Web Workers: Which OS Do You Use?

One of the attractions of web development is platform independence. Your web pages can be accessed and viewed by anyone using any browser on any OS. (OK — it’s never that simple, but we can dream!)

Unlike many people in IT, web designers and developers have more freedom of choice and can select which ever OS they prefer. There are a few caveats — for example, Flash and Silverlight developers require appropriate Adobe or Microsoft tools — but standard web technologies can be developed on any device using any OS.

Let’s look at the three most popular options.

Microsoft Windows

Windows is the most widely used OS and is installed on more than 90% of PCs. It’s the obvious system of choice for ASP.NET developers. (It’s possible to write code on another OS and deploy to a Windows server, but it’s not particularly practical.)

Windows offers choice and it’s the closest thing we have to a standard. The OS is stable, you’re unlikely to experience hardware support problems, there’s a huge variety of free and commercial software, and compatibility between versions is excellent.

The downsides?…

  • Windows is expensive compared to the hardware it runs on. You can build a PC for $200 but need to spend the same amount on the OS.
  • The OS has a reputation for being insecure. It’s less of an issue today, but Windows remains the most obvious target for hackers and spammers.
  • Finally, it’s the least exciting OS. Everyone is familiar with Windows; few people will be impressed by your latest PC.

Apple Mac

Macs have around 7% of the OS market. It has a reputation for being a graphic designer OS, but more developers are using it. Apple provide glorious hardware and software; you gain a stable, secure and cohesive experience without driver or configuration issues.

Not everything is perfect…

  • Software choice is more limited than other OSs. Apple dominate the market; you often have to do things their way or not at all.
  • Apple rarely strive for compatibility between versions of Mac OS.
  • The combination of Apple hardware and software typically makes the PCs more expensive than the competition.

Linux

Linux comes in a variety of flavors and it accounts for around 1% of the OS market.

Perhaps the biggest advantage is the cost — Linux is open source and you can install it anywhere. It’s highly configurable, security is excellent, and it offers a wide range of free software. Linux and Apache HTTP server dominate the web so it can be a logical choice for developers.

The issues…

  • Linux is regarded to be a geek’s OS. That’s a little unfair: many distros have an easier installation process than Windows. However, those with limited IT knowledge may find it tricky to diagnose and fix problems.
  • Hardware support is more restricted and manufacturers do not always create Linux drivers.
  • Few PC vendors offer Linux as an OS option. You’ll often need to rely on your own skills and support from the community.

What do you use?

The Windows vs Mac vs Linux debate has raged for years. Each has their strengths and weaknesses — none is perfect.

But this isn’t about what’s best: I want to know what OS you’re using. You may detest the system but have practical reasons for using it.

I suspect Mac and Linux usage may be higher among web designers and developers than other industries — but I’d like some evidence. Please cast your vote on the SitePoint home page or leave your comments below.

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  • Carlos León

    Recently I’ve been involved in a lot of projects at my company developed using Ruby on Rails. I used to use Ubuntu often, but now, I’m a 24/7 Linux user. :)

  • pdxchambers

    I run Windows XP Pro on a custom built machine. I’m not a huge fan of Windows (or Microsoft for that matter) but my experience has been that Windows based machines tend to be a lot cheaper and have a better selection of software than a comparable Mac. I tried running a Linux box for awhile (CentOS) but discovered I was spending more time trying to figure out how to administer it than I was actually working, and let’s face it… as much fun as I was having playing with Linux there’s something to be said for billable hours.

  • strgt

    I’m a fulltime GNU/Linux user for more than 10 years. Developing web systems here makes everything a lot simpler. There are tools for whatever you need.

  • Iria

    I personally use Windows XP, I’ll be upgrading to 7 soon.
    Unfortunately the belief that OSX is for designers, Windows is for coders and Linux is for geeks is widely spread. The thought that depending on which OS you are using the “quality” of the developing or design work will be better or worst is silly, you can make exceptionally good code on MacOS and astounding designs on Windows too, just don’t stick to narrowminded prejudice.
    It doesn’t really matter what OS you use, it’s just a matter of accustomization and feel. Value what is best for YOUR situation and be happy :D

  • ServerStorm

    Not just for web development but for all our employees we use Ubuntu Linux with a Clear OS Linux domain controller.

    It may have been true a few years ago that Linux was a little harder to troubleshoot, and had a narrower field of hardware support, but that has changed a lot.

    Ubuntu has become a really competitive OS for the desktop market.

    In our company we are successfully switching our primarily Windows customers to Linux and since mastering the right open source products and a few licensed products we have been able to offer very stable networking environments/desktops that offer better administrative control over permissions, policies, domain services access, spam control, mail servers, blog platforms, chat application (in-house), printing, firewall and virtualization.

    Printer used to be at times hard, now Ubuntu uses the Bonjour service developed I think by MAC. I just recently set up a new Ubuntu desktop and it found the correct drivers for my HP Laserjet 4050, and Brother 4040CN printers without having to search the Internet or manually install printing software.

    We have had great feedback from our customers that have switched, which basically say “We wish we would have gone to Linux sooner”. We make sure that we let them know that Linux was not really ready for this until the last year or so.

    Steve

  • http://halbrooktech.com mhalbrook

    I’d switch over to Linux totally if it weren’t for Fireworks. Gimp/Inkscape can replace it mostly for me, but it’s a learning curve I don’t have the energy or time to deal with. It’s the only non-OS/Cross Platform program I rely on.

  • http://www.rogerwillis.com reformed66

    I use Windows at work for asp.net development. I also use a Mac for doing graphic design and some development with WordPress and Joomla.

    I used to be an “I hate Windows” guy but I have come to appreciate the OS after asp.net development. I often get asked which one I use and I say both and I advise that I like them both. Just as you said, “Each has their strengths and weaknesses — none is perfect.”

  • Anonymous

    Windows XP (desktop) and Vista (laptop), I like Choice.

  • http://www.g3d-development.com G3D

    Windows 7 for freelance (PhpEd OS of choice). When contracting Windows or Linux, basically whatever the client uses.

  • David

    I have been a Windows user for 15 years (through the bad and badder times) but there is also a Mac in my household. Historically I could only use Windows as I was an ASP and then .NET developer. However due to the ugliness of .NET (and it’s horrible, invalid and Javascript reliant code) I have switched back to pure PHP development. There is now no reason why I could not use a Mac but the primary reason that keeps me stuck with this OS is the amount of software I have for it. Until I find decent (and cheap) alternatives for my day-to-day tools I’m stuck in this practical, albeit loveless, Windows relationship.

  • http://fvsch.com Florent V.

    Too bad the poll offers one choice only: I work on both OS X and Linux (Ubuntu). I also use Windows for testing, but it’s definitely not an OS I’m comfortable with for different reasons (including lack of rich keyboard and of native virtual desktops).

