloaded and compiled for my kernel, which i will admit is a bigger pain than of that in Windows, still I did not "need" to download them since out of the box Linux support was more thorough than in Windows.

Myth #4: Linux does a few things and does them well

This is a myth that I got trapped in for a long while. The way I looked at it is simple: if you have an IT department to setup the Linux machines, then your average worker would be more productive, because Linux is stable, and has everything you would need to run an office. I assumed that it did not have that good of support for graphics or audio which was no big deal in the office. Then came Unreal Tournament 2004, ready and willing to be played on Linux. I installed it from the CD's it was all in one directory that you could put anywhere on your system, it saved the game files right in a hidden folder in the users home directory and that was it. It rendered using OpenGL via the SDL(Simple Direct media Layer, think DirectX). Apparently Slackware 9.1 had the packages installed and ready to go, nothing told me that I needed to upgrade or was missing any libraries or anything. The game play was extraordinary. Smooth rendering, crystal clear sound, incredible particle effects, anything you could ever want from a game. I decided to boot over to my Windows partition on the same computer and give the game a whirl, I was generous too, I downloaded the latest drivers for my video card, and the latest DirectX, I also looked for patches on the game. Before running the game I ended all processes that weren't necessary, Surely it would be even better on Windows. After all it was made for Windows, and I have all of the latest drivers and everything! I didn't even look to see if I was current when I loaded it up on Linux. Alas, I was wrong, It took forever to get going on Windows, and I experienced lags, frame rate spikes, inundated processor usage, and system crashes. It was still an incredible game, just a lot smoother to run on Linux. All of the sudden my geeky little Linux box transformed into a sleek, sexy graphics machine. The good news keeps coming! With the freshly reworked sound system, Advanced Linux Sound Architecture(ALSA), the new Linux kernels have impeccable sound quality, and support. With video editors on the horizon, and a plethora of audio tools readily and freely available, Linux is showing it's true multimedia colors, and they are definitely crisp.

Table of contents
  1. "Common OS myths debunked, Page 1/2"
  2. "Common OS myths debunked, Page 2/2"
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