2. Security issues surrounding Linux and Windows
....2.2 User Access
....2.4 Networking Capabilities
3. Customer Support
4. Linux and Windows User Interface Explained
....4.2 Installation and Maintenance
....4.3 Support And Help Available
5. History Behind Linux and Windows
Firstly I would like to say this is a very brief look at some differences with Windows and Linux, this report in no way covers everything (or even close to everything).
Please do not assume everything here is 100% correct, I encourage you to challenge my thoughts and research throughout this post.
I apologise for the blandness of this post, if you feel there can be any improvements in presentation and/or content I am more than welcome to hear what you have to say.
2. Security issues surrounding Linux and Windows
Unfortunately Windows suffers from the most security breaches. This is mainly because of the scale to which it is used. The Windows platform is top in both desktop and laptop operating system sales, the market share is believed to be just under 90%, much greater than that of Linux about 0.85%. These are the key figures that drive some people into deciding which operating system to write a virus for. As Windows is so widely used any viruses written for this operating system is bound to spread quickly and cause many pounds worth of damage and disruption. For those companies making anti-virus products, this is a fantastic outcome as people require their software to keep their computers safe. Linux on the other hand does not suffer from many virus threats this is down to two things. The first being the lack of users working with this operating system, so it becomes less of a target for viruses, although there are still a number of viruses written for Linux circling the internet. Secondly, Linux users generally only operate the computer using lower privilege accounts rather than the administrator account, this limits the amount of files the virus can access and does prevent the spread of the virus to system files as these files cannot access any user other than those with 'root' account privileges. However, Windows users quite often operate using the administrator account, especially on single user machines. This is mainly due to the fact that you need to be an administrator in Windows before you can install applications, and any single user machines just has an administrator account for the single user. This allows viruses to access all computers files at an administration level.
It's unlikely that Linux will have more viruses even after it gains a market share as large as Windows currently holds. The reason is that Linux has been stuffed full of technologies to isolate malicious code and limit its access. Things like SELinux, AppArmor, DAC and more, all serve to limit what a program can do to only what it needs to do, which sharply limits the damage a malicious virus can do.
So the reason we have virtually no malware on Linux is because malware writers can't write something that would actually do much of anything. Linux viruses all seem to suffer from the same problem, Linux's in-built security mechanisms stop them cold. That's not to say there are no attack vectors; there are, the browser still being a big one, but that is not specific to Linux. This problem applies to all operating systems which has the same web browser, and of course, the biggest security problem for any computer is its user.
2.2 User Access
Windows and Linux support a user access system that utilises a username and password. This allows the computer to apply settings based on the user's privileges. Linux uses 'read', 'write' and 'execute' privileges, these are very basic when compared with Window's NTFS (NT File System). NTFS uses user credentials on each folder to decide which folders can be accessed by certain users, this is very useful when network sharing is involved but also can be a drawback if configured incorrectly. Windows does implement user groups to simplify the process of adding users to the access lists applied to folders. An example group is 'Users' (Users are prevented from making accidental or intentional system-wide changes and can run most applications).
This not about those creepy crawlies found in the garden under a rock, but those found in operating systems, thus causing the computer to crash and to display the famous BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death [Windows]). With Linux being open-source and developed by programmers who have reputations to keep, there are generally fewer bugs found. Another factor is that there are no deadlines for the Linux operating system to be completed, the development only finishes when the developers have had enough, so any bugs that might have appeared during development are generally fixed before the system becomes obsolete. Windows on the other hand is written with deadlines to be met and the programmers generally don't have an individual reputation to keep (outside of the company), just money to be earned. Therefore, the code is generally poorer, but this is not always the case. Generally, if bugs are detected, particularly major bugs, then Microsoft will release a 'Service Pack Update' to correct these errors. The 'Service Pack' is installed using an update facility provided by Windows.
2.4 Networking Capabilities
Local Area Networking (LAN) is not a problem for either operating systems and both are fully functional and can communicate with each other using the TCP/IP Protocol. However, when it comes to Wide Area Networking (WAN), Linux becomes more complicated when trying to connect to the internet using a modem. This is because many of the modem manufacturers see Linux as an unpopular operating system, so creating drivers for this operating system will not be cost effective. Thus, meaning Linux users could have major problems when trying to add a modem to their operating system. Until recently Linux has not been plug and play compatible, so installing any new devices was a complicated process involving some form of command line operation. However, Windows triumphs over Linux in the connectivity area especially when using Wireless networking, something which is starting to be supported by Linux.
