General Question

lillylithium's avatar

Windows or Linux?

Asked by lillylithium (152 points ) July 22nd, 2009

I am planning to purchase a new laptop very soon, and although I love XP, I’m not a big fan of Vista. However, I have no idea how Linux works, or whether programs meant for Windows will still work with Linux. HELP! Tell me what you know about Linux.

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59 Answers

J0E's avatar

I prefer Linux, but I am forced to use Windows for school.

P.S. if you want to try Linux, start with this distro: Linux Mint

Ivan's avatar

What sort of programs do you use on a daily basis?

monsoon's avatar

Linux is okay, but if you’re not super tech savvy, it can be difficult to install programs if that’s a big worry for you. Also, the computer you’re buying will 99% likely come with windows, so you can try out vista, and if you don’t like it, install Linux, and if you don’t like that, reinstall windows.

Also, Windows 7 is coming out soon, and if you buy a computer from Best Buy (and maybe other retailers) you get a free upgrade when it comes out. Only with Vista home premium or above though, I think. So if you end up disliking both, that’s around the corner later this year.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

If you’re not already familiar with linux, I wouldn’t recommend it for a laptop.

Ivan's avatar

@monsoon

Linux will recognize other installed operating systems automatically, allowing you to install Linux on a separate partition. This would let her have both Windows and Linux installed on the same machine. Alternative, you could use Wubi to install Ubuntu Linux within Windows.

ESV's avatar

try ubuntu it’s free and it will partition with windows nicely. :)

lillylithium's avatar

@Ivan I use Photoshop, bittorent, vlc media player, internet, word processing (usually office 2003), as well as play several pc games. I have no idea if ANY of them will be compatible with Linux.

@monsoon I am fairly tech-savvy, and have tried both Vista and Windows 7, but don’t like either of them very much.

Ivan's avatar

Also, don’t let people tell you that it’s too difficult to use or that you need to be really tech savvy to use it. Up until about 3 or 4 years ago, this was true. However, in recent years, Linux has made incredible progress in making itself usable on the desktop for every-day users. Anyone who hasn’t used a modern distribution wouldn’t know that. In it’s current state, Linux is easier to install than Windows, more things will work out of the box than in Windows, and it’s easier to install software than it is in Windows.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Why dont you just dual boot it with xp and ubuntu? Best of both worlds and whatnot :P

J0E's avatar

Ivan is totally right, people who tell you Linux is complicated obviously haven’t used it recently. If people could get over that myth Linux would be right up there with PC and Mac.

monsoon's avatar

@Ivan, If she’s asking this question, she probably wouldn’t want to deal with/benefit from partitioning her drive.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@monsoon “Linux is okay, but if you’re not super tech savvy, it can be difficult to install programs ” WRONG!

i dont get whats hard about typing in terminal “sudo apt-get install (program name)” and then linux goes off finds the damn program and installs it for you. Much harder than windows for sure, with all the clicking next, agreeing to various things and telling it where to install, and then 9 out of 10 times having to reboot your computer.

Ivan's avatar

Well, Photoshop won’t work natively in Linux. There is a free alternative called GIMP. It’s just as powerful as Photoshop, but it’s a little less flashy and the interface isn’t as intuitive.

Ubuntu Linux comes pre-installed with a capable bit torrent client. There are other, more feature-rich programs available for download.

VLC is cross-platform, it will work with Linux.

Ubuntu comes pre-installed with Firefox.

Ubuntu comes pre-installed with Open Office, a free office suite comparable to Microsoft Office. It is fully compatible with Microsoft file formats.

As for PC games, you will have difficulty getting them running. Games are made for Windows, and Windows programs do not run natively in Linux. The Wine software project attempts to allow you to run Windows programs on Linux, but they don’t always run very well. You should search that site for any games you will be wanting to play to see how they run with Wine.

J0E's avatar

[Graphic design student says] I prefer GIMP over photoshop. It does just as much and it’s so similar that you can use PS tutorials to help you. plus it’s free!

Ivan's avatar

@monsoon

“Dealing with” partitions on the Ubuntu Live CD is as difficult as clicking “yes” when it asks you if you want to save Windows and then specifying how much space you want to give it.

@uberbatman

The package manager frontend makes it even easier than that. Ubuntu comes with an “Add/Remove Programs” app that gives you a very nice GUI for installing software. Mint comes with an even better one.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@Ivan true, synaptic packet manager is nice for searching for programs, but if you know what your looking for, i prefer terminal.

I’ve yet to play around with mint, ill have to try it out sometime.

J0E's avatar

In Mint you pretty much get an “App Store” for programs, it’s ridiculously easy.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@lillylithium If you don’t understand what these guys are talking about, Linux is not the way to go. If you do, you’ll probably be alright.

The main issue with Linux on a laptop will be in finding drivers for your system devices.

