Yesterday I got dragged into a “Windows versus Linux” discussion, because on my Facebook profile I had made a quiz, and one of the questions was “What OS do I use?”. My sister in law got that one wrong, and exlaimed “Stupid Linux!”. Of course I responded with “Linux isn’t stupid!” and off we went. My girlfriend and other sister-in-law got dragged in it too, and it got very heated (but still enjoyable). Let’s introduce the participants.
My girlfriend runs a rather old Dell Inspiron which dual boots Windows XP Pro and Ubuntu Jaunty. She uses Windows for MS Office and the fun MSN Messenger games. For photo editing she uses the GIMP.
Sister One has a newer laptop which came with Vista, promptly got infected by some nasty virusses which deleted half of her system files, and now her father has installed XP Pro on it.
Sister Two uses Windows exclusively, and I believe her and her boyfriend’s computers run Vista and XP.
And of course, me.
The arguments pro Windows were: It’s more familiar, it looks better, it runs software like The Sims and MS Office, and Linux is for nerds.
The arguments pro Linux were: It’s safer, it looks better, there’s more choice, and it’s free.
Now, many of these arguments are bogus. Looks don’t matter much in discussions like these, both operating systems run software the other one doesn’t (I don’t care about the Sims, but I do want Openbox), and I’m not a nerd. 😉
The one thing that did struck me was how they felt about price. Linux is free, and almost all it’s software too? Well, so is Windows, and applications can be cracked.
I find that questionable at best, and it’s odd that people who can vehemently defend Windows don’t feel like they have to pay for it. On top of that, they use a previous release (XP is EIGHT years old at the moment), because the latest MS OS just doesn’t cut it. On top of that, they all mentioned problems with Windows: the aformentioned virus fiasco, a Genuine Advantage error that added ten minutes to the boottime, and network connection issues. It seemed to me that the argument came down to “Windows is better because it’s more familiar, it runs my favourite software, and if I run into trouble it’s not me who has to solve it/pay for it”.
At that point, a good friend of sister One entered the discussion, using aMsn on OpenSuse. She didn’t want to discuss Linux, she just wanted to use it since “she didn’t want to pay for that Microsoft joke of an OS”. She wasn’t a nerd at all. She wasn’t interested in Linux. She just wanted to use her PC and be free of the hassle and the cost of Microsoft software.
The discussion ended there and then. I didn’t want to keep on discussing the issue, because I felt I made my point. You don’t need to be a nerd to use a computer, whether it’s Linux or Windows. But in the hands of the careless, casual user, Windows has a tendency to break down completely, either due to bugs or because of virusses. That risk is smaller in any Linux distribution, for a great number of reasons.
And don’t kid yourself by thinking Windows is free. It isn’t. Just because you can crack your way around that doesn’t make Windows better.