In early 1998, I was looking at re-installing Windows 95 for the third time. Granted, I stress computers more than the average user, but this was getting old. I had been playing around with Linux since early 1995 and it looked like a good time to use it as my primary desktop.
I already knew how to install and configure Linux, but I had never used it as a desktop. I found plenty of books on Linux configuration, a few on using it as a server, but nothing on using it as a desktop. Instead I had to scour the Internet for useful information. What I have tried to do for this book is compile what I have learned over the past two years. Hopefully, this will save you the time and frustration of finding it yourselves.
So, how does Linux compare to Windows? As with anything else, each one has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Windows is king of the desktop for good reason. It has a polished interface and more end-user applications than any other operating system. It is also pre-installed on most new PCs, making it an easy, safe choice for most PCs. These factors combine to give Windows about 90% of the desktop market.
Linux is based on UNIX and inherits its security and stability from it. Linux is the most popular choice for public Web servers and it also holds about 25% of the small server market. It is also free (or nearly so) and comes packed with lots of useful tools for programming and server management.
These distinctions aren't permanent, however. Several groups are working on polishing Linux's interface. There is also a rush to develop more end-user applications for Linux. Large PC makers such as Dell, Compaq, and IBM are starting to offer Linux pre-installed on PCs.
While the market for Linux is comparatively small, Linux grew from less than 1% of the desktop market in 1998 to about 4% in 1999. This is amazing considering the Apple Macintosh, which has been around for 15 years, is holding at 5% of the desktop market.
Windows is also working to gain a foothold in the traditional strengths of the UNIX (and Linux) market: security, stability, and scalability. Microsoft put billions of dollars into the recently released Windows 2000 to address these issues. While the jury is still out on whether it succeeded, early reports say that Windows 2000 is much improved over earlier versions of Windows in these areas.
There are also many other reasons for choosing an operating system. They can often draw fanatical devotion (just ask a dedicated MacIntosh user). Despite (or maybe because of) its success, Microsoft has some very dedicated enemies. Just search the Internet for "Satan" or "Antichrist" and you will be surprised how many anti-Microsoft sites you hit. The Microsoft Antitrust case was also pushed forward by some dedicated foes. Some users try Linux as an alternative to Windows. It may not be the best way to choose an operating system, but never discount the power of fanatical devotion.
Such devotion is not necessary. Linux and Windows can peacefully coexist on the same computer. It is even possible to run Linux and Windows at the same time! The whole first section of this book is devoted to making coexistence as easy as possible.
The middle section is dedicated to finding useful applications for your Linux systems. Sometimes the same application is available for both Linux and Windows; in other cases, equivalent applications are available; and in a few cases, the applications are only available for Windows. The good news is that most people can do everything they need to do with either Linux or Windows.
The last section deals with networking. This is a rather advanced topic, but networking is moving from the Fortune 500 into homes and small businesses at a rapid rate. Networking is getting inexpensive enough to offer the same advantages that large businesses have long enjoyed: sharing files, printers, and Internet connections. The increasing use of high-speed Internet connections in the home will continue to drive up demand for home networking.
Fortunately, both Linux and Windows have programs that allow easy connection to each other. Samba allows Linux to act as a Windows file server. Additionally, the NFS and LPD programs allow Windows to use Linux's native protocols.
So which is better, Linux or Windows? That is like asking whether a car or truck is better. They are built for different purposes. Windows plays the traditional role of the car; it is more polished and aimed at the mass market. Linux plays the traditional role of a truck; it is durable and intended to be used as a work vehicle. But like cars and trucks, the roles are starting to overlap. Linux is becoming more polished and easier to use and Windows is concentrating more on security and stability. Windows is still the choice for most users' desktops, but it is no longer the only choice. As you will see in this book, Linux is a solid choice for a server and a viable alternative in the desktop market.From the Back Cover:
The complete solutions guide for every Linux/Windows system administrator!
Running Linux and Windows in the same environment? Here's the comprehensive, up-to-the-minute solutions guide you've been searching for!
In Integrating Linux and Windows, top consultant Mike McCune brings together hundreds of solutions for the problems that Linux/Windows system administrators encounter most often. McCune focuses on the critical interoperability issues real businesses face: networking, program/data compatibility, dual-boot systems, and more. You'll discover exactly how to:
For anyone running both Linux and Windows, McCune delivers honest and objective explanations of all your integration options, plus realistic, proven solutions you won't find anywhere else. This book will help you keep your users happy, your costs under control, and your sanity intact!
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