I’ve come to the conclusion that Vista is nothing more than a Linux clone. I run Gentoo linux along side Win XP on my desktop machine; and Suse 10.1 on my Lenovo laptop. After trawling through the many lists of features that Vista has, and playing with the Beta editions myself, almost all of it’s new “user” features are clones of features that have existed in Linux for months, and in most cases years! I find this rather funny, since people will be paying for features they could have for free. Linux costs nothing! Absolutely nothing! In my experience of using mostly Linux for over 7 years, it’s an all-round better system than Windows. To begin, many people will be familiar with tabbed browsing, thanks to Firefox or Opera. I find most of my tabbed browsing these days in when copying files between two folders in Konqueror (click the image for a larger version).
After using Linux exclusively for more that 4 years, and having to go back to running Windows (for work reasons), the first thing I did after opening Windows Explorer was hit the ‘CTRL-SHIFT-N’ keys (the shortcut to open a new tab in Konqueror). As you can imagine, I was rather frustrated when nothing happened. It’s one of those things: when you’ve used something for to long, you get used to it.
One of the biggest features of Vista (besides Direct X 10, which I will get to later on) is the Aero interface, and how wonderful it looks. I’m running KDE 3.5 at the moment (looking forward to KDE 4), and one of the wonderful things about KDE is that you can completely change the way it looks. Suse, Kubuntu and all other KDE based Linux’s come with any number of “Styles” (the look of the buttons, text boxes and so on) and “Window Decorations” (the title-bar; minimize, maximize and close buttons; and border of each window) for you to choose from (my personal favorites are the “Plastik” style with the “Crystal” window-decoration).
This morning, I finally got around to enabling the Composite extension on my laptop (just been to busy with work to do that). This enables hardware-acceleration for your windows, lets you fade them in-and-out they grow shadows, etc. etc. etc. All the lovely things that people will be paying for in Vista. Another cute note: Crystal has the Vista as one of it’s options (click the image for a larger preview). So if you wanted your Linux machine to look like a Vista machine… No problem!
So Direct X 10… The “big” question. Linux doesn’t support Direct X directly (hehehe). Wine and Cedega do a surprisingly good job of it though (having run many games under normal Wine, and often at better frame-rates than my friends get under Windows). To my knowledge, the 3D drivers for Direct X 10 are still in their infancy, where the Open GL drivers for Linux from Nvidia, Intel and ATI are very fast, and very stable (though my old ATI drivers don’t cope so well with my 64bit machine). Open GL has one massive advantage over Direct X. Where new feature to Direct X require a new release, Open GL supports extensions. This means that graphics card manufacturers can develop simpler drivers, and simpler drivers means better performance, and more stability. Simple as that (note: I have developed software mode, Open GL and Direct X 7, and 9 applications).
Now for some fun tricks that Linux has up it’s sleeve. Suse 10.1 (and many other versions of Linux) come with Beagle out the box. Beagle does to your hard driver, what Google does with web pages. Indexes them, and lets you search them very very fast. On my machine I just need to press ‘F12’ or ‘ALT-SPACE’ to get Beagles friendly search window pop-open. From there, I type something of what I’m looking for, and in generally less than a second I’m looking at the results. What I was looking for is almost always within the first 5 results.
Konqueror has both tabs, and split-windows, to give you an idea of what this allows, check out this image (click it for the big version). In case you havn’t figured it out by now, Konqueror is like windows explorer, or the “My Computer” icon in Windows. What you’re looking at here is my “Work” folder in one tab, and the tab you’re looking at is my “Images” folder, along side Google. Konqueror is also a Web Browser, FTP client, and many other wonderful things.
Now, in not one of the screen-shots I’ve given so far, can you see just how cool Linux can be when you add all these cool bits together. Bare in mind, all the software can be found on the Suse 10.1 DVD, no extra installing or downloading required. Also note the little square icons next to my custom made (took me about 3 minutes) “Launch” button, those 4 little boxes are four virtual screens. A bit like “Tabbed Screens” if you like.
I don’t aim to convert everyone with this blog entry, but I do hope to raise the awareness of just how far Linux has come since the days of a white-on-black console based system. Linux is a high speed, highly stable, user friendly and easy to use operating system, and I han’t even scratched the surface of the features it has. If you havn’t tried it in the past 6 months, go grab a copy of Kubuntu or Knoppix and try it out off the CD. You don’t even have to install it to try it out, just put in the CD and reboot, when you shutdown Linux, your computer will reboot in Windows again.