  • Chris A

    My PC is Windows XP and my Laptop is Windows Server 2008. Most of my development is .Net so Windows is necessary. Believe me, I’ve had issues in the past with the Microsoft OS but the upside is there is tons of tools and software out there for it and it is pretty easy to write applications for. I have a MacBook at home that the kids use for school and haven’t had a problem with it. Every year my kids would fry the PC with a virus.

  • Dave

    Since there are a lot of Linux Webhost around, I prefer to develop on a Linux machine, because of the case sensitivity of files under Linux. With this, the chances that my Solution will work on the target platform increase.
    What I like too is that I can easily setup a local test environment. Just type sudo apt-get install apache2 mysql php (or something like that) in the terminal and you have a running local webserver.

  • gpalin

    Windows 7 for day-to-day work, Linux for web deployment. I’ve taken to running Ubuntu in VirtualBox to host my sites under development.

  • Ali

    I use Linux for all my work including web development, and its really great, I use fedora 13
    and I don’t agree that “Linux is regarded to be a geek’s OS”
    ubuntu and fedora are so easy and simple for normal users, and simpler than osx and ms windows , I tried them all, linux is the easiest & safest . It just needs a little bit more apps

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      I agree Linux is a great option for non-technical users (especially those who haven’t used Windows). I have an Ubuntu PC set up for my family to surf, email, do homework etc. It’s ideal. It’s quick to install, easy to use, all the software is provided, updates are automatic, and there’s never any virus worries.

      However, it still has a reputation as a geek’s OS. Many people have never heard of Linux and think Windows is the only option. The perception has changed a little over the years, but Linux is yet to gain a significant market share on the desktop.

      • boltronics

        > Many people have never heard of Linux and think Windows is the only option.
        These are the type of people who can’t figure out how to program channels into their TV, display their movies with the correct aspect ratio, have wrong resolutions configured for their monitors and can only type at 10 words per minute at best. These are the people that make you wish that computers required a license before you can use them.

        I went to a newsagent the other day, and observed that every single computer magazine (excluding the console section) on the shelf either had the word “Linux” or “Ubuntu” somewhere on the front cover. Anyone who has even the slightest interest in computers knows about GNU/Linux, and I don’t know why we would be concerned about the people who don’t.

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        “Anyone who has even the slightest interest in computers knows about GNU/Linux”

        Do you need to understand motor maintenance to drive a car?

        The majority of people couldn’t care less about PCs. They may want to type a letter, send an email, listen to music, or surf the web, but they have little interest in what makes a computer work.

        Linux could be ideal for them, but they aren’t aware of the options, can’t (easily) buy a PC with it, and certainly wouldn’t attempt to install it themselves.

      • boltronics

        “Do you need to understand motor maintenance to drive a car?”
        Nope. I personally am not a car owner and have basically no interest in owning one, but I can guarantee you that if I was considering acquiring one I would be carefully researching my options. I think you would be hard pressed to find somebody who wouldn’t.

        I think you misunderstood what you quoted – I’m not even saying everyone interested in computers knows how to *use* GNU/Linux, just that they should be aware of it if they have even the slightest interest in computers. That’s what I meant by “knows about”.

        It’s really not that hard to find somebody to install it for you either (assuming that is in fact a problem). Back to your car analogy; most people take their car to a mechanic when things get too technical, so why should a computer be any different? I bet paying somebody to install GNU/Linux will almost always cost less than buying a Windows license (again assuming you really can’t find it pre-installed), so either way it’s a non-issue.

        “Linux could be ideal for them, but they aren’t aware of the options”
        Those are the people I was referring to in my previous post. Some people are beyond help. :)

  • http://www.tyssendesign.com.au Tyssen

    When I started off in print design, I used to be a Mac user (back when the OS was 7.x-8.x), then when I started working on the Internet, it was all PCs and I’ve been using a PC since the late 90s until a few months ago when, after having upgraded to Windows 7, I was having so many problems with my PC that I decided to switch to working on my MacBook Pro full-time.

    I really liked W7 as an OS, but my PC was just giving me too much grief. I’d already bought the Mac a while ago, so I spent a little bit to upgrade the hard drive and memory and I was ready to go.

    In terms of software, I upgraded Fireworks from CS3 to CS5 (I was going to have to get a licence transfer to the Mac anyway), but I wouldn’t say I’ve found Mac software to be any more expensive or limited than what’s available for the PC.

  • Anony Mouse

    >However, those with limited IT knowledge may find it tricky to diagnose and fix problems.
    Those with IT knowledge limited to Windows – yes. Those with limited IT knowledge period will find diagnosing and fixing linux problems just as tricky as fixing windows ones.

  • Anonymous

    All three of you negative points about Apple are completely false and ridiculous. This is not 1997. You should know better.

    • Dan Avery

      I’d have to agree here. Recently the company for our day job told us we’d be buying the hardware. Since they are still using, get this, Dos for a primary program we went with pcs. The dell machines cost as much as iMacs for a comparable system. The software for the Mac these days is the same price, i.e., Adobe and the like. However the upgrade to 10.6 was $29. I was shocked by the Windows 7 price tag. 10.6 looks like a point upgrade, but it wasn’t. I render a lot of 3d images. What would take 2 hours with 10.5 was reduced to 20 mins with 10.6. Software is like catchup: Macs and PCs have all the major brands and how many off-brands do you really need?

      Lately, however, I’ve been exploring Linux in my spare time. After all, it’s what’s underneath OS X. So I figure it has to be good.

  • centered effect

    Mac as my main machine.
    Ubuntu Linux on my laptop.
    Windows XP on my gaming PC.

  • The Jeffster

    System:
    I run XP 64bit for development and I utilize VM Workstation to run:

    XP 32bit for web-surfing, browser testing.
    Cent OS 64bit for Local Web Server Testing (LAMP Stack,Word Press,Drupal)

    Core Applications:

    Adobe CS3 (Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Illustrator)
    MS Office 2003 (Visio & Word)
    MS Studio 2005 (.NET/C#)

    Reasoning:
    I’m a fan of what produces results with the least amount of effort. I’m used to XP as my workstation and a Linux distro on the back end. In turn, that’s what I use.

    I choose to web-surf on a VM slice as I can snapshot back if anything bad happens to me due to critters on the web. Plus, the VM snapshots in seconds and my core OS doesn’t drop. I’m always in business in seconds. Using a core system (regardless of OS) to do web-surfing and internet downloading is just asking for trouble IMO.

  • Darren884

    Mac and PC. :) I like both… and Linux for servers.

  • http://www.mortier.ca/ Ryan Mortier

    I own a Windows 7 Laptop, Windows Server 2008 R2 server as a dev server, Mac Mini, and an old Laptop that used to run Windows XP that now has Ubuntu Lucid running on it.

