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Windows Vista vs. Windows XP vs. Ubuntu Linux Windows Vista vs. Windows XP vs. Ubuntu Linux: There's a new OS in town, but can it compare to our comfy slippers, or even the diamond in the rough?
Date: February 9, 2007
Manufacturer:
Written By: Brook Moore
Price:

While the Operating System of choice is still Microsoft, even Microsoft currently has a choice. MS Vista, the new kid on the block, has some promising features and definite sex appeal. What we at VL want to find out, does it have performance to match, or is it just a prettier more laden version of Windows XP? While MS is the majority, there has been a small revolution of sorts. Never before have I seen so many people switch to a Linux variant then when Ubuntu released 6.06 (Dapper Drake). Now with 6.10 (Edgy Eft) even my Brother In-Law (not a computer geek by any stretch of the imagination) has switched, it appears the move is continuing to gain momentum. Could Ubuntu become the Linux killer app to Microsoft's dominance?

Before we can delve deeper and determine what is what, lets look what we are trying to accomplish and of course, what we are not going to look at in this article.

Overview

First and foremost, this is not an article to tell you to switch from one OS to another, more to the point, I am trying to show you, our readers, where the performance lies and MY level of pain in implementing a proper solution. Realise that I have used Windows XP for about 4 years now in work and home, Ubuntu Linux for about 1 yr on and off and Windows Vista for less then 30 days (granted the flow from XP will be an advantage). The test products are as follows:

  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional

  • Microsoft Vista Home Premium

  • Ubuntu Edgy Eft (6.10)

The first question I am probably going to be asked, why did I chose Vista Home Premium? We at Viperlair feel that this will be the primary solution purchased by the majority of end users, especially since it also contains Media Center; the up-tick to Vista Ultimate only has the added security of Bit-Locker and the promised Ultimate only extras offering any tangible reason to go above Home Premium for the majority of home users. It certainly shouldn't affect performance in any tangible way. So now that we have chosen our operating systems, let's go over the hardware.

Test System : Asus P5W DH Deluxe, Patriot PC2-6400 2GB, Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 (Stock 2.13GHz), Samsung 18x DVD+/-RW SATA Drive, Samsung 250GB 7200RPM 8MB Cache SATA-II Hard Drive, Asus EAX1650XT

As you can see we are not going all out with this system. It is what I would call a highly likely system purchase by our average reader. Sure, you might go nV for your video or AMD for your processor but the system specifications, generally speaking, should be pretty common.

Installation

Installation was interesting; by that I mean that despite the fact MS have done wonders with the Vista installation routine, I would have sworn that MS Vista would be the slowest as it is the biggest install. Not the case by any means.

Install time in Minutes:Seconds, Lower is better

As you can see, Ubuntu installs slightly faster, not enough to warrant an issue even in my line of work, where re-installing is a bi-weekly thing. Poor XP Pro brings up the rear, by a significant amount mind you. Once installed, whats the time it takes to boot up (once the BIOS POST's)?

Boot time in Seconds, Lower is better

Vista is downright impressive, you barely have time to get a soda (or beer :p). If you think the boot time is impressive, you should see the wake time. I swear its instantaneous, you press the power button from Vista being asleep, and there is the login screen; VERY impressive.

Let's go over some random thoughts during the installation of the 3 Operating Systems shall we:

  1. XP -Professional

    1. Tried and true, you are comfortable here

    2. Easy to install, use, manage and setup games on

  2. Vista Home Premium

    1. Install is actually easier then XP Pro

    2. Once installed, its time to fumble around

      1. Where are my network drives

      2. I don't see my download directory

      3. Will FireFox work? (yes it does :P)

      4. Oh crap, this application won't load

      5. Need to get drivers for my Logitech mouse, nope, nothing on their site

      6. The Marvell Yukon NIC works, but not very fast

  3. Ubuntu Edgy Eft (6.10)

    1. Install is the fastest of the bunch

      1. Wow, detected my mouse buttons fine

      2. Internet works great out of the box

    2. Now the fun begins

      1. wait, Office is already installed? (Open Office)

      2. FireFox too?

      3. I can't find the launcher to that new program I installed

      4. which Wiki do I use to install the ATI drivers?

      5. Wait my screen is skewed to one side, how do I fix that?

    3. Remember, its not harder, its different

My overall impression of the installations themselves are rather immaterial. Ubuntu installed the fastest and included several packages that had to be added after the fact for the other OS's. Unfortunately, once installed, Ubuntu took the longest to get to the point of running the tests (once again, I am an XP user for the most part). Let's look over each OS as it relates to getting them test ready.

Ubuntu

There are many many sites to assist you in getting all sorts of programs running on Ubuntu; the unfortunate thing is there are many many sites to get you going on Ubuntu. While information is great, too much information becomes time consuming as you have to filter out all of the information to find what fits your needs the best. Once you get Ubuntu going and you become comfortable with the interface, its actually not any harder then Windows. In fact when it comes to updating the OS you get a bonus; it updates all of your packages too (unless you tell it not to), this all with a few clicks, a password and boom, your done. Oh and no REBOOT needed...

There are a few hoops you must jump through to get games running on Ubuntu (as with any Linux Distro), OpenGL being the first and foremost of the bunch. While I have read many discussions on ATI's lack of support for Linux, I must say I was impressed with the ease at which I was able to get OpenGL working just fine with an ATI video card, one that ATI just got a Windows XP driver that included it (not to mention Vista and OpenGL are yet to be available). I did not get into any games outside of OpenGL as I felt it was not part of this article to see Ubuntu's performance in an emulation environment.

XP Professional

While XP was slightly behind Vista in that Vista installed quickly and I was able to “fumble around” Vista due to a somewhat similar layout to XP. XP's long installation time (in comparison to the others) and reboots that are required for joining your network domain etc (where the files live) is what hurt it here. XP is the old blue (background) that we are used to, when it came out it was flashy, that has since worn away (although there are pkg's you can get to alleviate that). Maintaining the programs you have installed and the OS is still somewhat cumbersome and by no means free. Any updates to the OS and most applications require the dreaded reboot...

Installing the games and applications needed for this article was painless and something we at VL are very accustom to, once again, most of the installations required some sort of reboot to make them active.

Vista Home Premium

Vista was the 2nd fastest to install and overall the fastest to get to the point of Test operational. I confess that I have used Vista RC1 and RC2, so some of the mundane things like finding your download files and Network folder I already had in my bag of tricks. Things like renaming your workgroup to match mine were somewhat more difficult and time consuming. Also time consuming, and frustrating at times, was the very little bit of information on the web about Vista and resolving issues (kind of the opposite issue of Ubuntu). When I had a problem running a program I went searching, I found several answers for XP Pro, and of course none of those worked. I finally found the answer (in this case “run as administrator”) but not by a web search, by a friend who has been using Vista for a couple of months solid. This issue should alleviate itself as Vista is in the hands of users for a longer length of time.

Installation of the battery of tests was slightly harder then that of XP due to a few glitches here and there. The most difficult amazingly was UT 2004, in which I had to install the UT2K4 update 4 times before it worked properly. Adding to this pain was the only way to test if the the update worked was to go into the game and see if you could move, if not, exit and apply again. There are still reboots required (and even some recommended that I just ignored) for Vista though it is no where near as frequent as XP. Audio and NIC Drivers (which Vista actually had at build time but were not efficient by any means) did not require a reboot, just to name a couple.

Battery of Test's

  • Basic System Requirements

  • SiSoft Sandra (Vista / XP)

  • SuperPI (Vista / XP / Ubuntu)

  • 3DMark (Vista / XP)

  • DVD Shrink (Vista / XP / Ubuntu)

  • CDex (Vista / XP / Ubuntu)

  • Video Encoding (Vista / XP / Ubuntu)

  • Quake 4 (XP / Ubuntu)

  • UT2004 (Vista / XP / Ubuntu)

Obviously not all tests run across all platforms but I tried to be as comprehensive as possible. I also realized that one program does not do the same thing across all platforms, so what was my solution? I did some research and I pulled the most popular program for the task at hand. For example, in the case of Video Encoding, Vista / XP we used TMPGEnc, a relatively popular and efficient encoder however this program is not built for Ubuntu. So what was my solution on Ubuntu? I used FFMPEG, a popular Encoder in the Ubuntu world. Different programs, same end result which is the core point of any benchmarking; to discover the final result.

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