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Many Linux users work with multiple OS platforms, survey finds

By Joe Barr on July 21, 2007 (2:00:00 PM)

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I recently received a new MacBook Pro running Mac OS X 10.4 from our corporate headquarters. The choice of platform was deliberate, driven by professional requirements for applications not available on Linux. Still, it has been a long time since I've run anything but Linux, and starting to use a different platform after all this time made me curious. I decided to conduct an informal poll among Linux users -- including notables like Linus Torvalds -- to see how their platform usage compared with mine.

I got the MacBook Pro because I needed video editing software a step up from that which is available for Linux. MainActor is no longer offered for sale, as the parent firm has refocused on developing codecs. The Kino project is active and improving, but it isn't yet on a par with commercial offerings. I chose Final Cut Express on the Mac rather than a Windows option for two reasons: the recommendation of a coworker and a pervasive distrust of Microsoft.

To see how others felt, I asked a local LUG mailing list:

If you consider Linux to be your primary platform of choice, then:

  1. Do you ever use Windows or Mac OS X?
  2. If you do, what do you use them for?
  3. If you don't, would you use them if that were the only way you could accomplish what you wanted to do on your computer -- for example, to play a particular game?

In addition to the mailing list members, I asked a few notables -- including Linus Torvalds -- directly. Here's what I learned.

Of the 21 users who responded, roughly 3/4 say they also use Windows, primarily for work-related purposes, but also for such diverse endeavors as gaming, photo editing, syncing their PDAs, OCR, and even text editing.

Only about 1/4 reported using Mac OS X, and the primary purpose for using it was job-related. The big surprise for me was that fewer than 15 percent said they use Linux exclusively.

These responses indicate a pragmatic bent to group, using the platform that fulfills their needs rather than sticking to Linux for political or philosophical reasons.

It probably comes as no big surprise that one of the Linux purists is Linus Torvalds himself. "Nope, I don't use either [Windows or Mac OS X]. OS X is kind of pointless (pretty much anything it has, Linux can do better) and Windows offers stuff that I don't much care about (mainly games -- and I've got games machines for those)."

At the other end of the spectrum was uberhacker H. D. Moore, who reported he used both Windows and Mac platforms regularly, in order to test against them with Metasploit. He said, "Running Wine just so I can use Windows exploits against my Linux box is just silly."

John Dierdorf, a longtime Linux user, provided this snapshot of how he mixes and matches Windows and Linux:

I have a KVM switch between my primary Linux desktop and my lonely XP box, and have no trouble (mechanical or moral) switching back and forth (or even using both simultaneously) depending on the job. Hard drives are shared via Samba. For example, I may edit a photo on the XP and switch over to Linux to incorporate it into a Web page or email it. (No email client on the XP box, and I only use a browser there in emergencies.) Many open source programs (Emacs, Vim, OpenOffice.org, Firefox, Perl, ImageMagick, ...) are on both boxes. Backups are to the other machine -- i.e., my Win files are backed up on the Linux box and vice versa.

A poll this small, with a sampling size of less than 25, is hardly scientific, but I do think it is safe to conclude that for most Linux users, platform choice is not a binary thing, but rather is driven by need. I would also venture to say that this represents something of a change from 10 years ago, when platform choices, whether for Windows, Linux, Apple, or whatever, seemed to be much more of an either-or thing. Perhaps it is a sign of the growing maturity of computer consumerism.

As for me, well, the Macbook Pro is not a bad piece of hardware, even if it does have a defective rodent. So I'm hard at work making it a dual-boot machine -- native Ubuntu and OS X -- so that when I'm on the road, and not doing video editing, I can use the platform I prefer rather than the one I need for work.

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Many Linux users work with multiple OS platforms, survey finds

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 138.89.32.156] on July 21, 2007 04:35 PM
Sharing machines with my family causes me to use mostly windows OS because the wife is unwilling to learn a new OS. I am finding that the new machines that have Vista have even less apps. than previous machines. I am now loading the new Windows machines with all the Linux apps. ported to windows. My hope is to some day cut over to Linux without my wife noticing. It's important that Java and Macromedia apps. run in Linux because she uses these for her Games. What limits me is the lack of wireless support in Linux otherwise I would dual boot from my laptop. My main Linux port is DSL on a memory stick.

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Many Linux users work with multiple OS platforms, survey finds

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 198.151.12.8] on July 21, 2007 07:20 PM
Why dual boot, use paralllels and you can run linux whenever you want even while you are doing video editing. just use the video editing when you need to, and you can use linux for whatever else you want. I develop for mac, linux, and solaris (they keep threatening windows but so far not my problem) and parallels makes it all pretty seamless. Though i do have to say i much prefer mac to linux, but your milage will vary.

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Many Linux users work with multiple OS platforms, survey finds

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 205.208.133.151] on July 21, 2007 07:37 PM
There are plenty of games that have been ported to GNU/Linux, just buy those instead.