    I much prefer my Windows 7 compared to all 3 but they are also still all great operating systems.

    However, the rumor that Mac is for designers and Windows/Linux is for developers just isn’t true. Linux is held back slightly in the design due to program compatibility but Windows and Mac are both equivalent in the design area. I’d have to vote Windows as the superior OS when it comes to development just due to the fact that you can develop anything on Windows. Windows got a bad name from XP. Windows 7 is just an amazing OS though.

  • http://codefisher.org/ codefisher

    I run Linux, I spend most of my time writing stuff that will either run on Linux web servers, in which case it it nice to be able to have a very similar set up, or that is platform independent, in which case it does not matter.

    I find I spend much less time doing housekeeping like tasks when working on Linux. I realize that for those unfamiliar with it, that would not be the case. I am also no gamer, so that there are few good games on Linux does not bother me. I have also had few hardware issues with Linux, at the very least no worse then Windows has given me on the same computers.

    I also have a few Windows VM when I really need to do something on Windows, though that is not common for me.

    I am thinking though that maybe I will get a Mac as my next computer, it is still unix after all.

    I am surprised this has not turned into a flame war yet.

  • http://www.users.on.net/~gulati/ AnilG

    Mac OSX and Win XP but will be changing Win XP to linux server shortly.

    I have used Windows for years simply because my clients and now employer have required I use a Windows laptop integrated to their networks.

    Windows is not for coders at all. Whenever I use Windows I also use Cygwin because I have to get some decent functionality somewhere. I find that Cygwin access of Windows file servers actually performs better than the native windows interface and provides control over files in the network space that Microsoft doesn’t even dream about.

    Mac is great because you still have a linux command line on your workstation but a linux installation is useful when implementing server side code. I just wish Mac OSX had a version of the linux ‘rename’ command. Anyone know where I can get it?

    • Browell Creative

      http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20050630022203488
      I use an Automator or the MV command to do this mostly, but the above discussion will show you how to port the specific utility you crave.

      • http://www.users.on.net/~gulati/ AnilG

        Thanks Browell Creative! That’s cool. I was hoping for a prebuilt binary but I guess I really knew I was going to have to rebuild. This link helps me get started.

        ‘mv’ on its own is not flexible enough. I have been writing little scripts that utilise multiple calls to mv. I have not got started with Automator yet. ‘rename’ is perfect. There’s so much you can do with a single command line with rename.

        Thanks again.

  • XLCowBoy

    Win 7 64bit. Brilliant OS.

  • http://www.dijup.com Dijup

    Normally if someone talks about Linux we first think of server,
    similarly if windows we think for normal office and home use and if mac we think of designer.
    I my case I am from Nepal and affording mac is quite out of range so windows is one of the best and cheap option available here.

    It is very easy to work and hardware are very cheap then mac

  • slack5

    I was a full time linux use for many years.
    I finally switched to OS X so I could completely drop windows (photoshop and a few other rarely used apps).
    I was completely happy with linux as it had (almost) everything I needed.
    OS X is linux, plus support for the other apps.
    I’m a developer and run linux on my development server.

    • http://www.dijup.com Dijup

      Ya mostly for developer it is fine with linux till the time you are not working in windows base application.

      I have many collages who uses Linux for there development environment but still there are many issue with that I have seen many organization who try to go for Linux but just about 20% to 40% they are able to do so.

  • CITAWDS

    I voted Windows which I use as my primary workstation. I also run a Linux workstation that boots into either Ubuntu or Opensuse and I’ve been using Linux for over ten years, before that I worked with Solaris. My Mac is from 1998 or so running OS 9.1 (I actually worked for Apple at the time).

    I come from an IT background and am comfortable in both the Windows and Linux world but my Mac knowledge is very dated and the machines cost more then I’m willing to invest in at the moment.

    On the server side I run Server 2003 and CentOS neither give me any problems.

    My lack of Mac hardware in the office shouldn’t be taken as a comdemnation of Apple but reflects economic realities Adobe creative suite would be a pita to purchase again if I switched to the Mac, I’d really like to see Creative Suite available for Linux ;-)

    I’m pleased to see more Linux users then I would have thought.

    Steve

    • W2ttsy

      Adobe actually have a license port option from windows to OS X or the other way round. Basically you submit your current license, select the transferable platform, download the trial and they send you a new code.

      • Anonymous

        OS X is not Linux. Under the hood it is Unix (yes I know so is Linux) but to call OS X Linux is an insult to OS X.

  • rhog

    Windows 7 (PHPed choice) + vmware + SuSe Linux

  • Browell Creative

    For 20 years I’ve been an Microsoft User. A year ago I moved to Snow Leopard on a Mac Pro with 8 cores and 32-GB of RAM. My Laptop runs LINUX and I virtualise WindowsXP/7 using VMware for legacy work. I develop in Eclipse/Aptana and Illustrator, Edit Video in Final Cut Studio, Develop Ruby from the Mac/UNIX command-line and my Network runs on a Linux domain.

    In my experience, I’ve got more done in the last year under Mac/UNIX and Ubuntu/Linux than I did the previous 5 years under windows. Instead of servicing my PC constantly I’m getting work done. I used to find Windows easier to service, but it needed to be easy to service because it fell over all the more regularly. UNIX based systems such as Macs and Ubuntu netbooks are light years ahead of the MS dinosaurs.

    I’m not a Mac lover, nor a Windows hater. I just love productivity – and UNIX by Apple, Ubuntu or Android gives me productivity in bucket loads more than Windows ever can.

    • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

      Yup, that’s what made me switch to OSX this year after about 20 years of MSDOS/MSWindows too.

      My Windows machines didn’t really crash or get virus infested or anything dramatic like that. They just slowed down over time although I did regular registry sweeps and checks to ensure that it wasn’t getting all junked up. Patch Tuesdays and the inevitable “registry creep” that comes along with it took it’s toll. My workstation just became slower and slower and so did my productivity.

      Now I have a smoking fast machine and I just work. I open up a virtual copy of Windows to do Windows specific stuff and I can keep motoring with all the cross platform stuff in the meantime.

      I’m certainly not a fanboy of any OS camp but for me the new Mac just works and I find that a welcome change.

  • Evans

    In a world where results matter more than the recipes, I use Windows 7 64bit. People may have preferences but for me, it’s a success strory.
    When it come to choices almost any other software that can run on a linux or Mac will run in windows.

    Security is not a big issue to windows nowadays, Windows 7 is very secure.

    Usability! let’s face it, we all learned to use a computer through windows. That means it’s the easiest

    Price! As for me, I got an OEM license that is pretty much cheaper than expected. No driver issues, no administration issues, plug & play is perfect, testing is perfect since I have over 6 browsers installed, I have a Web server installed it it and can test both PHP & ASP in the same machine.

