It has been a few months since Windows 8 came out, so a lot of enthusiasts have messed around with it and found out what it’s all about. Many people have feared that Windows 8 would be an entirely new experience, and that our traditional workflow would be disrupted. Some people have even claimed that Windows 8 may cause them to abandon the operating system family and switch to Linux so that they can run up to date code without upgrading Windows. However, is any of this really the case?
I bought a copy of Windows 8 Pro to try for myself to reach some answers on my own. With answers in hand, I give you a review of the new operating system from a Linux user’s perspective.
One of the biggest complaints about Windows 8 is the new interface, or specifically the Start Screen. It scares a lot of people, but it’s easy to figure out after a bit of fiddling. Windows 8 introduces two different kinds of applications — your legacy programs that you’ve always used, and the new Windows 8 apps, which run full screen. This split allows you to use your computer in two different ways, or mix the two for a custom experience. If you want to remain on the traditional desktop, just avoid the Windows Store and install your applications as usual. You can find all of your applications in the Start Screen, which you can arrange however you want. In my opinion, the functionality of the Start Button is still there. You’ll just need to use the Windows key on your keyboard more often rather than gravitating to where the Start Button used to be. Worst case scenario, you can always get the Start Button back.
The new interface seems pretty different compared to traditional conventions, but I do think that people will grow to like it. People simply need to adjust to the slight changes when it comes to the Start Screen — everything else is essentially the same. It was a similar story for the Unity desktop interface on Ubuntu. After it was improved and bugs were fixed, more and more people started to like it.
Besides the interface and performance changes, there isn’t too much to tout about that immediately affects everyone. Windows 8 packs new multi-monitor support, a new task manager, and some Windows Explorer improvements. These improvements are fine (even if you don’t like those applied to Windows Explorer), but they don’t add any extra value compared to Linux. Multi-monitor support has already been decent (excluding the poorer quality of the graphics drivers), the task manager has always been informative, powerful, and visually appealing, and Nautilus/Dolphin have continuous refinements added to them.
Performance is another important aspect of the new operating system. It has definitely improved when compared to Windows 7, and the quicker startup times from the hibernated kernel. However, I believe Linux operating systems are still faster. They take the same time or less to boot from an unhibernated kernel, and runtime performance is also noticeably smoother. The only measurable improvements that Windows brings comes from the better graphics drivers while playing games. Linux is still more resource efficient as well, using quite a bit less RAM even with the full, relatively memory-hogging Ubuntu experience.
Some people may enjoy Windows 8’s new Storage Spaces feature. It allows people to combine multiple hard drives into one drive that appears in My Computer. Windows then uses all of the space that you configured across all hard drives, and you just continue using your system without worries. Linux has been doing this successfully for quite a while with LVM, and the imminent stable release of Btrfs will provide a modern replacement for the technology at a file-system level. Both LVM and Btrfs are easily configurable during installation or via utilities inside the operating system.
Another important factor is battery life. Windows continues to provide strong battery life, but Linux has always been touted as excellent in this category because of its high efficiency. Despite what people have said, my old computer always had a slightly better battery life under Windows, but with my new laptop, the tables have turned. I’ve noticed that Windows 8 keeps my laptop rather busy, so that the fan repeatedly turns on for a few moments to get rid of some hot air, something that doesn’t happen under Linux. I hate trying to give out statistics for something like battery life because it always changes, and depends on the software that you install.
Security is the final issue where Windows 8 has made some strides. It has implemented Windows Defender deep into the operating system, as well as some anti-virus precautions. However, it is still extremely vulnerable and an anti-virus solution is highly advisable. Under Linux, this isn’t the case — there isn’t any threat of viruses, and a tight firewall will keep out any potential hackers.
Overall, I don’t really see a lot of issues with Windows 8. There are improvements all across the board, and the only major complaint, the new interface, is something that only takes an hour of getting used to. Once I played around with it for a while, I felt comfortable using it. Yes, it was new, and people don’t like change, but there really isn’t much of a difference. Just take a deep breath and think logically. When compared to Linux, Windows 8 is showing a lot of similar struggles in the interface department, but otherwise they both have pros and cons. I still prefer Linux over Windows, but for people who wouldn’t dare switch away from Windows or who rely on Windows-only software, I have no problem recommending Windows 8. As for those still considering Linux, here’s some help on making Linux a Windows replacement.
What do you think of Windows 8? How do you think it stacks up to Linux? Are you running it right now? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credits: Jackson Carson