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Many Linux users work with multiple OS platforms, survey finds

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.144.16.2] on July 21, 2007 09:32 PM
I recently received a macbook pro after nearly 10 years of exclusive Linux use. I immediately installed VMware fusion and an old XP VM I had on my Linux box and got all three running simultaneously. I like this because I am a web developer and it is nice to have access to all three platforms simultaneously. However, using them all side by side has been a real education. I still use Linux as my main OS the Macbook has a ton of memory and performance is fine. Coding tools in linux are so much better and cheaper than anything I have found for the other two that I can not see a time when my main OS is going to change. As far as ease of use I was very pleased to see that head to head Linux actually has a lot of desktop features that neither Mac nor Windows has (I'm a KDE guy) and I think it is time we start selling the differences instead of just trying to say we're free ( I like freedom and free beer but it is not enough to convince people to change peoples OS's or they would have done so by now). Mac is now starting to copy Linux features like virtual desktops this tells me that there are things we should be crowing about instead of trying to dumb down and eliminate features.

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Why should this be surprising?

Posted by: angrykeyboarder on July 22, 2007 01:22 AM
I've often come across discussions in the community about having "switched" from Windows to Linux. But I've never felt the need to "switch". I not only run Ubuntu Linux and Windows Vista (vis dual booting), but I also run several other Linux distros, FreeBSD and Solaris thanks to VMware.

Why limit yourself? I've never understood why so many feel that having just one OS is their only choice. And in the case of Windows - since they paid for it already, why dump it entirely?

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Many Linux users work with multiple OS platforms, survey finds

Posted by: Brian Masinick on July 22, 2007 01:34 AM
I do have Windows XP on one of my two systems at home - actually I have it on both, but one of them can't recognize all my hardware, not even the network card, so it is pretty useless. I have between five and ten Linux distros scattered across the partitions on each of these two systems, and every one of them works with all of my hardware. At work, I have to use XP on the desktop. At home, I use it only to run Front Page XP to pull mailing list information off a Web site for a part time job I do three evenings a week. Interestingly enough, I extract the mailings from Front Page, but then use Seamonkey, the community Web browser, to format and mail them to the output mailing list server, which is accessible over the Web. I finalize all of my editing from one of my desktop Linux systems, generally SimplyMEPIS.

I use Linux desktop distros for everything else I do at home.

At work, I run XP on the desktop but frequently use VNC to connect to many different Red Hat Enterprise Linux servers and some Sun Solaris servers. The VNC server itself runs on a Debian server in a nearby office. The VNC client runs on my desktop.

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Use the right tool for the job.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.222.251.36] on July 22, 2007 04:56 AM
If the job is a MS Office document, then I use WinXP and Office 2000. Although that WinXP may be running on VMware on Linux. I have a variety of systems, from Win2003 server, to WinXP, Win ME(!), many versions of Linux, Solaris and BSD, but I am a network guy so I need to know something about everything.

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That's normal. In fact, it's offensive that other platforms discourage this.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 212.3.160.125] on July 22, 2007 10:34 AM
This should be fairly obvious, since Linux, being well-standardised, portable, FOSS code, runs on multiple machines. You can run Linux on a PowerPC Apple Mac, a Sun Sparcstation, a DEC Alphastation, a PC, on Mobile Phones, routers, etc. The fact that Linux can also make use of Mac, Windows, Amiga, etc. software ON Linux should make it blatantly obvious that Linux is a very capable system, which encourages its users to spread their wings and explore what computers can do for them.

The fact that other, closed source platforms, run by monopolistic companies actively discourage such interoperability is the shocking part, which should offend us all.

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p.s.: make this form work properly!

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 212.3.160.125] on July 22, 2007 10:35 AM
P.S.: your web forms don't work properly in konqueror (which is a standards compliant browser).

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Many Linux users work with multiple OS platforms, survey finds

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.188.62.194] on July 22, 2007 02:43 PM
While I consider myself mainly a (GNU/)Linux user, for my schooling and my internship/job I have found myself in need of using Windows XP/Server 2003 and MacOSX as well. I would certainly like to rid myself of Windows completely and focus on Linux and Mac OS I'm afraid some of my choices are being dictated to me.

So that I don't come off as a zealot at work I have tried to take an interest (small) in Active Directory and the integration of the three platforms to work together. This has proven to be an interesting endeavor. If I get nothing more out of my use of Windows, the greater understanding of AD I am getting can only help me when I'm setting up heterogeneous networks in the future.

