Changes on the horizon?, Part 3

Dennis Faas's picture

Earlier, I reflected upon Microsoft's "software bloat" which has been driving the computer industry to develop improved hardware at a rapid pace (see: Part 1 | Part 2).

And the trend has no end in sight.

So what about the computer systems of yester-year? Will they continue to suffice when Microsoft Windows Vista is released the second-half of 2006?

Perhaps; perhaps not.

So the question becomes: is it worth upgrading the current system or buy new? Should you decide the latter, what will you do with the computer that's sitting on your desk?

To help put things into perspective, consider this:

As Windows, Linux has gone through upgrades and redesign through its inception. The key difference, however, is that the latest release of Linux will still work on that old '486 processor-based system you pushed into the corner years ago. Memory concerns? The latest release of Linux runs on 128MB of memory just fine. There are virtually no slowdowns and Linux is (and always will be) highly productive.

So why is that, you ask?

It all has to do with how the operating systems were developed. Windows was (and still is) developed from a monolithic approach. That is: bits and pieces of the operating system are not built to work independently. For example: hundreds of software engineers work on developing Windows file system support, its threading, and other features that are assembled into one, massive whole.

As a result, beta testing MS Windows has become a nightmare and the eradication of software bugs is a full time job. But what's worse is that the consumer pays dearly for all of this in the end as Windows is exploited time and time again by hackers, viruses, and malware threats.

Unlike Windows, Linux is not plagued with these problems -- at least, not on the same scale. The Linux kernel is separate from everything else, and that's because Linux is modular in design (rather than monolithic). Software integration has been established as standards are already in place.

So, to put it all together: each piece of a Linux system is independent of the rest of the system. In Windows, each part of the system depends on all the other parts. And like a house of cards: if one part fails, the whole thing collapses (as we see often with the 'Blue Screen of Death'). In Linux, if one part fails, the rest of the system keeps running and the failed process is restarted automatically.

The big question, though, is: "how hard is Linux to operate?"

There are major differences between Linux and Windows in this respect. Linux can certainly be challenging to administer, but there are dozens of web sites that offer well documented "how to's", and the process of administration is becoming more automated as time passes.

The biggest problem users face when choosing a Linux distribution is not the "how to do this", but "which Linux to get." And that's because there are well over a thousand different distributions of Linux out there.

So, are you itching to try Linux out for yourself?

Go to your closet, storage shed, basement -- or wherever you have stuffed your last "outdated" computer -- drag it out, dust it off, plug it in, and say, "Hello, old friend!" Install a copy of Linux and start learning about the other side of computing.

In an effort to help you decide which Linux is right for you, many distributions are available as "Live CD" systems. A "Live CD" does not install anything onto the computer and operates completely off the disc. Mind you, it's a lot slower to operate because everything runs from CD, but it will give you a good idea as to what the operating system looks like before you actually install it on your computer.

So why not try a few Linux distributions? Go hunting and find the one that best fits your needs. We, at Infopackets, have our favorites and I am sure, wherever you live, there is a group of Linux users that will happily extol the virtues of their favorite, too.

Remember: computing is supposed to be fun, so -- for Heaven's sake HAVE FUN!

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