Some commentators maintain that a migration from Windows XP to Vista would be as big a change as moving to either Linux or Macintosh. Now InformationWeek has run a piece pitting Apple and Ubuntu users against one another to establish which provides the better desktop environment.

Serdar Yegulalp and Mitch WagnerIf you’re one of those Windows users who are less than enchanted by what you’ve seen of Vista and you’re thinking about switching, you face some tough choices that can make you feel like a pioneer. Is it a good idea to move to a Mac, with its easy interface, high level of safety and stability — and higher prices? Or is it better to adopt a Linux distro, which is free (or, at least, inexpensive), supported by a range of imaginative developers — and not quite newbie-friendly? Either decision forces you into new, unfamiliar territory.”

What follows is a long and very detailed look at these two alternatives, paying particular attention to eight key areas: Installation & Migration; Hardware Support & Power Management; Networking, Web & Wireless; Productivity; Entertainment; Security; Working With Windows (because Microsoft can’t be completely ignored); and Stability, Backup & Disaster Recovery.

The conclusion seems to be “different strokes for different folks”. But, speaking as an Ubuntu convert, it’s a no-brainer: If you want to halve (at least) the cost of your computing, Linux is your only option*. Vista hardware requirements and Macintosh prices (particularly here at the southern tip of Africa) put both out of reach of most consumers. All that’s left is older Windows versions and Linux.

It’s very long but well worth the read, here.

* This is premised upon the fact that half the cost of Windows computing is usually attributable to software (from applications to security tools), all of which can be free in the Linux world. Read about my shopping expedition to find a PC for my mother if you want to explore this logic.

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