Which is more practical to keep safe – Windows or Ubuntu?

Please note: As all my other blog entries, this is just my personal opinion. It’s based on experience at work or at home. The conclusions drawn may be wrong or biased but as I said, it’s personal.

I’ve come a long way with Windows, starting with the inevitable Windows 3.11, going through 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP, a short spin with Vista and finally Windows 7. Well, who hasn’t… As soon as internet connections became more common, Window’s shortcomings in security gained immediate attention and Microsoft responded (e.g. had to respond) with Windows Updates.

IMHO, Windows Updates has also come a long way. In a certain way, it is a reflection of the increasing complexity of Windows.

In XP, Updates could be installed from the Windows Updates website. Some installed without a restart, some updates required a restart but most of the updates installed fine and the following restart didn’t take very long.

In Vista and 7 though, Updates requiring a restart execute post-installation when shutting down AND they they execute post-installation configuration when starting the OS again. The effect on the user? Bewilderment and waiting time…

Not only for a common user, also for full-time IT personnels like me it’s impossible to foretell whether an update requires a reboot or not. Often, not even the description of the update is very helpful: “This update may require a reboot” mostly means it will require a reboot. Legalese phrases were never intended for humanity, only for non-humans… The reboot requirement sometimes differ depending on the server configuration – one particular update from January 2010 required not reboot on a WSUS server but required one a DC. I’m sure there’s technical reasons for that but still….

Oh, and this is just Windows and MS Office updates! Recommended updates for 3rd software such as .pdf readers (a particular bloatware comes to mind) also cries for reboots very often.

At least there is an alternative even on Windows… Foxit Reader. And there are others: OpenOffice, Firefox, VLC, Gimp and many more. They also need to be patched but uninstallation and installation can be completed with without a reboot.

My experience with Linux and in particular Ubuntu is not that old yet but has been growing deeper ever since. I’ve toyed with Linux distros since 1996 (SuSE at that time) but often I just installed a distro, played around with it and had to revert to Windows because specific 3rd party software was not available or some devices did not work or because it was just too impractical etc. (remember, it’s my personal opinion, I’m not trying to start a flame war).

However, for two years I’ve been using Debian at work and Ubuntu at home and I’m quite happy. At work, I don’t have to worry about updates as this is take care of by somebody else. At home, I can rely on apt-get to provide the latest updates quickly. The only updates that require a reboot are kernel upgrades (and very few others but I don’t remember what type they are – SSL-related?) and even 3rd party software upgrades are included. Not all but quite some.

Based on this experience I would rather recommend installing Ubuntu if I was asked by a novice computer user. The package is more complete, the installation of updates is easier, maintenance for the average user is easier. There is still the stigma of complexity to Linux but Ubuntu has made strides in that direction – even to the level where an average user can install and use it.

My conclusion should be quite clear: Ubuntu is easier to maintain safe than any Windows version.

I would like to add the following though: Regardless of what operating system you use, if you have a internet connection it had better be a broadband connection or a lousy dial-up connection. Broadband means you can regularly install updates without waiting 3 hours for the update to download and lousy dial up means your connection is slow that you are not a target worth hacking. Nonetheless, you should install updates whenever you can to keep your PC safe.

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2 Responses to “Which is more practical to keep safe – Windows or Ubuntu?”

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