50 Things I Can Do With Linux, But Cannot in Windows

I read about lots of complains/ rants that Linux is not good or is not ready for desktop usage. For me it does the job and even beyond. At my work place I work under Windows, at home I am using Linux. On a daily base I see the differences and similarities. Here is my take on this.

1. Install Linux and start using it immediately.

Why: Because almost all “drivers” are in the kernel.

Why not in W.: You always need 3rd party drivers installed to use your PC: chipset, video card, touch-pad, audio controller, CD/DVD drive, Wifi adapter, Ethernet controller. Many times you finish installation and unable to access internet because of missing LAN adapter driver which needs to be downloaded in first place.

2. Install Linux from a live CD/Flash disk

Why: There are tons of live distributions you can work with, try them and eventually install from them (Knoppix, Ubuntu etc.) by just clicking on Install icon on the desktop. As a bonus you can surf internet while installation goes.

Why not in W.: There are some live disks for Windows, but their purpose is not to install the OS from them.

3. Install Linux from a running Linux on one partition onto another empty partition

Why: there are tools like debootstrap in Debian designed for that. You can even mix and match 32 and 64bit architectures (guest and host).

Why not in W.: n/a

4. Install Linux and move/copy the hard disk to  another computer (99% it will work without tweaking)

Why: Linux doesn’t configure/install drivers during installation/detection phase. Linux drivers are in the kernel, so there is a chance it will find the drivers for the new hardware as well. Maybe you will need to tweak fstab according to the new partitions and reinstall the boot loader.

Why not in W.: Windows even will not load because of detecting big hardware changes (contradicts with license)

5. Install Linux on multiple machines from one image without fiddling with licenses, activations, syspreps etc.

Why: there are no license codes and activations

Why not in W.: there are licenses and serial numbers.

6. I can give away copies of Linux without limits and without breaking laws or licenses.

Why: Linux software is free to modify or distribute (GPL license)

Why not in W.: there are licenses and serial numbers.

7. I can copy/backup every file from Linux file systems. Trying to copy a file in Windows used by some program ends up with a 0 size copy or no copy at all.

Why: files are not locked when in use (except sockets)

Why not in W.: opened files are locked for further opening. This is one of the main reasons of failed backups. MS tries to develop some tricks to overcome this (shadow copy, gazillion of copy utilities which don’t work every time reliably)

8. I can delete files no mater what, even opened files.

Why: see previous

Why not in W.: opened files are prevented from deletion by OS. Some times even files not in use cannot be deleted unless rebooting the machine or use some unlocking 3rd party tools (which don’t work every time reliably)

9. I can install, uninstall tons of programs without causing degradation of OS’ performance. In that way I can play installing different packages and if don’t like them to uninstall them.

Why: Package manager takes care of install/ uninstall without leaving leftovers as it keeps track of dependencies and there is no central place like Registry to keep all configurations.

Why not in W.: Registry keeps all the settings and doesn’t keep track of dependencies. Deleting a piece of software doesn’t necessary delete the dependencies as well.

10. I can use or switch between different Desktop managers.

Why: There are lots of desktop managers in Linux to choose from: KDE, Gnome, LXDE, Xfce, LXQt, Mate, Unity, Enlightenment, Cinnamon, Trinity, Window Maker, twm, etc.

Why not in W.: Desktop manager is deeply embedded in the kernel and cannot be separated.

11. I can run Linux without GUI and save resources if machine is running headless even uninstall the GUI and later install it on demand.

Why: Desktop environments can be turned off and back on or installed / uninstalled when you need them.

Why not in W.: In recent server versions of Windows, there is an option to run without GUI, but is not easy to turn it off and on when you need it. And if possible machine needs reboot.

12. I can install software without going to sites to search for it and eventually install adware. When install something from the package manager it also gets updated alongside the OS core packages in single pass.

Why: Linux has package manager and central repositories to take care of that and is maintained by the distribution and the repository owners. Currently it says approx. 26000 apps available.

Why not in W.: Windows doesn’t have package manager.

13. When updates OS software, the package manager also updates all the applications.

Why: Linux has package manager and central repositories to take care of that and is maintained by the distribution and the repository owners.

Why not in W.: Windows doesn’t have package manager.

14. When install something from the package manager it also continues to get updates and there are no “updater” for each app (Adobe, Java, Chrome … anyone).

Why: Linux has package manager and central repositories to take care of that and is maintained by the distribution and the repository owners.

Why not in W.: Windows doesn’t have package manager.

15. In Linux when I check for new updates – I know what is new in 15 sec. (the time packet manager needs to update list of available packages). In Windows, Windows updater can spin for more than 30 minutes just to say what is new.

Why: by design.

Why not in W.: by design and this is since W95

16. When I choose to update Linux, packet manager (apt-get in my Debian) selects the fastest mirror and downloads from there.

Why: Every distribution has mirrors across the world. Since couple of months there is new feature for choosing the fastes repository on the fly. I think this is not implemented in Ubuntu yet.