    I have also tried running linux but, the software installation itself is headache. No cammands, just a few clicks and am done.

    • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

      Hmmmm… Have you tried Linux recently?

      It’s not for everyone but I would wager that Ubuntu is easier to install than XP. It might be the same or easier than Vista/7 too but my Vista computer came with it so I didn’t do an install.

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        I’d agree with that. Ubuntu is easier and quicker to install than XP or Vista. Windows 7 installation is a match for Ubuntu’s easiness and speed, but it doesn’t install additional software (OpenOffice, Firefox, Evolution, etc.)

        If you’ve got an older PC (2 years+), Ubuntu will probably support all your hardware without having to hunt around for drivers too. I haven’t needed to touch the command line since installing 10.4.

        I still use Windows 7 on my main development PC — primarily for some essential software. I still like Windows, but would happily switch to Linux if it became necessary.

      • Evans

        “Hmmmm… Have you tried Linux recently? ”

        I have, & I agree it’s pretty much easier to install than XP.

        But consider this, Ubuntu LTS arrived almost same time as windows 7 & not XP.

        I dare you to try installing the version of Ubuntu released late 2001.

        The problem is we tend to compare the latest Linux Distro with the oldest windows release.

        For the sake of testing and speed, Windows runs it’s apps + almost all linux compatible apps not forgetting the likes of iTunes and Quick time.
        Wouldn’t that be a better choice for business?

      • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

        As I mentioned it’s probably not for everyone but the question today was about Linux software installation itself being a headache. I don’t think (today) it is.

        I’ve used all sorts of distro’s through the years and looked at them objectively with the thought “could this actually replace my Window workstation” Ubuntu can certainly cover all the bases for my recreational computing (I’m not a gamer) and it’s super close to being ready for my workstation with Eclipse & Aptana. If I hadn’t picked up a Mac I would most likely be running Ubuntu full time and virtualizing Windows as needed.

        BTW: I didn’t know Ubuntu was around in 2001… I think RedHat 6.5 was the earliest Linux I tried. Definitely not as easy to use or set up for general productivity as Windows 98SE or whatever I was using back then : )

  • http://www.jonathanpenny.co.uk jonpenny

    I use XP mainly at work but also use OSX. It depends on the job really. I think all OS’s have positive and negative points. At home I mainly use Ubuntu and dual boot with Vista. I mainly use Vista at home for gaming though and not any development work.

    Price is a big factor for me. I’d rather pay £150 on Windows than have to pay the way over the top prices for a Mac. Also there is much more hardware choice available for a Windows/Linux based PC and you can even build one yourself.

    If Apple released OSX as a piece of software I could install on a machine I built myself I would triple boot into Windows, Ubuntu and OSX. But Steve Jobs likes to have control over everything so that will never happen.

    • Anonymous

      Get a Mac and triple boot with better hardware for the same price today. People really need to consider TCO when pricing.

      • http://www.jonathanpenny.co.uk jonpenny

        My PC has better hardware than what you get in a Mac. I have an i7 940 overclocked so it’s running at 3.66ghz, 6GB of RAM, 3 1TB hard drives, a Geforce GTX 295 overclocked, Sounblaster Fatality 7.1… Total cost £2300. If I wanted a Mac with the same specs it would be an extra £1000 on top. Of course Macs don’t have the option of having such a high end graphics card. So my PC is better than a Mac as far as hardware is concerned. I had it built by Cyberpower too so I know the build quality is second to none.

        Oh and it comes with a 3 year warranty free. Apple charge you more to have a 3 warranty.

        So no the hardware is not better and not the same price.

      • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

        Wow, that’s a smoking rig! I haven’t built a PC for quite some time and when I did, yes I could save a bundle compared to buying a Mac however now that Apple has switched to an Intel platform and using common bus architecture, the costs are getting much more on par with the PC world.

        Again, I’m not a hardware geek anymore so I don’t know the difference between the new CPU’s but for the equivalent of about £2,400.00, I could get a Mac Pro (tower) with 2.66GHz a Quad-Core Intel Xeon (it can take a 3.33GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon), 6Gig 1066MHz DDR3 ECC SDRAM (it will handle up to 16Gigs), 3 1TB SATA drives (it has 4 drive bays), 1 CD/DVD Read/Write drive and a NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 512M card (it can handle another 3 video cards). This comes with 1 year support as you mentioned and adding an extra year is about £189

        The weak point is the video as you mentioned and for a small cost (about £189), I could add an ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB card but if it were important, I’d just go out and get a Geforce GTX 295. I know a bunch of guys over at insanelymac.com have had success with the GTX295 on Snow Leopard.

        Still not as cost effective as a regular PC but it’s getting close.

  • http://cydewaze.org cydewaze

    Another Linux user here. I do have a Windows machine, but don’t use it for development. When I first switched to Linux, I found myself saying things like “If I were in Windows, I’d have this done by now”, but after I learned what Linux could do, my opinion on that reversed.

    Now I use my slow Windows machine at work (a fault of our (mis)configuration, not Windows itself) as an excuse to have two telecommuting days. Being able to run ColdFusion 9 on Linux also helps with the telecommuting, since I do mostly CF development.

  • Spha

    im using linux and i must say im enjoying the open source eviroment have’nt heard of or experienced a systems crash nor viruses in a while, none what so ever. Switching from windows to linux for me was a solution to most of my problems, especialy with all that power you have on your OS its like nothing imaginable

  • walterbyrd

    I use Linux, but I do not do a lot of web development. One problem I have with Linux is that photos – especially of photos of people – do not render correctly. X-Window is not the best system for graphics, it pixelates.

    I am surprised more people here don’t use OS-X. It seems like whenever I find some tutorial video for a web development framework, they are using OS-X.

    When it comes to Windows, I am surprised that cost is even mentioned as a factor. Windows may cost $200 off the shelf, but who buys it like that? I can buy a fairly decent new windows laptop for $400 or less. I can buy a fairly decent windows desktop for $300 or less. Used, I can get an old 3Ghz GX280 with windows, from craigslist for $75, and even with a memory upgrade I’m still under $100.

    • ServerStorm

      For those that think that Linux does not render photos correctly I hope you understand that Linux can do some phenomenal graphical and 3d rendering.

      By using NVidia or ATI graphic cards which have native Linux drivers you can have as much or as little graphic rendering power as you need.

      Blender is a 3d application (open source) which is a little hard to learn (like a number of other 3d applications) but it allows for powerful rendering, composition, lighting, and environments (fog, fire, particles…). I have been able to do some really nice renders that look great on my Linux machines.

