Why stick with Windows?

 

There have always been groups of people who rebel against the norm, who reject the status quo and choose to stand out. Bohemians, Hippies, Mods, punks... and now linux and mac users.

There is a growing number of people who have deserted Microsoft Windows in favour of macs and the likes of Fedora, Ubuntu and Debian. Some regard this group as an elite - true technical power users whose use these 'better' operating systems. Some regard them as connoisseurs, whose specific needs and tastes surpass the meagre capabilities of Windows. Some identify themselves as frustrated former Windows users, who have given up trying to make the mainstream work for them. And others treat them as snobs, who just want to be different.

I'm a Windows user, I always have been (since 3.11) and I use Windows all day every day, at home and everywhere I've worked. I currently use Windows XP SP2 as my OS of choice on all my desktop and laptop machines. Sure, I've tried Fedora, Ubuntu and a few other operating systems, but none of them have really cut it for me.

However, even though I wouldn't dream of using anything other than Windows as a desktop operating system, there is a big difference in the world of servers. As a server admin, I use Linux on every web server I run, and I wouldn't dream of using Windows.

With all these disadvantages, why do I still use Windows for my Desktop? One simple answer could be that I'm used to it. I've been using it since 3.11, through 95, 98 and 2000, to XP and (reluctantly) Vista.

 

Why do I use XP still, and not Vista? It's not that I'm scared to upgrade - I've used Vista a lot, even for months at a time. But I really don't like it. Compared with XP, its performance is abysmal. On my PC now, I don't have to wait for anything. I press a button or click an icon, and it happens immediately (except in extreme circumstances). Using the same spec PC, Vista often takes a whole second to open the start menu.

My pet hate about Vista is its stubborness and arrogance - half the time it doesn't listen to instructions, and the other half the time it'll make the decisions for you. Vista thinks it knows best, that users are simply requesting that it does something, and that it can compromise functionality for the sake of self-preservation. I don't want a computer so secure it's unusable - if I did I'd lock it away in a dark room turned off and unplugged.

 

My perception of Mac OS is similar to this - a fairly restricted operating system with limited special functionality. Any mac user would cite how awesome they think macs are, how they never go wrong, how security is impossible to compromise, how great they are for creative applications (video editing etc).

Sure macs have some impressive software, and perhaps it runs better natively on a mac, but I haven't seen much that Windows can't do. They aren't unfallibly reliable, they still have niggles and bad days, and some of them do totally break down. It isn't bomb proof, it still has security lapses (although less than XP), and still suffers from the greatest weakness - human users. Sure OS X is cheaper than windows, but it still means wholly buying pre-built proprietory hardware.

The iPod also suffers from the smug apply fanbase, with a godlike status and millions of willing minions who will follow it wherever it goes. I don't have a bad word to say about the iPod, I've owned several and have found them to have the best-designed UI and feature set of any comparative devices. They aren't flawless, and I have destroyed three through normal wear and tear. I just don't understand people that go out and buy a new iPhone every time there's a new minor software revision.

If we're looking at this from a subculture perspective, macs are popular partially because they aren't mainstream. So what happens if (or when) they do become the norm? Will mac fanboys stand by their beloved flashy software and expensive shiny hardware? Even if Apple start making boring workstations for spreadheets? Or will they find another way to rebel against the system.

So if macs are too 'hip' and not practical enough, what about Linux?

 

The open-source nature of most variations of Linux means that users and software can do pretty much anything, including totally override the OS if it wants to. The flipside of this is that desktop software support isn't as widespread as it is on Windows, with widely varying user interfaces, shells and even kernels. Driver support is also quite weak.

But this is perfect for servers.

The main reason for this is the ability for total customisation. This allows me to even stop 50% of the operating system running, and keep only its bare bones, plus whatever actually I need on top. This stops resources (eg processing time, memory and disk space) being wasted on unneccessary services that the servers simply don't need (eg wireless networking, printing, CD drives, audio).

But more than that, Linux lets me do whatever I want. Windows has a nasty habit of refusing to let the user do things. Half of the OS is hidden away in inaccessible files which Windows won't tell you about, and certainly won't let you alter. This is partially for security, but mainly to protect their technology and intellectual property from being copied or hacked.

 


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