Software Collection: There is a much larger selection of available software programs, utilities, and games for Windows. More than the Operating System itself, this is the bigger reason for popularity of Windows. However that mean that Linux doesn’t have all the software that any average user (or even a professional for that matter) might need, it’s just that the Linux alternative might require relearning a new interface.
The Linux variants for many of the popular softwares are made available by the respective company but quite often these variants are not as cutting edge and actively updated as their windows counterparts. The first thing that Windows refugees miss in Linux (apart from the refresh option) is MS Office Suit.
NOTE: There are some workarounds to run native Windows apps on Linux. Read more about that.
Although the major Linux variants have improved dramatically in ease of use, Windows is still much easier to use, for most part, because it is ubiquitous and you can find systems running windows anywhere you go. Most of the current generation has grown up with the same un-customizable task-bar and logo.
Fool Proof: Windows hides almost all customization options (especially hardware customization). This is done mainly because since all major PC models are shipped with their own copy of windows, most of the settings are optimized for that particular hardware. This protects the windows from tinkering that might harm the hardware if you don’t know what you are doing. eg. Overclocking the CPU might improve the performance but if done casually may burn your PC.
Linux Advantages (For average User)
Price: All popular Linux variants (called Linux Distros) are available for free. Microsoft Windows can run between $50.00 – $150.00 US dollars per each license copy.
Stable: Most Linux Distros are very Stable and can often run for months and years without needing to be rebooted. Microsoft has improved a lot, but it still cannot match the reliability of Linux.
The Reliability and stability of Linux recommends it for all extreme tasks like Servers. 90% of Supercomputers run on Linux.
Software Cost: Many of the available software programs, utilities, and games available on Linux are freeware or open source. Even such complex programs such as Gimp (Photoshop alternative), OpenOffice (MS office alternative), Blender (3D Animation, Compositing and VFX tool), and Wine (a wrapper software to run native windows apps on Linux) – are available for free. In windows, the majority of the programs will cost anywhere between $20.00 – $200.00+ US dollars per copy.
Hardware Detection: Linux has excellent hardware detection. Especially Ubuntu Linux. You would never need to install any driver/Software for hardwares as varied as wireless mouse/ keyboards, printers, Scanners, Wacom tablets, USB 3G dongles. Just plug it in and it will be detected.
Security: Linux is and has always been a very secure operating system. Windows continues to be the most vulnerable to viruses and other attacks. It is really amusing how easy it is to install a spyware on a windows machine.
Open Source: Microsoft Windows and the majority of Windows programs are not open source. Whereas many of the Linux Distros and softwares are open source and enable users to customize or modify the code however they want to, (and legally too). Though this is particularly exciting for those who aren’t scared of a little programming, this does showcase the generosity and open nature of Linux community.
Support: The peer support is absolutely amazing in Linux. Most of the problems that users might face has been dealt with hundreds of times for all Linux Distributions in various forums and all you need is google. Although it may be more difficult to find users familiar with all Linux variants, there are vast amounts of available online documentation and community support for Linux. Microsoft Windows is limited to its own help section, online documentation and customer support.
Centralized application Source: Most of the major distributions come with their own software managers. These are just like android Playstore or Appstore , only more easy. For example Ubuntu Software center (shown in the picture) displays all major applications with Screenshots and discriptions and can install the same with a single click. Moreover unless you have pledged to not use the terminal at all, a command as simple as:
apt-get install firefox
will download and install the latest version of Firefox on the system and add it to the relevant sub-menu (Internet menu in this case).
Amazing Eye candies: A Linux system can be customized in whichever way and there are N number of tools to make it look absolutely gorgeous, add window animations, and much more (who wants an animated wallpaper).
