Macs, Windows 7, and Linux

As I write this, the new Mac news is coming out and Microsoft just decided to back down from limiting Windows 7 Starter Edition to no more than three applications. So, why do I think you may want to buy a Linux desktop instead? Easy: Price.

The Macbook still starts at $999. The new 13.3" display. MacBook Pros starts at $1,199. That's great! If you've got that kind of money to spend…

Let me be the first to say that you do get what you pay for with a Mac. I like them a lot and I own three myself. But, they aren't cheap and for me they're business expenses so at the end of the tax year they don't cost me as much as they do most people.

If you've got the money, and you can live with Apple's proprietary lock-down approach, go ahead and get a Mac. But, if you can't afford one, and you want some freedom in your software choices, look elsewhere.

Microsoft, in its recent TV ads, wants you to look at them for the low-cost alternative. Please. Can anyone who's ever put up with misery that is Vista feel anything but sorry for someone who'd buy a Windows laptop today?

Windows continues, as always, to be an insecure mess that requires constant fixes to say safe and functional. And, of course, you need to add other security software to it to keep it working for you and not for a Nigerian spammer.

Given a choice between a Mac and Windows, I know which one I'll buy. The Mac may cost me more at first, but in the long run I'll save money with it.

You can, of course, wait for Windows 7, which is better than Vista, but it's not going to be cheap either. But, let's say in today's hard times all you can afford is a netbook? What then?

Well, you're out of luck. Let's see what Brandon LeBlanc, Microsoft's Windows Communications Manager himself had to say about Windows 7 Starter Edition. It won't come with:

*Aero Glass, meaning you can only use the "Windows Basic" or other opaque themes. It also means you do not get Taskbar Previews or Aero Peek.

* Personalization features for changing desktop backgrounds, window colors, or sound schemes.

* The ability to switch between users without having to log off.

* Multi-monitor support.

* DVD playback.

* Windows Media Center for watching recorded TV or other media.

* Remote Media Streaming for streaming your music, videos, and recorded TV from your home computer.

* Domain support for business customers.

* XP Mode for those that want the ability to run older Windows XP programs on Windows 7.

Now my compadre, Preston Gralla, thinks that those are, "For netbooks… fairly minor features." I disagree.

You see, I can get those kinds of features on any modern Linux distribution on a netbook. In addition, Microsoft won't let you get a better version of Windows on a netbook. If it has a big screen, more than a gigabyte of RAM, etc. you're stuck with Windows 7 Starter Edition. Linux says, to borrow an old ad phrase, "Have it your way."

And, I must add, have it your way at a price almost anyone can afford. The new Linux netbooks will crowd the $100 price barrier. And, as Dell just showed with its Inspiron 15n and Ubuntu Linux you can have a full-powered Linux laptop for $299.

Or, as some of my readers have pointed out, you can jazz it up and still be under $500. "I bumped it up to a core 2 duo 2.0GHz processor and 4GB RAM for $459. Now that's a pretty sweet laptop for under $500."


And that's why, if you want to save money and still have a great computer, you'll want to consider Linux. For the price, you simply can't beat it.

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