Tag Archives: Open source

The Difference Between Windows and Linux Servers

Español: implantació de sistemes operatius

Which operating system is best for your server, i.e. for your hosting package – Windows or Linux? I will analyze various parameters of both systems – including account accessibility, software compatibility, cost, uptime, security, support, and the choice of open source vs. proprietary technology.

Often the debate over operating systems becomes passionate and emotional, and it is difficult to find even-handed material. I want to view the two options as objectively as possible. With that in mind, I will reference articles that exhibit fair discussion on the topic – by Kristen Waters from Salon, John Hodge from Sysprobs, and Jack Wallen from Tech Republic.

The two sides are basically this: those who say Windows is awful vs. Bill Gates. The latter has been on the cutting edge of technology for years, so maybe he’s right. I’m considering buying all the other products he’s selling too, just based off his incredible excitement about how fun they are to use. I’m being ridiculous of course: the two operating systems each have their advantages and disadvantages – but other than the open source versus proprietary aspect, they are strikingly similar.

General Overview

As Kristen points out in her Salon article, the difference between the two systems has become less marked in recent years. Windows had some distinct advantages which it no longer has. Most noticeably, Linux now offers visually appealing, user-friendly control panels which were only available through Windows in the past.

Windows does still has the advantage of being highly recognizable by users who have that OS installed on their PCs. That familiarity factor, though it may seem like a subtle suggestion to try something new, is a distinct advantage because learning any new system takes time and labor, both of which have a price tag. My cost to fly to your business and conduct a training session to convert between the two systems, for instance, would cost $680,000 – why not? (The good news: I’m a nonprofit. You can write it off.)

Open Sores vs. Open Source

Since this article is unbiased, referring to the Windows proprietary option as “open sores” is off-base, but I will keep it for its impact as a super pun. Puns, after all, are fully compatible with both operating systems.

As John Hodge suggests in Sysprobs, the two operating systems are primarily pitted against one another in terms of access to the code. Linux is open-source, and Windows is proprietary. System administrators tend to side with open-source because, like auto mechanics and residential burglars, they like to be able to get inside and take a look around. Windows does not offer this freedom because its code is privately held information.

Anyone looking at hosting plans should be aware of a fundamental truth: if you use Windows on your PC, you do not need to have a Windows server. The choice is completely separate from the operating system in use on your desktop. You can have a Mac, whatever. In fact, online business people who regularly access the Internet through their TI-84 graphing calculators (especially popular in the states of Idaho and Wyoming) are split 50/50 between the two systems.

According to John, the primary advantage of immediate access to code is that you can get in and make any fixes to the operating system as you go. He also mentions a reasonable flip-side to open source, however: anyone with malcontent can make alterations to the operating system and the software created for it, which can pose security threats.

Jack Wallen in his Tech Republic article references Linux’s licensing – the GNU public license – as the basis permitting full accessibility for anyone to change the code of Linux as desired, even at the level of the kernel on which the operating system is founded. While acknowledging the perspective of the potential for malcontents to damage the system, Jack points out that the open source model allows individuals with good intent to improve and enhance the system, preventing those working against the system to succeed in implementing negative components into the code.


Kristen discusses how the ability to access the two types of hosting OS’s is different, but very similar, for both Windows and Linux. Access can be achieved either through a control panel, which can be in the form of an FTP client or graphical user interface (GUI). The latter provides the ability to manipulate a hosting environment via a visually organized display as opposed to entering prompts via a command line. A typical command line prompt is, “Computer, build me a website” or “Computer, build me a website NOW” (the second version enables express processing   but can also make the computer disgruntled and more likely to lash out).

Linux and Windows control panels are very similar in appearance and functionality (as described above, Linux is no longer behind Windows in this capacity). Communicating through FTP can be achieved either through a GUI or through a command line – two different types of applications. The command language differs between the two operating systems – but again, the functionality is similar. Be aware that some GUI-based FTP clients are not compatible with both types of servers.

