Saturday, 30 May 2009

Windows 7 Vs. Linux: OS Face-Off: The Muppets Return!

Why does the Microsoft press insist on perpetuating this phoney war? Are they that desperate to stave off the mass exodus of Windows users to Linux? Is there a mass exodus? You'd be forgiven for thinking there was given the way some "journalists" are writing these days trying to trumpet the merits of Windows Vista 7.

Speaking of which. An article from Information Week, the type of article that likes to pretend to be balanced and unbiased, caught my eye. Particularly this little snippet.

... Another issue may be the fact that while it's possible to install 7 on top of Vista and preserve one's applications and settings, it isn't yet possible to do this in Linux.

It is possible to automatically migrate documents and some fairly generic system settings -- Ubuntu does this, for instance -- but not the apps themselves. (For those planning on performing an entirely clean installation of either OS, though, it's a moot point.) ...



What complete and total bollocks! Fair enough. We can't really preserve Windows applications settings yet. But why would we want to?

I'm not sure what the author is expecting Ubuntu to do here. Migrate Windows OS and application settings to Ubuntu? Windows doesn't migrate anything from Linux. It can't even read Linux partitions as standard. And guess what? Windows doesn't even preserve the GRUB boot-loader. Even on Multi-boot systems!

If a user wishes to preserve application settings from Ubuntu 8.10 to 9.04 for example they can. First of all many applications use user specific settings stored in the "/home" directory. The easiest way to preserve these settings is to simply split "/home" off into it's own partition or even it's own hard drive. So when you do a simple upgrade. Everything in your own user account should still be as it was.

Even better though! With "/home" hived off in it's own little world we can do a complete re-installation of the OS and applications and still preserve out local application settings. So what about global settings?

It's quite simple really. Back-up before before you upgrade. That way you can restore your settings after the upgrade is done. This I think is a safer way to do things. Firstly it encourages you to make back-ups which can't possibly be bad. Secondly old global settings for old versions of applications aren't always appropriate for the newer versions.

In fact considering the pace that open source software development moves at. It's probably better to go with the new defaults than try to shoehorn old square preferences into a newer rounder hole. After all bad application configurations cause things to break.