Greets! and for those of you not either sci-fi, Heinlein, or Libertarian fans, the subject line is an acronym coined by Robert Heinlein (sci-fi writer extraordinaire who was incidentally further to the right than a bicycle on the Autobahn) meaning "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch" meaning one way or another, ultimately everything costs something. As this applies to the age-old Linux vs/ Windows debate ( or flamewar in many cases ) it reminds me of the guy that wants to convert to a stick shift car for the improved gas mileage, handling and driving experience but won't until stick transmissions shift themselves uh automatically.
I've been working with Linux since Windows 98 (original edition) first came out. I recall that time so well because while I had been considering taking it for a spin for over a year, the straw that broke the camel's back so to speak was Win95's inability to handle the then new AGP interface, requiring a single file, USBSUPP.DLL as I recall, and when I could not find it on the net, including through Windows Update (it was a legal copy) I called MS. I was told they would sell me the USBSUPP.DLL file for "50 Dollars US, but why didn't I just spend $80 and buy Win98 Upgrade Edition?" That little attempt at coercion precipitated 2 things 1) the very last time I ever gave Microsoft any money, directly and/or knowingly, except for an optical mouse that was on sale once, and 2) I went out and bought a Mandrake Linux CD the next day and installed it. Even though I was very familiar with DOS, like many people and since Mandrake back then booted to a multiuser console runlevel (of which "multiuser" and "runlevel" I also didn't appreciate the considerable power and convenience back then) and since few DOS commands worked, I was stopped cold at least until the next day when I bought 2 books (much like I had for DOS) "Running Linux" and "Linux in a Nutshell". The first one is only of moderate use these days but "Nutshell", a 600 page list of commands, switches, syntax, explanations and Appendices is still extremely useful today. I've been using a GUI since OS/2 v 2.0 and so I appreciate the value of pointy-clicky stuff but I also know it, too costs something, in that an icon is only a representation of a command, and a single command, at that. I'm no command line Nazi but I do realize that if one were to create an icon for every possible command and it's every possible switch,one's PC let alone Desktop regardless of ultra anal organization would be a nightmare losing all benefit of icon convenience. Plus, some things, like recursive or serial work (an example would be, if such is available for Windows, being able to edit or delete, say, *every* *instance* of a character, word, phrase or combination thereof in a large document or script as in, oh say the Windows Registry. Instead of spending up to an hour or more, depending on number of instances and errors and/or missed entries seeking them out manually with "regedit", this can be, or could be accomplished in a few seconds even if there were ten thousand entries via a single command with a switch or two and one keystroke of "Enter". So while GUI is great for some stuff, the deeper power is in command line and this is but a single example. The choice is between convenience and specific power with "choice" the operative word since you can't have both at the same time in the same thing. However one can certainly blend to get the best of both worlds in this case providing one spends the time to learn or look up commands and switches.
Windows is amazing in that it works at all since it tries to be everything to everybody all the while being compatible with almost everything and doing much of it for you since, if Windows were sentient, it would look down it's nose at users. This analogy is likely true since windows developers ARE sentient and they DO indeed think all us Users are basically morons, stupid cattle queuing up, money in hand, at the food trough of the Gods that dispenses Oatmeal gruel although loaded with vitamins and minerals you are too stupid to know you need. In many cases this may even be basically true, if a little harshly put. There are for example race car drivers, or at least one can certainly imagine there could be, that don't know a piston from a spark plug. One doesn't have to know how a car works to drive it, even rather well however it certainly does help, not only when it breaks down, but if one wishes to customize it to de exactly a specific kind of work knowing completely as possible it's abilities and limitations. I would certainly hope the Duke Boys, Burt Reynolds, Evil Knieval, Astronauts etc know in advance their respective vehicles would not disintegrate upon jumping a bridge or a canyon or into Warp Factor 11.
For me the very things that Windozers and even Ubuntoos complain about Linux for are some of it's greatest strengths. If you tend to pick convenience over power and control every time, and don't mind all the stuff going on behind your Desktop without your knowledge of it, stick with Windows. If you don't mind risking breaking packages through dependency issues, stick with Ubuntu or any other package manager based Linux system. If you don't mind having to reinstall Windows every so often to get rid of the "spaghetti" and "cruft" that slows it to a crawl or renders it unbootable altogether or more exactly consider that a small price to pay for the convenience, dance on. If you don't mind being worked into a web of control that would make any heroin dealer jealous since he can't eliminate almost every other competing dealer to raise prices, requirements, and restrictions to his heart's content, keep using. Just realize that Microsoft's goal, if they could "have their 'druthers", is to own your PC and lease it to you for a "reasonable" monthly fee and supporting them is supporting that. If that's OK with you, that's fine with me as long as there exists an alternative that champions Users and allows me to set things up where I know every nut and bolt, ability and limitation to the best of my ability and that "nothing", absolutely *nothing* runs or changes unless I so will it, so if it breaks I know for a fact that I broke it doing a very specific thing that by that nature is easy to suss out and fix and never do again. I prefer that each application can stand on it's own and is threaded together as in Linux, as opposed to the "all eggs in one basket" approach of windows which is why it requires so much rebooting and prohibits even the reading of some files while they are in use. That is the most fundamental difference between windows and linux.... that, and the fact that Unix, it's parent, was designed as a multitasking, multiuser, NETWORKED OpSys from it's very inception, from the ground up as opposed to tacking it on some 10 years later. It is worth it to me to have to read or consult manpages, reference books, help sites and IRC channels to get the level of stabilty, security, peace of mind, pride, performance, legality and function for downright cheap (do you really use/require the power of Photoshop's bang for buck? over Picasa, GIMP, etc?).
I still run, through multi-boot a version of windows (as well as some of the automatic type linux distros to learn from) for a few video and audio editting programs, though that list diminishes at least yearly, and for a very few games. Many games I prefer to run in Linux due to vastly lower latancy and superior TCPIP stack reducing lag both at the network level and even in hardware interface, now that nVidia's drivers function so well. Many games, even ones that will only run in Windows or in emulation, were not only written in Linux (why do you suppose that is?) but even in emulation outperform overall the same game on the same box running in "native" Windows. As for DirectX, although 10 is not yet supported, the tradeoff to lower performance elsewhere due to Vista requirement, more than makes up for it to me so far and hopefully by the time Vista gets fixed 10 will be available like 9 is now through such as Cedega and modern WINE or OpenGL will take up the slack and it is worthy of note that micrsoft, or was it Bill himself?, recently invested heavily in support of OpenGL. HalfLife2, World of Warcraft and many other new an popular games presently run in linux an run on a par (tradeoffs, remember), if not better overall, than in windows. Just check out the list in the database at Cedega or LinuxGamer.
Linux was a tough choice 5-10 years ago but it has come a long way and seems to be gathering speed like Dark Energy. Imagine where it will be 5-10 years from now. Imagine where Windows will be 10 years from now restrictionwise, pricewise, spyware-wise, security-wise and support with an eye to the future. Or just cruise along without choosing, or at least exploring choices, or thinking at all if you prefer but that should make you wonder if you fit the Microsoft developer's profile of User or if you even care. We reap what we sew and everything cost's something even if it is a tradeoff. Caveat Emptor, Dudes