The Windows V. Linux Verdict

If I want to put somebody in a cubicle today, and have them be productive tomorrow, I'll take Windows...troubles and all.

By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
Sm@rt Reseller

November 1, 1999

I've been accused of being a linux bigot by Windows fans, and Linux public opinion has charged me with being a Microsoft lackey. It's nice to know everyone agrees.

The truth is, I call them the way I see them. Think of me as an umpire at a baseball game, and you've got me pretty well pegged. Now, I like to think of myself as being a fair umpire. I was a "player" in the '80s, doing everything from C programming to system analysis to large-scale system administration for every operating system known to man. Since then, I've been a hands-on technology writer, using everything from NeXTStations to my still-functioning KayPro II CP/M machine to today's hottest Pentiums. In short, you can disagree with my calls, but never tell me I don't know the game. I do.

What do I run at my own home base? Many things. To accompany my two dozen plus computers, I've got BSD/OS, CP/M-80, Linux, MacOS, NetWare 5, NT, and Windows 3.1 and up. Hey, if you want to play in the big leagues, you've gotta know your stuff.

But, what would I run if I had to do this as a business? As resellers know, that's actually a trick question. Tell me what the business is, and I'll tell you what I'd run.

Personally, if I were in charge of a small to midsize network for general business use, I'd use Caldera Linux 2.3 on the servers, and Windows NT and 98 on the workstations. See how easy it is to get into trouble with both sides?

Linux runs fast and strong and, for me--with a lot of history in Unix boxes--is much easier to administer. It's also cheaper than my second and third choices, NetWare and Solaris. As for NT, well, you see...umm...NT crashes--a lot.

So, why am I running NT and the far more unstable 98 on the desktop? For applications.

Yes, Linux, via Unix, has tons of applications. Personally, I still think vi is tied with WordStar for best word processor of all time. I use WordPerfect 8 on Linux; I like StarOffice 5.1 a lot; and, I'm very pleased with what I've seen of the beta Corel Linux and Corel Office applications.

Yet, even given Linux's myriad applications, for end users on Windows, I'm much more likely to have multiple choices for my application needs.

Better still, no matter what I pick, most of my office users will have a low- to zero-learning curve. To me, training is a necessary evil. Every minute that my theoretical boss's employees spend learning how to use the right mouse button with a new application is a minute wasted.

No question about it, Windows has lots of broken panes. I know; I spend way too much of my time finding new and "interesting" problems. But, if I want to put somebody in a cubicle today, and have them be productive tomorrow, I'll take Windows...troubles and all.

Copyright 1999