Thursday, May 24, 2001

Linux Vs Windows (Why is there a battle?)

When I was first was introduced into the world of computers my joy was from Windows 95. I learned every little bit of the OS and how it worked. Around the time Windows 98 was to be released someone showed me that in KDE preview number three the title bars could do gradients. I was in awe. Here was a free OS that had gradients before Microsoft did! Well it wasn't a sappy as that, but that is how I was introduced and got into the Linux scene.

I started small by putting Linux on the worst machine I had and only playing with it every once in a while to do such things as to show it off to my friends. Then I made that little machine into a router for the rest of my house so I could have the internet on more then one machine. Before I had been using several Windows proxy tools. Linux far surpassed the proxy tools. No more configuring each application to get them on the net, everything just worked. Another bonus of having Linux as my server I was forced to interact with it every once in a while. I set it up as a web server, FTP server and so forth. Over time I learned how to move around Linux and do some small things. I ended up putting Linux on a more powerful machine. A tri boot machine it had Linux, NT and Windows98 for me to play with. It was then that I was able to use Linux as a desktop machine for the first time and even to do some programming in Linux. Trolltech's Qt Toolkit caught my eye and I began to go through the tutorials. Soon I had a little silly game running. Over the next six months I began to use Linux more and more. Before long I was able to use Linux as my desktop box. Like a lot of people I have ended up with several computers sitting around me. The reason it took so very long for me to move over everything was that I used many little programs in Windows and I needed to find comparable Linux applications. From e-mail, web browsing, FTP client, and of course an AIM client.

I recently bought a new palm after my trusty old one past away from being smashed. I figure I should probably start keeping a backup of the palm on my computer. A quick hope over to Freshmeat to find applications I see that there are a number of palm applications. A light goes on in my head saying well if there are so many one must be good... right? Two frustrating hours later I learn the bitter truth that there isn't a suitable setup for the palm under Linux (that I could find) And yet there were so many half done applications all with a TODO list. Booting into Windows I transferred over my data to my new palm. Later that week I got the urge to backup my system after almost setting it on fire. (Only the floppy caught fire.) I have a nice old SCSI CD-R and knowing how Linux loves old hardware figured that I wouldn't have any problems. Just like the palm I found the software to be lacking. But why am I using Linux when it currently has inferior software?

I recently read an article about the Dreamcast, and in one of the comments someone talked about how he owns both a Dreamcast and a Playstation2. Gasp, horror, isn't that forbidden? Wait, it really isn't. Consoles generally don't run for more then $300. That is about the cost of several video games. I do not know of a single console that has had all of the killer games. So is it a bad thing to have more then one console? I would have to conclude that it is not, but why does someone like to have only one console? For a lot of people they don't have enough time for all the games on one system let alone two. But for those that play games all the time and use it as there way of cooling off it would be a great way. Can this be brought over to the Computer world? Can you have both a Windows box and a Linux box? Gasp! My first reaction is to recoil in disgust and laugh it walk walking backwards as fast as I could. But I stood there and examined that option very carefully. Could I do that? For the past few years I have moved over to Linux to the extent that I try to have a really good reason to not be using Linux. I use KDE for the common desktop, made an aim client when I couldn't find one good enough, joined a DVD development group to watch DVD's. All in the name of simply getting up to where I was in Windows. Why did I have to stay away from Windows (besides being evil and all that)? I started to look at it from another point of view.

From an effort/reward scale. Taking the palm program as an example. If I were to try to use the Linux palm application I would be limited in my capabilities, I wouldn't be able to edit my data on the desktop and who knows what else wouldn't work. But there isn't very much that I would like to do either. Simply keep a backup and do some quick editing from the computer keyboard where I can type faster. For that little bit of work is it worth attempting to get the palm set up on Windows. By itself it is not much, but when I add the number of other things that I need Windows for a list begins to grow.

A quick flip in the other direction is even more surprising. What is the work/reword for having a spare Windows box around? Not a box that is used day in and day out, but a box that has 98, IE and my Windows hardware on it. I don't have to pay for Windows sense I already own it. Not only do all of the above hardware completely work, but then I also get the ability to watch QuickTime videos again. There are probably a half dozen other Windows goodies that aren't on Linux yet that I will gain. I am not saying that I would have it up and running 24x7 and use it as my desktop, but it would be properly set up so when I did need it I could use it.

So why do I have and hardware that only works in Windows in the first place? Mostly by chance. Research would be the key thing here. If you are looking to have a Linux only box you had better make sure that all of your hardware is fully supported under Linux. That the monitor and video card work together, the USB camera will even work, and many more. They will definitely have Windows drivers and setup, but it isn't so in Linux. I have found that having a spare Windows box around isn't a bad thing for me. I have paid the Microsoft tax a dozen times over buying new machines so licensing isn't the problem. As for stability, the box isn't going to be used much and everyone knows the stable Windows boxes are the ones that don't change and aren't used much.

Over the next year I am sure that I will try many Linux applications once again. Maybe by then they will be further along in development and I can move over a little more, but for now I am ok with having to use Windows. And even when I have moved everything over or given away all the Window only hardware I will probably keep a Windows box around just in case I ever need it. I have realized that I do not need to make it my goal in life to rid myself of everything Microsoft. The amount of effort isn't worth it when I know that given a few more years I will have moved over to hardware that is supported in Linux. It is more beneficial for me to keep Windows around at this point then not.

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