21 Aug 2011

Non-Windows Operating Systems for the Beginner

Linux vs Mac vs Windows
Image by KobraSoft
Windows is by far the most commonly used operating system, with over 95% market share. Most computer users have used Windows operating systems exclusively throughout their lives, and may know very little about alternatives.
The next biggest operating system is Apple's OS X. One of the main differences between Windows and Apple is that Windows can be put and run on just about any computer, while the Apple operating system can only be run on Apple hardware. This means if you want to switch to the Apple OS, you have to buy an Apple computer.
The second most popular alternative to Windows is Linux. Linux is a free, open source operating system which can run on any system. It is redistributed in a number of different forms, the most common being the Ubuntu distribution. Linux has a comparatively small user base, and it has traditionally been considered difficult to use, however it has gotten better over time, and is fairly easy to install. Linux is supported by a large developer community, and it isn't hard to find help when you need it.

The Differences in Operating Systems

Over the recent decade or so, there has been some convergence of the operating system market. Several years ago, the three major operating systems - Windows, Mac, and Linux, were all very different, and had very steep learning curves. The modern versions, however, are relatively similar, and aren't nearly as hard to switch between. This is mostly a product of the Windows-ification of Mac and Linux, but Windows has also adopted some of the features of Mac in their latest iteration, Windows 7.

Getting Help for Switching

There is considerable documentation available for users who are switching between any operating system, and you can find lots great online articles, published books, and in-depth tutorials.
For switching from Windows to the Mac, you can buy a support plan from Apple which allows you to go in to their stores several times and get training sessions from their experienced employees. This is an especially good for less technically-savvy users.
Because Linux is open source and community, there isn't specifically anyone to go to for help. Ubuntu does offer tech support for a fee, which is one option to consider. They also have a very active developer community which participate in online forums, and you can get lots of help by asking questions there.
If you have decided to give Linux a try, there is a big choice of distributions available. Ubuntu which was mentioned above is most popular, but not the only. This blog is dedicated to reviews of different Linux distributions and can help you to navigate in the world of Linux.
When you decided which distribution to try, you can either download it for free and burn onto CD yourself, or you can also buy Linux CD from dedicated site. And CD will be dispatched to you wherever in the world you live.
Windows is by far the most used operating system, and for many people it works just fine. However, it is not necessarily the best, and you may find that you benefit from going to another operating system.

Miles Walker writes about getting the best car insurance quote over at Car Insurance Comparison .org. His recent review looked at Kentucky car insurance.

An update / upgrade is available for your [linux / windows / mac] computer...via stickycomics.com
Image by dullhunk


  1. Windows with over 95% Where do you get your figurers from at all. You need to do some real research and see what countries and governments have dropped windows Brazil, Russia China Mexico Denmark UK France Italy Spain Turkey

  2. I was rather taken aback to read that the operating systems are now similar, as a result of the "Windows-ification of Mac ....". Sounds like something Steve Balmer would write. I think it's rather the opposite, and Windows has become more Mac-like since the mid-80's.

  3. Both Linux and Windows try to emulate Mac graphical interface.

    I may be saying something stupid here, but I looks to me that even KDE emulates the Windows menu.

    So GUIs are all going maybe to the same place, well Unity and the new Gnome not.

    But what make the difference is what is below the surface.

    Both Mac and Linux lack of registry is in my opinion what makes both systems less prone to need re-installations every six months, something I really hate about Windows.

  4. Windows has always been a follower, not an innovator. It has majority market share because governments do not enforce anti-trust/anti-competitive laws that prevent bundling. The EU made a big fuss about "bundling" Internet Explorer with Windows, yet they turn a blind eye to OEMs bundling Windows with new PCs. Why is this? As a result, I have to battle to obtain a 'Windows Tax Refund' every time I purchase a new PC. It usually costs me much more obtaining a refund than the value of the refund (not to mention time and effort). It's ridiculous.

    Uphold the anti-trust (anti-bundling) laws in the EU. Give consumers a choice of OS, or better still, the option to purchase a PC without an OS.

  5. > "Windows is by far the most commonly used operating system, with over 95% market share."

    Stop right there- By far, it is not, and if you actually considered what an OS actually was, you just may understand why the statement is ludicrous. Nowadays, for every desktop system that an individual might have, they are just as likely to have other items around them controlled by a CPU which itself would run an operating system, which would far more often than not, not be Windows.

  6. You people are making me raise an eyebrow. I live in the realm of business software, ERP to be specific, and can assure you I don't have a single client running Linux on any server or workstation - PERIOD. And not for lack of trying on my part, either, since I am a huge Linux advocate and that is my OS of choice. The ERP software I consult for runs on Windows, however - so when in Rome, after all. Take a sampling of homes in any given community - out of 100 homes how many are you going to find running Linux? Pretty much zip - more like 1 in 1,000 maybe. I see it on both sides of the tracks - business and nonbusiness. Dark Duck's figures are pretty realistic, if not exactingly accurate. And where you will find Linux in strength will be in small pockets here and there, dotting the huge landscape where user's and businesses roam. He makes a good point, though. Most users today grew up with Windows and don't know anything else - and stick with what they are familiar, for good or bad. Ubuntu is a good cross over to help lead people onto the path of Linux. It is a great Windows replacement - that's what I use, and for apps that NEED Windows, I run a Windows VM on Ubuntu. I can blend both worlds, and aim to help others do the same. There is room for all types of software in this world, but education is what will help make Linux better known and more readily adopted by one and all. Right now if I say Linux to a business associate or friend, they think I have sneezed...!!! lol

  7. @ MAS

    I don't know what country you are in but in Portugal I can assure you that there is professional market for the ERP business. A friend of mine (more like a brother to me) developed a software in JAVA which is OS agnostic (inventore.pt). So he doesn't impose anything to its customers. However, when he explains the beneficts of using Linux he succeeds about 50% of the time. I've asked him to develop a ERP (adapted to the field I work for) so I could install it on my work, but he cannot do it due to the lack of time and being concentrated in his core business.