3. Customer Support
Microsoft Windows is a closed source operating system, meaning that users cannot legally tamper with any of the under-laying code.
Microsoft Window offers support such as service packs to people and companies who own a copy of the operating system. These service packs upgrade and repair a number of bugs and also improve and update security aspects of the system. Microsoft only continues to release service packs for the versions of windows that are most recent. For example, at this very moment service pack support from Microsoft is only available for Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7, and any variations of the four, with all other versions unsupported beyond their final service pack.
Microsoft seems to rely on their FAQ section on their site to answer any general queries from users. Should the question be a complex technical subject, the user has the option to contact Microsoft, who then charge the user £46 (as of feb 2009) to either email, instant message, or call them to find a solution to the problem.
Alternatives to the costly support solution above are the usual resources, for example, user guides and forums, all available on the 'Windows Community' website free of charge. Also, there are purpose built help websites made by 'the experts' that are promoted on Microsoft's 'Windows Community' site. One of these sites, created by Windows expert and computer journalist John Barnett, even includes a page called 'Lifesavers', which contains a number of programs that can potentially enhance the security and well-being of the operating system. However, the fact that there is a disclaimer on the site stating that "No warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied, is made in relation to the accuracy, reliability or content of these pages" emphasises the point that unofficial help resources cannot always be trusted, and it is advised by Microsoft to rely on official documentation and help guides.
Traditionally, custom written software and operating systems have a significantly reduced, and often fairly inaccurate, base of support than operating systems that are made by more mainstream companies such as Microsoft or Apple.
Linux is an open source operating system, which means that it can be edited and expanded on freely by anyone. This being the case, it has led to numerous versions, or 'Distributions' of the system to be introduced.
Depending on which 'Distribution' of Linux a user is implementing depends on what support is available for it. For example, a large scale and widely populated Linux distribution such as the Fedora Project, who claim to 'provide the latest in stable and robust, useful, and powerful free software', has a number of resources to aid users should they need it. Directly from the Fedora Project website, a user can quickly find access to resources such as: IRC (Internet Relay Chat) to discuss issues in real time with an experienced user; a mailing list that emails users regarding common bugs and how to amend them; a forum in which a user can open a discussion as to the best ways to resolve any queries; and access to user guides and various other documentation such as common bugs found on each version of the system. It also goes without saying that as with windows, there are many Linux help websites around the web, the accuracy and reliability of which may be questionable.
Alternatively, a user can contact one of a large number of 'Linux User Groups', which are set up by experienced Linux users or programmers in order to assist users through any Linux problems, and also to increase the knowledge of particularly inexperienced users.
4. Linux and Windows User Interface Explained
With time Linux has improved its system to meet the needs of the more inexperienced users. They now typically use easier graphical user interfaces (GUI's). The use of a GUI means that the user can now start all their applications on their computer without the need to physically type any codes or commands. There have been a number of developments to the user interface of Linux which includes 3D acceleration support and support for USB devices, single click updates of systems and packages, which is good for the user as most users do not want anything too complex and command line based.
As with a typical modern Linux release, the user interface for the Windows operating system is kept simple for the inexperienced user. Linux provides a number of graphical user interfaces including: KDE, Gnome and xfce, to name a few. Windows provides 3.1, 95, 2000, XP, Vista and now 7. The average everyday user does not want anything too difficult, they typically are not interested in the technicality of the system, they just want to be able to connect to the internet, download and listen to music, and word process (to name a few), without any serious technical knowledge. Both operating systems will allow the user to do simple tasks such as surfing the internet and listening to music.
4.2 Installation and Maintenance
Most major retailers will already have their personal computers with the Windows Operating System already installed upon purchase. Linux is not a very popular choice and is not commonly installed on most high street personal computers available for sale. Along with Windows, Linux can be purchased on CD with technical support included for a period of time to get the user started.
To install the earlier versions of the Windows Operating System up until Vista was a fairly simple process. The user could either install the operating system with a new partition on their hard drive, or they could update to the next version (if available), or repair their current version (if broken) which simply repairs their copy by replacing missing or corrupt operating system files.
It would seem that Linux is easier to install on to a system if there is already an existing operating system there, otherwise it can prove to be a bit more difficult. Even though Windows will generally have the a updated and complex GUI, Linux has a plus in the fact that it has generally a more reliable and mature, secure structure, which makes it less likely to freeze and crash and it can typically be run for a longer period of time without the need to be rebooted.
For reliability of running smoothly for the longest period of time with less need for rebooting and maintenance, Linux would be the most consistently reliable operating system in this area in comparison to Windows.
