Posted by: reformedmusings | January 21, 2009

Windows 7 vs. Ubuntu Intrepid – What’s in the box?

Before I go further into the technical issues for Windows 7, I thought I’d take a look at value using Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid for comparison. The pricing for Windows 7 hasn’t been announced and probably won’t be for many months, so I’ll use Windows Vista price points.

The Windows 7 beta is the Ultimate version. Vista Ultimate retails for $225 as an upgrade from Windows XP. The full version is still listed as $380. What do you get for that? I thought that a good illustration of that would be screenshots of the application menu. First, there’s the top-level menu:


You can see the usual multimedia suspects: the DVD Maker, Media Player, and Media Center. There’s also the fax support and Internet Explorer. These all provide basic multimedia support within the overall context/limitations of Windows’ Digital Rights Management.


The accessories list is also Windows typical. The Snipping tool provides rudimentary screenshot support. The Sync Center enables mobile devices to synchronizing data with the desktop. You know the rest.


Windows 7 includes a host of administrative tools. That sounds great, except that very few Windows users have any clue what to do with them. Their guru friends make good use of them, but they are hardly a lot of value to the average user.

That’s pretty much it – Windows 7 in a nutshell. What you’ll notice is that there’s no office suite, no advanced multi-media tools, no productivity applications. Just the bare operating system.

Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid retails for $0. It’s free to download. Ubuntu comes with all the basic support as far as administrative tools. Here are some of them:


Ubuntu comes with the full office suite with a full word processor, spreadsheet, presentation program, drawing program, and formula creator, that’s compatible with Microsoft Office document formats. Ubuntu also comes with a free-standing dictionary that comes in pretty handy.

For your mail and calender, Ubuntu provides Evolution. It has almost all the functionality of Outlook with fewer hassles. Better yet, it isn’t susceptible to the virus and Trojan attacks that plague Outlook and its macros.

For the Internet, Ubuntu ships with the excellent and secure Firefox browser. Firefox is incredibly customizable with extensions. Transmission BitTorrent enables users to access a wide-ranging variety of files. Pidgin Internet Messenger will keep you connected to your BFF. You can talk to them with VoIP as well as teleconference using Ekiga Softphone.

The outstanding and powerful Gimp, the PhotoShop equivalent for Linux, covers your advanced graphic and photo editing/manipulation needs. F-Spot Photo Manager keeps all your digital photos organized. It will work with 16 different graphic formats, read them off of most cameras, and even do light editing and color correction. You can view almost anything with either Eye of Gnome Image Viewer or the Evince document viewer. XSane covers your image scanning needs, and its SANE backend installs by default.

The included Brasero will handle all your routine CD/DVD burning tasks. It also integrates neatly with the included Rythmbox music management program. Rythmbox rips/burns CDs and keeps your iPod and other players synchronized. Totem Movie Player will play your DVDs and other videos. Plus there’s the usual Sound Recorder.

Visually, Ubuntu 8.10 supports nice 3-D video effects out of the box. It runs great on older 3-D video cards. When adding Compiz Fusion from the repositories, it outshines the resource-hungry Aero interface.

Of course, there are thousands of other excellent and free applications available in the Ubuntu repositories. They cover almost anything you may want to do, including astronomical observations, scanning images/pages directly to pdf format, additional 3-D video capability, Bible study programs, web site creating/editing, et al. The repository not only makes these programs available, but keeps them updated as well. And they are all free.

You can see that there’s a huge difference in a basic Windows 7 installation and Ubuntu 8.10. Windows 7 will do little useful work on its own, whereas Ubuntu installs fully functional for office use and graphics editing.

What would it cost to duplicate Ubuntu’s capabilities under Windows 7? First, Microsoft Office Professional 2007, the version that I would need to use if I used Windows, retails for $499.95 for the full version, $329.95 for the upgrade from earlier versions. PhotoShop retails for $699.99, Nero CD/DVD ripping/burning/converting/playing for $99, etc. Overall, well…you get the idea. To even come close to the free initial Ubuntu installation could run over $1,000 over and above the $225-380 for Windows 7 itself.

As far as value, there’s no contest. The free Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid stands complete and ready for business and advanced graphics work “out of the box.” The (assumed) expensive Windows 7 lacks any office or graphics manipulation capability. It must be augmented to do anything beyond booting your computer to a pretty face. Plus, Ubuntu has no DRM limitations that keep you from fully using the hardware and media for which you paid hard-earned money. Makes me wonder why Microsoft even has a market.

Two reasons, really – marketing glitz and inertia.



  1. […] to Ubuntu, plus it is infected with customer-exploiting DRM. Then there’s the price tag. So as I’ve said before, Windows 7 is definitely not a viable alternative to the free, powerful, and DRM-free Ubuntu, but […]

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