Linux, Apple, or Windows - Which one is right for you?
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Linux, Apple, or Windows - Which one is for you?
And the answer is.................. YES!!!!! Each platform has something to offer that the other one does not do as well. For reasons to be discussed later, you will find that each system has drawbacks and the decision really depends on the person's needs and desires. For instance, if you are a self proclaimed complete idiot when it comes to computers..... Choose Apple or Windows. From here it is just a budgetary question. If you can afford Apple, go for it, it will most likely be the best computer experience you will ever have. If you are a starving student, go with Windows, it has everything you will ever need to graduate and is the most cost efficient idiot solution.
Now all self proclaimed computer idiots stop reading now, go buy your computer and be happy.
The rest of you listen close because there are real benefits to understanding the differences. This article is going to provide you with very cost effective ways to have some incredible power at your finger tips for a very low cost, but do not expect miracles, you will still have headaches. I have never had any computer that does not come with headaches. No Pain no Gain!
Guess what? The answer is still YES!!!!! Linux is for you. Even for the self proclaimed computer idiots no longer reading. Linux is for them too. Why? You ask? Well It is simple. Linux has slowly seeped into the most profound applications that each one of us use every single day. Have you ever heard of that little Web Application – U-Tube? Yup! It's Linux. How about Google? Ever heard of them? Yup! Most if not all of their computing engines are Linux as well. Yea! Yea! Yea! You got me! what about people that do not even use Technology? Well I got them covered too. Unless your talking about a person that lives in an area where their banking is digging holes and marking it with stones. Yup! Banks are replacing their old worn down computers with Linux computers. Linux is even being loaded into your cell phones, USB data drives, even advanced toys are being loaded with Linux. And the grand Finally is................... You won't even believe it, Apple is Linux too. (Purist hold your tongue, BSD and Linux are the same for this conversation). What? Is this True? Yup! As true as a sunrise. See the Apple section for further details.
Little known fact: IBM replaced their version of the Unix Operating System (AIX) years ago with Red Hat Linux.
Trust me on this, Linux is no game. It is here and here to stay. The facts that most people do not understand is that the open-source Linux community has beat the crap out of Microsoft to the point that I actually feel bad for Microsoft being punished for Anti-Trust practices, when they tried to point out that Red Hat Linux was a real threat and the whole world laughed at the comparison. Bill Gates was spot-on and as much as he was a visionary in creating his own company he had recognized far beyond what anyone else could believe. Linux was a threat, even back then.
How is it possible that Linux is so prevalent and you have never even seen it? Let's use an analogy here. Linux is the engine of the car and Windows is the dashboard. The engine moves the car and the dashboard shows the pretty lights that allow the operator to understand what the engine is doing. Most people don't lift the hood of the car as they leave that to the mechanic, so most people have no idea how the engine works or what it even looks like. That is changing, because Apple has the prettiest dashboard on the market and there are very many easy to install Linux client options these days. I have been studying certain varieties of Linux for years and until the past six months, I would not have recommended Linux to anyone but technocrats. Now there are options, oh yes many options indeed. For those self proclaimed computer idiots that did not heed the warning to stop reading, I even have an option for you.
As already discussed Apple is Linux and for all practical purposes this is true. Technically speaking it is based on FreeBSD, which in reality was a precursor to Linux that paved the way for open-source software. While Bill Gates was being laughed at for stating Red Hat Linux was a true competitor to Microsoft, Steve Jobs was doing what he does best and that is to create the most fantastic ways to make the general public take the money from there wallet and just send it to him on Lear jets. Oh yes! flying money indeed. Why not pay for the best designed products on the market. I do. Everything is just so wonderful in the land of Apple candies. Really, I'm not kidding, just go to an Apple Store if you can get in the door. Watch all the faces around you, it is like the scene from Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory when you walk into the Garden of Goodies. Or, you see the girl with the ruby slippers clicking her heels and hoping for Apple Munchkins to bring some Apple Candies, because Dorthy is broke. Haven't you seen her farm in Kansas? Parents listen up. Use the Apple Store to convince teenagers of the value of hard work. Just imagine the joy of watching them struggle to actually save up enough money to buy these products, and how protective of their purchase they will be once they succeed. Oh Yes! Stevie Jobs you are no doubt the master of a great experience. He built it and they came.
