Since churches and ministries are always looking for ways to save money, learning as much as you can about free computer software alternatives is a good idea. Operating systems like Windows Vista and Ubuntu Linux do pretty much the same things, but in different ways.
Cost and licensing
Linux operating systems are published under open source licenses that make the source code available to everyone. Microsoft products, including Windows Vista and XP, are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. As for cost, most Linux distributions are free and can be used on an unlimited number of computers. Windows operating systems are expensive, and legally each license can only be used on one computer.
Distributions and versions
There are many different distributions of Linux. A few of the more popular Linux flavors include Ubuntu, SimplyMEPIS, PCLinuxOS, RedHat, Knoppix, and OpenSUSE. Windows operating systems are distributed only by Microsoft, and include Windows 95, 98, 98SE, Me, NT3, NT4, 2000, XP, Vista and their latest offering, Windows 7.
Programs, applications and games
While there are Linux alternatives to nearly every major Windows program out there, more applications and games are developed for Windows than for Linux. Installing programs in Linux is usually done through a package management system like Synaptic in Ubuntu, which allows users to easily download and install free games and applications. In Windows, the software must be purchased/downloaded from a local or online retailer, and then installed in a separate process.
Resource requirements and appearance
Linux distributions are highly customizable and typically require less system resources than Windows operating systems. Desktop appearance varies in Linux from distribution to distribution, but they all function in a similar way. Most versions of Windows only have a few customization options (themes) and are typically very resource intensive. Vista for example requires at least 2GB of RAM to run smoothly. With Linux, there are modern distributions that are specifically designed to run on older, slower computers.
Security and privacy
Since the majority of computer security threats are created to attack Windows, Linux operating systems are much more secure. Linux systems are not completely immune to things like viruses and keyloggers, but system security is definitely better on a Linux machine. Even if attacked, the Linux file system is designed in such a way that it makes it difficult for viruses to do much damage.
Ease of use
Since many computer users start with Windows, it’s often difficult for them to switch to Linux. Once again, Windows and Linux do basically the same things, but in different ways. The major difference for most users is the way the window manager organizes and displays icons and other components that make up the desktop experience.
Want to try Linux?
Check out Ubuntu at http://www.ubuntu.com/products/whatisubuntu
You can download Ubuntu and burn it to a disk yourself. Your computer needs at least 384MB of RAM to run the live CD. Put the disk in your optical drive, restart your computer, then choose to boot from the CD when prompted. Ubuntu runs directly off the CD, so there’s no worry that you might harm your Windows installation.