Home Operating Systems Windows Vista Riding both sides of the OS Fence
Riding both sides of the OS Fence PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tim Wray   
Thursday, 11 October 2007 19:00

I've had quite the split personality as of late, unable to determine if I'm a "Windows" or "Linux" tekkie.  See, when I first tried Linux, it was the night of my High School graduation. A friends' (Ben Mart) much older brother, Derek, gave me a single-CD install for SuSE Linux 6.2 (which I still have, btw)...I installed it, but at the time, the GUI of the system was still rather inferior to much of the capabilities of Windows 98/ME at the time. I did go on to use SuSE Linux 7 for a time, and in college I used Redhat 6.1 and 7.0 in class.

I downloaded OpenSuSE 10.2, the freshly-renamed version of SuSE 10, back in march. I have toyed with it a bit since on a spare laptop, and happened to be using Windows Vista for the first time in the same time period. As you can see in the screenshot, it is very functional, Firefox is rock solid, there are decent linux-native game emulators (added by myself), and one thing that I missed badly back when I first experimented with Linux, an IM solution that would interface with MSN Messenger's protocol (essentially an open source MSN Messenger) called Kopete. Not bad.

(OpenSuSE 10.2 running Gnome window manager on X11 GUI)

So, is Linux a viable competitor to Microsoft Windows? Well, so far, almost. The only thing I can't get it to do (mostly because of my own inexperience) is emulate NES games (failed to compile the emu correctly on my part) and no direct support for the particular wireless adapters in the laptop (no fault of the linux developers, Broadcom won't release hardware data so they can develop them), as well as 3D drivers for the ATI video adapter in the laptop. ATI has similar copyright policy that prevents this. I think the only thing I need Windows for is my video capture card, which doesn't see much use anyway. Everything else (CD/DVD burning support, DVD video player, an Office suite solution just as capable as Microsoft Office 2003) is there. Free. One install. Even Firefox is included with it, you don't have to go download it.

Configuring this thing isn't for the weak of heart, but once you get it down (or love an IT challenge), Linux is a lot of fun and very useful. I have, several times at work, used it exclusively to do my every day job, which speaks a lot of it as a desktop operating system.

Now, onto the other side of the fence....

Windows Vista Ultimate in a dual 17 inch side-by-side display configuration, from my work setup.

Windows Vista has been the PC Community's red headed step child for months since it's public release last February. I was, indeed , an early adoper, first testing it in MS Virtual PC in early March, and installing it on a home desktop (an older one, no less...it CAN be done...) a short time later when I deemed it "road worthy", you could say. I upgraded my work laptop to it (Vista Ultimate) shortly after. It CAN be made to work with older software, if not natively, then with an older version of windows (even XP) within Microsoft's FREE (yes, I know, a redundant statement) Virtual PC 2007 software. Vista's interface is super pretty, though it will take seasoned windows users of either win9x (some call it "Wintendo", long story) or 2000/XP some time to adjust to the new "Start" menu, if that's what it still is.


The new start menu



Search feature that allows to run a program by
entering it's name

The new "All Programs" layout.
Check out the translucent backgrounds!

They finally stopped calling everything "My" somthing (eg: "My Documents", "My Pictures", "My Music") and just called it what it is, both on menus and the folders (eg: "Documents", "Pictures", etc.) The coolest addition, and I think my favorite thing about Vista, is that search bar right above the "Start" (or Win, or Flag, whatever) button. This is only because, say, if you can't find a program on the start menu that you've installed (or even just dropped on the hard drive without a shortcut), you can enter it there, and 99.999% of the time, it will pop up above. If you know you've entered the exact program name (say, it's "Notepad" you're looking for), if you type "Notepad" and hit enter, it pretty much will just start notepad. Or even software you've installed. Have "Adobe Photoshop" installed? Just type "Adobe Photoshop", hit enter. Thanks to this feature, I've not once had to go into "All programs" to start something. Super nice.

"All programs" is drastically different to me, anyway, as well. It's laid out much more like the folder tree in Windows Explorer (see above).

Vista is rather stable for a first revision OS, especially a Windows release. Mine rarely crashes unless it's got no other choice (the one time was a bad memory chip that would cause a blue screen of death, which is not Windows Vista's fault, it was an electronic hardware failure)

So, as I like both OSes, I think I'll just continue to run both. Windows Vista is steadily becoming more compatible with hardware over time as hardware manufacturers have began programming WDM (Windows Device Module) compliant drivers for Vista, and it doesn't crash much (if you install it and maintain it well, much like any previous version of Windows). It is, I guess, more "virus" prone, as most all virus programmers aim at Windows and what it stands for to them...I will have to say that I've never seen a Linux/UNIX virus, and Linux is touted as being virus free, though someone could very well write one for it I suppose.

Furthermore, SuSE does contain a similar search capability, especially when you run the KDE Window manager in X11.

Decisions, decisions...I think I'll just keep trying to condition myself to both OSes.