The true genius of Apple's OS is that they do not have to develop the core operating system, they just need to make all the pieces that the rest of the world develops work nicely together and then wrap it up in some beautiful audio and visuals and then sell it to us, and we are only too happy to pay for it. It is worth every penny if you have enough coins that is. Hands down it is the best client computer you can buy and the numbers reflect it's growing popularity. It is a direct attack on Microsoft sales. The thing you have to realize for the typical user is that everything has to work by just clicking and forget about typing commands. If you have to type a command, then the system is deficient and will never gain wide popular demand. This is where a pure Linux fails, but gets better everyday. Windows excels in making life easy and even surpasses Apple in overall easiness over a wide range of applications. Don't get me wrong, what Apple does they do better than anyone, but they still do not do as much as Windows or Linux Computers. So Apple is limited in application breadth. Don't let that persuade your decision. Apple covers whatever the average computer user needs and does it best.
If you think that this is a typical Windows bashing article, then you would be dead wrong. Windows is an awesome operating system. With Windows computers you can run a wider variety of applications than Linux and Apple combined. Of course most users do not use all these applications, but that is not the point. If you need a serious business solution with across the board support for many different departments that each have their own software requirements then choose Windows because it has the most seamless integration of server/client Domain environment on the market. The cost of such a system is not exactly cheap, but the cost of maintenance is pretty low.
Linux purists will try to convince you that it can be done on Linux as well, but I have yet to see Linux solve as many problems as Windows in a large user management situation. Plus, if you want Linux administrators, you are going to have to pay more and your going to need more desktop support to cover all the trouble tickets. Active Directory is the killer application that Linux cannot seem to match, and they have been working at it for years. That is not exactly a fair statement in the sense that the Linux Developers have the world to run and worrying about client organization is the least of their focus. For instance, one person can work on something for years and never catch up to the competition. There is just no money in recreating a solution that is as well solved as the Windows Client solution and I am betting that it will be quite a while for Linux to catch up in this arena.
One other beautiful thing about Windows is the absolute joy of clicking on something and like magic it just works. Everything just works. Untrained users can just cruise through software to the point of self destruction as they soon find out that they loaded so much software that they didn't understand that they are getting calls from their banks asking why they are getting charges in Ukraine on their credit cards. While Apple justifiably crucifies Windows in their TV commercials on such philandering, it can also be looked at as a huge accomplishment for Windows. In the right hands it is power to have such ease of setup. In the wrong hands your fighting your credit card company to get your money back.
WindowsXP is the Holy Grail of Windows clients. Vista is, well, really who cares. I have heard more people using their Vista Licenses to back load XP than people actually using Vista. My experience with Vista is that it really does not add much and they made it more complicated for the user. So you can index your drive....... well, Google Desktop has been out for years, so what. Vista = Bla! I will take XP any day of the week and most people I talk to say the same. XP is like a comfortable pair of shoes that you know just the angle to place your foot to get the shoe to just slide on. Up until XP, Windows left you wanting improvements.
- Windows 3.1 – Huge improvement but too slow
- Windows 95/98 - Huge improvement but drive you nuts with bugs
- Windows 2000 – Really, WOW! Love it, still a little clumsy
- Windows XP – Finally the performance, usability and stability wanted
My XP computer is one of the highest productivity computers I use. It is my fallback computer that I know I can count on for just about any task. That is changing however, as Linux continues to creep into my client usage as we will discuss later.
