The battle of operating systems has always been a personal choice for the user, whether it be Mac, UNIX, Windows or even Novell most computer users will have a preference. Being the default operating system for the majority of computer users, Microsoft Windows has the favourable trait of familiarity, however the Linux operating system from UNIX has always been highly regarded and this essay seeks to evaluate both systems against each other in an attempt to find the better. The way in which this will be done is against some of Shneiderman’s “Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design”, as this is a publically recognised design basis.
The first of the design principles that the operating systems will be tested against is consistency. While Windows has come a long way from its DOS days, the consistencies of the commands throughout the system are still very good. The ability for the prompts and help screens provides similar terminology and is generally quite helpful. Linux also has quite a consistent basis for the system it is running, however the simpler design of Windows may be more appealing to a beginner user, while intermediate and experts may enjoy the more technical terminology.
The ability for an operating system to maximise shortcut abilities is the second of the criterions to be analysed; Windows does well in this category as its ability to create .bat and .lnk files enabling the user to successfully navigate through any command prompt or any shortcut link to a folder of any destination. This area, Linux has the ability to customize their shortcuts, with the options to download more / less software and edit your own shortcut capabilities through scripting.
While both Linux and Windows have their own systems for feedback (Linux being more of an online community, while Windows having a system help built into their operating systems), both are quite adequate for a user of any level or competency. Another aspect of competency in which both operating systems seem to excel in is the ability for it to yield closure. This is the aspect of saving, making changes, and setting defaults in the confidence they will stay the way the user left them. As mentioned previously, both operating systems have reasonably good outputs for this, however Windows constant need to reboot does bring its user confidence down.
However one aspect where a balance of user control and system regulators can be an individual preference; error handling can be a defining feature in an operating system. The ability to give the user enough control but to limit the damaging possibilities of what their actions can do. Linux is particularly good at giving the user control, the customizable qualities available in the OS enables the user to edit his/her interface at their own discretion. Windows however has the all too scary notion that anything you may delete, whether it is to make room for something else, or purely by accidental deletion that the whole operating system may collapse (see deleting System32), and while this doesn’t directly affect the user control, it prevents the user from confidently exploring themselves.
To put it simply I have collated the information into a Pro & Con list:
Easy to familiarize with
Default OS for majority of users
Wide help system (internal and external)
Updates and ‘Betas’ always readily available
Easy to navigate
Very vulnerable to virus’s
Limited customization abilities
Limited control over system setup
Many glitches and requires regular reboots
Great customization abilities
Wide support basis / community on the internet
Free to download
Very secure (from viruses)
Stable system (little to no reboots needed)
Difficult to use
Difficult to navigate
Intermediate computer knowledge needed to run
To determine the better of the operating systems, a second variable: User Level must be added. From the information gathered, Windows is and probably always will be the best choice for first time and beginner computer users, with its easy-to-navigate database and inbuilt support help it is obvious that Microsoft’s goal was to target this demographic. Linux however would be recommended to intermediate and expert computer users with ability (or knowledge) of scripting and command-prompt based navigation. Linux also would provide these users with fewer limitations of the OS, enabling them to do more things.
Schneidermans’ principles with a brief explanation of each
General comparison of windows and Linux, basis more simplistic design rules such as cost, appearance and user ability, however quite helpful
Consists of generally a detailing the long story behind the argument between Linux and Windows fans, however shows a comparison detailing many significant pros and con’s of each OS.
Has a Linux bias however shows the progress of Linux and makes interesting points as to why Linux can be considered an Operating system giant.