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Heather: Windows Equivalence on Linux

You can read my philosophy, what some might call methodology, about the comparison, or just jump down to the details.

One thing I've noticed in several of SVLUG's Installfests is the appearance of a fairly common question:

I'm familiar with MS Windows... how is this similar? Show me what I'm used to, but in Linux.

Now, I have to admit that since one of the local computer shows started inviting us to do Installfests as one of the booth spaces, that we have a lot more opportunity to encounter folks who do not already know what Linux is, and therefore have their own ideas of what they want in a system. In fact, they may be at the show to buy their first computer, after comparing a bunch of them at a big show. Our visitors have probably seen a few ads about computers, though.

Many Linux'ers unfortunately don't want to even talk about Windows, much less compare them... and are perfectly aware that comparing them without understanding what the visitor really wants doesn't make much sense. To find out what sort of comparison they want with MSwin requires continuing to talk about it.

Unlike my brethren, I don't mind talking about Windows. I used to support customizing software for it. I used to support utility software for it. Say what you like about a geeky college dropout with an inferiority complex but big cujones and lots of marketing savvy... you know who I mean... he has made the interface of the Xerox Star a bright moment in hostory. "Everyone" (as defined by the trade press) loves those little icons and menubars.

On to the goodies! I have a laptop I purchased recently so I could work while at SF conventions and coffee shops. It happens to have come with MSwin, and a handful of extra toys provided by IBM. Basically, it arrived ready to use. So, if I rephrase the "comparison" to:

What would it take, on a Linux box, to have the same features as I saw when I received this machine?

...pure marketing... but a worthy question, because as Linux grows past its technical early adopters, the non-technical early adopters, who are willing to try the leading edge but just want to use working systems, will want to know if it's ready for them yet.

The Comparison

Subjective impressions of "faster" are based on usage of a VARstation with a Pentium II CPU and 64 MB of memory. It came preloaded with Win95 and RedHat Linux, but I haven't used the Windows side in a while (I broke it :( ) and the Linux has been updated twice. So your mileage may vary!

The OS was preloaded -- I didn't need to install it myself. There are plenty of companies who will preload a hard drive with your desired distribution of Linux. Some will sell you the whole system, which is nice because at least you know the hardware all works together under Linux. Do any sell laptops? Good question!

When I turn the box on, it does a few graphics, then reads its startup files, and launches Windows. Knowing MSwin as deeply as I do, I know perfectly well that there are non-graphical things that are going on before Windows gets going... they're just pretty fast these days.

Wonder which files in Linux' startup are like the MS ones?

Once you're up and running, you login to use your system. In fact, on a Linux box, lots of people can be logged in, and you could login to it several times to keep personal tasks seperate. Prompts that are not doing anything at any particular time (they're waiting for you to type on them) will be put to sleep, saving CPU (and possibly memory, as they can be swapped out easily) for the important tasks you are working on.

There's a nice GUI frontend for X-windows called Fvwm95. You guessed it; it looks an awful lot like the Win95 interface. Prefer a Mac or a Next interface? Use MLWM or AfterStep instead. I haven't tried Enlightenment, but I've heard you can spend hours customizing it.

Of course it comes with applications... lots of them... what good is a computer without programs to run?

(more to come...)