Ode to Bill Gates
Bill Gates is a genius and what he brought to the world is nothing short of astounding. We should pay him for his accomplishments, just as we pay for Apple's greatness. Before we had Windows we were mucking around in DOS typing commands for basic programs like Lotus 123 and Word Perfect. Not until Bill came along and said wait, we can do better. My productivity quadrupled when Windows and Office hit the market. Youngin's try to imagine many different software packages with their own menu systems and not being able to copy from one program and paste to another. Try to imagine importing data from one program to another and having to correct every import because it did not quite work right. God forbid if you are old enough to remember the Word Perfect keyboard template and the control code text display that looks kind of like reading the source of an HTML. Not a pretty site. Bill fixed these issues and made the world tremendously more efficient. Bill Gates is the Henry Ford of the computer world. He brought computers to the average person. The fact that his technical solution is not as good in some areas as the world would like these days is fairly insignificant. After all the Ford Model T went up steep hills better in reverse than in first gear. The bottom line is you got up the hill.
Well one other accomplishment Bill Gates created, although he probably hates, is Linux. That's right, you heard me and I am going to use Charles Darwin's evolution theory to explain why. Without Windows there probably would not be a Linux. If Bill was not scraping our every dime, I doubt Linux would ever have made it out of the Wow! Cool! Stage. Linux is the mutation of Windows after a major shift in environment. No! No! No! Linux did not come from Windows, we all know that. Linux is the change that was required to make computers better in the new environment. It is like the fish that crawled out of the water and developed legs. Ok! Ok! I didn't prove anything, but you get my point. The fish was a great design, but the fish with legs will go to new places the fish with fins will never see. In fact that has already happened. For example, you will not see any Windows Computers running a Stock Exchange, but this is already a reality for Linux. Windows just can't walk to that place.
So what does this mean? Well, it means watch and learn. The new environment of allowing everyone in the entire world to view your software code is making it very tough for Microsoft to keep up speed. The fact that Microsoft conceded and opened up their code to certain Universities with very strict conditions on how they can use that information, makes me visualize a fish out of water flapping their fins trying to mimic what they see, but failing miserably. You either involve the world or you don't, there is no half way. To me it feels like a classic under-reaction to a major blow. It's like getting a hard right hook in a boxing match and returning a feeble jab as you step back. In other words a completely useless reaction.
To further describe the current new environment I want you to truly understand the major blow I am talking about. Well in short, the Hippies would be proud. They probably wouldn't understand the technical part, but they would get the community aspect of the concept. They would understand that the group is better than the individual. In our case the group is the billions of people in the world working in concert to improve the software and the individual is the Microsoft building in Redmond, WA.
When the whole open-source concept was realized to be a valid method for creating software the world was changed and could not be returned. One of the biggest hurdles to understanding any new concept is the simple fact of getting exposure to that very subject. A simple concept. The world is filled with highly intelligent people that plow fields just to have enough to eat. They are never exposed to technology and therefore will never innovate anything significant. Take those same people and expose them to technology and you will be surprised what they create. Innovation is innate in Humans. Even people that are not that intelligent can innovate amazing things. Look at the Wright Brothers. They were up against Langley in first flight. Holy Cow! That is not even a close in comparison. Guess what? The Wright Brothers never innovated anything else significant. Langley has a research Center named after him. Which do you think was more intelligent? The point here is that a single person can contribute one small amount, one bug fix, one performance improvement, and when you add it all up, it is greatly significant. The Wright Brothers introduced only one critical concept to flight and they were just bicycle makers. So the environment is to expose the world to the software code and allow the billions of people in this world innovate, and the results so far have been astounding.
The results have been so incredible that I am going to make a prediction right now for the record. I wish I would have documented my last Linux prediction back around 2002-3, which was in a Bulletin board that stated that Red Hat was not going to be the next Microsoft, but would be a great company and that they would eventually take over the server market. Yea! Yea! Sure you say. Well that is the point of documenting this statement right now, so I have no questions of exactly what I said. This time I am broadening the statement, because Linux has gone wild. I doubt I will be able to sell videos of Linux Gone Wild, but it does show the incredible movement of open-source. Plus who wants to see a dancing Penguin.
