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Linux. Is easier than Windows? (03/03/2007 06:11:32 PM)

linuxThere are many myths in the IT world, especially with those that don't know IT as well as they may think they do. One of the big myths in IT is how easy Linux is to use over Windows. But, is it a myth? In reality, the people who say Microsoft Windows is the easier operating system have generally used Microsoft Windows XP for 10+ years, or originally started using it at the dawn of the Windows age (1985 onwards). Now, if this time was invested into Linux/Unix based operating systems, surely one would consider Linux/Unix to be the easier operating system, but which one is correct?

Well, I have had many discussions last week with friends including showing them some of the features of Linux, in which some of them commented on how much Linux looked like Windows (for the record, I had Knoppix loaded up at the time). In my test environment, I used a wireless network card, a cabled Ethernet card, a digital camera, scanner and an nVidia video card and within minutes, I had all these devices working and fully configured for deployment. Lets start with Wireless technology. Granted, some vendors do manufacture windows-only wireless cards because it's supposedly cheaper to do so. Why would they hire a team of Linux experts when the market share is limited? Well even if one doesn't have a Linux-compatible wireless card, then they can always use the ndiswrapper which basically uses the Microsoft Windows based drivers and allows you to control your network that way. The card I used was a 3Com Prism 2.5 based card, and was picked up by linux straight away. So what do we do from here? I want to make an access point (something that just can't be done under Microsoft Windows), so to do that, I edit a file called /etc/network/interfaces and put in there information about the network card.

auto eth0
iface eth0 inet static
wireless_essid TestNetwork
wireless_channel 6
wireless_power off
wireless_mode Master

So what has that done? Basically it has assigned an IP Address of to the card, and using the master mode, it has turned it into an access point. I'm sure many of you Windows users are reading that now thinking that's easier than windows and are probably p!ssing yourselves laughing over it. It is infact  substantially quicker to type that in rather than clicking, right clicking, waiting, installing wireless drivers, turning on the adapter, then wait for a GUI to come up to fill in 'address, netmask' then you have to make sure that you can search for a wireless network. Long story short, what's here in the configuration file is only slightly more information than the steps you would take in windows, with the exception this works straight from a shell environment than from the windows GUI.

I suppose the bottom line is, you won't appreciate computing, let alone have the knowledge on how computers work until you do learn how to use Linux or any Unix operating system for that matter. Once you learn how a computer works, then you will find Linux a pretty darn easy Operating System to use, in fact easier than Windows for the most part. For instance, lets take a home user's uses. They use their computer to watch DVD's, play Music, burn CD's, burn Music, Word Processing, Internet Browsing, Printing, Instant Messaging, Payroll and Taxes, E-Mail and Solitare (yes, I'm sure that's why Windows 3.0 sold as many copies as it did :P). Linux includes most, if not all of that now. Watching DVD's requires a DVD Codec and/or player to do so legally, and does cost. Just as it does for Microsoft Windows. It just so happens that many DVD-ROM or enabled PC's already come with PowerDVD or WinDVD installed. As a matter of fact, Linspire has a commercial version of a DVD player available, Nero both have Linux versions of their application suites that include a DVD Player and XINE can take some questionable codecs to also play DVD's. Alternatively, one could simply use Wine to run their existing DVD Player. The rest of it is built into most of the popular Linux operating systems (yes, even my collection of printers all detect automatically thanks to a better version of CUPS).

penguinThere is an age old issue about how hard or difficult it is to set up a Linux Operating System, and I still think it is unreasonable to get any newcomer or someone who isn't into computers to install an Operating System. Essentially it is the role of most Windows installers to fully configure a Windows machine, so why not Linux? A user shouldn't have to worry about installing an operating system on their computer, especially when no matter how simple the install is, it is easy to *cough* up your entire system (I know myself after the amount of clients who attempted to install stuffed everything up and lost important data because they tried 20 odd times). The point is, just as on Windows where one needs to know how to install and configure it, the same must be done for Linux. For those who say Vista has a fantastic GUI, how about checking out Beryl or XGL and tell me which one is truly better, especially when one enables the Aero theme on Linux.

Remote administration is easier under Linux as well. Providing you know how the shell environment works (in which it didn't take windows users 24 hours to learn how to use DOS fully, if they learned it at all), and you have the capability to read a text file, you can diagnose the error by searching for the error logs (for Debian this is inside /var/log/) and fix it that way. If the user wants an application updated, under Debian you simply run apt-get install <package name> (or use Yum on Red Hat systems). The user doesn't have to stop working either. They can simply be working in whilst the update is executed without any notice to them. How? By using SSH or Telnet of course.

Ultimately I am not going to convince anyone that Linux is easier than Windows, that's something that one will have to sit down and use for a substantial period of time before coming to the realisation that Linux is in fact easier, especially if one has a working knowledge of how a computer works. So why is Windows so easy and why I would still recommend Windows over Linux? Because Windows is a supported Operating System. It has software on the shelves for it, and the internet is primarily aimed at Internet Users. There is much better gaming support, however this is slowly changing as games become multi-platform. Oh, and gaming is still easier on console - you pop the disc or cartridge in and it works. On a PC, you have to *shudder* install *shudder* it. Ultimately, people know how to use Windows, and don't give a sh!t about how their PC works. I'm sure if I put Linux in front of this group, most probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference except Surprised wow a new cool theme. But why change something for users that know how to use Windows? They don't want to learn a new operating system, or how to use a new application. They simply want to get on a machine and hope it works.

Anyway, I have 3 systems now to format and install Linux on Tongue out 


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