Today ninety-five percent of home computing is under Microsoft Windows based software. This staggering figure gives the impression that Windows is the only stable operating system on the market. The truth is that Windows is not the fastest or the most stable operating system. What other options do users have? The alternative to the costly world of Windows software is called Linux. Linus Torvalds created the Linux operating system in the early 1990’s hoping it would bring about a revolution within the software industry. To date things have not changed rapidly, but they are beginning to inch forward. Many believe Linux is the answer to our home computing needs; performing well in all of the factors that choosing an operating system includes: cost, reliability, and, of coarse, the availability of applications within that software.
One factor when comparing operating systems is the cost itself and the cost of the programs that run within it. Windows software is on average very expensive. Programs that run within Windows often cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars, while Linux software is free for the most part. To understand this you must first understand that all programs run on source code, or sets of instructions used to navigate and utilize computer resources. Windows chooses to keep their source code private, while Linux offers source code free to the public. What does this mean to you? It means that for the most part Linux software is free. A lot of the same people writing programs for Windows based software write Linux based software as well. As the world becomes more dependant upon computers in our daily lives the cost of the software we use will become much more prevalent.
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The second, and probably most important factor, is the reliability of the software your computer runs on. Windows is quite a large operating system, and often allocates computer resources at an alarming rate. Windows tends to slow down not only the memory, but at times the processor as well. Linux on the other hand, utilizes a computer in a way that minimizes both memory and processor usage giving your computer speed. Speed is one of the main factors advocates of Linux use to promote it. The stability of the operating system comes directly from its’ clean and organized use of memory. Many people argue that Linux has its’ problems, but in reality most of the problems caused by Linux are due to either user error and/or a hardware manufacturers’ preference. As for the security of the two operating systems; we all know that Windows has serious security problems imbedded within the program, where as breakthroughs in Linux security have offered hope to the personal privacy of it’s users.
The third factor in debating between operating systems is the availability of applications to run under that system. Windows does have a plethora of software to choose from, as it should being the most popular operating system for the greater part of twenty years. One downfall is that many Windows based programs require serial numbers and licenses that are a hassle to acquire and install. Linux on the other hand is open source and a multitude of programs are published every day on the Internet. On average most Linux programs are shareware and can be downloaded for free. Although software for Linux is limited at the moment as programmers and consumers grow tired of overpriced Microsoft products and related Windows programs the software base for Linux should be come increasingly larger.
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When looking to the future no one believes Windows will just disappear. The fact is Windows will continue to be the most dominate operating system in the near future, but many believe Linux is a stepping-stone to our future within the software industry. As Linux popularity increases cost, reliability, and availability will likely push it to the forefront of the software market, but only time will tell. Will the peasants overthrow the evil King? Or will Bill Gates keep his thrown.