So with one caveat, and it is a big one. If Microsoft finally caves in and opens their source code this prediction becomes invalid. Whoa!!! Did he just say that? Yes I did. And it is possible but not probable, but funny things happen when companies start getting desperate. Look at Netscape after Microsoft crushed them. They just completely donated their code and it turned into Firefox. So who made who? Did the Joker make Batman or did Batman make the Joker? Oh yea! They both made each other.
In the next five years you are going to see Linux take over the embedded market almost completely. Specifically Microsoft will have less than 1% of that market. Linux will also make huge advances in the Client space and seriously challenge Microsoft's last foothold of the Active Directory Domain Solution. Meaning around 2014, it will be a common question for IT mangers to ask the question, “Should we set up the new department with a Linux System”. I am not predicting the end of Microsoft, but they will be in static mode. Meaning not growing or shrinking, just maintaining. The file standards will no longer be set by Microsoft and will be more driven by the open-source community.
It is really hard to predict macro trends beyond five years, especially in the Computer arena, but I am going to try. If we are to believe Kurzweil's computer predictions, then we have a huge software task in front of us and it is going to take a world of innovation. So after 2014, it should be apparent that Microsoft is losing big and to truly advance software I predict their code will be shared and the world will change rapidly from there. Very funny things may happen. Will the world choose Microsoft or Linux to develop? Probably both and the niche killer applications will survive and merge into something great.
The Genie is out of the bottle and will not be going back and the grand experiment of open-source has already shown to be viable.
How can Software be Free?
First let's cover Free, because unless you consider your time free, there is nothing free about it. Believe me you will spend plenty of time getting things to work. It's not Windows after all. Plus if you are seriously considering a production application that needs the proper planning and maintenance, you either need to hire some not so cheap experts or consider spending on annual maintenance for your software with some lower cost administrators. So there you have it, a fairly simple idea that just five years ago was under serious question as to whether these revenue models would work. So you charge for training and creating experts, for high quality maintenance, and for high quality consulting. In the end this model has brought competitive solutions that do in fact create lower cost. The people charging for their services are typically the people writing the code. I know everyone tout's this open-source movement as an altruistic save the world with peace, love and happiness, but let's get real here, this is not the Hippie Commune, which has shown not to work. This is people that are serious about making money and they just see a different way to accomplish the task. However, in the altruistic thought, if you give you will get in return, and that does exist as well, because we all advance together.
This is not a new concept in the land of Science and Universities. Scientific collaboration has been around for literally centuries. The Roman Library in Alexandria being a fabulous example of shared technology and look how that society advanced technologically. So consider this concept and try to grasp the impact and it is one that I recognized five years ago. Go to any Post-Bac Computer Science College and ask the students what they are studying. Linux of course! Why? It's available. If you are a college professor and you are trying to teach Operating System Technology, just what are you going to turn to? Well guess what, colleges have budgets too. Linux of course. So the first very obvious benefit is that these young geniuses start signing up for projects and providing fixes and innovations. What they get in return is commonly called sweat equity. Meaning your hard work propels you into excellence from lots of sweat and no pay. From there they graduate from their advanced studies and move into the workforce. Now when these well self-trained individuals start creating solutions they will use what they know. That's right, Linux Again!!!!
Jack Welsh the former CEO of General Electric believes that no CEO should reign for more than a decade. I see the logic here, and in the pure technical world it may not be quite that short, however the changing of the guard is the key. The guard will change and it has now been approximately five years since Linux started to become truly viable and the colleges are just now starting to spit out Linux drones in serious numbers. The next five they will seep into management. The course is set and the wind is strong.
Probably an even more powerful force then the ones we have already discussed is the developing world influence. I know it is not easy for most of the people reading this to think outside the developed world, however, there is a very hungry population for computers in this world. Now imagine your a leader of a small country and you have to make a decision on training your growing population about computers. First item to check is your GDP. Hmmmmmm... Crap were poor, but we still need to train our children. Yeaaaaa!!! Linux is looking sweet and there are charities just giving complete systems to the needy. The easiest measure of how prevalent the world is moving to Linux is the Language support. You would not believe how incredibly developed the language support is for Linux and it is session selectable. Chew on that for a while. Session Selectable you say? Wow! Probably you have no idea how powerful that is.
