At first, most of what I’ve learned and what I will be learning are the differences between Windows and Linux. After I learn the practical differences, I can move on to learning Linux more in-depth. There seem to be a lot of behind the scenes differences that I haven’t really gotten into yet. There have been quite a few differences in functionality that I’ve noticed, and so far I like them all. So the following is a list of differences and how those differences have (so far) effected the way I use a computer.
With Windows, I’ve always installed with the system disks that either came with the PC or that I bought. With Linux, you can either buy the same sort of thing or make your own. I made my own, which I put on a USB drive. This made Linux free for me. I did have to do a lot of work myself before getting Linux installed. So for me, it seems like the major difference on installing is in cost. With Windows, I’m paying someone else to decide what I need, whether or not my PC is compatible, to make me a disk. With Linux, I’m doing all of that myself.
Besides cost, the other major difference I saw with the install was setting everything up. Both Windows and Linux ask questions on set up, but the directions and questions seemed clearer to me. The questions were also all at the beginning, as soon as I started. On a new computer running Windows 8.1, the first time we turned it on it had the same sort of questions. About 30 mins after thinking the set up was all done, there was a prompt to enter in the product key. This key wasn’t on a sticker on the PC like it used to be, we had to call Microsoft and get it. All in all, the time from turning the computers on to having everything set up and usable took a lot longer with the new PC running Windows. This wasn’t what I was expecting at all, the new PC is MUCH better than my laptop, so I assumed installing Mint would take a lot longer than setting up the pre-installed Windows.
There’s a HUGE difference between the preloaded programs that came with Mint and that’ve come with the different versions of Windows I’ve had. I’ve generally gotten Windows pre-installed when I bought a computer. When I do this, I’ll get doubles of a lot of types of programs, one version from Windows, one from the manufacturer. On the Windows PC, there’s 2 music players, 2 DVD players/burners, 2 backup systems, etc. But some programs that I’d say are essential, like a spreadsheet or anti-virus, are only trail versions. There are other programs I’d like to have, like Photoshop, that I’ve never seen come with Windows.
On the other hand, Mint came with one copy of each program I’d need. It had 1 music player, 1 DVD burner, etc. It also came with the sort of programs I’m used to only getting on a trial basis. It has a complete office suite ready to go, I don’t have to buy or download anything. Mint also came with the sort of programs I’d like but never got with Windows, like GIMP, a photo editing program like Photoshop. It was missing an anti-virus, but for good reason: it doesn’t need one.
With Windows, when I want a new piece of software, I have 3 options: buy it, download a freeware version, or get a bootleg version. I generally don’t have the money to buy the sort of programs I’d like and I don’t really agree with bootlegs, so I usually download freeware. This means searching around for a program that’ll work, checking into the safety of it, etc. It also means that I can’t rely on getting a program as good as the paid version. Sometimes the freeware version is better (like OpenOffice), but sometimes it’s much worse. Uninstalling programs can also be a pain. I’ve got to load an uninstaller and use that to get rid of unwanted programs.
Mint (and it seems like most if not all the distros) handle software installation a bit differently. There’s a program called “Software Manager” that does everything for me, sort of like how the Google Play or iTunes does. I open it up and have a bunch of different freeware programs available for download. They are organized by what they do, they’re rated & reviewed, and I know they’re compatible. I don’t have to go to a website to download anything, I don’t have to worry about viruses. Download and install is one click. Uninstalling is just as easy, I just click remove. So far with the programs I’ve used, the freeware version for Linux is as good or better than the paid Windows equivalent. This is true of both the system tools and applications. I have yet to find a program that feels clunky, slow or is missing features that I’d want. I can still download freeware from websites like I had to with Windows, but so far I haven’t needed to. Everything I want is available through the Software Manager.
Before getting Mint, I assumed that the reason my computers were slow was because the computer itself sucked. Now I’m not so sure. The speed difference on this laptop running Windows vs Mint is significant. I have no idea why there’s such a difference, I really wasn’t expecting it. When I started this process, I was hoping to just be able to run Linux and a C++ editing program, I wasn’t looking for more. Now I feel like this is a fully functional laptop capable of meeting all of my needs.
When I was running Windows, it was an uphill battle to get this laptop to run fast enough to do much of anything. I’d defrag, change graphics settings, whatever I could think of to help. I couldn’t do certain things, like edit photos with better resolution than about 100-150ppi. Resizing a photo could take a few minutes. Streaming TV shows would sometimes pause to load, and the graphics were a bit choppy. Copying files took forever.
Since switching to Mint, this laptop runs way faster. I’ve been editing photos that I couldn’t even open before. I can use filters on a 300ppi image and it takes seconds to apply. Loading up a program or video is nearly instantaneous. And best of all, I didn’t have to do anything to get it to run faster.
Virus protection is always a big concern for Windows users. I was no different. I have always been very careful about viruses, keeping anti-virus up to date, doing regular scans, checking things I download. I didn’t download things from unknown sources, open emails from strangers, visit porn sites, or anything I thought might give my computer a virus. But even doing everything I could think of, I’d still get viruses. On one of my old laptops, I got a virus that pretty much broke it. I had to do a clean install to fix it. As a Windows user, I knew that viruses were just the way of the world.
Coming into Linux, I knew that there wouldn’t be as big of a problem with viruses. This is part of what made Linux so appealing to me. I still assumed I’d need an anti-virus to be constantly scanning, I just assumed it wouldn’t find as much. I was completely wrong. I’m not sure exactly why, but from everything I’ve read, it seems like Linux isn’t really effected by viruses. It has something to do with how the system is set up. It’s great having the piece of mind that if I do get a virus, it’s really not going to mess up my laptop. I did end up installing an anti-virus, but not to protect my laptop. I’m going to be using it to protect my other computers that still have Windows. I can still transfer viruses to these PCs, so that protection is important.