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My Reason to carefully choose OS

Posted by: jerseyjoe on July 22, 2007 03:16 PM
Linux developers strive for compatibility. Microsoft limits compatibility, media access, and the ability to freely develop and distribute software. Freedom of choice accelerates progress. I understand that some people feel that the more you pay for a product the better it is, but it does seem to prevent creativity for creativity's sake. As an artist multiple systems limit the use of my resources and waste my time. If your a "bit head" have at it.
[Modified by: jerseyjoe on July 22, 2007 04:05 PM]

[Modified by: jerseyjoe on July 22, 2007 04:06 PM]

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Many Linux users work with multiple OS platforms, survey finds

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.173.219.120] on July 22, 2007 05:37 PM
Use the right tool for the job...YES!!!
Except that I'd append the words "...or play."
And that's not just gaming. OS X and Linux cannot match the breadth and choice of codec managing and playing software in Windows.

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Many Linux users work with multiple OS platforms, survey finds

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.98.166.12] on July 22, 2007 06:19 PM
I dual boot PCLinuxOs 2007 and Mac OS X 10.4 . Between them i can do whatever i want. I do not
use trojan meat, left it behind for good two years ago.

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Many Linux users work with multiple OS platforms, survey finds

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.136.202.153] on July 23, 2007 04:42 AM
If I could permanently leave the Windows world behind then I would have done so long ago. Unfortunately in my position (Motorola communications technician) there are many proprietary Windows-only apps which are required for me to perform my duties; this is really the only reason I ended up dual-booting Debian (Etch) and WinXP. I'm now experimenting with using those apps in a VMWare XP image, but time constraints keep me from researching the issue as much as I'd like. I hope one day to successfully use those proprietary apps in VMWare or VirtualBox - then I can finally get rid of my XP partition.

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Many Linux users work with multiple OS platforms, survey finds

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.101.124.72] on July 23, 2007 09:35 AM
There are plenty of Linux users that use it exclusively. Sampling 25 people doesn't prove a majority of anything but of those 25 users.

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Many Linux users work with multiple OS platforms, survey finds

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 161.12.7.4] on July 23, 2007 12:53 PM
Calling an under 25 person email send-out a "survey" isn't very good.
I think you should have put up the questionnaire on this website - or linux.org - for a good month or two before calling it a survey.

Under 15 percent? That's 3.15 (according to a 21 person round).
Plus I think it's very hard to get away from Windows unless you work in a company which deals ONLY in Linux/Unix systems, or you work out of the computer industry.

To add myself to the list:
1) Yes - not on my own home machines though.
2) I have to use Windows at work.. If I could use Fedora at work, I would, but I cannot... I VNC onto a linux machine though and use Windows sparingly.
3) I would never use MacOS. I would, however, use a copy of Windows to test ported code.. Probably not on my own machine though.

--
Tr0n

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Many Linux users work with multiple OS platforms, survey finds

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 209.184.112.219] on July 23, 2007 09:47 PM
I use Linux as my main box always. When I need Windows I start up VMWare Server and open Windows for the things I need it for, ie. show students XP, load special software that is used rarely. If what I have running on Windows was a major need I would spend the time to get it in Linux. I have to run XP for my job but it gets run on a limited basis. OSX can be run in VMWare Workstation on another box that is exclusive Linux running VMWare Workstation 5.5 to acces an OSX application. There is a push in education by several publishers to force authors to develop texts with Windows only supplements, ie. tests, presentations, etc. So far except for the exam generators I have found ways to port to Linux. The exams generated by the generators are usually just for the lazy but some certification pacs would be nice if in Linux format. Linux & BSD provide such better secure platforms I'll just suffer...<;-)

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I have pretty much lost interest in www.linux.com.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 219.88.167.227] on July 24, 2007 01:51 AM
I haven't read a single comment as they are deliberately "hidden" away.
I have pretty much lost interest in linux.com.

The "are you human" thing is a joke, as well.
As if anyone would bother with linux.com.

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I have pretty much lost interest in www.linux.com.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 219.88.167.227] on July 24, 2007 01:55 AM
I haven't read a single comment as they are deliberately "hidden" away.
I have pretty much lost interest in linux.com.

The "are you human" thing is a joke, as well.
As if anyone would bother with linux.com.

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Re: I have pretty much lost interest in www.linux.com.

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 128.100.167.67] on July 24, 2007 07:15 PM
What happened to the option of expanding all comments? Or is it there and I'm just not seeing it?

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What about ...

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 10.100.3.46] on July 24, 2007 07:25 AM
... these peple like me, which have no chance to use anything else but windows in office, just for reason they are not allowed to use linux?
Yes, there is many workplaces like this. Thank God - we still have Cygwin, or Vmware to run something productive tnah these XP boxes, full of useless fat software.
I have 3 Linux boxes at home and 1 XP for my favorite Blitzkrieg and some other games.

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Many Linux users work with multiple OS platforms, survey finds

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 87.106.27.17] on July 25, 2007 01:00 PM
Maybe you have to use different operating systems, but it's hardly productive work.

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Many Linux users work with multiple OS platforms, survey finds

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 15.238.95.37] on August 02, 2007 11:39 PM
I have never owned nor used a copy of Windows or MacOS at home.

But of course, anybody who works with computers for a living will run up against one or both. On that basis, of course I use Windows.

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