Windows has a lot more selection when it comes to software in comparison to Linux, it has a lot more utilities and games, the attractiveness and popularity and success of Windows makes this operating system more costly. Linux is available in some versions to be downloaded for free.
4.3 Support And Help Available
Windows has a support online which will help users with all aspects such as self support, downloads and updates, Microsoft Services, help and support with printing, internet explorer problems and information about security. Microsoft also offers community support for Windows which is named Microsoft Developer Network, which provides forums for users which are free and also advice from experts which is also free. Microsoft are also available by telephone where the user can also receive support with any issues from the experts but this will cost money. As with any personal computer with the Windows operating system installed there will be a user manual with written instructions for the user in simple terms, there are also available as software CD's and books often coming with the purchase of the software. There are also countless self help books on popular Windows operating system releases. There are a number of self help book for Linux, however these are fractional in comparison to the sales of the Windows help books.
Linux also has forums online which the user can receive help from any experienced users or developers of Linux. The user can receive help by telephone also for Linux through Red Hat, Canonical, Novell who are major distributors who can provide support. There are many websites which can help users gain more knowledge about the operating systems and there are also books and software available explaining Linux systems. Help on the command aspects of Linux operating systems, especially in the early releases, are available through something called man pages, these are accessed through the command lines or through the built in GUI.
5. A Brief History Behind Linux and Windows
In the very early days of personal computers, systems did not have an operating system.
One of the first claimed operating systems was said to be the GM-NAA I/O, created in 1956 by Robert L Partick, which was set up on the IBM 704 computer system.
This operating systems main purpose was to use batch processing, batch processing runs a program automatically once the previous program had finished running.
This operating system was used on roughly 40 computers.
UNIX operating systems were produced by the company AT&T Bell in the late 60's and the very first UNIX system was written specifically to support a video game.
These systems were popular as they were easy to get hold of, easily modified and most of all, free.
The most common operating systems are the Windows series, these are created by Microsoft.
The original Windows operating system by Microsoft was Windows 1.0 which was released in 1985, this turned out to be a huge success and supplied programs and software such as calculator, notepad, calendar, paint, clock and control panel where you could slightly alter your windows operating system.
After the 1.0 version there were versions 3.0 and 3.1, these versions did not prove to be much different to the original windows and were not a huge successes (compared to windows 1.0).
When Windows 95 was released it was a huge success, it had a completely new interface and was like no other operating system out at the time.
Windows 95 included the all important plug and play interface. It ran 32-bit programs.
Three years later another hugely successful operating system was released by Microsoft, this operating system was windows 98.
Windows 98 offered a whole new array of tools such as scandisk, defragmenter and registry editor.
There was a second version of windows 98 called windows 98SE (second edition) released in 1999.
The second edition offered the sharing of internet connections between other computers (LANs), support for DVD drives and better USB support.
Also in 1999 the world saw the release of Mac OS X created by Apple.
This operating system had a very different user interface compared to other operating system.
Mac OS X came with software called NetBoot, this software allowed the operating system to boot of a virtual image over a network, this was very handy for schools or businesses as it booted a fresh copy every time the operating system booted up again, this prevented software being installed by users and staying on the computer as the software would be wiped the next time the computer was booted up from the network.
One year after the release of windows 98SE came the millennium edition, windows ME.
This was the first operating system to date to allow system restore, this allowed the user to go back to previous setting if their computer ever had a serious error or virus, this was a important and helpful feature Microsoft had implemented.
There was new software tools implemented on this operating system such as windows movie maker and windows media player.
In 2001 Microsoft released an operating system that was far more successful than any other operating system released, this operating system was called windows XP (home and professional).
The windows XP operating system was a completely new graphical user interface over any other operating system created, it looked far better and was much more stable than any other Microsoft operating system to date. Microsoft tried to make the interface much more user friendly.
According to statistics taken in November 2008, windows XP is the most used operating system in the world, 66% of users use this operating system, many of these being large business organisations.
There have been all sorts of different types of operating systems, the three most common are currently: Microsoft Windows operating systems, Linux distributions and Apple Mac OS X's.
It would be hard to talk about every Linux distributions in such a short part of the report, there are literally hundreds of Linux distributions, I will however list some of the most popular Linux distributions: Debian, Gentoo, Kubuntu, Lindows, Lycoris, Mandriva, Red Hat, Slackware, SuSE, Ubuntu, Xandros, Xubuntu. The history of operating systems is a long list, especially if you are listing and talking about all the Linux distributions.
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