Ubuntu vs. Vista vs. Windows 7
tuxradar.com has published a well-done series of benchmarking tests comparing Ubuntu Intrepid and Jaunty with Windows Vista and 7, both on 32- and 64-bit platforms. The results suggest that–surprise–Windows 7 is not noticeably faster than Vista. Moreover, it’s much slower than Ubuntu.
While the authors of the article go to great lengths to point out the various problems inherent in their findings–they tested only the “ultimate” editions of Windows, for example, rather than the leaner and cheaper alternatives–they make clear that Ubuntu outperforms Windows in most areas perceivable by non-geeky users. It hogs much less disk space, reads and writes files faster and takes less time to install.
Windows comes out ahead, by very small margins, in boot-up and shut-down time–but we should keep in mind that these calculations were done with fresh installations of Windows, unburdened by anti-spyware software and the loads of other cruft that invariably degrades Windows performance outside of the labratory.
Windows also prevails by very thin margins in the Richards benchmark test, but few normal users can appreciate things like this. Your grandmother isn’t going to notice if Windows can spawn processes and queue packets slightly faster than Ubuntu.
Windows 7: three times too large for your netbook
Of particular interest, perhaps, is the finding that the 64-bit build of Windows 7 requires a full 11 gigabytes of disk space, only a slight improvement over Vista’s 11.9 (curiously, the 32-bit versions of the same operating systems leave much smaller footprints). While the fact that only the ultimate versions of Windows were tested naturally distorts this figure, I still wonder how Microsoft expects Windows 7 to compete with Linux in the netbook market if it demands so much hard-disk space.
After all, the least expensive Dell Mini sports only a 4-gigabyte solid-state drive. This is plenty for Ubuntu, which demands less than 2.5 gigabytes for a default installation, but is unlikely to work with even a scaled-down version of Windows 7.
This means that Microsoft has a lot of work to do to cut the fat from Windows 7 if it wants to create a product that will run on netbooks. The alternative–selling and supporting XP indefinitely–is not nearly as profitable, nor does it relieve Microsoft of the embarrassment of Vista. Either way, this is good news for Ubuntu, as it ensures that the niche opened by the failure of Vista will remain as long as the final release of Windows 7 proves as resource-intensive as the beta.
Putting ext4 in perspective
Also noteworthy–although a bit tangential to the topic–is the fact that a test of Ubuntu Jaunty using the new ext4 file system instead of ext3 demonstrates only incremental performance improvements. This finding contrasts recent reports that ext4 blows away its precedessor. It is somewhat better, but it’s not life-changing. Moreover, the less-than-astonishing results leave me wondering why ext4 gets so much hype when reiserfs has been known to outperform ext3 for years (albeit with a few caveats).
But file systems are best discussed another day.