      Steve

  • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

    I started writing desktop code with VB3 on Windows 3.11 and then jumped into web development in Win95/98/2K/XP. A few years ago I started doing parallel development on Linux. Fedora first and then Ubuntu with some older RedHat stuff before hand. I really enjoy customizing the Linux machine and there’s no limit to what you can do. I haven’t crashed a Linux machine in probably five or six years. I also have a Vista core duo laptop but I wouldn’t waste my time trying to do anything useful on it. It’s too slow and clunky. I should put on Ubuntu and be done with it but it’s good for looking at sites in IE, I suppose.

    January 2010 I picked up a 27″ Mac and now I rarely use anything else for development. I have an MSDN subscription and I use VirtualBox to open a copy of Windows in one of my desktops so I can use Visual Studio and any other MS software I need. It’s the best of both worlds.

    * If I want to do something really cutting edge and/or prototype something that could blow up, I’ll set it up on a spare Linux machine.

  • http://www.quasarcr.com/ Ramiro S

    I use Ubuntu Linux 10.04 mainly. Then I have a Virtual Machine with Windows 7 that I use mainly for Photoshop and to test sites with IE 6,7,8. Then I have another partition with the original Vista that came with my laptop… I only use it to play LOTRO :D

  • moretea

    I use all three! Used to be a Wintel-exclusive guy, but my new shop is oriented more towards a Mac environment. I don’t have much use for OS fanboys; any platform has its plusses and minuses (well, except for Windows Millennium–THAT was a total dog ), and one should just use the best tool for the work at hand.

    @ work, Mac OS X 10.4 for Web development and design, and WinXP SP3 for database development. On my personal laptop, Mac OS X 10.6, with virtual instances of Win 7 and Ubuntu 10.04 running on Parallels Desktop. Now, someone needs to provide me a compelling reason to try a BSD distro… ;-)

    • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

      You’ve already got BSD… It’s the core of OSX : P

  • RobbieGoD

    @work i use a DELL Vostro 410 running Windows XP Pro and also Windows 7 (dual boot machine.)

    @home – I have a gamer machine home made running Windows 7. Love Windows 7!

    windowsXP feels slow now in comparison.

  • Anonymous

    I use Linux and Windows. The order or OS preference follows the project I’ll be working on.

    I look forward the day where we need only one OS for everything.

  • estudiospiral

    i use Mac and PC
    there should be a option with both or “a couple”

  • David

    After Apple’s decision to not support flash, I will no longer be supporting their product. So I have switched over to Windows.

    • simonbanyard

      It’s fine to not like OS X, Windows or Linux, why polarize or politicize? Apple haven’t decided to “not support flash” in the way you are intimating. They made an informed decision not to support a closed *non-standard* frame work that has has continued stability and security issues on all the platforms it is available for, as well as accessibility issues, on their new platform. It’s ill-informed and inflammatory comments and politicking like yours that go on to cause pointless flaming.

      OT; I use all three, with a preference for OS X and the apps available for it. I have yet to find a text editor on *any* platform that works as well as TextMate, it really is a killer app IMHO. Of course, YMMV.

      • http://www.users.on.net/~gulati/ AnilG

        I’m not too sorry to forget about flash these days. When I started programming flash in 2001 Flash was everywhere by default and there were no versioning issues. You could just rely on it. I even started developing an entirely flash based CMS.

        Someone please correct me if my perception is wrong, it seems to me that perhaps since Adobe took over, you now can’t seem to rely on the user actually having a usable flash installation. There are so many user end problems getting flash working.

        Flash is no longer so compelling now that DOM support, CSS, canvas/SVG have improved/arrived. I have given up on Flash. It certainly won’t be a factor in my choice of OS.

  • http://www.wplancer.com banago

    I’ve been using Ubuntu Linux for 3 years now and I’m very happy with it.

  • the.peregrine

    I’d be 100 percent Ubuntu if Adobe supported Linux with its Creative Suite, though I could tolerate a substitute for everything except the full version of Acrobat (which has the tools I need for making PDFs accessible). I’m running Ubuntu on two computers, one with Ubuntu Studio dedicated to graphics and sound recording. I’ve been using Ubuntu since 2005 and it has steadily improved in every way. It runs well on older hardware so I can keep things stable instead of constantly upgrading and tweaking.

    At work (partly because I have no choice), and on one computer at home, I use XP Pro. It’s endlessly, constantly patched and protected against a steady onslaught of viruses and trojans that would mostly be harmless if Windows followed the Linux example of “superuser” administration. Windows leaves too much exposed by default, and that’s been true from the start.

    Apache Webserver and ColdFusion run great in both operating systems, and I look forward to the day I can say goodbye to Windows for good.

  • http://www.billbolte.com bbolte

    windows at work. ubuntu at home and on my netbook.

  • Anonymous

    I have an iMac with MacOS X.6 on one partition, whereas I have Windows XP on another. I use a piece of software called Parallels so that I can use the Windows XP OS at the same time as MacOS X OS, which means I get the best (and worst) of both worlds on one piece of hardware. No need to have another box. Job done.

  • http://www.hiveon.com Hiveon

    I use LinuxMint as my main OS. But I think there are so many more tools for web development in Windows, like Photoshop, etc.

  • ServerStorm

    It is true that the average person does not know about Linux, understand its’ usefulness, or would attempt to install it themselves. However, when people are introduced to it, see and hear of some of the benefits and are able to play with it for a little while they warm up to the idea pretty quickly.

    We give our clients a guided tour of Linux that highlights the things that they do everyday. We then provide them with a Live CD of Ubuntu and ask them to stick this in their DVD drive and play around. We find most people are able to understand the interface and the intent of the readily available email, web, office tools (open office) and games. Naturally they come back with quite a few questions, but that is ok as we are committed to switching them, so they don’t have to come to us every 2 months because they reinfected their computers.

    We have excellent results, but it does involve educating the customer.

    Steve

  • i_like_php

    I use Windows or a Mac for graphic developement, everything else doesn’t have what I need AKA Photoshop along with other commercials apps. I tried Gimp under Ubuntu and I’ve found it to be all over the place and when you’re on a time schedule to have a project to be completed, one can’t be spending more time trying to figure out how to work a particular program, when ease of use should be the standard when it comes to apps! Which is why I can’t use Gimp, this is not a Linux diss because I love the OS, I just dislike the setup of GIMP.

  • JO

    Arguably the OS is irrelevant – it’s what you do with it that counts.

    Some might argue it would be far simpler developing on the PC. It’s very subjective but I personally prefer the software available for the Mac (such as BBEdit, Coda.) It just seems tighter and more integrated.

    While I favour MacOS for my web development business, the majority are viewing the web through via a PC. In this respect I also have a Compaq laptop for cross browser checking etc.

