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Linux Vs. Mac: Which Is The Better Windows Alternative?

The switch from Windows XP to Vista has created a world of opportunity -- not only for Microsoft, but for supporters of competing operating systems. While Microsoft is hoping it can move its customers easily to a new version of Windows, Apple and the Linux community see the transition as a chance to demonstrate the advancement and advantages of their OSes -- and maybe steal some customers.

If you're one of those Windows users who are less than enchanted by what you've seen of Vista and you're thinking about switching, you face some tough choices that can make you feel like a pioneer. Is it a good idea to move to a Mac, with its easy interface, high level of safety and stability -- and higher prices? Or is it better to adopt a Linux distro, which is free (or, at least, inexpensive), supported by a range of imaginative developers -- and not quite newbie-friendly? Either decision forces you into new, unfamiliar territory.

For answers, we went to two writers who have a great deal of experience with Windows PCs but have recently experimented with moving to either a Mac or Linux. Mitch Wagner is an executive editor here at InformationWeek who has become an enthusiastic Mac convert, while Serdar Yegulalp, who has written extensively about Microsoft Windows, is now exploring the world of Linux and Linux distros. In other words, while both like to tout the advantages of their newly chosen operating systems, they are also well aware of the drawbacks.

In the following pages, they lead a guided tour of the two OSes, paying particular attention to eight important areas: Installation & Migration; Hardware Support & Power Management; Networking, Web & Wireless; Productivity; Entertainment; Security; Working With Windows (because we couldn't completely ignore Microsoft); and Stability, Backup & Disaster Recovery.

Which is the better OS? Only you can decide --but you'll make a more informed decision after you've taken this tour, and you'll discover you have some companions on your journey.

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