What are the main strengths of Linux over Windows for the individual user?

What are the main strengths of Linux over Windows for the individual user?
This question is a bit like asking, "How long is a length of string?" While I am tempted to answer that it depends on where the ends are, let me try a more creative approach.

The first step in attempting to elucidate the advantages of one platform over another in the quest to find the better solution necessitates definition of what is the problem. When one has defined the task requirements the next step is to evaluate alternative ways that the task may be completed.

For most computing needs it is my opinion that any platform can be made to do. I have almost exclusively used Linux for my desktop of choice since April 1999. It meets my needs more than 99% of the time.

I also like, and use, Microsoft Windows XP Professional. It too can meet all my needs (at least 95% of the time). I do not care which I use; they are equally able to do what I need them for. To do this with Windows XP, I had to install a lot more software and at a much higher cost than my Linux solution, but it works just as well, it is just as stable, and is just as ready to work for me.

So what software do I use?

Platform:            Windows XP             Linux

Word processing:     Office 2002/2003       ----
                     OpenOffice 1.1.0       OpenOffice 1.1.0

Spreadsheets:        OpenOffice 1.1.0       OpenOffice 1.1.0

Presentations:       PowerPoint/OpenOffice  OpenOffice 1.1.0

E-mail:              Explorer               Mozilla

Document production: Emacs for Windows      Vi/Emacs
                     DocBook XML/XSLT       DocBook XML/XSLT
For the record; I have 6 MS Windows machines. Some do not have Microsoft Office installed (only use legal installations) but ALL have OpenOffice. I did NOT choose OpenOffice because it is free! I choose to use it because it makes me more productive and allows me to write PDF files directly.

I constantly share documents with MS Office users and have yet to find the first real problem. In other words, the differences are so minimal that they have not bothered me (or my interchange friends).

Additionally, I do a lot of network analysis work. My tool of choice for that is "ethereal." I run it both on Linux and on Windows. It makes no difference to me which platform I use it on -- it just works.

I make heavy use of both Linux and Windows as I do a lot of compatibility testing between Samba and Windows. I am no newbie on either platform and like both.

A question that concerns people I know relates to ownership of derivative works. There are many who fear that because someone uses a Microsoft product to write a document, that since it was derived using the Microsoft tool therefore Microsoft owns that document. This would then give them the right to lock the document so that it can be accessed only with products for which software maintenance had been paid. I do not suffer quite such paranoia (yet).

Many Open Source advocates will argue that Linux is cheaper. I know a lot of business-minded people who do not care about cost. They are more concerned with their own perception of cost effectiveness -- and for them MS Windows is a logical choice.

For me, the choice is: Linux if it is available, otherwise Windows will do just fine. Your mileage may vary.

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