    I love my Mac and PC and really couldn’t do my job properly without both. :)

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Absolutely, and that’s my point — it really doesn’t matter which OS you use for web design/development. There are few blocking issues unless you require specific software for, say, producing Flash or ASP.NET.

      That’s rarely the case in other sectors, though. We’re very fortunate!

  • anonymausly

    using ubuntu 9.10 on my laptop and it never gived me any headache
    ………………….what a good relief from taking care of windows to full featured freedom of linux

  • http://www.users.on.net/~gulati/ AnilG

    Apart from ‘secondary’ issues such as cost I find myself wondering why developers actually _choose_ Windows as a development platform. I wonder could anyone on this thread who uses Windows (if anyone is still listening) share what their reasons are for making it their OS of choice?

    I’ve used Windows in the past because it was a requirement of my employment, because of network compatibility and software compatibility. Did anyone choose Windows because of characteristics of the OS itself over OSX or Linux?

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      I use Windows on my development PC. I develop using a few Microsoft technologies now and again, although the main reason is the software. I realize you can use WINE or VMs, but it’s not always easy to run something like Photoshop or IE on Linux.

      Clients also tend to use Windows, and it’s often necessary to help them with support issues or provide software. They all expect documents in MS Office format and, although OOo is very good (I use it), you can’t always guarantee it’ll reproduce formatting correctly.

      Familiarity is another issue. I’ve been using Windows since v2.0 (and MS-DOS before that), so I know its quirks and can get stuff done quickly. That said, I also have an Ubuntu PC and would happily switch if there was a good compelling reason to do so.

      Overall though, it really doesn’t matter what OS you’re using for web development. That’s good.

    • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

      Yeah, I started with DOS systems and then went to Windows because it was available… I tried to get a Linux system going a long time ago but at the time I just couldn’t get anything to work and Mac Hardware was too expensive.

      Over the last ten or so years I’ve come to realize that the OS isn’t that important for web development and I’ve had several Windows systems, Mac and Linux for development. I’ve been full time on OSX since January 2, 2010 and it’s worked out really well.

    • http://www.users.on.net/~gulati/ AnilG

      That’s interesting, thanks for sharing. Reasons for using Windows seem to be:

      1. To run Windows only tools that don’t run elsewhere e.g. Photoshop.
      2. As a test platform for Windows/IE.
      3. To ensure exact interoperability with clients that use MS Office.
      4. Familiarity / inertia slowing down move to another OS.

      I wonder if anyone has any reasons based on the functionality of the OS itself?

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      There’s not much to choose between the OSs these days. All of them have attractive, usable interfaces with a good range of software and hardware compatibility. IT experts can normally switch between systems without too much hardship.

      I think it’s a shame you can’t easily buy PCs pre-installed with Linux. I think it’s a far safer and usable system for many novices. However, most (non-IT) people prefer what they’re used to and, 9 times out of 10, that’s Windows.

      • http://www.users.on.net/~gulati/ AnilG

        I am not really seeing that in the replies here, Craig, which is why I am asking this question.

        It seems the only reason people stick with Windows, apart from inertia, is for compatibility with clients and users.

        As a developer I loathe working on Windows because the underlying implementation is so poor in terms of useability. I have to install the Cygwin tool set in order to be able to navigate the file system automatically with any competence, and have proper command line scriptable tools.

        When I was working with Perl a few years ago it was notable in the Perl Windows implementation that a full and proper fork call was not actually possible in Windows because the underlying OS was just not capable of it.

        I also prefer to mount windows file systems from a linux box since I seem to be able to traverse and list files quicker over the network than Windows itself, noticeably so.

        Overall I find the Windows UI slow and awkward and it does seem to crash more often. It seems that you have to know a lot of detail to do anything in Windows which seems to have a lot of disparate solutions to do various things rather than the clean elegant paradigm that Linux/BSD/Mac has in the OS and the UI, at least in Mac.

        In particular if you’re on a corporate Windows workstation you’ve probably got Outlook running as well, which all by itself seems to hog 1/3 of the machine, and happily locks up the whole workstation any time it thinks it’s got something important to do.

        A lot of the Windows system format are also impenetrable black boxes. The Outlook PST file as an example. This makes it difficult to implement interoperability or to invent ad hoc solutions to integration problems, which is presumably the goal of MS when implementing their systems in order to keep their customers locked in.

        I moved to Mac at home recently and I find it pleasant how quickly the system boots and shuts down, how transparent and clean the UI is, and that I can always revert to BSD command line to script and control bulk tasks automatically if I need to. It’s also pretty in a way which, personally, I don’t think Windows can compete with, although they are obviously trying, Redmond clearly does not have a design edge.

        I’d like to see some clearly communicated concrete reasons why Windows is a good OS but I just haven’t seen any written in this thread yet, although plenty to contrary, a few above?

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        @AnilG
        Thank you for your thought-provoking post.

        There’s no doubt that systems with Unix roots are better designed. If you migrate from them to Windows, several features will horrify and annoy you.

        Windows evolved from DOS, went through a few dubious iterations, and can be inconsistent, clunky, unstable and insecure. But it’s not awful — it has plenty of software, runs on 90% of PCs, and a many people feel comfortable with it (partially because they don’t know any better).

        The upshot of this post is that it really doesn’t matter what you’re using. Developers appear to be happy whether they’re using Windows, Mac or Linux. It’s great to have the choice.

  • http://www.users.on.net/~gulati/ AnilG

    Craig, I don’t get a reply link to your post so I’m just posting to the thread. It looks like you and me are the only ones discussing it anyway :-)

    Thanks for your response. I take it that you at least partly agree with my comments on Windows, from what you are saying.

    You don’t seem to have listed any reasons why Windows is actually good in itself, though. I think we can add ‘has plenty of software’. This is another reason in the same category as the existing reasons for using Windows:

    1. To run Windows only tools that don’t run elsewhere e.g. Photoshop.
    2. As a test platform for Windows/IE.
    3. To ensure exact interoperability with clients that use MS Office.
    4. Familiarity / inertia slowing down move to another OS.
    5. Has plenty of software available.

    I don’t see any real reason to run Windows other than as a test platform, unless there is some specific software you really need that _only_ runs on Windows. I’m glad that all my preferred software runs very well on Mac and Linux.

    I think it’s also notable that some of the best software around was developed for Mac/BSD/Linux but has been ported to also run on Windows.

    I don’t want to slag Windows off, I’m just interested in a balanced and clear summary on OS use, in line with the subject of this thread. If there are any reasons why Windows itself is a better OS, I’d be really glad to hear them.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Software aside, I don’t think there are many other reasons to recommend Windows over and above Mac or Linux. Obviously, software can be a huge issue — if you need to run Sage Accounts, you need Windows.