Linux Advantages (For intermideate User)
Command Line Advantage: Though the average Windows refugee would never have to open the terminal if he chooses not to and still have access to every service he had on a windows and more. But the command line will always be an invaluable tool for administration purposes. The excellent collection of command line apps for RSS, Internet Browsers, IM (and even Video Players) give absolute power and transparency to the user while being extremely light on the system resources due to absence of a Graphical Interface (ie. windows, frames, icons, buttons)
Multiple run levels: Linux has an inherent ability to at different levels. With this, you can work from either the command line (run level 3) or the GUI (run level 5). This can be really helpful when you cannot boot into the Graphical Environment and you need to figure out the problem. You can do this by booting into run level 3, and finding / fixing the problem.
With Windows, you’re lucky to get to a command line via safe mode, and then you may or may not have the tools you need to fix the problem.
In Linux, even in run level 3, you can still get and install a tool to help you out (remember apt-get install APPLICATION via the command line). Having different run levels is helpful in many other cases as well. Say the machine in question is a Web or mail server. You want to give it all the memory you have, so you don’t want the machine to boot into run level 5.
Custom OS: A Linux user has full access to the underlying hardware. This allows us to strip down the operating system to bare minimum and remove all the bloatwares that one would never use. There are a variety of full fledged Linux Distros available in .iso formats (CD Images) of sizes as small as 9 MB (that’s right, a full operating system) will all hardware supported, and a good collection of softwares including a web browser, PDF viewer, text editor, image viewer etc. It is possible to run linux with RAM as ow as 64 MB.
Transparency: The system is transparent. You can view and control all the process that are running, it makes the computer secure and helps use the hardware resources optimally.
Most of the softwares and the Linux kernel itself is opensource, which means it’s source code can be viewed and modified freely.
Portability: Linux is extremely portable. It can run without even using your hard disk ( excellent option if your hard disk has crashed and you don’t want to invest in a new one right now). Such a Linux boots from USB drive (pendrive) and saves all your files in the USB without touching the hard disk. (though you can always access your hard disk too especially useful for administrative purposes like partitioning formating).
Most linux can be made to boot even directly from RAM. In this boot mode, all the files are copied into the RAM and the USB drive can then be removed. This is a very secure environment as there is no chance of leaving any traces of password / History on the system (Since RAM gets completely wiped off when the system is shutdown).
Comprehensive File System support: Linux supports Ext2, Ext3, Ext4, Jfs, ReiserFS, Xfs, Btrfs, FAT, FAT32, NTFS , as against windows which only supports FAT, FAT32, NTFS, exFAT. Ext3 and Ext4 are Journaled file systems which makes them more stable and reliable in case of abrupt poweroff (force shutdown).
Programmer Friendly: All major distributions cum with some programming tools preinstalled. eg. you can always find some version of Python. Also there is huge collection of tools/ IDEs its to make it first choice for programmers.
Updates: Linux development community is very responsive to the changing needs of the user community. There are frequent bug fixes and security enhancements and all updates can installed as effortlessly as this: > apt-get upgrade This not only upgrades the system with the latest patches but also all the softwares installed. (just like the much convenient update all feature of Android Playstore, only more customizable)
Friendliness: There is friendliness, humility and generocity in every aspect of Linux. Be it the price of the operating system or its Softwares or the community that supports the development. The Linux installer in almost all distributions is configured to recognize if there is windows already installed on the system and installs the linux alongside it instead of the grumpy windows which simply cannot stand any other OS living in the hard disk.
According to the market research data of 2007, on 92.63% of the world’s PCs, Windows is running, while only 0.8% PC users use Linux. The Home users, Multimedia enthusiasts mainly used Windows, where as for serious use, server application, Corporation servers are running on Linux. But these figures are primarily attribute to the fact that due to licensing agreement with Microsoft, various vendors are entitled to bundle Windows OS with their PC. (These days all major vendors have started shipping PCs with Linux preinstalled to reduce costs).
The biggest achievements for Linux is that it is a multiuser OS, is opensource and the Security and stability is better than Windows. It is fully customizable, transparent and has amazing community support.
It finally boils down to what an individual wants in an operating system. Whether he wants to everything to be taken care of automatically or whether he wants that the OS should get out of his way and let him do all the optimizations.
As for me, it is something like this: