Linux Mint V Windows 10
Here we go again. I’ve lost count with how many rewrites of Linux Mint V Windows 10 there have been. Frankly, even thinking about it causes me to almost lose the will to live…
This time, I hope I have it right…
The first thing to note here is that this comparison is my opinion. It’s based on two decades of software engineering, interface design and implementation for various systems globally.
The comparison is based on the operating system bundle and covers the following:
- Software bundle
Linux Mint’s installation can be a little complicated.
An Asus laptop I installed Linux Mint 18.2 Cinnamon on, initially refused to boot. I checked that the USB was listed before the hard drive. It was, but I couldn’t find the reason why it still booted from the HDD. By chance, I noticed that the USB device was listed as an HDD, despite being a USB pen drive.
I put that at the top of the list and the machine booted faultlessly.
So, I would suggest that not everyone would be able to install Mint without some reasonably advanced knowledge. Even following instructions, this can prove difficult. However, once you get past fiddling with the BIOS settings, it’s extremely simple.
The installation takes about fifteen minutes after which, the machine was rebooted and ready to go. The installation was however followed by a lengthy update, but this carried on in the background and affected nothing.
I have performed this on several machines. All of them were complete installs and not upgrades from 7 or 8 to 10.
Firstly, the machine must be connected to the internet. You are warned that the installation procedure involves the download of several gigabytes of data which may incur charges. It doesn’t look as if the Windows installation is loaded on the machine. I have discovered that the Windows 10 ISO download is about 3 gig, which would bear out that assumption.
The user is then expected to use a Microsoft account to set up the machine. There is an alternative, but it’s not obvious. I would never set up a stand-alone machine using the details of a MS account.
The installation is slow going. Even with a fast internet connection, the installation took better part of an entire afternoon. There were elements of the set-up, which I didn’t feel were as they should be. Some, I felt, could be said to be leading the uninformed to make decisions which could be detrimental. More of that in the next section.
Just for ease of installation, Linux is ahead 1-0
The set up in Mint is relatively simple.
For us, it’s not necessary to have passwords blocking the use of our computers. Setting this up on Mint was a piece of cake.
The options required during set-up are simple and straightforward. Each option is clearly explained and includes no request for data gathering.
Setting up Windows 10 without a password was not possible that I could see.
There’s no obvious way of being able to initiate a set up that doesn’t require password. You can remove a password once you’ve set Windows 10 up, but apparently not set it up without one. I have just removed a password on a client’s laptop, which works as expected on start-up. After power-saving mode however, the laptop needs the password to gain access, despite its removal. Luckily, some net searching explained how to disable this password. However, once again, it’s not something I would expect just any user to be able to deal with.
In my opinion, Microsoft and Win 10 falls very short of being easy enough for anyone to set-up. Microsoft no longer simply displays the user’s options upon installation, but “leads” them in a specific direction, often hiding options or misleading them.
I have already mentioned the lack of password-less entry in the set-up procedure. Even creating an account on the computer without a Microsoft account is hidden behind a “Skip” link, rather than being an obvious option.
Another area of the set-up is simply misleading. Microsoft describes the harvesting of all speech, every keystroke, a user’s contacts, their locations, calendar settings (and possibly entries), inking and other forms of input as “Personalization”. I do not feel that all users would understand that the information they will be handing over will include bank details, all login and password information, credit card info, on-line purchase information and everything else the user does or says within earshot of the computer.
In the comparison of the set-up of Linux Mint V Windows 10 Linux is now ahead 2-0
After the improvements in the appearance of Windows interface in 7, I was really impressed. The semi-transparent window borders with shadows and a comfortable layout for easy navigation, made 7 the best for me.
So, I was one of those who loved the skeuomorphic design principals. It was really disappointing to find it completely gone from Windows 10. This was a change that first appeared in Win 8 and was likely because Apple dropped the skeuomorphic concept after the death of Steve Jobs. That is part of the reason I don’t like Windows 8 through 10. I just don’t like the way it looks.
Okay, so the overall appearance doesn’t gel with me, but there’s more to it than that. I can understand changing design principals, but I can’t understand changing where to find things or what they’re called.
Moving things around is for me like someone taking the strings off my guitar, changing their order and tuning them differently, whist still assuming I will be able to play as normal. While I can imagine that there are those around that can do that, I for one, could do without having to learn a completely new system just because I bought a new laptop.
Mint on the other hand has adhered to tried and tested design principals, though not to the extent that 7 had reached. The interface, whichever theme you choose, has a Windows look and feel about it—sort of, but coupled with some features reminiscent of web interfaces. Why a change of colour and background images constitutes a theme I don’t know and I do miss being able to customise colour schemes, window border types and other elements for myself.
Regardless of the cosmetics, the grouping of elements in the main menu really does remind you of Windows, keeping things contextual. It’s a much easier way to find something if you don’t know what it’s called—and there’s a lot of that considering it’s all different to Windows.
All in all however, it’s a nice, easy to navigate system.
With regards to interfaces in Linux Mint V Windows 10 it’s now 3-0 to Linux.
The gulf between Windows 7 and 10 is far greater than between any two other Windows releases. Even Windows 3 and 7 were more closely related than 7 compared to 10.
As a result, there is a quite steep learning curve in making the move between the two.
As usual, there are simple applications included with the operating system, but they are very undernourished and Microsoft have made it awkward for people compared to previous versions of Windows. Mail for instance is not even as good as Outlook Express from Windows XP. At least that allowed you to store contact details within it and not have to download another app to do that.
All things considered, Windows appears to have taken several steps backwards. Okay, so they have supplied the stubs to download and install Office, but to retain it, it has to be paid for—and it’s not cheap.