Why not in W.: Probably Microsoft has something like load balancer, but download newer reached the full speed of my network connection which means is not implemented properly or/and is not spread geographically.

17. With my package manager (apt-get in my case) I know exactly how long it will take to update my distribution and how much disk space will be occupied/ released.

Why: During download apt shows constantly current download speed, Total size of the updates, ETA of download, current package downloading progress and size. On top of that it shows how much disk space will be occupied or released after applying of updates.

Why not in W.: Download progress shows total size and the pace is unpredictable (the percentage slows down or jumps to 100% with no reason.), no ETA

18. All the software I have or which will be installed could be inspected. This makes it very difficult for somebody to implement backdoors or to spy on me.

Why: most of the software comes with the source code.

Why not in W.: Software is proprietary to be protected from competitors.

19. I can install a dozen(s) programs with a single command or in a single pass in the packet manager.

Why: by design

Why not in W.: n/a

20. I can upgrade my OS version via packet manager without install from scratch.

Why: by design. And also user’s data is separate form executables (/bin; /usr/bin form /home) and user program settings and data can survive the upgrade.

Why not in W.: some versions of Windows can do that, but not all versions and cannot migrate the application software. The process is not always reliable with tons of leftovers.

21. I can update all my software without rebooting the machine (except kernel).

Why: by design. It restarts only services which are updating for a very short period of time. Of course installing a new kernel or new version of libc will need reboot, but this happens rarely.

Why not in W.: some versions of Windows can do that, but not all versions and cannot migrate the application software. The process is not always reliable with tons of leftovers.

22. I can remote into a machine via ssh and install, upgrade or remove software without even bother the person working on it.

Why: ssh server is one package in the repositories and easily installable, most of the administering/ maintenance can be done on the console or even running the GUI equivalent through ssh session  on the client in totaly autonomous session.

Why not in W.: there are not much tasks you can do in console in Windows, except the latest server versions of Windows. Using RPCs to execute programs by remote not work every time and is not advisable to be exposed to internet. GPOs are for corporate world and need another server for that.

23. Connecting to a remote machine (even desktop machine) via ssh also provides me access to the file system in an encrypted manner (sshfs or scp).

Why: this feature is built in ssh protocol.

Why not in W.: As far as I know the only solution is VPN or Citrix which doesn’t provide the same seamless integration with the client’s machine, RDP also has some features, but not always working reliably.

24. Connecting to a remote machine via ssh if I start a program with GUI, it’s window will pop up on my screen but running on the remote machine using my X-server.

Why: this feature is built in ssh protocol.

Why not in W.: n/a.

25. On top of the regular clipboard (ctrl-C / Ctrl-V) which in KDE for example is even multilevel without 3rd party software to be installed, I have another buffer to transfer text (highlight / mouse_wheel_click )

Why: part of X11 server

Why not in W.: no such thing. Maybe some 3rd party somewhere can do that.

26. With my Debian Linux distribution I can choose the level of stability v.s. new versions software according to the purpose of the computer.

Why: I can configure the repositories to point to Debian stable (if I need stability but older versions of the software), testing – less stable versions of the packages, but newer versions and to unstable – brand new packages, but less stability.

Why not in W.: You get only the current version (with some exceptions) and have only versions you paid for.

27. With Linux package manager I can create a list of all installed packages in a text file and back it up. On another machine(s) I can apply this list and get exact same set of packages installed.

Why: by design

Why not in W.: there is no reliable way of getting list of all installed software let alone to automate installation. Again GPOs can do some things, but not all of them.

28. I can scroll through another window with mouse wheel without loosing focus of my current window. In this way you I can read through a long text from one application while typing in another without switching back and forth.

Why: by design

Why not in W.: by design

29. If part of a window is outside visible area on the monitor, I can press Alt and drag it back to it’s place.

Why: by design

Why not in W.: In order to drag window, you have to grab it by “title bar”, if is not visible – good luck. You can do blindly Alt-space then press “m” then with arrow keys to position the window properly, but not with the mouse.

30. I can move folders around and by creating proper links to them can fool the system even if the trees are located on different disks/partitions or network.

Why: by design

Why not in W.: lately MS try to do this with their kind of links, but nobody tries to fool with the OS

31. When open a file in Kwrite editor, if somebody else changes that file, I get immediate notification and prompt to ignore it, to overwrite it or reload the editor with the new version even KDE programs can show you the differences. The same happens with Kate, Geany, Bluefish editors etc.

Why: by design

Why not in W.: don’t know

 32. All file systems are in a single tree no matter where files/folders are physically located.

Why: by design

Why not in W.: drive letters are pathetic and don’t scale well.

33. Block devices are presented more consistently: sda, sdb, sdc1 or UUIDs

Why: all devices have uniform representation and no matter from which partition you’ve booted, sda1 is always sda1, sdc is always sdc unless you switch cables (sXY – X- SATA chanel number, Y-partition number).