If you want to go back to Windows after trying Linux, you can always use the restore CD that comes with the laptop to install windows back to factory default settings.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic i defintely agree with you on the driver issue with laptops and linux. I wanted to kill myself in the search for proper audio drivers for the speaker board thingy on my laptop. >_<

Ivan's avatar

It’s doubtful that you will have any driver issues. If you do, you can consult the extensive and up-to-date documentation that exists online.

Again, I would recommend dual-booting Linux and Windows. You can use the Windows partition as a back up or for game playing. Eventually, you will get used to Linux.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@uberbatman For real. So many laptop manufacturers use cheap obscure hardware that few have written linux drivers for. For someone who just wants to install an OS and go to town, they probably aren’t going to be big on browsing forums looking for these.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@Ivan thats what i did with mine until i got used to linux and found all the drivers. Id use windows when i “needed to get something done” and then in my free time id play around with linux and slowly learn it and browse the forums until i found the drivers i needed. Once i got it all set up though, i really havent had to do much and i honestly find it quite a bit easier to use than windows lol.

minus the games and whatnot :P

Ivan's avatar

@uberbatman

Yeah, the games are the only thing that might convince me to install a Windows partition. I got Oblivion running in Wine, and I’m currently looking into installing Bioshock, but for the most part my games are just collecting dust.

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monsoon's avatar

What don’t I understand?

Ivan's avatar

@monsoon

Ugly? You can make Linux look however you want. If Linux is ugly, it’s because you made it ugly. And I’m glad you admit that the only reason you prefer one OS over another is because it’s prettier.

As per your “terminal” comment…. At this point, even if you’re using Ubuntu 8.04 (little over a year old), you’re using an out-dated operating system. Linux progresses. You don’t have to use the terminal in Linux any more than you do in OSX. You can use the terminal if you want, but you never really have to.

monsoon's avatar

1. I don’t use linux, because I don’t like it, so I’m not using any version or another.

2. Linux and Mac are very Similar, running off of BSD. I like the elegance of Mac. What’s wrong with that?

Ivan's avatar

@monsoon

1. My point was that you can’t judge Linux based on something you used years ago. Linux is no longer for geeks only.

2. Linux and Mac are both Unix-based operating systems. Perhaps Mac is more “elegant” than Linux out of the box, but you can make Linux as elegant as you want. The only limit is your imagination. On the contrary, Mac won’t let you change hardly anything. Oh, and Linux is free and Open Source.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@monsoon lol great reasons for not liking it. I can see how you put a lot of thought into that answer…. I also really dont know shit about the terminal, but i didnt think learning one command line is much and as ivan said, you can get by in linux without EVER opening up the terminal. As mentioned above, synaptic packet manager works even easier for getting programs.

and “I like the elegance of Mac.” that just makes me giggle on the inside.

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monsoon's avatar

My point:

Why are you guys so upset by me not liking Linux? It’s my money, my reasons. I don’t have a problem with you liking linux. None at all, knock yourself out. You guy like, agressively like Linux. Life’s too short. The question was: “Windows or Linux?” There’s my answer. Where are we? Fluther.

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Ivan's avatar

No ones upset. We are having a discussion and you made some faulty arguments. It wouldn’t be much of a discussion if I didn’t explain why I disagree.

Ivan's avatar

And by the way, if you’re so worried about “elegance”, you might want to check this” out. Take note that this is a year old.

J0E's avatar

The only thing that got me upset is your trying to help someone make a decision that you aren’t educated on.

Ivan's avatar

I like how there are no Windows supporters here.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

[Mod Says] Flame off. Lets try to be respectful.

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Ivan's avatar

No ones assuming you’re an idiot. We’re calling you out when you demonstrate that you don’t know much about Linux.

cwilbur's avatar

@lilylithium: the basic question you need to ask yourself is, what will you do when something goes wrong with your computer?

If you are technically savvy enough to figure out the problem and fix it yourself, or if you have a Linux-savvy friend who can, then Linux is worth trying. If you’re more likely to go to the helpdesk and expect them to fix it, Linux will cause you no end of problems. Regardless of any technical or aesthetic preferences, Linux is very much a minority platform, and if you actually admit to technical support staff that you’re using it, the response will almost always be, “Oh, we don’t support Linux.”

(And, as demonstrated here, one of the significant issues that Linux has is that its adherents like to get into geek pissing contests. You’ll have to find a way to live with that, too.)

Ivan's avatar

Linux doesn’t have some sort of help desk that you can just dump your machine off at, but it does have the most vibrant user community of any operating system. I went into Linux completely blind. I knew of Linux’s existence for about 3 days before I installed it, and I had no idea what I was doing. Yes, I had problems (most were of my own making), but without exception, simply typing “Ubuntu + <insert problem here>” into Google fixed it within an hour.

