Ubuntu's two big advantages over Windows and Mac

Ubuntu's two big advantages over Windows and Mac

Summary: There are two very important areas where Ubuntu Linux has significant advantages over both Windows 7 and Mac OS X. See what they are and join the discussion.

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I've been using the latest version (10.04) of Ubuntu Linux since April and there's a lot to like about it. I announced earlier this year that I was giving desktop Linux another look, and I went with Ubuntu because it is the Linux distribution most focused on a desktop OS. I have lots of observations about the Ubuntu experience and how it compares to Mac and Windows, but I'm going to save most of that feedback for another article.

Today I want to talk about two significant advantages that Ubuntu has over Windows 7 and Mac OS X. This came up last week because Apple displaced Oracle as the new world leader in security vulnerabilities, according to a report from Secunia. And Ars Technica astutely pointed out:

"The report includes cumulative figures for the number of vulnerabilities found on a Windows PC with the 50 most widely-used programs. Five years ago, there were more first-party flaws (in Windows and Microsoft's other software) than third-party. Since about 2007, the balance shifted towards third-party programs. This year, third-party flaws are predicted to outnumber first-party flaws by two-to-one. Secunia also makes a case that effectively updating this third-party software is much harder to do; whereas Microsoft's Windows Update and Microsoft Update systems will provide protection for around 35% of reported vulnerabilities, patching the remainder requires the use of 13 or more updating systems. Some vendors-Apple, Mozilla, and Google, for example-do have decent automatic update systems, but others require manual intervention by the user."

That leads us to Ubuntu's first big advantage.

1. Comprehensive software updates

In a world where most of the security vulnerabilities are coming from third-party applications, Windows and Mac machines are at significant risk because they run lots of these apps and those apps aren't always updated automatically, which leaves the machines open to attacks.

Again, to be clear, both Microsoft and Apple have comprehensive updating systems for their software -- both the OS as well as company apps that run on top of the OS. The problem is with the software (programs, extensions, and plug-ins) from other vendors and the inconsistent methods they use for updating their code to protect against known flaws.

With Ubuntu, there's one comprehensive software updating system. This is possible because Ubuntu has a centralized repository of applications and the only third-party applications that make it into the main repository are the ones that have been tested by Canonical (the company that produces Ubuntu) and are proven to work with the OS. This means that the Ubuntu main repository doesn't always have the very latest version of Firefox, for example, but you can be sure that the one it does have will typically install easy, work smoothly, and remain updated automatically.

There are also other repositories of applications that you can connect to with Ubuntu, but these are supported by the Ubuntu community or by commercial companies. Still, if you trust them and connect to them, then their updates are also automatically run through Ubuntu's Update Manager (below). As a result, Ubuntu offers a much more centralized and effective way to keep computers up to date -- especially if you stick mostly to the software in its main repository.

2. Integrated app store

While managing Ubuntu's software repositories is handled with an administrator tool called Synaptic Package Manager, there's also a much easier way to browse through the official Ubuntu-sanctioned applications. It's called the Ubuntu Software Center and the people I know who have used both Ubuntu and the iPhone typically say, "It's just like the App Store."

From a user perspective, the Ubuntu Software Library has a very similar experience to the iPhone App Store or the Android Market. You simply open it up, browse or search through different categories of applications, and download the ones that you want to try. It's basically an app store for the PC.

And, while iPhone and Android have a mix of free apps and paid apps, the apps in the Ubuntu Software Center are nearly all open source and free of charge. Like iPhone and Android, you have to sort through a fair amount of chaff in order to get to the wheat, but it's still a terrific 21st century computing experience. Both Windows and Mac need to learn from the app experience that is driving the mobile device market. Ubuntu has already beaten them to the punch.

If you add that to the fact that Ubuntu does a better job with software updates (a big security boost), then Ubuntu becomes a much more viable alternative for modern PC users, especially those who access most of their services and enterprise apps via a Web browser.

You can also find me on Twitter: @jasonhiner

Also read

This article was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: Apple, IT Employment, Software, Security, Operating Systems, Open Source, Linux, Hardware, CXO, Windows

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177 comments
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  • Bogus

    The Ubuntu software repository does not solve the problem. It only solves it for the software which is in the repository.<br><br>And the claim that Canonical has somehow "vetted" the software is bogus. Canonical do not (and can not) go through every piece of software and look for backdoors or other malicious functions. At best they are running some automated virus scanners on the committed software, which is very much the same tucows or other repositories do.

    Instead, Canonical relies on the community to weed out the malicious elements.

    The basic problem persists: How to trust software you download from the Internet. Ubuntus software repository does not (end neither does any other repository) guarantee you that they'll catch malicious submissions.

    As clearly demonstrated recently with Firefoxs extension repository where a password sniffing extension was discovered by a mere coincidence.
    honeymonster
    • What will you do when real world evidence insists on disproving you?

      @honeymonster

      Answer: You cry foul and despite all evidence to the contrary you claim it's bogus and hope people won't notice how flawed your opinions are.

      Let me remind you that opinions don't make facts and no matter how opinionated and loud you are reality is there to prove that you are wrong.
      OS Reload
      • Right, that's why your opinions ain't matter

        @OS Reload The whole idea that someone verifies a software for you is a joke. How to do that? You are gonna sit there reading through a million lines of code of a software to figure out what's going on? That's absolutely impossible, and anyone ever did any serious coding knows it.
        LBiege
      • It's not necessary to check each line... but the pieces...

