From: Jeff Garzik
Subject: Re: Linux vs Windows vs DOS future.
Date: Thu, 05 Dec 1996 16:00:59 -0500

To throw a completely random data point into the fray, a college CS prof a couple years ago did a study, where he took computer illiterates, divided them into two equal-sized groups, and taught one group Unix (non-X), and one group DOS. (This was before Windows 3.1) Just the basic command line stuff, and loading a few common programs like WordPerfect or vi.

It took the Unix group less time to learn more about their environment than the DOS group, almost by a factor of two. Unix users were moving and editing files everywhere in the first couple days, while the DOS users were still trying to learn all about drive letters, switching disks, arbitrary barriers, etc.

I'll post the location of the study paper if I can find it, and anyone is interested.

I use this as an example of learned behavior -- people often claim that a Windows system is easier to set up and use than a similar Unix/X combination.

I would agree completely on the setup part, but given two properly set up machines, which environment would you rather turn a complete novice loose into? Which environment would a complete novice pick up more quickly?

Unix/X, for example a Solaris or Linux CDE environment, offers most of the features Windows95 does, and offers many, more powerful features that Win95 doesn't have. And in a Unix environment, the user is constrained to exactly what they should and should not be able to do. In Windows, anything goes... Installing a Windows program could easily wipe out your OS. Aside from installing system software -- something a Unix user rarely does -- Unix installations usually run under non-root user ids, and even virulent install programs have a tough time causing *any* amount of damage to the OS.

And let's not forget crashes. I have been running Linux to close to two years. I can't remember the last time my OS crashed, or locked up. My Win95, on the other hand, locks up every time I reboot or shutdown the system. NT is a little bit better, but even NT users experience system crashes caused by errant programs -- something rare and simply unacceptable under Unix. Simply running under a more stable environment makes the Unix/X environment preferable to the Windows GUIs for novice users.

Jeff Garzik               
Spinne, Inc.              

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