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N0name's avatar

If you ask me, wait for the windows 7 or just install the beta version. That’s what I did. It is working great and I have not encounter any problems till now. I have also tested Linux and besides his low demands for memory it’s not very useful if you don’t know what exactly are you going to use it for.

lillylithium's avatar

Ok, ok, everybody calm down. Didn’t mean to start a war here. I was just looking for some info. @Ivan Your comment about wubi was the best in the thread. I’m thinking about installing to my external drive (for space reasons) and just playing around on my own. Having people argue the merits of Linux vs. Windows isn’t really supplying me much information. The best way to go about this is to just try the wubi thing and play with it myself, run into and fix problems on my own, and decide whether I like Ubuntu or not. Thank you so much Ivan. Very helpful info. Great answer times 100. Which is not to say that no one else had anything useful to contribute, I just feel that learning on my own will be the most helpful in this matter.

Ivan's avatar

If you have any troubles, let me know.

My only word of advice is this: Linux is not Windows. Don’t expect it to be Windows, don’t desire it to be Windows, don’t get frustrated if something’s not like Windows.

lillylithium's avatar

@Ivan Thanks for the advice. Trust me, I DON’T want it to be Windows. I like XP only because it’s the OS I’ve used most in my life. But with both Vista and Windows 7, they’ve tried too hard to idiot-proof things, which only makes it harder on those of us who know what we’re doing. Everyone I know who went to school for computer-related degrees says that Linux is much better than Windows, and I trust them. I’d like to get the most out of the awesome laptop I intend to buy, rather than being frustrated because Windows is making my life harder than it needs to be. Lol.

Vincentt's avatar

Haha, I feared the answers here would turn out this way xD

Anyway, you can try either, but there’s one thing you need to remember: if you’re not used to it, you’re going to have to spend time learning to use it. You might also check whether you can still get it with XP :)

Another thing to realise is that, if you’re going with “Linux”, there are many versions of Linux (“distros”). People will want to tell you that the one they use is best suited for you (see the first answer). However, you shouldn’t let people’s personal preference influence whatever you choose – a good guideline is to go with the one most people like, since then there’s the highest change you’ll like it too. And that would be Ubuntu. Which you can install with Wubi, but that does entail some additional risk of it going wrong. The best option would be to buy a laptop that has it preinstalled, that way you’ll know it’ll work and it saves you time. See Dell’s website or system76.

Oh, yeah, and another thing: they say you don’t need to use the command line. That’s mostly true, but if something goes wrong and you’re asking for help online, you have to state that you don’t want to use the command line if possible. Otherwise people offering help mostly tell you to run a command when you can also do it with point-and-click :)

lillylithium's avatar

@Vincentt I have no problem running a command line if necessary. I got engaged to a computer man and have learned a lot from him. Also, XP is basically out of the question unless I spend twice as much as intended and get a custom built Clevo or Asus laptop. Most likely I am stuck with Vista or Windows 7, unless I can get Linux to do what I want. If Linux works for me, then Windows and I are through. If not, then Vista or Windows 7 will be my fallback. I’m planning on no less than 4 GB of RAM, and nothing before Vista can handle that much. Besides which, all the “new” laptops, excluding custom builds, will be running Vista, whether I like it or not. I am just hoping that Linux will give me the option of giving Microsoft the finger, because I hate the direction they’re going. Don’t know if that made sense, the sun is coming up and it’s my bedtime. Lol.

Vincentt's avatar

Well, in that case, good luck :)

It’s too bad that if you first try Ubuntu and only decide to buy Windows after you found out that it doesn’t suit you, you have to pay a lot more for Windows than when you get it together with the hardware… Now if you find out you like Ubuntu after you’ve bought the laptop with Windows, you’ll have spent that money for naught.

robmandu's avatar

Minor correction to an earlier quip. Linux and Mac OS X do not both run “off of BSD [Unix]”. Actually, neither one does.

They really do not share much of anything in terms of a common history or development. They are both simply different implementations of generalized UNIX concepts.

Not really germane to the overall discussion here… but I think it’s an interesting point.

Ivan's avatar

@Vincentt

I’d advise against buying one of those Dell laptops that come pre-installed with Ubuntu. I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories.

lillylithium's avatar

@Ivan I won’t buy a Dell. All I’ve heard is horror stories from people who bought Dell computers.

Ivan's avatar

Well supposedly the version of Ubuntu that comes with those computers is chocked full of bloatware, ads, and limitations that the normal version does not have.

Vincentt's avatar

@Ivan Really? What I heard about it was that is was a relief compared to other Dell hardware because it didn’t include all that crapware and such. It even has a custmized-by-Dell interface as I understand it.

Still, I haven’t tried it myself (not available in my country, too), but obviously preinstalled should be easier than installing yourself and you prevent yourself from paying for something you’re not going to use. But then again that probably doesn’t apply in your case.

lillylithium's avatar

@Ivan I’m trying to install Wubi as you recommended, but the install is taking forever. It says it has 11 hours remaining. Is it supposed to take so long?

Ivan's avatar

It’s downloading the Live CD image, so depending on your internet speed, it might take a long time (It’s ~750 MB). If you want, you can download the image separately via torrent and then just place it in the folder that it needs to go in.

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