What OS Are You Running?

Slap Nutz

Slap Nutz read a message board thread at XBiz the other day that had a poll attached, wondering what OS everyone was using, and for him (until recently), the answer wasn't on the list: Red Hat Linux Home Edition 7.2. Having used this software for a while, he decided to switch to Windows XP — here's why:

Many people are wondering what operating system they should be running on their computer, and while it might surprise you, but there are actually hundreds of different operating systems, from Windows to OS/2 to Tru64 to HP-UX to Linux to BeOs to Mac OS X. In this article, I want to look at some reasons why Linux may not be your best choice for a home operating system.

Red Hat 7.2 Home Edition
As you may know, Linux is Open Source programming. That means the source code that was programmed to make this software is readily available anywhere on the Internet. Red Hat is a company that takes the final free source code, packages it in a manner they want, and then sells it on a retail level. Although this has been primarily restricted to server and high-end systems in the past, a new generation of Linux-based home OS' are becoming available on the market. Red Hat 7.2 Home Edition was the first of these Operating Systems

Red Hat 7.2 Home Edition is not an easy operating system to deal with. For most of us that are used to the way Windows installs and functions, using 7.2 Home is going to be problematic; plus the installation, driver, and GUI problems add up to define a complex operating system that is NOT meant for the average user.

Installation Woes
7.2 Home is supposed to be a "drop-in and use" operating system, meaning you create your partition, install the software, and boot. Unfortunately, my installation was anything but smooth. The bootable CD-Rom is not, and according to the web site, there are known issues with the auto-run that makes the CD-ROM bootable, and you only have a 10% chance of getting it to boot the first time.

If you've ever performed a Windows 9x installation, you know that 99 times out of 100 it goes smoothly, and the first time it goes wrong is usually easily fixable. This is far from the case with Red Hat 7.2 Home. You have a 50-50 shot of getting the installation through the hardware search each time, and the memory manager installation fails another 25% of the time. That's a 1-in-4 chance to properly install an Operating System that you can only get the CD-ROM to boot 1-in-10 times on.

If you do get the operating system installed, your next challenge is to find drivers. The CD-ROM comes with a decent selection of drivers, but the chances of every driver you're ever going to need being actually there, are pretty slim, so prepare for long hours spent searching sites, message boards, and technical forums for announcements of the latest driver releases.

Even if you do find a new driver, the open source nature of Linux makes it such that 50% of the drivers are poorly written or are written with specific goals in mind. Those are goals that may not be your goals. Almost every Linux programmer has at some time put out a driver for a piece of hardware that they needed. Sorting your way through what works and what doesn't is a mess that most home users don't need.

GUI Differences
The other major problem with Red Hat 7.2 Home is the differences in functionality of the Graphical User Interface. For 7 years now we've lived off a steady diet of the Windows Operating System GUI. Red Hat attempts to emulate this to a degree, but most beginner users won't find the advanced GUI options of any real use. Windows is often complained about for being a system resource hog and having a highly corruptible file structure. I'd like to see what those very same people say about Red Hat 7.2

Finally, there's the Up-Keep. Windows is often complained about for being a system resource hog and having a highly corruptible file structure. I'd like to see what those very same people say about Red Hat 7.2. The amount of time you'll spend sorting through drivers, managing file utilities, and tracking down errors on Red hat 7.2 Home is a mountain to Windows' molehill. Simply put, you'll be working 5 times as hard keeping Linux running as you do currently to keep your Windows installation running.

The release of Win XP and Red Hat 7.2 Home Edition provided two different Operating System choices. Where XP is the spit-polished operating system of the masses, Red Hat 7.2 Home will remain a techie's play-toy for people that aren't satisfied with the current path of Windows. It's lack of refinement makes its usability quite slim, and the driver issues keep it from being as fast an operating system as we'd all like.

Simply put, Red Hat put out an OS similar to Windows 3.1: it is still the infancy of the GUI age for home-based Linux systems, and to compete with Windows on any sort of level, they must refine not only the look and feel but the inner workings of the system as well. Windows XP came out with 20MB of downloadable updates the very first day. 97% of Red Hat users can't boot the CD-ROM to be able to even install the OS.