Why not in W.: If you have 2 or 3 Windows OS installed alongside on the same machine, when you switch them during the boot C: drive becomes D: drive and vice verse.

34. Linux uses all available RAM. If there is free memory not used by applications, Linux starts to create disk buffers in the free memory and releases it if some application needs more memory.

Why: by kernel design. In this way frequently used fragments of data is kept in RAM buffers for fast access instead of trashing the disk every time it’s needed.

Why not in W.: Windows also uses buffers, but not from all available RAM- so less buffered data and happily reports big amounts of free RAM while hard disk is churning around.

35. For file sharing NFS file system is faster than SMB due to smaller overhead in the protocol and is more resilient to network issues.

Why: by design

Why not in W.: by design

36. I can install 2 or more different distributions or versions of distributions pointing to the same /home directory.

Why: by design. I used to have 2 Debian instances installed side by side: 32bit and 64bit, sharing same /home directory without issues. Now I am totally 64bit and the two instances again share the same /home. In that way I can play and screw up one of them and have the other as production always available.

Why not in W.: there is a lot of software and setting kept in User’s folders (user’s registry and even programs installed). When you do the switch Windows will get confused.

37. My Linux distribution (Debian in this case) runs on my desktops, on my servers, on my laptop, on my Raspberry Pi (ARM architecture) and on my web server (ARM)  A20-OLinuXino-LIME with uniform experience/ configurations/ concepts.

Why: Linux is multi platform: ARM, IA-32, IA-64, MIPS, PowerPC, x86-64, z/Architecture

Why not in W.: aside from existing for x86 and some ARM architectures these are basically different OS-es with different interfaces. MS is trying to fix that with Windows 10, but is not there yet.

38. Linux file systems don’t get fragmented hence no performance degradation.

Why: Theoretically they do, but in neglected percentage.

Why not in W.: by design. Even in Windows 10 there is a background process which does scheduled de-fragmentation when the machine is not used much.

39. I am much more confident browsing internet and mounting USB sticks on my Linux machine than on Windows regarding malware.

Why: Linux has better insulation of user’s data and system files also Linux is smaller hacker’s target than Windows. Linux doesn’t auto start files and media. Linux distributions fix found vulnerabilities quicker and spread them through mirrors. When people update application software, they also update system files (no “Patch Tuesday”).

Why not in W.: Windows launches conveniently files and media and gets malware. Vulnerability get fixes slower and pushed only on “Patch Tuesday”

40. Chances to catch a malware by installing software is a magnitude lower than in Windows.

Why: Most of the software (99%) is in distribution’s repositories and free. There is no need to go to sites to search for a program to do my job without knowing this site and how clean that program is.

Why not in W.: There is no such thing as repository and the only sources of obtaining software is to buy it from a vendor or downloading from a site.

41. Performance of my Linux setup doesn’t degrade over time.

Why: Performance of Linux keeps the same as of the day one of install.

Why not in W.: Building up remnants for uninstalled software, file system fragmentation, inflating the registry over time, fragmenting registry, abandoned entries, keeping all installed updates for the OS, restore points, improper cleaning of temporary files and who knows what else, but the fact remains – Windows degrades and no matter what maintenance and cleaning you do some times the only solution is to re-install the OS from scratch.

42. I can find out the people in charge/involved in a particular piece of code and discuss with them issues or propose improvements.

Why: Open way of developing software

Why not in W.: Proprietary software behind corporate walls.

43. I can improve or modify software according to my needs.

Why: Source code is available.

Why not in W.: Proprietary software without access to source code.

44. I can run the latest version of Linux/kernel on a 5 years old computer.

Why: Linux has smaller hardware requirements to work.

Why not in W.: Newer versions of Windows usually require more powerful hardware.

45. I can plug different phones, USB sticks or mice without Linux asking me to install drivers and prepare hardware for me.

Why: All the drivers are in the kernel already.

Why not in W.: Not sure why is that stupidity.

46. Most of configuration files and log files are in plain text format. You can modify them or search in them easily. Even you can learn about new settings and features because most config files also have comments inside.

Why: Unix like approach/ philosophy. You can also back them up or organize them with VCS like GIT for example.

Why not in W.: by design.

47. Linux shell has a powerful feature to auto complete commands or even parameters.

Why: By design

Why not in W.: Windows cmd prompt is still very dumb after 30 years of development, Powershell is little bit better, but not much.

48. If I don’t like some Linux distribution or the direction it goes, I can choose different one or create my own.

Why: The open way of development.

Why not in W.: n/a.

49. I can help improving Linux and the software around it .

Why: I can send bug reports, I can send patches/fixes, I can create documentation, I can translate programs in different languages.

Why not in W.: Nobody will listen.

50. I can install Linux in my native language (Bulgarian in my case). Installer so far supports 29 languages. And not only OS will speak my language, but application software will do it as well.

Why: Open way of developing around the world.

Why not in W.: n/a.

Maybe I am missing something more.

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