Skip to comments.Desktop Faceoff: Fedora vs. Vista
Posted on 08/16/2007 7:58:59 AM PDT by N3WBI3
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Every few months, a pundit asks, "Is Linux ready for the desktop?" The implication, of course, is that it hasn't been -- at least, not until very recently. Yet those who actually use a GNU/Linux desktop know that the operating system has been ready for some years. Considering that much of the early design of desktops like KDE and GNOME were based on what was happening in Windows, that readiness is hardly surprising. In fact, development of the GNU/Linux desktop has reached the point today where it not only equals the Windows Vista desktop, but frequently surpasses it.
Of course, Vista has an advantage: it comes already installed on most systems. By contrast, pre-installations of GNU/Linux, such as Dell's Ubuntu systems, are still rare. However, that is not a feature of the operating systems so much as a marketing coup. Anyone who has tried to install a copy of Windows from scratch will find it no easier than installing a GNU/Linux distribution. Both Windows and GNU/Linux distributions now feature graphical install programs and first-time boot wizards with detailed instructions that any intermediate user can understand. Both, too, have the same basic level of success in recognizing hardware on workstations (laptops, with their wireless cards that have Windows-only drivers can still be a problem for GNU/Linux). At any rate, installation is such a small part of users' experience (assuming they experience it at all) that it can shouldn't be over-emphasized.
In addition, in making a comparison, you need to specify not only the GNU/Linux desktop -- there are several, in case you didn't know -- but also the distribution. There are hundreds. Also, to make the comparison meaningful, you need to choose a distribution aimed at the desktop, rather than one designed for users that may have a less fully-featured desktop.
These days, the comparison is often done with Ubuntu. However, other distributions hold up equally well. A case in point is Fedora 7, which defaults to a GNOME 2.18 desktop that has been customized for ease of use. Based on a wide array of criteria, an in-depth look reveals that (like a growing number of GNU/Linux distributions) Fedora 7 takes second place to nothing -- not even Windows Vista.
Fedora's and Vista's desktops are similar enough that average users should be able to switch from one to the other with a minimum of disorientation. Both include a menu and panels, and a central space for adding icons. Both desktops have a default file manager in which it is easier to move around a user's files and desktop rather than the overall directory system. Both desktops, too, show a proliferation of pop-up notifications that seem to appear at the most inconvenient times possible unless you turn them off.
Beyond these basics, the Fedora desktop features a number of innovations that demonstrate that it has moved beyond copying Windows. Instead of placing the menu in the bottom left -- an illogical positioning that begun solely to differentiate Windows 95 from the Mac desktop -- Fedora's GNOME desktop places the menu in the top left, where new users would start to scan for features. To make this menu more user-friendly, it lists only core programs, and tends to list them by function rather than by program name, so that you will find a listing, for instance, for Text Editor rather than Gedit. Unfortunately, this setup has the effect of hiding some programs from users -- although, if they are aware of a program, they can add it to the menu via the AlaCarte menu editor. Separate menus are also given for Places that users might want to move to, and for System, where customization, administration, and logout items are stored.
By contrast, the Vista menu remains resolutely down in the bottom left corner, where it is easy to overlook. By default, it lists nine recently used programs. If you want more, you either have to click the All Programs tab, which gives you a list of programs that requires scrolling, or use the Search field, which limits you to programs you already know about. Most users, I suspect, are happy to right-click the menu and revert to the Classical look that includes all the menus, but lists programs by names more often than functions. The default menu also includes settings similar to Fedora's Place and System menus, but is less well-organized and easier to overlook as you navigate the intricacies of the needlessly complicated default menu.
Fedora also has an advantage in its use of panels. Both Fedora and Vista feature have panels that can be moved or resized, although few Windows users are likely aware of the fact, since both operations are done in Vista via a mouse rather than a settings panel. Fedora features two -- one reserved for menus and icons for utilities and programs, and another used mostly as a taskbar for opened programs. This arrangement makes for much less cluttered panels, though even when all the functions are compacted on a single panel, GNOME's icons are much easier to read than Vista's.
Vista also features a side panel for applets, which was likely borrowed from GNU/Linux desktops. However, this panel is much less versatile than a panel in Fedora. For one thing, it takes up most of the extra space gained from using a wide screen monitor, with one-inch square icons. For another, it has less than a dozen applets -- or "gadgets" -- compared to the several dozen available with GNOME by default and the additional several dozen that you can install. Nor can the side panel be installed at the top or bottom of the screen, the way that GNOME's general purpose panels can.
