About Linux, Windows, macOS, and Unix/FreeBSD – Chapter 1.3
This is the third of the free articles directly taken from the Manjaro Linux User Guide book, available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0C4PSWRQS/. The full list of freely available articles is here: Manjaro Linux User Guide – For newbies, fans, and mid users. More information at the end of the article.
Read time: 4 minutes. Previous article: 1.2 Arch Linux And How Manjaro Is Related To It. Next article: 1.4 A brief Linux history and its distributions.
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In this section, we will review some common characteristics of these four major types of PC operating systems to compare their essential features.
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Linux-based OSs grew from the idea of being free, effective, versatile, open source, and not funded by any corporation OS. It was based on some principles from Unix, famous for its efficiency and great design. Unfortunately, it was also proprietary and paid. The GNU project wanted to provide a free alternative and combined its tools with the Linux kernel designed by Linus Torvalds. Here are some crucial facts about Linux:
- It has had regular updates hundreds of times per day for the last 30 years. All vulnerabilities and bugs are found and fixed as soon as possible by the community.
- It has the world’s biggest community, constantly developing improvements for the last 30 years.
- The community has developed features for Linux that took years to become available on Windows.
- It is free and open source, so thousands of users check its quality, security, and vulnerability.
- Tens of thousands of companies use it for business. They even pay freelancers and people from the community to develop new features for them, frequently made available and open source for everyone.
- It has so many variants that it can sometimes be difficult for a person to find a suitable one. Conversely, there are flavors for everyone and for every possible task! There are plenty of articles and proposals to make the choice easy. One suggestion is to use Manjaro.
- GUI installers are available for most famous distributions, so installation is easy and usually takes 10-30 minutes. Short YouTube tutorials are available for all of them, usually 5–10 minutes long.
- Nowadays, many Windows applications can run on Linux.
- We even have serious game development and gaming support under Linux for over five years.
- Since 2018, according to TOP500 (https://www.top500.org/statistics/details/osfam/1/) and several other websites, all the top 500 supercomputers globally
are based on Linux.
- Linux is scalable and runs on thousands of types of devices (medical, scientific, automotive, IoT, industrial, embedded, robots, Tesla Autopilot, and so on).
- Android is based on Linux. This means a multi-trillion-dollar business with mobile phones, smart TVs, tablets, and tens of other smart devices is here thanks to Linux.
- Many major websites, including Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and PayPal, run on customized Linux, as stated in official statements by each mentioned company.
- According to w3tech.com (https://w3techs.com/technologies/comparison/os-linux,os-windows), in June 2022, Linux was used as a backend server OS by 37.4% of all websites whose OS is known, compared to 20% for Windows. The rest used Unix, FreeBSD, or others. We can conclude that Linux provides speed, security, and quality for free. It is so good that many companies choose it as the preferred OS for their servers.
- It is really hard to trace how many people, companies, and servers use Linux, as it has hundreds of variants and is entirely free. This means the creators don’t care whether 10 or 500 million people download/use Debian (or any other) Linux this year. As the usage is not tracked, people’s privacy is maintained.
- There are thousands of articles on the internet regarding which OS is used more – Windows, Linux, Unix, FreeBSD, or others. One thing is sure – Linux is extremely widely used and has been the cause of hundreds of thousands of improvements to OSes, SW, and technologies in the last 30 years.
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This Microsoft OS is the standard choice for thousands of state administrations and companies. It gained popularity initially as it was the host of the Microsoft Office tools. Here are some facts about it:
- It is closed SW, so you don’t know what happens inside the OS and whether or how user actions are traced and collected.
- It is proprietary and paid.
- It took a decade to catch up with Linux and macOS regarding stability and security.
- It has so many vulnerabilities that, for decades, hacking a Windows system was easy, while doing it with a Linux machine with proper security was much harder and near impossible. This is still the case today; there are thousands of examples, as illustrated in this YouTube video about Windows 11: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wBPxxI29R0.
