Useful Stuff to Know » article » Windows vs Linux vs Mac OS X » Feb 10, 04:00 PM

Windows vs Linux vs Mac OS X

The debate boils down to this.

Windows

Windows is mainstream, runs on cheap hardware, and has great multitasking. Therefore it’s great for office and school work, gaming, and everyday use.

However, Windows computers too easily become slow over memory leaks, corrupted over registry issues, infected with viruses and trojans, and unstable when uninstallation of software also deletes critical files. It’s very common to have to reinstall the operating system periodically.

In other words, Windows is far from hassle or maintenance free, and those who don’t know computers, who therefore neglect maintenance or common sense protection, will find their computers useless in short time. I’m talking about technophobic moms and grannies. Then they have to pay someone to fix it.

Therefore, in the hands of inexperienced users, Windows computers may be cheaper to buy, but they cost more to maintain. That is, unless you happen to be their son or good friend then you’re obligated to spend hours on their crappy windows machine fixing it for free.

Linux

Linux is free and also runs great on cheap hardware, and overall is more stable than Windows. But you have to be good with computers and familiar with the command line to customize, optimize, and securitize it into being as productive an environment as Windows or OS X.

Otherwise, inexperienced users will be heavily limited by the dearth and shoddiness of the basic applications available via one-click-installation. I’m talking about Ubuntu Linux here. The other Linux distros aren’t suitable for inexperienced users at all.

Thus Linux is suitable for only two types of people: programmer types who enjoy the fruits of hours of command-line tweaking and optimization, and inexperienced users who don’t need much beyond a few basic generic apps available via the one-click installer. If you need specialized software for audio, video, or graphics production then you’re out of luck; Linux offerings in those areas simply aren’t as slick, capable, or accepting of third party plugins as Windows and Mac software.

Windows users who think they can just switch over to Linux and do as much as easily, will be disappointed. Work is required to get there, and that’s not something that will fly with mom or grandpa or the average users who gets frustrated with having to dig around the guts of their operating system. But if they have a friend or relative who loves that kind of work, and if they don’t need to do much with their computers, then a Linux system would suit them fine.

OS X

Out of the box, Apple’s OS X is more stable and secure than Windows, easier to use than Linux, relatively maintenance free, and has better visual design than both. It’s meant for people who just want a computer that works day after day, smoothly, quickly, efficiently, and quietly, with minimal time spent on setup, tweaking, and maintenance.

On the downside, it’s not as customizable as Windows or Linux. Also, it only runs on Apple hardware, which is expensive. It can indeed be unofficially installed on certain PC systems, but at the cost of many hours spent on command line configuration, driver hunting, patching, and then the possibility of missing functions like wake-from-sleep or ethernet/wireless connectivity, and the risk of everything going up in flames (figuratively) when you install an OS update that breaks everything for which no patches are yet available. It’s risky and a hassle.

OS X is therefore ideal for those who don’t mind spending extra for a slicker and easier computing experience. There are a few things Windows does way better than OS X, mainly multitasking. The taskbar in Windows is superior to the Dock/Expose/Mission-Control system in OS X; true to its name, in Windows it takes fewer thoughts and clicks or keystroke combinations to identify a window and move to it. It sucks having ten text files open and five tabs loaded in a single browser, and hitting the Expose key and having to hunt for what you need.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if I were a mainstream user on a budget or a gamer running the latest hardware, I would stick with Windows. If I were a programmer who enjoys tweaking my computer into a finely honed machine, I would choose Linux. And if I just wanted to use my computer without having to screw with it all the time to keep it running, and if I could afford it, I would choose OS X. Each has their advantages.

Myself, I have chosen OS X because for writing, graphic design, music production, and internet research it is ideal. My Mac Mini computer never has to be shut down or restarted except when updating the operating system (uptime of months), wakes instantly from sleep, doesn’t slow down if not restarted for a while, doesn’t get viruses, works problem-free with my audio recording peripherals, doesn’t have a corruptible registry, needs no defragging, and only rarely requires downloading drivers since most are built in. Its my reliable “don’t have to mess with it” computer. And it only consumes 25 watts for a desktop and is the size of a book.

But my Mac would not be suitable for really heavy processor-intensive work like time-constrained software compiling, heavy video editing, or cutting edge gaming. For that, one would be better off spending the cash on the high power innards of a PC desktop and forego the icing on the cake delivered by OS X.