What if Linux Took a Vista 'Mojave' Test?

Microsoft gave a "blind test" to Windows users to (supposedly) find out their true attitudes toward Vista. How would Linux perform under this condition?


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With the perceived success by Microsoft regarding their Mojave experiment (at least in the eyes of Microsoft PR reps), I found myself wondering how today's popular desktop Linux distributions might do under identical circumstances.

Without actually duplicating what Microsoft put together with their Mojave experiment, some basic Linux usability factors can be examined by looking at the most common factors as seen by average users. And yes, because of the target audience of such an experiment, I left out security – clearly, based on current malware infection numbers, it’s not on the minds of the casual computer user.

So instead of yammering on about theory, I’ll present some of the scenarios provided in the Mojave experiment and see where Linux options would have put participants.

Backing up your system:

On Vista’s system, backing up is as simple as heading on over to the Backup and Restore center. It's very straight forward. For desktop Linux distributions such as Ubuntu however, there is as much "choice" as there is likely confusion on how to accomplish the same sort of task. First, Ubuntu (and most other popular distros) provide command line tools by default with anything GUI-related on a need-to-install basis. "Joe User" is not going to fool with this, unfortunately.

So it would be safe to say that in a Mojave-like experiment with many desktop Linux distributions, the user would not be a happy camper trying to use DD to backup their hard drive. Here's the direct comparison, using a GUI solution:

Vista: Go to Backup and Restore, choose whether to go with a full system backup or a partial.

Linux: One option that’s best for directory specific backups, works with most desktop environments, and provides sane/default folder selections as it’s installed, would be sbackup. This backup utility is not installed by default on distributions such as Ubuntu.

Another alternative would be either FlyBack or, someday after a little more work behind it, TimeVault. Both are promising.

Winner? Vista clearly would win in a grassroots comparison here based on the fact that most Linux distros to not come with GUI tools for backing up installed by default.

Connecting to the Internet:

A big selling point for participants in a Mojave-like experiment is the ability to connect to the Internet as easily as possible. And as broadband has become more prevalent, gone for most people are the days of struggling with DUN (dial-up networking).

Vista: Network and Sharing Center, create a new network and select the option that is relevant to your connection – wireless, PPPOE, always on, etc.

Linux: Both the GNOME and KDE versions of Network Manager can handle nearly anything you throw at it, hardware compatibility withstanding. What’s nice about both network managers is that all you generally need to do is use the pull down menu from the applet to get the connection setup.

Winner? With compatible hardware, Linux both wins and loses at the same time. If the user is working with an OEM machine designed for use with Linux, there is a clear win here, both with most broadband and wireless connections. This comes to light as I have seen issues with Vista's wireless compatibility despite providing Vista-ready hardware. Allegedly, most of this issue has been rectified, but some third party wireless vendors are still not providing the best drivers for the Vista OS.

At the same time, this is also where Linux tends to lose out as well. Despite the existence of vendors that provide PCMCIA, USB and integrated wireless solutions that work perfectly out of the box, most distributions put all of their effort into supporting wireless devices designed for Windows. This leads to the ever-frequent statement "Linux wireless sucks" which, comically enough, is only a half-truth uttered by Linux newbies.

One area Vista currently blows the doors off of desktop Linux distributions is with PPPOE. This is what many DSL providers use to get you connected to the Internet. This means entering a user name and password for basic broadband connectivity. So while those people using a router can simply allow the box to do the PPPOE work for them, many other users still need their OS to tackle this – using a simple GUI, provided by default. To my knowledge, without extra application installation, I cannot think of a single distro that provides a GUI tool for this.

Besides, when the latest distributions are still relying on apps like WvDial, something is drastically wrong.

Luckily for GNOME users however, salvation is on the way. NetworkManager 0.7 – everything from improved VPN, GSM and PPPOE support is coming...finally.

I suspect that Mojave-like Linux experiment participants would find that, with the right hardware, under most circumstances, Linux suits them just fine for Internet connectivity.

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Tags: Linux, Windows, Microsoft, wireless, Vista

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