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Just a Thought - Geekier

by - December 20th, 2004

Taped to my desk at work, there use to be a copy of an ad I found somewhere a long time ago. The ad claimed that Linux was 33% geekier than Windows; it had charts and graphs that showed that Linux was, indeed, 33% geekier.

That ad isn't there anymore, I moved to a different cube and the ad got lost in the shuffle, but the ad stuck in the back of my mind, like toilet paper to a shoe heel.

Beyond the obvious question of how does one define the quality of 'geekiness', I wondered how one would go about proving which OS is the geekier.

I also wondered if the quality of geekiness was a good thing; I mean, it is only in recent times that geeks have become fashionable, and it was the Dot.Com/tech boom, and the money it bestowed that made geeks babe magnets. (Let's face it, Bill Gates would likely still be a virgin if he hadn't crated Microsoft. Really, have you seen a picture of him before Microsoft? Geez! )

Some software, especially OSes, are anything but cool to the average person. Anything a geek would find fascinating about an OS would make a normal guy cringe. So, if geeks like geeky things, and if an OS is favored by geeks, then one might assume that the OS is geekier, and not a good thing.

At any rate; comparing OSes for their relative merit is nothing new; it's why many of us use OS X and Macs. We've found that OS X gives us what we want and not what we don't want.

Folks who run Linux on their PCs often feel the same way Mac users do, as if they were trying to swim up a water fall. They must prove to coworkers, managers, and the guy who holds the purse strings that running Linux on a PC is actually a good thing.

If you are one of those poor souls, then you'd be interested in the report published recently by Cybersource that shows the cost of using Linux on your PC could be up to a third less than using Windows. The report was based on data taken from 250 users over the course of 3 years. From the Cybersource article, Linux vs. Windows TCO Comparison: The Final Numbers Are In:

"We know that Cybersource is identified as a Linux solution provider, so we made great effort to prepare a balanced and open analysis," commented Cybersource CEO, Con Zymaris. "The prices used for the study, along with research methodology, vendor specifications, cost calculator tabulations and final results are all included, so that these results can be verified by others. Which is more than we can say for any of the TCO reports that Microsoft touts in its current carpet-bombing anti-Linux advertising campaign."


"And the results make for interesting reading,' continued Zymaris. "Standard Linux was 36% lower overall TCO than Microsoft's platforms and applications. Even the paid-for Red Hat Enterprise Linux managed systems were 27% lower cost than Windows."

"We know that many organisations and many governments around the world are looking at adopting Linux and are therefore carefully analysing the numbers. We now provide what we think are the tools for making such a decision easier. And the final numbers are indeed startling. We've given Microsoft every head-start possible but Linux's cost advantage is simply too great for most organisations to ignore," concluded Zymaris.

You can read the full account at

So, Linux is cheaper to use than Windows. It seems logical since Linux is free and much of the software used on Linux-based PCs is either free, or nearly so when compared to software on Windows. Still, you have to wonder if it is really true. After all, Cybersource did the comparison, and since they are service providers to UNIX and Linux customers, it would behoove them to prove Linux is the better choice.

They would not be the first company to provide data that supports their business position; Microsoft has a huge area on its Web site dedicated to case studies that support the notion that Windows is better than Linux. For a more balanced view, however, you might try TechWorld's report, which looks at several extremely geeky areas of OS operations and offer opinions on which OS is geekier, um, better in each area.

But Cybersource's report talks about cost of ownership, and while they have numbers that support their conclusion, total cost of ownership is a tough thing to quantify. There's an excellent article over at NewsFactor titled Mac vs. PC: The Truth About TCO; it obviously discusses PCs versus Macs, but the ideas and conclusions reached in the article applies to the Windows vs. Linux debate as well. The article concludes:

The question about Mac vs. PC TCO may be answerable, said Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg. "But the question is, is it relevant?"

Differences in cost of ownership are justified -- or not -- by how suitable a given platform is to a task, Gartenberg maintains. "Based on suitability for task, the numbers for both platforms are going to be roughly the same over a five-year period," he told NewsFactor.

Moreover, he said, "because there's no standard method for determining total cost of ownership, I could come up with numbers based on task and environment that might slant in either direction."

The Mac vs. PC conundrum probably will not be settled by an authoritative analyst study any time soon, Kay noted. "The question of who's cheaper? I don't know," he said. "It's business that we won't take."

I totally agreed; If you have to use Microsoft applications in your business then the cost of running Windows on your PC is insignificant. The same is true for running OS X-centric apps on Macs, or Linux development environments in Red Hat; reports like the ones from Cybersource and Microsoft are about as useful as that Geeky ad I use to have.

If, however, you are lucky enough to be able to use any OS in your business then you'd do well to consider all of the players, not just Linux and Windows. When you do, reports like the one Cybersource offers might figure into your decision.

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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