The complete change in direction between Win 10 and its pre-8 predecessors means that changing between one and the other is not as simple as it has been. It’s more noticeable than 95 and 98, NT and XP, or Vista and 7. Mostly, the differences between these operating systems was simply improvements on what was we already knew. Even the applications bundled in with the OS were improved versions.
With the changes that have been implemented, many of us need time to get acquainted with this version; time to re-learn something we have been perfectly comfortable with for over twenty years.
That’s not good at all. In my opinion, they have lost Windows’ intuitive nature and their explanation is to bring all platforms closer together.
The news is that one size does not fit all. What works on a tiny phone with no mouse or a marginally larger tablet does not necessarily translate to a PC and it would have been nice to give long-time users the option of retaining the older style interface and nomenclature.
The Mint interface looks more like a version of Windows I am familiar with. The designers of the themes seem to have drawn from and continued with the long-established principals of that form of interface. So for someone like me, Mint’s front end makes me feel comfortable. The main menu with its compartmentalised groups of applications, is something that seems to be have been lost in the latest versions of Windows. This makes things very difficult to find if you’re not intimately familiar with all the routines and how to get to them.
Not so in Mint, so making the change from Windows to Mint for this section anyway, was for me very simple. Even my wife who’s not as literate as I am with computers has found the jump from Windows to Mint, much easier than I had ever expected.
Despite the similarity of elements in Mint to elements in Windows, there are some behavioural differences but nothing that’s difficult to get to grips with really quickly. This is not unexpected considering Mint is a completely different beast.
By Version 7, windows had an impressive line-up of software applications bundled in its releases. There was a text editor, Rich Text editor, calendar, sophisticated calculator, simple graphics package, multimedia packages including one where you could edit videos together and one that you could use to run a TV card. In addition, there were also games, though sadly, Pinball never reappeared. There were also system tools for defragmentation, copying to optical drives or other mass storage devices.
In version 10 however, some of that has gone. You can get some of it back through Windows Store, but for most applications, this is only possible if you have a Microsoft account. So in actual fact, out of the box, the new version of Windows is actually less usable than previous versions. Sure, you get the stubs to activate Word, Excel etc from Office 365, but these are only on trial and require a subscription to continue with.
Mint’s distro has bundled into it everything you need to get up and running. Graphics by Gimp, which is close to Photoshop, plus media players. LibreOffice contains a full suite of complimentary applications closely compatible to the MS Office suite. There’s also Firefox and Thunderbird for Internet and Email, plus access to a pretty extensive software library of open-source applications that requires no membership—although it might be nice to drop the fine peeps at Mint a few bob by way of a donation.
All told, as an out of the box package, Mint really outstrips Windows by some way. So in the software bundle comparison of Linux Mint V Windows 10, Mint is now ahead 4-0
I tried Linux was because it was designed and built upon Unix principals. This means it is more secure than Windows from the outset. It’s not unhackable, but it is much safer.
I have spent much of my working life designing and building systems, interfaces and software in areas that require security clearance. In fact, in many large corporations, at least some of the information that is present is proprietary. They would not be happy if it got out to competitors and therefore, would assume that what’s on their computers would remain there and not sent directly to Microsoft or one of their “trusted” partners.
The issue is on the inside…
Windows 10 contains software routines that can record and transmit information from many different input formats: audio, keystrokes and written input, location and browsing. For many if not all of the companies I have worked for, this would be unacceptable. Even disabled, it’s presence in the operating system means it can probably be exploited—even if Microsoft are not already exploiting it. No system is unhackable.
You only have to look at Cortana, which can be disabled on installation, yet will magically reappear when the computer is updated. So if you disabled that and Microsoft remotely enabled it, what’s happening with the routines that record and send information off to Microsoft?
The idea that a computer operating system can be allowed to be released to the masses with what amounts to spyware present is to me, unconscionable.
Who gets what?
Aside from personal data, as a small business owner, I have information on computer that includes details about individuals my wife and I provide services for. I don’t want information about our clients to be fed to Microsoft or one of its “Trusted Partners” I have no idea how this information would be disseminated or to whom. Worse still, I really don’t want it getting into the hands of someone who has the ability to exploit the above “features”.
I cannot trust Windows 10 and therefore, cannot in all good conscience, use it.
In the comparison of the security in Linux Mint V Windows 10, Linux is now ahead 5-0
Linux Mint is a bit of a learning curve for me and I would imagine anyone else who has been using Windows for the past umpteen years. There are fundamental differences between one and the other and some of them are bound to take time to get used to.
So far all the computers I have installed Mint on run faster than they did under Windows and regarding usability, well, I haven’t found anything about Mint I don’t like. I can see that there are elements I wish were different, but that’s mostly to do with cosmetics than anything else.
I most like the fact that Linux gives me the impression that I am in control. With Mint, I don’t have to worry about whether “Big Brother” is watching me, stealing my information and giving me more reasons to be paranoid than I already am. I like the fact that I am free to make my own choices, which I feel has pretty much disappeared from Windows.
inSadly, I have too much invested in software I have bought for Windows to just throw it away. I also cannot overlook the fact that Linux applications are presently not fully compatible with Windows applications. I cannot afford the time to find work-rounds, so for the time being, I will have to use Windows 7 and the applications I have along with Linux.
Nevertheless, Linux Mint has been a revelation. It’s shown me that there are choices out there; that Microsoft is the only way you can use your computer. I know the applications available will improve and soon I’ll be able to throw Windows away altogether. I might even try and design a theme. Who knows? The possibilities have just exploded!
Coming up in the next episode
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