Five Ways Linux Is Better Than Vista

A user or sysadmin posts about problems with a brand new Vista PC on a support forum. Within minutes, a "helpful" soul suggests a fix: "Install Linux!"

Enthusiasts have always touted Linux as the best operating system, and they've become more strident and shrill since Vista's launch. Despite Microsoft's optimistic predictions and fervent proselytizing, Vista has received a chilly reception in the marketplace. The reasons are legion: its price tag, the lack of driver support, legacy applications not working on Vista, and the list goes on.

Is Linux really better than Vista? Sure. Linux is free, while a flavor of Vista can be as low as $99.95 and as high as $399.95. Linux has a cute penguin for its mascot. Does Vista even have one? Even if it does, it's surely not as adorable as Tux?

Let Test Center count the ways.

Sponsored post

1. Hardware requirements: Linux doesn't require a lot of memory or the beefiest graphics card on the market just to get up and running.

Vista's system requirements are high, requiring a "modern" processor (at least a Pentium 4) and 512 Mbytes of RAM, although 1 Gbyte is recommended. The operating system takes up at least 60 GBytes of disk space, and needs at least 64 Mbytes video RAM. In contrast, some flavors of Linux can run on a box with as little as 64 Mbytes of RAM and a 486 processor. That's Linux with a graphical user interface, too. The common Linux distributions take up only 1.5 Gbytes of disk space.

Vista's Aero and the overall user interface look pretty, but it doesn't make work easier. It doesn't make finding a file on the system easier or make an application run faster, does it? Ironically, all it does is slow down the user because it uses up the system resources. Instead of using the CPU to display graphics, Vista uses the GPU, which puts a strain on memory. Vista uses 256 Mbytes just for screen rendering alone, and that's not even at optimum levels. That's a lot of memory just for graphics.

Next: Security is less of a worry to Linux users

2. Security: Antivirus and anti-spyware applications are not necessary on Linux boxes, but are essentially required on Vista machines.

Granted, one of the reasons Linux is so secure is because malware developers are specifically targeting Windows operating systems and Windows applications. That still doesn't change the fact that Linux users do not have to worry about inadvertently downloading spyware, and sysadmins don't log hours cleaning the latest worm off Linux machines.

3. No limitations: Linux doesn't restrict how content is used on the system.

Vista comes with built-in digital rights management features that are not present on Linux boxes. These DRM features can slow down the computer, cause technical support problems, and conflict with peripheral hardware and existing software. The fix may be as simple as an upgrade or as complex as replacing the hardware. For example, Vista has copy protection technology for HD-DVD and Blu-ray disks. High-quality output paths like audio and video are reserved for protected peripheral devices. This means output quality can be artificially degraded.

On Linux, regardless of the distribution, music will play, movies will run, and software will load. Linux doesn't interfere with legitimate fair-use rights for the content owned by users, majority of whom are honest users. Vista's DRM can interfere with all kinds of computer use, including the ones that have nothing to do with digital rights.

Related to the first point about system resources, Vista is continually monitoring itself to ensure compliance. That costs the CPU.

Next: Is Windows Genuine Advantage a help or a hindrance?

4. It's all Genuine: There's no such thing as Linux Genuine Advantage.

Regardless of what version is installed, or where it came from, a Linux machines will work. There is no risk of losing functionality. Vista, on the other hand, relies on Windows Genuine Advantage servers to verify its serial number. And when the servers go down, as it did recently, Vista users worldwide are locked out of their computers running legitimate copies of Windows Vista. Never would have happened with Linux.

5. Get the apps, already: Increasing number of available applications for Linux have made it easier to get away from bloated Windows applications.

Dislike the ribbon? Abandon Microsoft Office and come over to Open Office. It has no ribbon and it offers standards-compliant document formats.

Vista still ships with the cruddy picture editor, Paint. Most Linux distributions come with GIMP 2.2, a powerful application similar to Adobe's Photoshop in terms of it features.

Considering all the trouble Internet Explorer has with security and rendering pages correctly, Linux users don't miss it. Mozilla meets their needs.

So there you have it. Linux is better than Vista. Doesn't seem to be getting anywhere with that world domination plan, though.