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Choosing an OS

04/25/05 | by [mail] | Categories: computer/tech

I'm planning on hosting some websites on the server running in my back room at home. If I do that, then I'm going to have to stop using it as my desktop workstation. That means that I'm in the market for a new computer. At the moment I'm really torn about what operating system I want on my new computer. I've been using Linux at home for a few months now, but a Mac would be nice for doing more multimedia. And there's always Windows, too. So, I'm going to do some thinking out loud (er . . . in writing) and I would love to hear what you think.

The first question that needs to be asked: What am I going to do with my new computer?

  • Regular websurfing
  • Web design
  • Digital photography and a little graphic design
  • Maybe some gaming
  • Audio production
  • Video editing (maybe)

Here are the factors that are going to come into play: Cost, hardware compatibility, available software, ease of use and security.

Linux is the clear winner here. The OS itself is free (Ubuntu is my distro of choice) and almost all the applications you can get for Linux are free. Windows would come in second. The OS comes bundled with a new computer, but it does add something to the cost. There are some free apps for Windows, but commercial programs are the norm. Apple is the worst in terms of cost. You can only get the OS by buying a computer from Apple, and they are notoriously expensive. Mac OS X does come with iLife, a very cool suite of software. Windows and Mac OS charge money for upgrades, so there's more than just the one-time cost to consider. If I pay $200 for Windows XP today, will I be paying another $150 for Longhorn next year? Like I said, Linux wins this round.

Windows, which works with just about anything, would have to be the winner here. If I shopped carefully I could build a computer that works fine under Linux. The printer would be the tough part. I have two printers at my house now, and neither of them has drivers for Linux. A Mac requires Apple hardware.

Available Software
This is a tough one. It really needs to be broken down into some sub-categories: multimedia, gaming and everything else.

The Mac wins here. Right out of the box you have some cool tools for creating audio (Garage Band) and video (iMovie). And it would just work. I don't have a video camera now, but I could be confident in plugging one in and being able to edit video without a lot of trouble. Most of the good podcasters are using Macs to create their shows. Windows can do most of the same stuff, but it requires you to buy some software. (The only bundled software that MS has added to Windows since version 3.1 is a free trial of AOL). Linux is a big unknown here. There are free programs available for all of this stuff, but I'm not sure if it would Just Work. My current soundcard won't record from a mic in Linux. If I go with Linux I can't be sure whether a video camera would work with it. On the other hand, the coolest drum machine program I've ever used is Hydrogen, a free Linux app.

Not much to say here. Game companies make versions for Windows and that's about it. I've tried running Starcraft under WINE, a Windows emulator. It's supposed to work, but I've never got it to. But, I don't do that much gaming and when I do go to a LAN party it's not that hard to find an extra machine.

Everything Else
Then there are always those programs that come up randomly. Shockwave animations won't work in Firefox under Linux. Gcompris, a kids' game that Emma loves, is built for Linux. But I can do 90% of what I want to do in Linux using Firefox, GIMP, Skype, Audacity and Bash.

Ease of Use
This category should probably go to the Mac. Things just work in a Mac. Linux is harder to use in many cases. When I plug in my card reader or my thumb drive, does it just show up as a drive? Wouldn't that be nice. I have to go to the command line and try to find out what /dev label it was given by the kernel, then I have to issue a command to mount it in my filesystem. Only then can I use the device. Windows is getting good at this kind of thing, but Windows annoys me in so many other ways that I can't really call it easy to use.

I suppose that Mac and Linux tie for first and Windows finishes a very distant third place. I'm so sick of worms, viruses, spyware and adware. My Windows machine at work runs pretty clean, but it takes a lot of work. Everyday I'm updating antivirus software, scanning, checking for Windows updates, etc. Linux and Mac are both practically virus-free.

So, I'm very torn. I haven't decided whether I want a laptop or a desktop, either. The Mac seems like a good choice, except that it costs more and I have virtually no experience with the Mac OS. I would love to hear what you think about any of this.



That is a tough choice. For myself, I wnat to game and I don’t really do all that much with multimedia.

I would problably go with a Lunix / Windows system. Go with a dual boot setup. If you have enough space on the HD you can get the best of two out of three worlds. Costs are the same as the straight windows setup, although you need more HD space. With your linux proficiency I think you can manage such a set up and actually get something out of linux.

To me tha Mac seems like a novelty.

Honzo [Visitor]http://hundiejo.com04/25/05 @ 15:32
[Member]  http://www.brendoman.com/04/25/05 @ 22:17

I have used other people’s Mac occasionally. From talking with the owners they do seem to be very well made and the software right up to the OS is top notch. However, I am a creature of my habitat and I think I would get more use out of a windows machine. I have grown out of the standard windows fanboy to where I resect Macs, they are just not suited to my needs as of yet, that I know of.

[Member]  http://hundiejo.com04/25/05 @ 23:53
[Member]  http://www.brendoman.com/04/26/05 @ 07:55

You’re right. Few switch back. I doubt I would. My iMac is about 3 years old. It’s crashed once, but it was probably my fault. It’s terribly easy to use, and the multimedia capabilities are phenomenal. I’ve made lots of DVD’s that a guy can be proud of. The only reason I would buy a Windows/Linus machine would be for (1) gaming, or (2) because I want a laptop. Mac laptops aren’t worth the price, in my opinion. My only complaint about the Mac is that the file system is a bit confusing. When I had my massive AMD-K6 Pentium 200 mHz (which is now in your hands…and I don’t think I ever got back to you about how you can totally wipe the hard drive…sorry), if I wanted to go into the file system and view the printer drivers or something, I could easily find them. On my Mac, I don’t even know where my cached Internet files are. And don’t get me started about the printer drivers. Other than that, it’s a top-notch machine. But you probably knew how I felt.

Tim [Visitor]04/26/05 @ 21:53


Tim [Visitor]04/26/05 @ 21:53

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