I love Linux, and I have stayed current with it since around 2003.

I followed lots of distributions, and also became very fond of BSD. I moved from Redhat-based to Debian-based as soon as Ubuntu came out, but my friends who knew more about it than I ever will, always tried to tell me “Debian is, and always will be, the pure play in Linux.” Meaning, as other distributions become “fragmented,” for various commercial reasons, Debian always stays true to the Open Source model.

I had seen this first-hand back in the 80’s and 90’s, when NCR was actually owned (some would say “destroyed…”) by AT&T, and I spent a few years taking care of System-V Unix installations. Did you know there was also an “AT&T Unix PC?” Both AT&T Unix and BSD Unix came from the same code, once upon a time. Basically, everyone wants their Unix to be the one and only, this is called “free enterprise.” Unfortunately, software tends to be very, uh, soft…

By 2000, there were at least 5 commercial versions of Unix. Of course, which one you got pretty much depended on what kind of hardware you bought to run it on… remind you of anything? I should also mention that I was also a big supporter of AMD, the “Avis” of processor manufacturers… until they fell so far behind that I couldn’t even find their products.

To make a long story short, the Unix wars ended because the game changed – by 2003, Windows had mostly taken the place of Unix, not to mention VMS (on VAX) – helped in no small part by the fact that the guy who invented VMS had joined Microsoft, to create Windows NT.

I also got very involved in our local Linux User Group, where I met a great bunch of guys. Of course, eventually the web made meeting in person for this reason totally unnecessary. Anyway, we would meet and evangelize for our respective favorite distributions, which as it turns out, did have a lasting effect.

So, I have spent the last 10 or so years with two computers on my desk – one Linux, one Windows. I use Linux for everything Internet/web/email related, and Windows for multimedia and gadgets, and for that pretend Active Directory domain that I need to try things for work. Lately, I have at least managed to control them both nicely with only one keyboard and mouse, using Synergy. It has always been fun to watch, as every update to Windows made it slower, until I had to start over – while every update to Linux made it faster.

However, having run them side by side for 10+ years – I gotta say, the popular idea that “Linux needs less hardware than Windows” is mostly a myth. Yes, it is possible, with a lot of work, to trim down the GUI requirements by using desktop alternatives like XFCE and so on, but the default of popular distributions like Ubuntu or Mint – need almost as much main CPU, graphics horsepower, and RAM as Windows. If you want a “Windows-like experience, that’s just how it is. But there’s hope – Windows 8 was the first OS from Microsoft to require lower-spec hardware than it’s predecessor. Linux was there already. Yep, the game has changed again, and we are on our way to tablets. In a few more years, neither will be on the desktop, because there won’t be a desktop.

History: Linux versus Windows
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