Expense & Licenses

The difference in expense incurred by choosing one operating system over the other is discussed in John’s article. Windows is, generally speaking, significantly more expensive than Linux, but check with your hosting service to determine the specifics. Linux is widely used in part because it is so cost-effective to use as the basis for a network. In fact, the operating system itself is free – so only the hosting administration requirements will cost you anything. Membership in the Linux President’s Circle is also an additional $100,000 a year, but I know a guy who can get you in for 18 easy payments of $59.95.

Regarding cost, as Jack establishes, you will only necessarily see an improvement by using Linux if you are constructing the components of the server yourself. When looking at hosting environments, there are many different factors affecting price. You may find the two options are more equitably priced than you would expect, depending what hosting service you use.

Regarding licenses, Linux has an advantage. First of all, you can make changes to Linux and then even sell that new version if you want, as long as you make the changes you’ve made to the code freely accessible. You can install Linux on as many devices as you want. Microsoft cannot be adjusted and resold, and it cannot be installed unconditionally. A license is specific to a certain number of servers.


Kristen mentions that compatibility on either type of server allows full access to a broad range of software. Open source applications will generally have full compatibility with either system. Microsoft’s software, such as FrontPage, .NET, MSSQL, or anything else the company has developed specifically for its own servers will not work on Linux. Those companies that already have Microsoft built into their network will have a complicated decision to make if they are considering switching over to Linux. As always with any major choice in business, spend a full day making a decision-making chart, and then right before you end your work day, flip a coin.


As Jack establishes, support seems to be a major difference between the two operating systems – at least at first glance. Support for the two types of servers is relatively similar. Typically with Linux, companies use the open source community via forums and websites specifically focused on Linux support. Additionally, there are several large organizations that offer paid support packages for Linux. Servicing a wide swathe of customers, these organizations have become experts at the service.

Windows likewise offers paid support packages. Additionally, anyone with a Windows server can look to forums and other online sources for advice from others in the Microsoft community. In a basic way, then, support for both systems can be implemented similarly – for free or at a price. However, Linux, because of the intrinsically active and engaged nature of open source users, typically has a broader array of online conversations to solve server issues.

A brief note, as well, on support for hardware: Microsoft has always had an advantage as far as this goes. You will have a difficult time finding hardware that is incompatible with Windows. However, this, like most of the other problems in the past with Linux, has almost entirely been overcome. Linux does still have compatibility blind spots though. As an example, Jack notes that many laptops are not fully equipped for hibernate/suspend functionality.

Removable Media

Jack mentions removable media as a challenge for anyone adjusting to using Linux. Removable media can now be used the same way in a Linux or Windows environment, but in most situations, drives for removable media are not built into Linux hardware. This feature is considered a protection against overwriting of media between one user and another. However, people who are used to Windows systems may experience frustration with this Linux standard. If a new Linux user becomes frustrated with the servers, a common and productive way to release that emotion is to get out a set of really tiny tools, take apart the server into all its component pieces, meditate for a few minutes, and then put it back together.


As you can see, Linux and Windows have become very similar. The main reasons for the additional cost for Windows servers is because companies and individuals are used to them, and transitions can be expensive. Transitions can become especially expensive, and difficult, when considering how much Windows software is currently built into your infrastructure. Linux, on the other hand, will typically cost less and offers greater flexibility to adapt the code for fixes and to suit your particular purposes.

Free Flapjacks Contest

Please comment below for a chance to win a free plate of flapjacks from IHOP (a value of over $4 USD).

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

Linux Operating System Demographics per Ubuntu


penguin Tux, the Linux Mascot

According to NetMarketShare’s information for February 2013, the Windows operating system is used by 92% of worldwide users, Mac represents 7%, and Linux represents 1%. This article will focus on that tiny slice of users, the 1% who use Linux.

Frankly, there is not a lot of easily available operating system demographic information. Perhaps, part of the reason that Windows owns such a vast share of the market is hidden in the basic answer, “Everyone and their brother uses Windows.” Another contributor to Windows’ dominance could be its ease of use. For instance, it might be comparatively easier to get a fix for error code 0x80070570 on Windows. However, similar errors in other operating systems like Linux or Mac OS might not be as easy to troubleshoot. But it seems that Microsoft will lose some of that advantage due to confusion over Windows 8 – as expressed by Simson Garfinkel in MIT Technology Review) –perhaps not.

