Keepin' it real in Tech
Comparing Windows vs GNU/Linux in Security, Stability, and Versatility
It is no secret that the FOSS (Free Open Source Software) community has always preferred GNU/Linux over Microsoft Windows. Not only in technical areas where security or stability is needed, but also in just moral terms such as privacy and freedom. However, this preference is not limited to hobbyists. Government agencies like the Department of Defense and businesses use GNU/Linux.
The United States relies on it in security such as in operating systems like TENS GNU/Linux (Trusted End Node Security), NASA when being used to run the Curiosity Mars Rover, and most of the world’s web servers run GNU/Linux.
Comparing the nature of Windows to GNU/Linux
Since GNU/Linux has it’s code exposed, it is open to be criticized and critique by all who see it. Code is edited for improvements, and what code stands usually has survived a lot of criticism. Being built with the FOSS philosophy in mind, it also allows you to learn how it works, and therefore be more trustworthy when using the operating system.
GNU/Linux also has a lot of different perspectives looking how to use the code. GNU/Linux has software default installed on many distributions that is aimed towards programmers, musicians, engineers, scientists, etc. Since it was made for everybody, it should have a tool useful to everybody.
Something important to understanding ‘security’ in GNU/Linux is to understand the security of a specific GNU/Linux distro. Some are more security focused than others. For example, Ubuntu is based off of Debian, and Parabola is based off of Arch. Even though they are all using GNU/Linux they are entirely different operating systems. And each with prioritize security differently. TENS has more of a focus on Security than an OS like Linux Mint.
We will focus primarily on Windows 10.
Windows was created and maintained by Microsoft. Microsoft has the technical capability to develop advanced software, but the only eyes viewing the code are eyes inside Microsoft. Windows is proprietary, so the source is not open to the public, and the main intent of Windows is to profit from Windows. This changes the priorities of Windows when compared with GNU/Linux. This priority on profit and not people has lead to even big fans of windows writing articles such as Why Windows 10 Sucks. Microsoft makes sure that most computers sold at retail in the world such as at Walmart, Best buy and etc sell computers with Windows on them by default. This ensures that they have a certain quantity of Windows computer sold, and as long as they have that quantity met they won’t need to worry about the quality.
Windows is designed to be an operating system that you can use at home for recreational activities, such as scrolling through Facebook or playing videos games. Windows also does not offer documentation to the same extent that GNU/Linux does.
Comparing the basic structure of Windows to GNU/Linux
A feature that Windows has that GNU/Linux does not is something called a registry. The Windows registry was designed to help Windows to find needed configuration information, but often times through no fault of the user it causes more issues than it solves problems. You can read more on the Windows registry here. Many Windows users know already that a registry that is not maintained can reduce speed, and cause instability. Few consider that simply viewing the registry with regedit can be a security issue. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that if using the builtin software of your operating system can cause issues, the operating system itself is an issue.
A feature that GNU/Linux has that Windows doesn’t is known as a package manager. For example, when you boot up a fresh installation of Windows 10, it does not have the Google Chrome web browser. You have to use the preinstalled browser to download Google Chrome and then install it. Different GNU/Linux distros come with different package managers but the most commonly used one is ‘apt’. With the apt package manager you can install not just the browser, but just about anything from the terminal. This seems like a vain convenience at first, but installing software with apt helps prevent you from installing a virus from a phishing site. It also allows you to update all the installed software on your system. Suppose I have an update available for my browser, music player and a video game on my Windows system. I have to download all three updates from each of their respected locations on the internet. On a GNU/Linux system, I can type “apt-get update && apt-get upgrade” and I updated all three applications. This saves a large amount of precious time.
Finding Common Ground
If you have never heard of a “Dual boot” device, it is a computer that has two operating systems installed, and will let you choose either one at startup time. For example, I can install Ubuntu GNU/Linux on a machine with Windows 10, and Ubuntu will detect there is another operating system, and ask me what I want to do. Microsoft does not give you the choice or the option to dual boot. Windows will always overwrite the MBR (Master Boot Record). In simple terms, if you want a dual boot device, you have to install Windows and then GNU/Linux (because only GNU/Linux respects your choice).
There are numerous other examples of GNU/Linux caring about the people and Windows about the profit, but this small article would become an encyclopedia.
If you need your device to be secure and stable, then find a GNU/Linux distro you can use. If freedom, privacy and security are not your priority, then by all means stick to using only Windows.