I’ll take Fedora7/KDE any day
I’ve always preferred KDE over GNOME.
Sucking up to Stallman, I see, using that term so Stallman will grant him interviews. Given what's in a standard distro, we really need to call it Sun/Mozilla/.../Gnu/Linux if we follow Stallman's logic.
By contrast, the Vista menu remains resolutely down in the bottom left corner
You can move it in XP, you can't move it in Vista?
By default, it lists nine recently used programs. If you want more
If you want more, you can just increase the number of programs it shows. I've found that it's better to use Spotlight on a Mac for programs I don't use often. Command-shift, "dis" gives me the rarely-used disk utility, enter and I'm running. Better than having it take up valuable front-row space. Vista has the equivalent. But Fedora is doing well if they didn't copy personalized menus.
Vista also features a side panel for applets, which was likely borrowed from GNU/Linux desktops
Ah, the hubris. "Desk Accessories" really started on the original Mac, had a modern incarnation in Konfabulator, then was released for Windows, copied for Linux, then copied/brought back by Apple as Dashboard. IMHO, Microsoft copied Apple, as is their habit.
Nor can the side panel be installed at the top or bottom of the screen, the way that GNOME's general purpose panels can.
Here Gnome makes the mistake of copying Microsoft again. Why dock them anywhere, taking up space? Just have them all fly in full-size with a keystroke or middle mouse button click.
Vista's desktop seems a step backwards from early Windows desktops, and many of its innovations seem either timid or else made for their own sake rather than to empower users.
No disagreement there.
The only drawback to Fedora's offerings is that some programs that are not released under a free software license, such as software to use a LightScribe drive, have to be hunted down and installed separately.
There's the BIG problem.
Vista does users no service by declaring that their system is unsafe if automatic updating is turned off.
Not quite true in the context. It pesters you if it's turned off, but you can set it so that updates will not install automatically and still remove the pestering. At least in XP -- haven't tried that in Vista. Anyone care to contribute/correct?
Windows Marketplace seems to offer some discounts, but the fact that only proprietary software is available makes it less desirable than Fedora's
That is absolutely false. Open source software, such as Firefox, is available at the Windows Marketplace. And "less desirable"? Microsoft doesn't exclude an entire category of software on philosophical grounds, thus giving a wider variety of possible quality software to choose from.
I have to stop here. It's obvious the guy hasn't seriously used both platforms and their services, nor done his research, in order to be able to write a fully-informed article.
But I would like to leave the Gnome guys with some advice: Quit trying to copy usability from Microsoft. It's like copying off the dumb kid during a test. Don't take a Microsoft concept that is faulty in its basic conception and do it better. Instead, do it right.
"In my next column, we'll see which makes a better sports sedan, the Lexus or the GMC Truck."
Fedora is RedHat's sandbox. It's not a desktop-centric OS. It's a testing ground.
That doesn't mean that you can't use Fedora as a desktop. As long as you don't mind things breaking occasionally and it being rather slow.
If you want to compare desktop operating systems you should compare operating systems that are used to run on the desktop.
Ubuntu or Mandriva would have been a better choice.
“Fedora and its default GNOME desktop may still have a few lessons to learn from Vista, particularly in the selection of administration tools. Yet in terms of almost everything that’s important to users, Fedora and GNOME have overtaken Vista and are rapidly pulling away from it.
As the addition of the side panel shows, it is Windows that is starting to learn from GNU/Linux. The days when the situation was the other way around are over.”
I understand why he uses Fedora GNOME, as it’s the default, but a comparison with Fedora in KDE would probably be more comparable to Windows. Still, it’s a good comparison overall.
LOL, Great tear down on the whole post AR
Security is supposedly Vista's strong suit over earlier versions of Windows. Yet this claim is hard to take seriously when the default permissions for files are still wide open access to all users. Similarly, although Vista includes warnings against doing daily work in an administrative account, the first boot wizard creates only an administrative account -- and does not insist on a password. Meanwhile, password hints continue to be visible to everyone at the login screen.
This alone shows that Microsoft continues to just give lip-service to security.