      That said, I wouldn’t say people shouldn’t use Windows or any other OS. Use whatever you’re comfortable with. Unfortunately, relatively few people ever get to try Linux even though it could be ideal.

      • boltronics

        > if you need to run Sage Accounts, you need Windows.
        Wrong. The software reportedly runs quite well under WINE, as do the majority of Windows applications these days.

      • http://www.users.on.net/~gulati/ AnilG

        Thanks, Craig. It seems like it may be ‘politically correct’ these days to be ‘OS agnostic’, but the feedback from this thread is there are no commanding features of Windows that anyone likes.

        As you and others have said, many don’t make the move due to inertia. I only recently switched to Mac, but I’ve been waiting to do it for 6 years, just held off because I couldn’t justify the cost of a new computer. I’ve no excuse for not using Linux though.

        I recommend to everyone to try Linux or Mac. They are both better.

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        @boltronics
        Yes, you may be able to run Sage or other software under WINE. But how well does it work? Will Sage support it? How easy is it to set up? Are there any issues? Will users require training? Ultimately, most businesses will argue it’s cheaper and easier to provide Windows to Sage users.

        @AnilG
        I don’t think there are any features of Windows you can’t get in other OSs (and vice versa in most cases). They all provide similar facilities and mimic each other to some extent.

        For a novice user on a budget, I’d recommend Linux. For those with deeper pockets, a Mac may suit better. Those who have used Windows for a while may not want to switch, even though they might be surprised how quickly they can adapt to another OS.

        However, for most businesses, IT literacy == MS Windows and Office experience. That’s the way of the world, I’m afraid.

      • boltronics

        > But how well does it work?… How easy is it to set up? Are there any issues?
        Try and see. It costs nothing and is easy to try. Although not the recommended approach, most software can be installed in exactly the same way as Windows – with a double click of the setup.exe file.

        > Will Sage support it?
        You don’t need to tell them what OS you installed it onto, so you will still likely get Sage support if you need it.

        > Will users require training?
        Nope. WINE will create all the required shortcuts on the OS menu. File management is basically the same as a mac, which nobody seems to complain about.

        > Ultimately, most businesses will argue it’s cheaper and easier to provide Windows to Sage users.
        I disagree. They won’t argue at all. They won’t even know it’s an option.

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        @boltronics
        “It costs nothing and is easy to try.”
        So you’re happy to install Linux on a few hundred PCs for nothing? The software may be free, but evaluation, installation and configuration still costs money.

        “you will still likely get Sage support if you need it”
        Sage state the requirements are Windows, although they mention Parallels on the Mac (but that’s still Windows). I don’t doubt they’d support financial bugs, but what if you can’t install or run the application? What if it crashes under certain Linux-only conditions?

        “Will users require training? Nope.”
        Really?! We’re talking about users here. Many will think the internet’s unavailable because there’s no blue ‘e’!

        “They won’t argue at all”
        I agree most won’t realise Linux is a viable option. But if a user requires Sage and MS Office in a company which has Windows expertise, what’s the no-brainer choice of OS?

        Few companies are brave enough to step into the unknown and install Linux. That’s a shame, but it’s the way it is.

      • boltronics

        > So you’re happy to install Linux on a few hundred PCs for
        > nothing?
        Sorry Craig, but that’s just not how it works. Companies with that amount of PCS will almost certainly try to purchase identical (or as close as possible) hardware, so that a corporate image can be deployed. I’ve worked in a company that used Norton Ghost and partimage to do just that. Make a single image, test it, deploy it.

        However, even if that isn’t the case, Ubuntu has a huge advantage: you don’t really need to customize the image for varying hardware… it just works. No need to hack in 3rd party drivers for different motherboards and network cards, because modern GNU/Linux distros support them all out of the box. That is a huge time saver right there, and explains why so many (non-MS) Windows rescue CDs are GNU/Linux based.

        > What if it crashes under certain Linux-only conditions?
        That’s why you test. And depending on the number of licenses you are trying to save and the problem encountered, it might even be more cost-effective to hire somebody to create you a wine patch, if shown to be necessary (but looking at the WINE AppDB should give you a good indication of what results to expect up front).

        However, you don’t need to hire a developer to get things fixed; the WINE development community (for example) is extremely active. If you are prepared to help the developers out with regression testing (details all documented clearly on the website) and aren’t in a huge rush to migrate, you may be able to get any problems fixed yourself. Just like any open source project.

        Just this morning, I noticed a commit to a FOSS program I use was performed that solves a bug I reported. Last month, developers released a fix for a VirtualBox bug I reported. If it’s a legitimate bug blocking your use of the software and the program is actively developed, you can be confident a developer will take interest in solving the problem.

        > Many will think the internet’s unavailable because there’s no
        > blue ‘e’!
        Here, you go way too far. If these people don’t know that “Firefox Web Browser” is a web browser, they really shouldn’t be working in a field that requires them to use computers. I would question why those people were hired to do the job they are doing.

        Besides, if we are talking a lot of users, you can customize the image as much as you want to meet user expectations. Hell, change the Firefox icon to the IE icon and stretch it to take up half the desktop if it will help.

        > in a company which has Windows expertise
        Tell me, did these people manage to transition to the Office Ribbon bar? How? It’s completely unlike anything before it. Did they need special training to figure it out?

        If training was required, then the same can be justified for an OS migration. If it wasn’t, then it is reasonable to expect that it also wouldn’t be required for this change either.

        I would also go one step further and question if a company truly requires Microsoft Office, when OpenOffice.org has 95%+ the functionality and compatibility. If IBM can ditch Office, I would argue the same is true for most companies.

        http://www.linux-magazine.com/Online/News/IBM-Throws-Out-Microsoft-Office

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        @boltronics
        I agree with everything you’re saying. Linux is easy to install, stable, and runs existing software. So why does Windows have a 90% desktop market share? Are you suggesting only 1% of people/companies have heard of Linux?

        It’s a similar story for OpenOffice.org. I use it, recommend it, and even prefer Write to Word (Excel still beats Calc, though). But do I distribute ODF files to my clients? Saving as a .doc/x works but formatting isn’t always accurate. If the client needs an editable document, I often have to use MS Office.

        For most companies, Linux is a step into the unknown which has a real monetary cost that cannot be determined until you start evaluation. IBM has the resources, expertise, and inclination to do it, but the vast majority of companies do not have or need in-depth IT knowledge. Changing systems is a risk and few companies like risk … especially when they’re only running Windows-based software. Most consider Windows to be the safe option and support is a phone call away.

      • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

        I’m just going to jump in real fast…
        @Craig: So why does Windows have a 90% desktop market share?