        Create a specialized environment - double OS: <br><br>1. the host OS in an <b>un-modified</b> mode,<br> and <br>2. the targeted OS, which is evaluated by the host OS (it's not that simple, but this is just a clue).<br><br>The system checks what the client does to the targeted OS by comparing with what should be in the norm. <br><br>It will reveal malicious pieces in the code (if the code is Open Source).
        Just True
    • RE: Ubuntu's two big advantages over Windows and Mac

      @honeymonster

      What would you say any normal user need that is NOT in the repository ?
      BrentRBrian
      • How about one from the blog:

        @BrentRBrian: "This means that the Ubuntu main repository doesnt always have the very latest version of Firefox..."
        ye
      • RE: Ubuntu's two big advantages over Windows and Mac

        @BrentRBrian

        I agree with you totally, how many packages does the above average user really need. For Ha-Ha's I opened up synaptic packager in U-10.04 and it lists 30,100 packages and I'm using 1,648 so it only leave me 28,452 packages left to play around with. That should take me a few days. :-)
        Over and Out
      • RE: Ubuntu's two big advantages over Windows and Mac

        @BrentRBrian It doesn't always even matter whether or not it is in the official repository. When I installed Chromium, it added its repository to the list, and now updates happen the same way.

        Be careful not to add untrusted sources, but they don't need to be the official ones.

        As for all of those complaining that Ubuntu doesn't fully check every application, where can I get anything even close for Windows? You download the Windows apps from hundreds of unrelated web sites, hoping each is trustworthy, and good luck find all of the updates.
        grant@...
    • Well said.

      @honeymonster: nt
      ye
    • RE: Ubuntu's two big advantages over Windows and Mac

      @honeymonster I don't believe he said Canonical made sure the applications are virus free. That's not what the article was focused on anyway. He said they make sure that they work with the current OS version and install smoothly. Yes the community or security researchers discover vulnerabilities in the software just like everywhere else. But that's where the difference comes in. People using Ubuntu will have the update pushed to them as soon as it'd ready. Do the users of the other OS have updates pushed to them? Do they even get notified that there's a problem if they aren't reading security sites or tech blogs? No they don't.

      In your rush to blast the article you missed the entire point. It's at least better to be able to push out updates for vulnerable apps.
      storm14k
      • ignore

        deleted by author
        frgough
    • RE: Ubuntu's two big advantages over Windows and Mac

      @honeymonster Did you actually read the article? Nothing you said was said in the article. The article said the software is check to be sure it works properly with the operating system and that the operating system through the repository keeps all your software up to date not just the operating system. Both are true and not what you talked about.
      atmusky
    • RE: Ubuntu's two big advantages over Windows and Mac

      @honeymonster

      Good points.
      Tim Acheson
    • RE: Ubuntu's two big advantages over Windows and Mac

      @honeymonster You don't understand Linux. At all.
      TristanGrimaux
      • Yes, but...

        @TristanGrimaux
        I agree that probably most of us Windows-types don't "get" Linux. Might I offer this - why is that? Are we really so "hung up" on MS that we refuse to consider Linux? Or do we see things about Linux that we don't like and really can't be bothered exchanging a known set of problems for an unknown set? These are genuine questions, not bait.

        I am still considering having a play with Ubuntu - and may even get to it this week! To be fair, I have little problem with Windows - whether XP, Vista or 7 (I've just migrated my last XP machine across to a spare Vista Business license - but think I'll go thru to 7...). It is true that many PC "noobs" are shockers when it comes to maintaining their machines (regardless of type & flavour), but I put the blame for that squarely on the chain stores who market PC of all types (and let's face it, a Mac is still a Personal Computer) as an appliance.

        Is Linux REALLY ready for people who have trouble knowing what the left & right mouse buttons do? Is it REALLY "intuitive" in how it works, updates and such? How easy is it to "break"? Again, these are all genuine questions. If the answer to all those is in Linux's favour, what's the problem? My guess that part of the problem is fanboi-ism - the likes of Ubuntu needs to be "marketed" as a OS, not as a religion... ;)

        I'll be interested to see how my tinkering goes with Ubuntu (and speaking or marketing - PLEASE get better names! - the Linux ones are so naff and twee that it's embarrassing!) - the last quick foray into Linux 4 year's ago had me spending 30 minutes looking for how to change the screen resolution... :)
        naibeeru
    • The lovely thing about the community weeding out

      malicious elements is that someone has to be affected by it first. Gotta love that security model.

      "Hey, when you get infected, let us know, OK?"
      frgough
      • RE: Ubuntu's two big advantages over Windows and Mac

        @frgough
        It's worked pretty well since the mid-90s<br><br>Now let's compare that to the windoze security mode, shall we?<br><br> ;)
        LTV10
      • RE: Ubuntu's two big advantages over Windows and Mac

        @frgough you mean like every patch M$ puts out? the only reason they ever know about security hole is because its been compromised at some point
        nickdangerthirdi@...
      • @LTV10

        Sure. When you grow up enough to quit using juvenile epithets like windoze.
        frgough
      • @nick

        factually incorrect. Numerous Windows exploits have been discovered by security firms or private individuals before a public exploit occurred. According to the Linux advocates, the one true way to ensure security is for someone in the community to get hacked and let everyone else know about it. That probably works just fine when the community consists of programmers and hobbyists. It won't fly in the mainstream. If Linux wants to play with the big boys, it has to grow up.
        frgough