- Microsoft uses your data only to improve your customer experience, as stated officially on their website: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/trust-center/privacy/data-management. However, the fact that they collect data is already one con compared to Linux. Windows was adopted fast thanks to being one of the first commercial GUI-based OSs, packed with the popularity of MS Office. Consequently, it secured big contracts with major PC/laptop companies and many government organizations worldwide. Here are some interesting cases from the USA and EU:
When Microsoft and MS Office gained massive adoption by government and other authorities, businesses communicating with them were indirectly forced to use the same products (MS Office), as there were no format converters at the time. The clients of these administrations were never allowed to use any other office SW.
Even Internet Explorer (IE) (a Microsoft Windows SW) slowed down the development of web technologies (a long story and brutal fact unknown to many). It took over a decade for Free SW and the WWW consortium to force improvements in HTML and web technologies despite IE’s inability to support them. Eventually, Microsoft stopped using it a few years ago when they introduced their new, modern Microsoft Edge (since 2015 and based on the Google Chromium Framework). Officially, IE was stopped in 2022 (https://blogs.windows.com/windowsexperience/2022/06/15/internet-explorer-11-has-retired-and-is-officially-out-of-support-what-you-need-to-know/). In comparison, all other old browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, and so on, continue their existence.
Due to the monopolization approach of Microsoft, the FOSS (Free and Open-Source SW) and Linux communities took steps to force Microsoft to open source some of their interfaces and formats. This allowed free SW to be developed for Windows. Ultimately, Linux and FOSS won.
Since version 7, Windows is more stable, secure, and much better. In addition, it has a Windows Subsystem for Linux – a virtual machine that supports several major Linux distributions by default. Again, I would say Linux won here since Microsoft realized they could not ignore it and must cooperate.
Yes, I do use Windows quite a bit in my daily activities. Many industries require this for historical reasons, and MS Office is the default document processor SW for most official businesses. However, Linux is now a better option, and it offers multiple free office tool packages, of which two of the most famous are LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice.
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macOS is the OS of all Apple personal computers. It started as a Unix-based OS and thus has good architecture and high security. Here are some interesting facts about it:
- macOS is stable and almost flawless for daily use (like most good Linux distributions).
- It regularly updates its security (like all Linux distributions do).
- It is a Unix-like OS, that is, quite secure. Since Linux is also Unix-like, that’s quite good as well.
- It has excellent hardware (HW) integration, as Apple’s HW is custom-designed for their devices, and the SW is tailored precisely for this custom HW.
- It has a good deal of SW, and some of it is built only for macOS. Of course, many SW tools exist exclusively for Linux.
On the other hand, macOS’s disadvantages are as follows:
- It’s really expensive.
- It can’t be tweaked.
- The use of other than the Apple-allowed SW is officially forbidden.
- Normally, you would use macOS only on their HW. It’s officially forbidden to install macOS on any regular PC.
- It is closed and proprietary, and despite being secure, Apple collects usage data, just like Microsoft, officially to improve the user experience.
My verdict is that Linux is preferable to Windows in dozens of ways. Compared to macOS, Linux users have the freedom to do whatever they want, don’t have to adhere to what the company allows, and can do this for free.
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Before we continue, we also have to look at Unix. It is important because it is the father of macOS and Linux. Unix started in 1969 and is practically the oldest widely used OS. It was primarily used for servers and big computers, initially only on DEC computers. Over time, it became multi-purpose and multi-user. Later, licenses were given to multiple companies and authorities, the most famous of which is Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD).
It is still used on servers, and while the commercial variants are slowly fading away, FreeBSD and multiple open source variants remain widely used. It has many command-line tools in common with Linux and macOS. In the Unix world, one of the most important developments with recent updates is the Single Unix Specification (SUS) standard, which defines certain features and characteristics of an OS. Its latest version is relatively new, from 2018. Unix was also the main driving force for creating the Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX) standard, supported by Linux and Windows. Here are a few essential points about Unix and FreeBSD:
- It has the highest security.
- It primarily targets servers, not PCs.
- It does resemble Linux, but it is not Linux. A lot of the open source SW developed for Linux is ported to Unix or FreeBSD, but a significant part is not.
- It is only for advanced users; by default, it only comes with the command line and without a graphical environment. The user would have to install one themselves.
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Next article: 1.4 A brief Linux history and what a distribution actually is.
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