        It’s a lingering result of Microsoft’s huge earlier successes running on cheap and available hardware on the desktop and their success at getting into the school system. This goes back to the early, mid 90′s (about 1994 or so) when really the only system that did anything and looked like it would survive was Windows 3.1 or 3.11. Apple was tanking, IBM failed with OS/2 Warp and MS Windows was picking up momentum. MS Office was available, as was Works and even MS Write was a good little word processor. All the good Games ran on DOS so you’d boot up your machine and either stay in MS Dos for your gaming or boot to Windows for productivity.

        Sure there were other systems around but they either required expensive hardware (Apple) or were hard to configure and lacked software titles so the bottom line was that if you were going to use a computer for business or education, you would be learning/using a PC. Now we have much better options but old habits die hard.

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        That’s part of the issue. Many would say MS’s aggressive enforcement of Windows on all PC manufacturers plays a part too. But if you accept Linux is a viable alternative which is easier to install and support, why has it’s desktop market share barely moved from 1%?

        Inertia is partly to blame, but I think the real problem is that Windows is good enough … for most people, anyway. Many users buy a PC and never experience a driver problem, software incompatibility, virus, or malware attack (that they’re aware of). Why should they change? Their requirements are fairly basic and Linux won’t make them more productive.

      • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

        No, I would say apathy and lack of interest is more of a reason for not moving elsewhere. My guess is most visitors (members) of SitePoint have at one point or another been the family & friends tech support so this might have a familiar ring to it.

        This isn’t to knock Windows because it does do a pretty good job on a huge array of hardware but on numerous occasions while checking a rogue computer I have discovered massive issues with drivers, registry errors, adware, viruses, etc…. The people who have these computers know there’s a problem but they just ignore it. This happens all the time but it’s what they’re used to and as a result they don’t want to make a change. Crazy but it seems to be the reality.

      • boltronics

        awasson, you make a good point about MS being the only obvious choice in the pre-Internet era and old habits dying hard, but I don’t think that is the case here… at least, I don’t think it’s the primary issue.

        I think the reason GNU/Linux systems aren’t more popular is primarily because of marketing and perceived value. As Craig previously mentioned, most people get Windows preinstalled on their machines. People don’t need to ask for it, but they know they paid for it. The perception is that something you can download at no cost can’t be as good as something you already paid money for.

        A lot of people don’t seem to care too much about switching if there is some incentive to do it. A lot of (/most?) Mac users came from Windows, and they did so at their own choice, and likely without major issues considering how many have successfully done it. However, to go from Windows to Apple generally means paying *more* for something perceived to be better. Switching to GNU/Linux may feel like a downgrade, since you are replacing your software you paid good money for with something which you just downloaded off the web at no cost.

        Even if people had a clear choice when buying a new computer; “GNU/Linux or Windows?”, Windows OEM licenses are generally cheap enough that most people won’t mind paying a few bucks more for perceived value. Besides, lots of people are aware that buying Windows later at retail prices can cost hundreds more, further adding to that perception.

        Then there is the advertising and brand recognition. You may have a Microsoft mouse, keyboard and other accessories. Most people you know run Windows, so you and your family/friends have already committed to trusting the Microsoft company/brand. GNU/Linux doesn’t have a brand as such. Canonical doesn’t make Ubuntu. They support it, they release it, compile it, etc. But the majority of software comes from third parties. There is no such thing called Canonical GNOME, for example.

        GNU/Linux has a history of being perceived as a hacker’s or geek’s OS. While this has not been exclusively the case for many years, not everyone is up with the times. First impressions count.

        Lastly, for those who have considered a switch (perhaps by booting a LiveCD/USB or what not, they will have found that Flash and support for various codecs tends to be quite horrible. The top three desktop issues I see are as follows:

        1. Flash does not work. It simply doesn’t. I don’t care what Adobe says. I generally try not to have it installed.

        The Flash issue will be fixed when it is no longer relevant. With Apple also pushing for this, I can see this happening. Perhaps 5 years is a reasonable estimate for Flash to be uncommon (or at least deliberately made to be unnecessary) on major websites.

        2. DVDs won’t work out of the box. CSS libraries cannot be included due to it infringing on software patents in many countries.

        The DVD issue will probably be fixed when software patents are abolished. This has to happen in time. Currently companies are enjoying monopolies in certain areas by using SP to wage war against upstarts, however when an all out patent war is started between major corporations (which it appears Apple may become the catalyst for due to recent behavior), hopefully all will see software patents for what they are and we will see a larger push to have them abolished.

        3. BluRay discs won’t work (easily, if at all). You generally need to rip them to your HDD, and play the video stream back directly (bypassing the menus).

        The third problem will be solved in time, and when software patents are abolished, more developers will step in to get this issue sorted. Even though my desktop has a HD-DVD/BluRay combo drive, I just end up switching on my PS3 or 360 when I need to watch one of these.

        Unlike corporations, FOSS can never go away and will always continue to improve. It is inevitable that it will gain popularity. Maybe not market share, but definitely popularity.

      • http://www.users.on.net/~gulati/ AnilG

        I wonder if anyone has considered the other part of the MS inertia. MS has a lot of ‘weight’ in the market with its MCSE Engineers.

        I fairly recently met such an MCSE starting out on his career, with a good attitude and willingness to learn. His impression of Linux was that it’s a ‘toy’ system! He didn’t seem to have the slightest inkling of what Linux is capable of and how far it outshines and overshadows Windows capabilities!

        Perhaps we underestimate how far this group of albeit unknowing and basically ignorant ‘users’ are influencing the decisions. I think there’s a lot of them.

        When you think how Sun basically had to open source Solaris because all the sysadmins coming out of college were practiced on RedHat and had no idea about Solaris variations, you begin to see how important this factor is.

        I work in an organisation that outsources its network support to a national company. I still have to do the Linux support because their engineers just basically can’t.

  • http://www.users.on.net/~gulati/ AnilG

    Thanks for pursuing your point, Craig, I can see where you are coming from. Yeah, all the OSs do actually _work_, but it’s clear which ones work _better_.

    I think your main point is around the ‘inertia’ factor, and as boltronics says, is largely due to lack of information and perhaps courage.

    I think businesses are reluctant to switch since budget approval for licensing of MS software is normally a given and of course there are risks associated with moving onto a different platform. No matter how well you perform the move there will be costs and ‘pain’ around failures along the route.

    I think it’s a lot better now than say 5 years ago, though. There are posters on this thread who are clearly making Linux / Open Office work for businesses. Those businesses will get a lower cost higher performing platform for their trouble.

    I think if businesses realised the total cost of all the lost productivity from slow downs, crashes and outages when using Microsoft, and the ongoing elevated cost of maintenance, not forgetting the repeated need to improve hardware as performance needs to increase to match new versions of the OS.. they’d switch a lot quicker. And that’s all without even considering the license cost.

    I commend all those posting on this thread who are doing this work and encourage you to aim your work at bigger and bigger businesses.