Operating systems tested


New Member
Jan 6, 2005
Source: Choice.com Australian Consumer Association

*NOTE* Parts of this artical have been left out. Please visit the source for the full artical.

All computers require an operating system (OS). It’s the underlying program that runs your software and controls the hardware and peripherals connected to your computer. You probably use a version of Microsoft Windows because it came pre-installed on your computer when you bought it but there are other operating systems available.

Linux is the most obvious alternative to Windows for PC users but there isn’t just one Linux operating system. There are many Linux-based operating systems (called distributions) because Linux is open source software that’s freely available to anybody to use and develop. Traditionally perceived as hard to use, many Linux products now claim to be pitched at consumers, but are they as user-friendly as you’d hope?

We set out to find out how some Linux operating systems and Mac OS X stack up against the market leader, Windows.

Operating systems on test:
Apple Mac OS X (10.3)
Linspire 4.5
Mandrakesoft Mandrakelinux Discovery 10.0
Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition (with SP2)
Novell SuSE LINUX Personal 9.1
Xandros Desktop OS 2.5 Deluxe.

The verdict
None of the operating systems are ideal, however.
The Linux distributions fell short on some common tasks including installing new software, setting up an internet connection and the availability of help files and instructions.
Mac OS X could have more comprehensive help files and we’d like to see the inbuilt firewall switched on by default.
Although Windows XP usually comes pre-installed on computers, the installation process could be easier, as could some of the common tasks such as playing a DVD.
We’d also like to see inbuilt antivirus software in all operating systems — the tested operating systems don’t currently include a virus checker.

In brief
Microsoft Windows is the dominant operating system.
The Linux-based operating systems we tested aren’t quite as easy to use as Windows XP and Mac OS X, but they’re not far behind.
Linux fell short on common tasks such as installing new software.
Overall, however, Linux has improved in leaps and bounds over the years. It’s probably not suitable for beginners yet but if you’re a confident computer user, any of the tested distributions should suit you.

New security vulnerabilities in Windows surface regularly but it’s incorrect to assume you’re safe if you use an alternate operating system. Security risks have also been found in Linux and Mac OS X. Hackers and virus writers target Windows and it’s by far the most widely used desktop operating system.

Using Mac OS X or Linux will give you a degree of protection against security threats but you’ll still have to be vigilant.

All the operating systems have inbuilt firewall software to monitor data going into and out of your computer. With the exception of the Mac OS X firewall, all the firewall software is switched on by default when you install your operating system. The Mac OS X firewall needs to turned on by the user but the settings are easy to locate. Most of the inbuilt firewalls offer adequate security, with the exception of SuSE Linux which left one port open. The other firewalls closed or stealthed all the test computers’ ports. Luckily, it was relatively easy to change SuSE Linux’s firewall settings. In contrast, the firewall settings for Linspire and Xandros were difficult to change, although you can use the Xandros Networks to download a separate program to adjust the settings in Xandros.

Easy-to-access software updates and security patches and fixes can save you time and hassle. Mac OS X and Windows XP automatically check for new updates and patches at specific times as long as you’re connected to the internet. You can change the default settings if you wish. None of the Linux distributions offer automatic updates, but you can either download patches and updates from each manufacturers’ website, or by using Linspire Click-N-Run or Xandros Networks. SuSE Linux and Mandrakelinux offer to look for updates during installation.

Unlike Windows, Linux doesn’t have a C: Drive. It uses a root directory that's represented by < / >. Every file and folder is stored under the root directory, usually in subdirectories.

The use of permissions to specify who can read and write individual files, use certain programs and change specific settings is another key difference. All the operating systems tested allow for multiple user accounts, including an administrator account. This lets you protect your files from other people who may share the computer.

Unlike Windows XP, the Linux distributions and Mac OS X also let you restrict a program, such as ICQ, to a single user account. Additionally, in Linux and Mac OS X, the administrator is the only account with access to universal settings and files.

Mac OS X and the Linux distributions we looked at automatically prompt you to switch to the administrator account if you try to access protected settings when you’re logged into a user account. You’ll be asked for the administrator username and password before you can proceed.