Let's say that you have a single Linux computer in the United Nations building so that each country delegate can check their email. Each person that logs into the computer can set the language they want for their session and that's it. You log on and the entire user environment is in the chosen language. If you haven't fallen out of your seat yet then you probably have never tried to set up a different language with Microsoft. It is a nightmare and it is not even a complete solution as only some things are in the chosen language, not all things like Linux. For the most part Microsoft has a different install for each language and if you want the lame language solution you have to buy the language pack. Forget it, my GDP does not support this nonsense. Linux Approved.
Back to the idea that we are not living in a pure altruistic environment here, the point is if a language has been developed for Linux, someone spent some serious effort to make that happen and they had a reason that was more than, “Wouldn't be cool if we had American Indian Hopi supported in Linux”!Now do an exercise, check out how many languages are supported in Linux. Nahhhhh! Let me save your eyes from falling out of your head. There's a whole bunch and growing all the time. Do the math people, figure in Asian and Indian culture and I believe you will get the point, but don't stop there, because it is literally the whole world. By the time these children get to college, they are already going to be well versed in Linux and Microsoft may not even be understood as an option. One last request, apply the college concept, but on steroids.
So this is the how the world pays back into the model and there is real money to be made as the software becomes increasingly powerful, which drives the need for consultation and maintenance. There are many examples of this model working for quite a few years, but Red Hat is the clear leader. As a matter of fact if you decided to create your own Linux distribution and it solved some niche problem that attracted a certain number of followers, you could start charging for annual maintenance and consultation services. It's not as hard as it sounds and you do not even need to worry about the development of all the software in your distribution, as it is being done by the rest of the world. You just need to make all your software packages play nice together. That creates a very low maintenance solution. Just ask Steve Jobs at Apple.
What was the question?
Oh yea! Linux, Apple, or Windows? If you stuck in this far then you're on the road to understanding my conclusion. Linux is the compelling answer, but as we discussed it is not for everyone and I hope the pro's and con's from the previous sections helped guide your decision. From here on out I am going to concentrate on Linux and the different options for you to get started by covering some of my favorite Linux distributions and applications.
Here is a list of distributions that will get you started in Linux. Each one of these distributions offer a CD or DVD that you can download and burn. With that CD/DVD you can just place it in your CD/DVD drive and boot your computer into the Linux environment off of the CD/DVD. From here you will get a taste of what Linux is like. This is as far as I am going to take you in your Linux experience. You can use this same CD/DVD to install Linux onto a computer and I have no intention of explaining how, because if you are truly interested in Linux, then it is imperative that you learn to read the massive amount of documents that will be a mind expanding experience. Remember Software is not free unless you think your time is free. For those that do not even want to investigate or even search because you think I should have added links to make it easier, just keep in mind that I did not add links on purpose and then read the previous couple of sentences again. Don't be afraid, the amount of work required these days is minimal to just get started.
Fedora is a project that spawned from the company, Red Hat, the largest, most successful and well known Linux developer. This organization is truly the leader in releasing and testing Linux software changes. Before Red Hat updates their versions of Linux, they test heavily in the Fedora arena for bugs and feature complaints. The world waits for each new release with great anticipation and they produce a major release every six months. If you are not familiar with software development, then you may not realize that this is an incredibly short release schedule that is only possible when you have such a huge development effort. These releases are full of bugs, but they are constantly fixing them. It is not uncommon to get daily bug fixes on your Fedora systems. Annoying yes, but very effective in improving software. I view Fedora as a playground to test out the latest and the greatest. I truly enjoy seeing the changes. Fedora is fully capable of being a production system, you just want to be careful on the applications you choose to load. Make sure they are stable applications. Fedora is the 800lb gorilla and without a doubt the most comprehensive Linux distribution that is good for trying just about all Linux has to offer. There is incredible support and help via Fedora forums that help you with many different specifics about Linux.
