It is no secret that I like Linux quite a bit. I very much prefer setting up servers on Linux when it comes to web servers and pretty much anything that has to do with networking. I have nothing against Windows, don’t worry, but when you get a chance to test performance on one and the other, you quickly understand why Linux is the operating system of choice if you need something efficient. Here’s what convinced me:
A few years ago, I had a web site with about half a million pictures, all neatly cataloged in multiple albums. One particular folder had 788 pictures in it. I had written a couple of scripts in ASP 3.0 which created the albums and displayed everything on-the-fly when users were browsing them. Naturally, I thought I would run this on my most powerful machine, at that time, an Intel P3, 733mhz with 512mb of RAM. That machine was running Windows 2000 Server, which was the operating system of choice for running ASP scripts because they are Microsoft’s way to go and are designed to run on IIS. The page took 36 seconds to load on that machine, and that is way too long when you’re sitting in front of a computer.
My script definitely was not the problem so I started looking for ways to optimize it. Eventually, I came across a piece of software called ChiliSoft!ASP (which was subsequently purchased by Sun Microsystems) which allowed a Linux machine, running Apache, to compile and run ASP scripts. Having no other machine at hand, I rebuilt my old Pentium 200mhz MMX with 64mb of RAM with Mandrake Linux and installed Chilisoft!ASP on there. On the first run, I got the page to display in 5.4 seconds.
You can draw your own conclusions on this one, but I’ve been quite convinced ever since, and seen it happen over and over again, that Linux is quite the performance beast in many areas.
What made me think of this little story is an article I read about Walmart(in the US only) selling Everex Linux gPCs. These are great entry-level machines that come pre-installed with a custom Linux distribution for a tiny 199$. They had stocked them in stores and online, but the in-store performance was not good enough so they will only continue to sell them online for now. It seems consumers are not quite there yet when it comes to Linux. It has made its name in the Server World, but not quite for desktops just yet. Walmart also carries the Laptop version, the Everex Cloudbook for 399$.