What's right with Linux?

The race to the operating system dominance is in full swing, and the Internet is full of eager fans expressing their opinions why theirs is "the best." But there is no global "best" for anything in life and an educated choice of an OS is based on an subjective preference.

Each one of the three major operating systems has their strong points and their weaknesses and each one will appeal to a different group of individuals.

To illustrate the point: here are a couple of things that I very much like about Linux:

Software repositories. Programs can be easily installed from software repositories using either a visual program or the command line. This eliminates malware issues and makes software installation and removal extremely easy. If I ever need to reinstall my operating system or set it up on another computer, I just use a script I created that automatically installs (almost) all the programs I need. It's fast and it needs no interaction from me. In Windows or OSX I'd need to download each program separately and run its own installer.

Software settings. All the program settings are stored under my home directory. This means that they are easy to copy or move around. When I need to reinstall my software on a new hard disk or a new computer, I simply copy the settings directories and everything's back exactly to the way it was. This includes all the desktop and font settings, my email accounts, FTP accounts, web browser options, everything. On Windows those settings are stored in the registry and moving them is very difficult. When you reinstall Windows, you have to re-configure all the program from scratch.

And here's an example of something that I really like about Windows that doesn't exist in Linux or OSX:

Windows file systems have an archive bit property attached to every file, similarly to hidden, read-only, etc. This archive bit gets automatically set when the file is in any way modified. When performing an incremental backup the programs don't have to compare the timestamps of the local and remote content to find out which files are modified, they simply scan for the archive bits and copy the files to the destination. This makes Windows incremental backups very fast, especially when the files are being copied to an Internet server. On Linux or Mac, even if there's only one modified file, the entire remote content must be scanned to find it, which can make large backups very slow. To prevent this, some backup programs store the timestamp information of the remote files in a local database but this over-complication could be easily avoided if an equivalent of the Windows archive bit was available.

The bottom line is, there is no operating system that is perfect or "best" for everybody. Having said that, I also believe that there is a large group of computer users who could find Linux more to their liking if they gave it a try. The only problem is that the switch-over requires time and the learning curve is rather steep. But if you do have some time to play around with it, it might be time well spent!