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TitelA comparison between Microsoft Windows and Linux 
AutorChristopher Cerny redeemer@gmx.at 
Anzahl Worte3916 
SchlagworteWindows, Linux, Updating, Software, Installation, Servers, Administration 

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A comparison between

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Microsoft Windows and Linux

13th January 2004

by Christopher Cerny

Table of contents:

Table of contents 2
Preface 3
What is Windows? 3
What is Linux? 3
Different philosophies 3
Cost 4
Supported Platforms 4
Installation 4
Updating 5
Software 5
Look & Feel 6
Devices 7
Security 7
Support 8
Administration 8
Servers 9
Other differences 9
Conclusion 10

Operating Systems (OSes) are very complex programs that act as an intermediary between the user and the computer. Modern operating systems include a lot of features, so it is nearly impossible for one person to understand all aspects of an operating system. Most users only need their computer for doing their daily tasks like word processing or surfing on the web. They just want to be given an easy interface to their computer. However, advanced users need to be able to configure nearly everything, making their system safe and fast.
Microsoft Windows and Linux are the two most popular operating systems. Both try to cover the needs of very different types of users. However, there are a lot of differences between them. This text tries to point out these differences, showing the advantages and disadvantages of these two operating systems.
Microsoft's operating system is known to be very easy to use. Basically Windows can easily be configured. Configuration beyond the basics is complex or nearly impossible, however. Microsoft operating systems have spread computer usage and have spread among a large number of computers (it is said that about 1 billion people worldwide use Microsoft products worldwide).
There are many different versions of Windows, the current version are: Windows XP and Windows 2003 Server. XP is even more userfriendly and adds more media features to Windows.
Linux is a clone of the operating system Unix, written from scratch by Linus Torvalds with assistance from hackers across the net.
Linux is available in so-called 'distributions'. A distribution is a package containing a Linux system that is ready to be installed on your computer - including software for most purposes. The difference between the distributions are configuration (e.g. different default directories) and special software packages.
Linux and most programmes running under Linux are published under the so-called 'GNU public license', meaning that these programs can be copied, changed and redistributed freely. However, the copyright remains with the author. GNU's first aim was to create a free operating system. In the 1990s all the major coponents were written - except the kernel. Then Linux, a free kernel, was developed by Linus Torvalds. Linux became the kernel of the GNU project in 1994.
When we talk about Linux we generally mean 'GNU/Linux'.

The source code of Windows is considered a trade secret and is not published. A compiler is not included in the standard distribution, but can be bought.
While Windows runs on PCs and Alpha machines only, Linux supports every machine that is capable of paged memory management and has a C compiler. Linux even runs on IBM hosts! Microsoft 'encourages' hardware manufacturers to add the features Microsoft wants to their hardware, otherwise Windows will not support products of this hardware manufacturer any more.
As there is very little software included in the OS (only browser, media player, image-view tools and very simple cd-recording software), you may want to install additional software.
Most programs come one seperate CDs, so you'll have to insert every CD into your CD-ROM-drive.
In addition Linux needs a so-called swap-partition for extending the virtual memory. Most distributions come with partitioning tools, meaning the harddisk can be reorganized during the installation.

Both Windows and Linux provide a CUI (Character based User Interface) and a GUI (Graphical User Interface).

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Linux provides serveral different GUIs (e.g. KDE, Gnome, ICEWM, CDE,..). The user can choose which GUI to use. Programs designed for one GUI run on other GUIs as well, but the user has to learn the special features of each if they want to use more than one GUI. The GUIs are highly customizeable, the graphical output can even be forwarded to another computer. However, the GUI is not part of the OS. In addition Linux's CUI is very powerful. The CUI is implemented via a program, the so-called 'shell'. Usually, bash (bourne again shell) is used under Linux. It features a lot of small, yet useful commands which can be combined. It even features programming structures for writing scripts.

screenshot of linux desktop (KDE)

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Windows' CUI was realized via a DOS-prompt in Windows 9x (MS-DOS was a former operating system, sold by Microsoft). In versions of Windows based on the NT-technology, there is a program called cmd.exe. Scripting capabilities and commands are limited, however, the use of so-called bat-scripts is supported.
screenshot of windows desktop (XP)
No software is supplied without bugs (programming mistakes) and vulnerabilities. If an error occurs, people should immediatly report this error to the programmers. Within the Linux community bugs usually get fixed within a few days. Kernel patches and software updates fixing the problem are available for download very fast. Under Windows you'll have to execute „Auto-Update“, which downloads and installs security patches, service packs and, of course, updates for you. If the error still occurs, only calling Microsoft might help.
The biggest danger for a computer comes from the user itself. The users must be prevented from using unsafe passwords, leaving doors open for attackers and destroy their own (and others') files.
Linux and Windows follow very different rules concerning administration. Administration can of course only be done by the super user (root under Linux or the administrator under Windows). Linux's root user can change anything they want, Window's administrators abilities to change the system are intentionally limited (you cannot uninstall or downgrad system components under Windows!). A Windows computer can have more than one Administrator, a Linux computer only has the user 'root'.

redistribute - neu verteilen
partition - (Festplatten-)Partition
vendor - Hersteller, Verkäufer
aim - Ziel
remote - entfernt
monolithic - monolitisch, aus einem Stück
compile - übersetzen
... and vice versa - und umgekehrt
to do something from the scratch - etwas völlig neu beginnen
access - zugreifen
customizeable - einstellbar
mount - anbringen
vulnerabilities - Schwachpunkte
encryption - Verschlüsselung
rely - verlassen

Ende des Auszuges

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