The first part was my take on the interesting concepts Fewt raised about Windows 7. The second part, the one you are reading now, will elaborate on why I choose the Linux desktop, Linux Mint 10 in this case, over the latest from Microsoft.
HURRY UP, BABY!
What can I say, I love speed and responsiveness, and that's one of the many areas where Linux definitely delivers. I had heard Windows 7 was nothing like Vista, that the resource eating days were over, and that this latest edition of the Microsoft OS was the fastest ever. That's all mostly true, but after getting used average Linux performance, Windows 7 is simply not fast enough.
Because I am dual booting Windows 7 and Linux Mint 10, it's a great opportunity to compare each and obtain somewhat meaningful results. I decided to time a few things, mostly concentrating on boot up and shut down times.
|STAGE||LINUX MINT 10||WINDOWS 7|
|Bios to Login screen||23 secs||28 secs|
|Login screen to desktop||12 secs||19 secs|
|Shutdown||6 secs||24 secs|
Linux Mint 10 is 30% to 40% faster than Windows 7 on average, and while differences are not that exaggerated on day-to-day desktop activities, they are still significant. I am not saying applications open that much slower on Windows 7, it's the experience as a whole that is slower. Antivirus updates, system and other security updates, random automatic antivirus scans, way too many applications loading on startup...
The number of things that have an impact on speed and responsiveness is indeed important, but so is the how. I already talked about the exaggerated size the average Windows application has taken on. It only makes sense that applications that are so heavy require updates that are proportionally heavy, and that is the case indeed. As a result, downloading and applying updates in Linux takes less time, adds less user disruption and, as we will discuss later, hardly ever requires a reboot.
Long story short, I just can't be bothered to put up with that many obstacles. In Linux Mint and the Linux desktop in general things work fast. Me likes.
"USE THE SHELL, LUKE!"
The Linux command line interface is an incredibly powerful ally. Automating day-to-day activities such as distro updates, package installation/uninstallation, resource monitoring... You name it, the CLI unleashes the true power of your computer.
NOTE: The Windows 7 command line does provide some 180 commands that certainly add to the GUI functionality, but comparing it with bash isn´t even funny.
MORE IS MORE
The Linux desktop has many features that I´ve found help increase my productivity. Here are some examples:
1.- Multiple desktops: Those who have used a dual screen setup in Windows have only scratched the surface of what working with multiple desktops feels like. I personally find that I can work on several things at once more productively, isolating each task on a different desktop and limiting the amount of open windows on that particular desktop to two or three at most. This allows me to always know what I am doing, as opposed to having an endless list of open windows that I can´t make sense of.
2.- Compiz FX: Believe it or not, Compiz effects do help as well. Anything from the widget layer, where I can add widgets that provide me with interesting information, to the enhanced desktop zoom, the desktop wall, etc. The idea is that, if used correctly, these effects are way more than just eye candy, they actually add their two cents towards overall productivity.
3.- Keyboard & Mouse: Linux is all about flexibility, and keyboard shortcuts are no exception. A LOT can be achieved with the default keyboard shortcuts, but way more as soon as one starts adding custom combinations.
Mouse gestures add a lot of value as well. One of the things I miss the most when I am working on a Windows box, for example, is the ability to highlight text on any app and then paste it elsewhere by clicking on the middle button.
4.- Applications: Many tools are at hand to enhance productivity and make things easy and fast, but even more importantly, the community is constantly introducing ideas to take that productivity up a notch. Here are some examples:
- Synapse takes the Gnome Do concept even further, allowing quick search of pretty much anything on the computer straight from the keyboard.
- Pidgin, empathy, Gwibber, Choqok, Kopete and several other applications provide a single interface for all your IM and social networking needs, avoiding unnecessary installations and desktop cluttering.
- Several distros propose top native integration for social applications and media (Ubuntu), while others provide powerful system tools, like the Linux Mint menu, which integrates anything from installation to dictionary search, web search, etc. in one place.
...And what´s even better, most things I listed above are available out of the box!
UPDATE ME, WILL YA?
Another amazing thing about the Linux desktop is how it handles software installation. In my opinion, the concept of software repositories is light years ahead of what Windows users get these days. As a matter of fact, Apple has incorporated this idea and rumor says Microsoft is thinking of doing the same.
Software management in Linux is fast, simple, safe and convenient. Some distros, like Ubuntu, Linux Mint and now Pardus are doing some amazing work on their software managers, providing information, screenshots and sometimes even user ratings for each package.
Another great thing about repositories is that they not only provide critical OS updates, but also for the desktop manager and applications. Certain distros, like PCLinuxOS and Fedora are particularly proactive in updating their application catalogs, allowing users to enjoy the latest and greatest just days after it is released.
REBOOT ME NOT
Unlike Windows 7, which requires rebooting to apply updates way too often, Linux hardly ever needs a recycle. Applying Kernel updates is the one task that must undergo a full reboot to take effect, but it doesn´t happen that often.
FAR BEYOND THE SUN
Another great thing about the Linux desktop is that it can easily take on many more roles, some of which are only meant for "grown ups". In other words, setting up a MySQL, SSH, Application, Web or even a small eMail server with Linux is usually surprisingly easy. Users can indeed turn their PCs into pseudo-servers, which by the way, work reliably. This is another area where Linux performs well ahead of Windows.
YOU'LL NEVER BE ALONE
There is something about Linux that means more than just software. There is a huge community of enthusiastic individuals willing to join efforts to create something truly amazing. The best thing? Everyone is invited to join and collaborate and there are thousands of ways to do so. The whole concept feels a bit strange when proprietary software is all you know, but once you get past the initial fears and start to enjoy help and support from others, it's easy and gratifying to become part of such an incredible community.
I'M FREE, TO DO WHAT I WANT, ANY OLD TIME
When all is said and done, of all the features in the Linux desktop, being free and in control is the one I appreciate the most. Customization is as deep as it gets and one can truly understand what is going on. Users may still choose to ignore technicalities and stick to defaults if they so desire, but if they want to make their OS truly theirs, all doors are open.
DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW
After such a long
I purposedly left the "free as in beer" aspect of Linux out of the picture. Don´t get me wrong, it is quite an important thing, but the Linux desktop has grown mature enough to stand out on its own merits, not just because it has no cost. Building on that concept, it was not long ago when the Linux desktop was not even a valid option as a desktop OS... Today it stands a comparison with the Industry standard! The speed and quality of its growth are unquestionable, and yes, there are many areas of improvement, but after looking at what the latest releases have achieved, there is no stopping it!
Long live the Linux desktop!