Ubuntu (Top Choice for Beginners)
Ubuntu has come a long way for the average user by making a system stable and easy to use. They have focused on making Linux a positive experience for the less capable and they have done a wonderful job. Ubuntu is based on another very popular and powerful distribution of Linux, Debian, which is only 2nd to Red Hat. The Ubuntu people have also focused on education with a full blown Edubuntu distribution geared entirely to educating younger children. This is a huge hit in the developing world. I see more momentum behind this distribution than any other Linux distribution and I would expect Ubuntu to lead the world in client based platforms. It appears to me that they have captured the hearts and minds of people around the world that actually see a truly useful solution. I would venture to say that they capture the best essence of the altruistic concept. Mainly because of the donation spirit that surrounds this distribution. If I were to donate my time today to a needy group of children that needed computer education, I would involve and use Ubuntu as the distribution of choice. Ubuntu is by far the most useful education tool for all levels of training. I am not saying this is a child's toy either. It is also a very useful platform for any of the major uses of any other Linux distribution. In fact it is the best place for the average person to learn Linux and you can do amazing things with much less hassle than most other Linux distributions.
This distribution may be an exception. I do not remember if CentOS boots into a test environment or just goes directly to the install. In either case, CentOS is not a beginners distribution and quite the opposite, you better know a few things before you jump into this one and if you want to prepare yourself to tackle this distribution, then play around with Fedora first. Basically CentOS is as close to a copy as Red Hat Enterprise as possible, which is a distribution that you have to pay for. Well this may have just confused the heck out of most of you. Isn't the software free? Well Yes it is! However, no one said that you couldn't charge for it. If I could get you to pay for a CD with a distribution of Linux that I created, that is perfectly legal. However, you have to meet certain requirements by law to use the Open-Source software in your distribution that you can indeed sell. So after you meet those requirements, you can sell your distribution. Well those requirements do not force you to have to provide a CD/DVD of your distribution, but they do require to list exactly what is included in the distribution. Yea my head hurts to, so if you do not want to think about it, then just realize that CentOS is basically the same as Red Hat Enterprise, which is fairly expensive to buy. This is great news to the people that have spent the time learning Linux, because Red Hat Enterprise is basically considered that crown jewel of a stable and secure version of Linux. Therefore, if you are planning to use a real world production computer in the WWI (Wild World of Internet), it better have some serious security and stability. This distribution will provide you the best option to create a LAMP (Tip: Search LAMP server) web server that you plan to announce to the world. Again, you will need to know your stuff, but don't let that scare you, try it out, what do you loose? That's right! Time!
DSL (Damn Small Linux)
No!!!! I am not cursing; that is the actual name. I just happened to fall on this distribution and it is very unique indeed. It is small enough to fit onto one of those 50mb CD's that are the size of a business card. It started out as a challenge to see if it was possible and ended up not only being possible, but very useful. Basically you download it and burn it to a CD and the whole download and burn can be done in minutes. Then you throw it into a CD/DVD drive and boot away. What you will find is an amazingly user friendly environment that allows you to surf the web. It does much much more than that, but this speedy little environment allows you to set up many many computers as just a quick web surfing access machine. This includes old computers that would seemingly be useless otherwise. Just keep in mind that messing with old computers can be very frustrating to get things to work, but it is always worth a try if you have an old computer lying around. Just throw it in and see if it works, if not, oh well what have you lost? That's right! A little time. One of the best uses for this distribution is to use this to set up a table with a bunch of computers to be used at a show or convention and you want to provide a web access for the attendees. As evidence of this usage, this distribution has been twisted even further by others that wanted to make it more specific to the Kiosk market, which is a perfect example of how one persons curiosity led to many other very useful ideas. The cost of taking an old computer and using it for a web access device is astoundingly cheap. This is a good place to start with Linux as well, especially if your computer is a little old.
I am still working on this article, and I will add more in specifics on Linux and getting started in the near future, so check back.