I’m a Windows user, and it has served me well. That being said, I play with a lot of Linux distributions and there are some applications that are just so much better than anything Windows can offer that I find myself wondering how long it’ll be until I make the switch.
For starters, there’s the APT and the Synaptic Package Manager. Microsoft has been promising updates and installs without reboots for years, yet Windows Vista still can’t seem to deliver the goods. The Linux Mint beta I installed on my laptop recently, however, located well over a hundred updates to various packages upon completion and quietly downloaded and installed them while I finished tweaking Firefox and tooled around on some websites.
And unlike Windows’ Automatic Updates, APT actually handles all the software on your machine, not just updates to the OS. What I wouldn’t give for a Windows app that did this – and I know there are various apps that try, like Sumo, but none of them really work all that well. Rebooting to complete updates is crap. Get that trash off my PC.
When it comes to GUI eye candy, what can Windows offer that compares to Compiz Fusion? Nothing. Its Open GL based effects are stunning, and they render well even on underpowered hardware (like my Thinkpad Z60t’s pitiful Intel 915 graphics). If you haven’t seen what it does, take a look.
What’s more, Compiz supports plugins and (like most Linux apps) has a very active development community. No, I don’t think it makes my computer perform any better, but it just looks so damn sweet! Windows has had the same visual effects (basically) since 95. Thanks for the transparency and spiffy win + tab thing, Vista, but Compiz kicks your ass all over the place.
Finally, there’s Amarok, which easily gets my vote as best music player. Not only does Amarok sport a boatload of excellent features, it also has an incredibly intuitive and easy-to-use interface. The main player’s interface tabs provide a ton of information about your current artist and song including lyrics, related artists, suggested songs, Wikipedia’s artist info, and the band’s other albums. For those that prefer DIY management of your library, the tree-style collection view is a welcome addition, and provides an extremely easy way.
Amarok supports syncing to just about any MP3 player, even iPods (including podcasts, but not video, of course). Streaming radio integration is excellent, and it’ll keep your Last.Fm profile up to date with the tracks you’re currently playing.
Though the default skin is attractive, Amarok is fully skinnable and the community has contributed a number of beautiful skins. As if all this weren’t enough, it’s extensible via scripts, and there are a huge number of interesting and useful ones available in the Wiki.
I’m honestly not sure how much longer I’ll put up with XP. More next time, when Linux makes me find even more things to hate about Windows.