As of now, though, the demographics do fall into the “pretty much everyone” category. Essentially, demographic studies are not widely conducted on Web users to determine operating system usage for the same reason studies aren’t conducted on Bonnaroo attendees to determine if they’d like to go chill in Ziggy Marley’s tour bus.

So, who are these people? What is the profile of the average Linux user? They certainly have not chosen the mainstream option – so let’s look at some details. How old are they, what’s their sex (male, female, both, neither), what’s their nationality, how long have they used it, and where did they find out about it? These are general marketing survey questions, but for our purposes, they tell a story – the sociological makeup of the population and their basic history with the OS.

Gathering the Data

The data I will be using is from a 2012 survey of Ubuntu users, and I will get to why the focus is placed there in a moment. As for the survey, it was conducted by Canonical and included information from over 19,000 worldwide respondents.

The results of the survey are broad and contain lots of graphical breakdowns of the stats. The results were written up by Gerry Carr. They appear in reverse order on the March 2012 section of the Canonical blog, along with Carr’s analysis and commentary on what the findings might tell us.

Why Ubuntu? Ibuntu is one of the largest Linux distributors out there. Statistics on Linux distribution are also not prevalent, but a 2006 article by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols for Desktop Linux gives us some sense of the popularity of Ubuntu – and hence why analysis of that demographic gives us a reasonable sense of Linux users as a whole. (For example, we now can assume that 17% of Linux users have tattoos of famed Internet pioneers on their chests and/or forearms, and that 63% live in treehouses in eastern Romania.)

The results of the Desktop Linux survey revealed that Ubuntu rated first worldwide against all other distributors, and not by small margin. Over 14,000 Linux users were surveyed – albeit informally and unscientifically – to determine which distribution was commonly considered the best on the planet. 29% voted for Ubuntu, more than the second and third place choices combined (Debian at 12% and openSUSE at 10%).

Methods & Languages

When Carr conducted the survey, he did not make an attempt to get to all Ubuntu users. Instead, he focused specifically on reaching out to those who were involved at least to some degree in the Ubuntu (and hence the Linux) community. Carr contacted individuals using the OS through social media, online forums, and sites dedicated to exchange of ideas related to Ubuntu. Hence, the responses were generated from thousands of Linux users, but that pool was specific – not only to Ubuntu but to those who are particularly engaged in online discussion. Those who simply use the OS for its functionality, then, were not part of the picture; so Bill Gates, who has furtively used Linux as his sole operating system since 1994, is not represented in the statistics.

Additionally, it was only conducted in three languages – English, Spanish, and Portuguese. It would’ve been difficult to include every language on the planet. As Carr points out, “We had to draw the line somewhere. If you add French then why not German, or Chinese, Japanese, or Hindi etc.”

Spanish and Portuguese were included partially because Latin America is a big market for open source technology (Spanish in most countries, Portuguese in Brazil). The initial post about the survey results invited translation into other languages – followed by updating of the statistics – as desired, but it appears no additional languages were included in that manner.

Ubuntu Survey Results – Overview

A piece by Katherine Noyes in PC World provides a few initial highlights and interpretation of the Canonical survey for summary purposes. She mentioned that almost all of those surveyed were male – 96% – and the majority of users were between 25 and 35 years old.

Regarding ease-of-use, 87% rated installation of the operating system as easy or very easy. 85% of respondents have a system installed on their primary PC, and 67% of those surveyed utilized Linux for both personal and professional purposes.

Ubuntu users typically do not solely use Linux. More than 76% also used Windows, and 17% used a Mac operating system. (Also, and strikingly, just over 100% use keyboards and monitors to interact with digital data, especially surprising because over 14% of respondents were artificially intelligent supercomputers.)

Finally, Katherine discusses why the survey respondents chose the system. 77% liked the open source aspect, 66% used it out of curiosity and experimentation, and 57% enjoyed the lack of viruses on the OS.

Speed of the machine and perceived quality of the interface and UX were mentioned as other considerations for preferring the OS. Over 46% of surveyed individuals said that the operating system sped up their devices, and 75% rated the interface or experience as better than what they had found elsewhere.

