2009-10-30

Comparison Test: Linux Mint 7, Windows XP, Fedora 11

Edmunds.com's InsideLine has a very nice method of formatting comparison tests of cars, so I will try to emulate that for this comparison test of OSs.
The contenders are Linux Mint 7 "Gloria", Windows 5.1 "XP SP3" (yes, 5.1 is the technical designation of version XP SP3), and Fedora Linux 11 "Leonidas".
Linux Mint and Windows are booting from my Sony VAIO desktop's HDD, while Fedora is booting as a live USB from my Sandisk Cruzer Micro 8 GB USB stick.

Summary:
3rd place - Windows 5.1 "XP SP3"
While this is the dominant OS in the marketplace, it just doesn't seem to be up to the snuff of the other OSs. The aesthetics, while subjective, look cartoony, and that's the least of its worries. Though its support for commercial games and other productivity/graphics/other software is very good, it requires too many auxiliary pieces of software (i.e. antivirus, etc.) to run stably, and it is far slower than the other 2 OSs. Any peripherals need extra installation of drivers, and any other codecs need to be installed (separately) afterwards.
2nd place - Fedora Linux 11 "Leonidas"
This is one of the heavyweights of Linux distributions. Based on the commercial (but still free software) Red Hat, hardware support out of the box is excellent without needing to install 3rd-party drivers. Codec support is somewhat spotty but is easily remedied through one or two command. While support for commercial software is somewhat spotty, it is easily remedied through Wine or other similar software or through use of alternatives. The mix of software out of the box is excellent, though aesthetics, while subjective, look too utilitarian and old-school.
1st place - Linux Mint 7 "Gloria"
This is a nice up-and-coming distribution. Based almost completely off of Ubuntu 9.04 "Jaunty Jackalope", hardware support out of the box is decent, but codec support is excellent out of the box. The aesthetics, while subjective, look very polished and professional (while subdued), and the mix of software provided out of the box definitely fills the niche of the average user. That said, commercial software support is spotty at best, though it does not require auxiliary software to run properly. This OS boots and runs extremely quickly and allows for much customization easily.
Specifics:
Speed (20%)
Tie - Linux Mint and Fedora
Both seem to boot in under 30 seconds and have everything else running by then. Also, slowdowns in one program do not affect other programs or OS operation. They both simply leave Windows in the dust, even though Fedora was disadvantaged by booting from a Live USB. Furthermore, neither Linux distribution needs to restart after installing new hardware or software, seriously improving productivity versus Windows.

Aesthetics (5%)
Winner - Linux Mint
Loser - Fedora
Linux Mint's interface is extremely polished and easy to use. By contrast, while Fedora's serves the purpose easily, it is not much to look at (in my opinion). Windows falls somewhere in the middle.

Commercial Software Support (10%)
Winner - Windows
As the OS of choice for the vast majority of PC users, Windows support for commercial software simply leaves the other two OSs in the dust. While this is being (slightly) remedied through Wine or virtualization, due to the closed-source nature of this software, support will never be as good in Linux until developers start to take notice of it.

Out-of-the-box Software Support (10%)
Winner - Linux Mint
Loser - Windows
Simply put, both of these OSs have far better out-of-the-box software mixes than Windows. That said, Linux Mint has the fully-featured OpenOffice.Org right out of the box, while Fedora only provides AbiWord (and not the accompanying Gnumeric). Still, Windows' Microsoft Works isn't up to snuff with these pieces of software, and both distributions have more and easier-to-use system utilities than Windows.

Out-of-the-box Hardware Support (20%)
Winner - Fedora
Loser - Windows
Fedora provides out-of-the-box support for my peripherals, even my webcam, without the need to install proprietary drivers. Linux Mint does this too but for some reason cannot seem to register my mic properly. Windows, on the other hand, needs 3rd-party driver support for any peripheral to work.

Stability/Security (25%)
Tie - Linux Mint and Fedora
Put simply, Windows will die without antivirus or antispyware protection. This is partly due to the horribly designed user permissions system. By contrast, both Linux distributions need one to manually activate a virus for it to work; furthermore, more market share for Linux will not lead to increasing incidences of viruses on either system.

Customizability (10%)
Winner - Linux Mint
Loser - Windows
With Linux Mint, custom themes and other software can easily be downloaded from an online source and installed with the click of a button; they can also easily be reverted as well. Fedora isn't as great as some extra work needs to be done to get the customizations to take effect. By contrast, Windows practically can't be customized (meaningfully) at all.

Scores:
1st place - 2 points
2nd place - 1 point
3rd place - 0 point
Tie (1st place) - 2 points each
Tie (2nd place) - 1 point each

Final Scores:
Linux Mint - 1.7
Fedora - 1.6
Windows - 0.7

Though it may seem like Linux Mint mathematically won, in any case, both Linux distributions blew Windows out of the water, but I felt more satisfied using Fedora anyway.
This is not very scientific at all and should not be taken too seriously.

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