Tech Talk

Permanent link to Windows vs. Linux Windows vs. Linux

Friday, October 5, 2001

Just for fun, I loaded a Dell Inspiron 7000 with Redhat Linux 7.1 before I upgraded it from Windows 98 to Windows 2000. It's a PII 300, 64MB RAM, 4GB disk.


I took Redhat's default Laptop configuration, adding only KDE. The graphical install is painless for a Windows guy like me, the only catch being that I had to create a swap partition before creating a big regular one. Some more help right here on this screen as to "what should I do" would be great, instead of referring to some manual I don't have.

It runs fine, works well. The Konqueror web browswer surprised me with how advanced it is. I tried to upgrade the included Netscape 4 to Netscape 6, and that's where I started having trouble. I could download the zipped installation files, but couldn't run anything to start the install! Clicking on the install icons did nothing. Finally, I read the readme, and found I had to run a command in the terminal - that's ridiculous. So it installs. Then I go to run it, and there isn't any new item on the K menu - I had to create it manually. So I open, and it prompts me to install the Flash player. Fine, I do, and it has more manual terminal commands I have to do to copy it to the right spot, and it doesn't work. I don't know of all this is Netscape or Linux, but it was a little frustrating.

OK, the big deal here is that Linux is supposed to run great on older machines. Well this isn't ancient, but it's no performance hotshot either. Most stuff popped right up, but enough things were waiting a little while with hard disk activity that I checked the RAM: 60MB of the 64MB was used!!! With nothing running except for KDE. No way this is running on any 8 or 16 MB machines! If people are talking about running it without graphical interface and still being useful to average people, something's being really misrepresented. The Linux install took 1.3 GB by the way.


So, on with work, and load up Windows 2000. It takes forever (a couple hours) to load a default install, just like Linux. I load Acrobat Reader, Winzip, Trendmicro (antivirus), Office 97, Outlook 2000, and all pertinent updates from Microsoft. It performs just as well as Linux, and is just as much of a hog with baselines of 64MB RAM in use, and a 1 GB install.

Why bother with Linux when Windows does just as well (or should I say, just as bad)? The only reason I can think of is that the Windows installation I did retails for $400 - $500 (200 for Windows, 200-300 for Office), and Linux is free for the cost of the CDs to burn. The cost comparison assumes you don't have Office or Windows 2000. It isn't much less if you already have Windows 95 or 98, by the way.

Best option

The best thing to do on this machine would have been to leave Windows 98 running on it, if it weren't for the requirements of a piece of software my company uses. I always recommend using the operating system that came with a machine for best performance. Windows 95 runs great on early Pentiums with 16MB of RAM - why change if all you want to do is surf the web, check email, and type up something every once in a while?

Then again, if that doesn't cut it, brand-new computers are dirt-cheap these days. You can buy a pretty good new computer for cheaper than you could upgrade your existing hardware and software (probably)!


LaRocque Family