Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ubuntu Linux Vs. Windows Vista: The Battle For Your Desktop

To be honest, there's a lot about Ubuntu that impresses me. The out-of-the-box software available with the OS is well-chosen, and the Ubuntu community folks have made a good effort to support the vast majority of the things people do with their PCs. The fact that Ubuntu is free is of course another big motivator, especially if you've already blown your budget for a PC on hardware alone.

But there's at least as much about Ubuntu that I find disheartening or frustrating. There are still too many places where you have to drop to a command line and type in a fairly unintuitive set of commands to get something done, or edit a config file, or -- worst of all -- download and compile source code. For a beginner, this last is the kiss of death, because if compiling code fails, a beginner will almost certainly have no idea what to do next.

To be scrupulously fair, the situation isn't always much better in Windows: Most people find the idea of spelunking the Registry to be about as unappealing -- although the Registry does enforce at least some degree of consistency in the way configuration data is stored.

Comment ...

I think the idea of the article is great: An objective comparison of Vista and Ubuntu. However, I think the author fell short and had some significant biases. Before I mention the specific judgements made by the author, I'd like to point out some more subtle indications of bias. First, discussing Ubuntu features as 'Windows-like" and not describing some Windows features as (Ubuntu-like) demonstrates a bias. Another subtlety is the use of the phrase "elegant". Normally what is implied is a simplicity and intuitiveness. However, if somebody has spent their whole life using Windows--and most have--then Windows features will often seem more intuitive! True, there are objective standards of intuitive user interfaces, but it is very hard to assess by individuals because of their experience. It is sort of like and American going to England and claiming that driving on the left is less intuitive than driving on the right. It may be true, but it is very hard to accept that there is no bias as the American has spent their whole life driving on the right and has been driving on the left for only one week while on vacation in London! He is in a foreign country, doesn't know his way around, like he does for most of his driving at home, and is naturally frustrated because of it. This is not exactly the best posture to make "objective" judgements. At least the author pointed out in the beginning that, despite every effort to be open-minded, he is slanted towards Vista. Nonetheless, it is misleading to present an article in an objective tone, when it isn't at all objective.

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