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Old 08-01-2012, 03:19 PM   #1
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Software installation: Windows vs. Linux, "and why"

I would like to briefly take-up the premise of the original thread here and just make a few technical comments about how software installation in Linux varies from software installation in Windows ... and why this is so.

(Non-)Differences in Hardware: When you speak of "Microsoft Windows," you are speaking of an operating system, by a single vendor that supplies both operating-system and a slew of tightly-coupled subsystems, which runs on one target environment. (Although there are other "Windows-branded" products, e.g. Windows Mobile, they are not architecturally the same [[AFAIK...]].) This means that Windows is, in fact, a very homogeneous and well-defined target. If differences exist or are about to, "Redmond" knows about them.

The situation down in Cupertino is actually very similar: OS/X runs on a handful of machines and none other, and Cupertino sold them all.

Linux, on the other hand, runs on more than 23 entirely-different(!) hardware platforms. (Literally...) everything from an IBM mainframe to a microwave oven. Software for Linux therefore must be platform-independent. (And, even so, not every application built for Linux will be able to run everywhere that Linux itself does.) It's a vastly more complicated problem.

"Distro" Differences ... and The User Expectation of Choice: Many different companies (and groups of volunteers) have set about the task of making Linux something that you can "just install" on a particular (unknown in advance...) computer system. The product of their respective efforts are called, distros. Each one of them approached the problem in different ways, and none of them had the luxury (as both Microsoft and Apple did) of dealing with "a single, well-defined target." None of them had the luxury of imposing their "canned solution' upon all comers. Instead, they were obliged to provide their users with the ability of choice. You can customize your Linux, if you want to. Any way you like. On your Intel box ... or your leftover PowerPC Macintosh ... or your mainframe virtual-machine ... heck, on your microwave.

You get the idea.

Yes, "distro" writers did and do realize that users want to be able to install software on their computers without being obliged to think about it ... and of course this is a perfectly legitimate expectation. (I have no idea how my car works, for instance, nor do I wish to.) In that respect, the target faced by Windows, OS/X, and Linux-based software distributors is precisely the same. But Linux, among the three, is by [u]far[u] the most technically ambitious and, as such, demands the most ambitious solution. "Packages," being that solution, are of technical necessity very different from what works in the lands of OS/X and Windows. And, they genuinely have to be.

"At first blush," we can utter the words "Windows" and "OS/X" and "Linux" in the same breath. But the very important truth of the matter is that Linux, of the three, is in fact profoundly different. Of the three, and for better or for worse, it is destined "to boldly go" where none of the others (by very intentional design) do not choose to follow. (This statement is not a negative reflection on them: "Good engineering begins and ends with good choices.") But you can see the downstream consequences of this position in many ways ... and this is one of them.

"Master, I had no idea that you were concerned with all that!," said the Apprentice awkwardly. "If only I had known!!"

The Master merely smiled. "But I did not expect you to, Padewan. Nor did I require it of you."
HTH ...
Old 08-03-2012, 03:54 AM   #2
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This is great!!

I think there's a paradox here.....I find that setting up a computer on Linux is overall easier and faster than for the same functionality on Windows. Once set up, I find that installing new software is MUCH easier.

Both of these observations assume the use of a well-designed Linux distro with a good package management system. Given the issues you describe, the existence of so many good distros is a real testament to the power of Open Source and community.


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