    As soon as I find a ERP that works on Linux that can give me the same functionality as the windows version, I would adopt it right away. I also have other examples of the Linux adoption in professional environments.

    As for the Linux share, I own a forum in the internet and installed an add-on so when someone put a message it would inform the OS used. Frequent users are just about 50 and from those I saw the following statistics: 12 were Linux users, 4 Mac, and the rest was Windows. By the way, the forum was about maxi scooters and has nothing to do with tech. Obviously in my home there are 5 PC and only 1 uses Windows exclusively, all the rest just were bought with Windows and lay there just in case (in my case turns out a waste of disk space but you never know). In my daughter school, students have netbooks dual booted with Win7 Pro (works miserably) and a Portuguese version of Mandriva. Her teacher never heard of it so she didn't bother to explain it to the students, however my daughter (and she's only 8) spoke about it and showed to the class how it worked (and how easy it was) after that she could not answer the absence of AV and that crapy software, so I joined the class to explain the benefits and downfalls of both OS. In result, most of her team mates decided to use the Linux version. Why? The main reason that they gave me was (remember all of them are 8 yrs old): Faster! As simple as that!

  8. @ Anonymous (18:51)
    I totally agree about the Win7 netbook install "working miserably"; putting even "Starter" on a netbook is plain dumb & certainly serves no real benefit to the user (one supplier I know of has reverted to selling them with XP, just to give their users something that doesn't hog the hardware). I compared two netbooks with the N570 CPU & 1GiB RAM, one running the default Win7 & the other installed with Ubuntu 10.10. After booting to a desktop, the Win7 one had 420MiB RAM (from 990MiB available (RAM shared with graphics)) left for user apps (enough to load a word processor app and browser), whilst the Ubuntu install WAS ONLY USING 280MiB (AND this was with a full 3D compiz desktop running 5 screens). Sure, you could shove 2GiB RAM into it and think you'd solve the Win7 memory problem. No! you wouldn't- the Win7 with 1GiB RAM was already consuming 1GB of a 2GB disk pagefile; the Ubuntu install wasn't using any. Throw 2GiB RAM into the Win7, and much of it would immediately be used by the OS, whereas with Ubuntu, you have over 80% RAM available for apps. Performance wise, it shows, and like I said, it's plain dumb. Throw slax, puppy or arch on it, and it truly flies.

    @Anonymous (02:34)
    I get where you're coming from, and totally agree. Hark back to the 90's when Bill Gates remarked on General Motors' vehicles and comparing them to computer development, and General Motors' response. Not just cars... there are cpus controlling TVs, monitors, cameras, fridges, coffee machines, air conditioners, UPS's, phones, facsimiles, stereos, watches, aircraft (thank God it's NOT Windows on an airliner), radar, shipping, cargo handling, farming equipment, elevators, microwaves, printers, digital radios, calculators, gym equipment, cycle odometers, pedometers, lab equipment, hospital theatre equipment (imagine a BSOD on a heart/lung machine or defribulator)...

  9. @Anonymous:
    >You need to do some real research and see what countries and governments have dropped windows Brazil, Russia China Mexico Denmark UK France Italy Spain Turkey
    Do you need to tell me what happens in Russia? I am Russian although live in the UK. There are significant difficulties in getting Linux and FOSS into Russian government and government organisations. Microsoft is lobbying very well.
    Please don't post something you have no idea about.

  10. @MAS and Anonymous:
    I totally agree with MAS.
    Anonymous, you probably have wrong understanding of what ERP is. It is not piece of software for 10-15 types of operations which one person can write in the freetime in the evening. It is very complex software which covers all types of enterprise life, from HR to materials management, from Finance to quality management.
    I am ERP consultant in my work time. To be precise, SAP consultant.
    Yes, server part of SAP supports Linux, Unix and Windows servers. I know examples of AIX, WinNT, RedHat, Debian installations.
    Formally, SAP offers Linux-based client for their system. This is Java-based piece of software which I hardly managed to find in obscure part of their portal. And it only officially supported (if 2-3 years without updates mean support at all) for 2 major distributions. I won't name them here.
    But if we make one step further, SAP Business Warehouse tool (OLAP reporting) only supports Microsoft Excel as platform. Because it largely uses Visual Basic functionality. There were some talks about OO.o support when OO.o lead developer came to work from Sun to SAP, but that only remained in air.
    Without support of this level of companies (like SAP, Oracle etc - and for obvious reasons I won't name Microsoft here though they have Axapta ERP), corporate clients simply can't change their platform from Windows to Linux. Bearing in mind how many people are working with this kind of software (hence OS) in the office, they would be very reluctant to change their OS at home. Unless they are enthusiasts like myself and MAS.

  11. So far I have tried Windows and Linux, but never use the Apple os since can only be used with products from Apple itself. and I think Windows and Linux more selected for use by most of users because most of softwares can support on it.

  12. @Info Tech:
    That's not 100% true about MacOS and Apple products. Search for term "hackintosh". ;-)
    I have never tried it myself, but know people who did.