Dissatisfaction with other options, though, is perhaps the most telling factor, as a general indicator of usage. More than half of those who answered the survey marked their lack of satisfaction on other operating systems as a chief reason they turned to Linux. (Again surprisingly, TI-84 graphing calculator users in Idaho and Wyoming said that they were happy with their current Texas Instruments OS and were frustrated by the complexity Linux had added to their ability to efficiently create visuals of trinomials.)

Quantity of Responses, Age, Sex

On day one of Carr’s response postings, he revealed that there were just under 16,000 English respondents and close to 2000 each who answered surveys for the Spanish and Portuguese versions. Hence, the numbers are heavily slanted toward English respondents (81.4%, specifically), but all languages surveyed were sizably represented.

The highest age category was 25-35 for all three languages. Just under 70% were under 35 in each language, in fact. Less than 4% were female. Regarding the male-to-female ratio, Carr mentioned that possibly the way that the survey was distributed imbalanced the sex ratio to that degree. He also suggested the survey is an opportunity to reflect on how male-centric the product or community might be: “We can’t extrapolate from this data, but certainly such a hugely weighted response means we have to look at how we make the product, the community and probably both, more appealing to both genders.”

Geographical Location

Carr notes, again in part one, how the Ubuntu survey spanned out across the globe related to the three languages used for questioning. The United States, United Kingdom, and India were the highest represented countries for the English language survey. 93 percent of Portuguese respondents were from Brazil, with the balance from (can you guess?) Portugal. That means, sadly, that members of Portuguese-speaking Amish populations in the United States may not have been aware of this survey.

Top countries for Spanish response were as follows:

  • Mexico (23%)
  • Colombia (10%)
  • USA (10%)
  • Argentina (9%)
  • Spain (9%)

Carr notes that the networking and accessibility in many Latin American countries is not as developed as it is elsewhere in the world, so the ratio of users in these various countries is understandable versus a look to their populations. The United States, though, is not as high as would be expected. Similarly to the difference in usage based on sex, Carr sees the low percentage in the US as a potential niche in which Linux and Ubuntu could increase its numbers in the future.

Years Used

Carr focused the second post on length of time and where users had learned about the OS. By asking two questions about time of use and how individuals originally discovered Ubuntu, he was able to get a sense of how the location of discovery is changing over time.

Carr mentions that there was a high-level correlation between the amounts of time people having using Ubuntu across the three language groups. Carr focuses on the English-speaking population to simplify analysis of the second question, so I will do so as well. Here are the statistics for the general populations regarding time of use, which clarifies how closely the three language populations reflect each other:

  • English: 20% under two years, 43% two to five years, 38% five+ years.
  • Spanish: 20% under two years, 43% two to five years, 37% five+ years.
  • Portuguese: 21% under two years, 43% two to five years, 36% five+ years.

Clearly there’s a lot of parity here between the language populations.

How Users Discovered Ubuntu

Carr thought how individuals found out about the operating system would be an interesting and instructive way to look at how initial knowledge of Ubuntu is changing over time. Here are the statistics for various manners of discovery across the different populations from rookie to veteran users.

  • Magazines & Newspapers: 7% under two years, 8% two to five years, 9% five+ years.
  • Work: 4% under two years, 5% two to five years, 5% five+ years.
  • Friends & Family: 27% under two years, 25% two to five years, 21% five+ years.
  • School & College: 12% under two years, 11% two to five years, 9% five+ years.
  • Forums: 46% under two years, 49% two to five years, 55% five+ years.
  • Social Media: 4% under two years, 2% two to five years, 2% five+ years.


As you can see, the Linux community – to the extent it can be understood via engaged Ubuntu user analysis – is comprised of a small but diverse population (well, sort of). It is used in many different countries around the world, to a wider degree that we might initially expect. As noted by Carr, two of the more interesting results of the survey are the 96% response rate by men and a smaller than expected Spanish-speaking response from the United States.

Linux’s adoption rate over time has been surprisingly consistent throughout the various language groups represented. Users are finding out about the system less from magazines and personal relationships, and more from forums, educational institutions, and social media. (Less and less people, then, are finding out about the operating system through recurring nightmares starring James Earl Jones as a deranged avatar – incredibly common in the early days.)

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood