Two months ago, I wanted to compare Windows XP to Ubuntu Linux in terms of applications performance. I thought that since most of Linux programs are cross-platform and available for Windows, it could be a good idea to see how only platform change can affect the performance of a particular application. One of my reasons was also to verify whether or not Linux is capable of getting the most out of new hardware technologies. However, I only had a Pentium 4 HT machine, and even though I went ahead with the test, I knew it was not going to answer that.
A lot has happened since; Ubuntu 8.04 came out, and I was happy with it. Microsoft finalized their third service pack for Windows XP, and best of all I upgraded my PC with an AMD Athlon64 X2 5600+ CPU, 2GB DDR2-800 RAM and a GeForce 8600GT VGA card.
I decided to test again, especially after I read in the news that Microsoft has made clear its intention to take on Linux in the low-end computers market. Microsoft will exclusively rely on Windows XP for that purpose, cutting down its price by more than a half, and building on the extreme popularity of the 7-years-old operating system.
Computer working environments are pretty similar to the species on this planet. One can see ancient species, that have survived millions of years, living along some fairly-recent ones like humans. The ancient of working environments would be the famed CLI (Command Line Interface) that uses typed text to communicate with the computer, while the modern, today, is the GUI (Graphical User Interface) where there are buttons, windows, mouse pointers and clicks.
There is, surprisingly, a heated debate between each interface’s supporters. CLI pundits are usually vocal and so determined in such debates. They argue that CLI’s are more direct, powerful, safer, cleaner and more reliable than GUI’s. They suggest that using a CLI is simply like the text-chatting that we do all the time. Of course, I would say: yes, but it’s like chatting to a very strict English teacher: zero-tolerance to all mistakes in grammar and spelling. Elsewhere, GUI users (the most of us) don’t even imagine how it is possible that a CLI can be better than all these nice buttons, colourful icons and easy-to-follow informative boxes. CLI can be very intimidating for new users.
Two weeks ago, I failed a patience test when I couldn’t wait for the final version of Ubuntu and installed the Release Candidate of the free operating system. Ubuntu 8.04 LTS, dubbed as Hardy Heron, has been treated with unmatched enthusiasm by Linux and Open Source software supporters. It seems as if Ubuntu fans (myself included) wanted the new version to be a winner in a season where new versions of all major operating systems have been thrown in to compete for the best OS title. Linux, of course, has more than one candidate in the race. OpenSUSE, Fedora, Mandriva and other derivatives are all geared up with milestone releases over the last and the coming few months, but Ubuntu is undoubtedly the reigning champion in terms of popularity among all Linux variants.
I’ve been using Linux on and off for about 7 years. I am not a programmer or a hacking enthusiast, and the only reason for which I tried Linux was the extraordinary enthusiasm and loyalty of Linux hardcore users. I’ve never seen a product that can convert every user into an advocate apart from Linux, and I kept telling myself that it must be so good to deserve such treatment.
However, with my little experience and little patience, I couldn’t keep any Linux installation for more than a few weeks. I had so many problems which I couldn’t solve by myself and, most of all, trial-and-error method of learning how to master and customize Linux was often disastrous.