The test
Windows XP and the Linux distributions were installed separately on two PCs — a new Pentium 4 3.0GHz machine and an older Athlon 1.2GHz system. Mac OS X was installed on an Apple G4 Mac.
The Linux distributions we tested aren’t Mac compatible, although you can find Linux products for Macs.
We used each OS to perform the following common tasks:
make a document
print a document
set up your internet connection (including set up an email program and instant messenger and check the computer's security)
back up to CD-RW/DVD-RW
listen to music
customise the desktop
watch a movie
attach a digital camera and view digital photos
install new software
set up external devices
We also evaluated how easy each operating system was to install and setup, and the quality and clarity of the help files and instructions.


Apple Mac OS X (10.3)
$229 (RRP)
System requirements: Apple Power PC, G3+, 128MB RAM
Support: 90 days reinstallation support, online help FAQ, forums
Included software: iTunes, iMovie, iDVD, Mac Mail, iChat, Safari, Appleworks

Easy install procedure for other software
Good DVD player
Comes with developer tools

Firewall not on by default
iChat only connects to AOL

Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition (with SP2)
$324 (RRP)
System requirements: 450MHz CPU, 128MB RAM, 1.5GB hard drive
Support: FAQ, online help, forums
Included software: Media player (but only plays MPEG movies), CD writing wizard, Outlook Express, MSN Messenger, Internet Explorer, Write/Notepad

Easy install procedure for other software
Lots of people use it so relatively easy to get help

Unable to open Excel files without buying Microsoft Office.
Instant messenger program only compatible with MSN Messenger
No physical manual
No DVD player

Xandros Desktop OS 2.5 Deluxe
System requirements: 233MHz CPU, 64MB RAM, 1.5GB hard drive
Support: FAQ, online help, forums, free installation email support for 60 days
Included software: KsCD, Xine, K3b (CD writing only), Mozilla Mail, Kopete, Internet Explorer, OpenOffice.org

Instant messenger program (Kopete) connects to several different clients
Good install manual
Includes a Windows Emulator program, called Cross Over Office, that allows it to run Windows programe

Hard to install other software
No LiveCD
DVD player doesn’t automatically start DVD, hard to find relevant files.
Includes an earlier version of K3b which can burn CDs but not DVDs.

Mandrakesoft Mandrakelinux Discovery 10.0
Version 10.1 now available. Includes Kaffeine movie player software, but doesn't have a LiveCD.
System requirements: 90MHz CPU, 64MB RAM, 500MB hard drive
Support: FAQ, online help, forums, 30 day free standard web support, 1 month of free Standard Level Mandrakeclub membership and Mandrake Online Personal Solutions
Included software: KsCD, Totem, K3b, Kontact, Kopete, Konqueror, OpenOffice.org

Good install manual
Good LiveCD
Good help files
Instant messenger program (Kopete) connects to several different clients

Hard to install other software
You need to install the help files separately
You need to install the games separately

Linspire 4.5
System requirements: 450MHz CPU, 128MB RAM, 1.5GB hard drive
Support: FAQ, online help, forums, 3-5 days turnaround email help
Included software: KsCD, Mplayer (MPEG movies only), K3b (CD writing only), Internet Suite, Gaim, Mozilla, OpenOffice.org

Good LiveCD
Click-n-Run technology makes it easy to install other software
Instant messenger program, Gaim, connects to several different clients

Hard to install other software
No physical manual
Click-n-Run costs extra
No DVD player
Uses an earlier version of K3b that can only burn CDs but not DVDs

Novell SuSE Linux Personal 9.1
Version 9.2 now available. The version tested is only available for download, without a manual.
System requirements:90MHz CPU, 128MB RAM, 400MB hard drive
Support: Limited free installation support for 30 days, no FAQ, no online help
Included software: KsCD, Kaffeine (MPEG movies only), K3b, Kmail, Kopete, Konqueror, OpenOffice.org

Good install manual
Good LiveCD
Instant messenger program (Kopete) connects to several different clients

Hard to install other software
Inbuilt firewall leaves one port open by default
Confusing email program setup
Hard to understand help files

Full Story HERE