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Library Computer Questions

Published by Dipa Barua

Q: The computers are way slower with windows 8 than they used to be with windows 7. I do not like the UI. What software does the university use that is not available on such platforms such as GNU/Linux? It will save the licensing fees.
Which library?  Bennett (SFU Burnaby Mountain)

A: I'm glad to see that you are making use of the  computers that the library provides as a free service for library patrons.

Regarding your comment that the computers on Windows 8 are way slower than they are in Windows 7. How many computers did you test? When did you perform this test? Were the tests performed at the same time on each platform? If you used only one computer and are performing a generalization, that is an unfair comparison. If you are complaining about ONE PC, and this occurred today or yesterday, then you probably experienced a machine that was running updates in the background, as we have had to turn off our usual nightly maintenance routines since the library is open 24/7 at the moment.

I took the opportunity to have my technicians perform a comparison running several applications on each platform, on several PCs. They measured the time it takes to do particular tasks in an application, including the application startup time.  They also measured how long it took to log into each platform and how long it took to boot each platform.

On our tests, the Windows 8.1 PCs generally got to the login screen quicker after a cold boot, and the Windows 7 PCs generally were quicker to logon, although there was wide enough variability that we couldn't say for certain that you would log on quicker on one platform or another. They also noticed particularly long log in times during the first log in for our tests on both platforms, with subsequent logins being much quicker. Again, this was attributed to the PCs performing updates at logon. Subsequent logons were much quicker. The application run times were exactly the same on both platforms.

Regarding your question around which software is not available on Linux?

If you take the time to go to the start menu of one of the Windows PCs, you'll see abundant applications that do not run on Linux.

Re: your observation that we would save on licensing fees were we to switch to Linux:

The cost of the license is but a small part of the overall lifecycle costs of a PC. In fact it wouldn't reduce the library costs at all since the campus has a site license for the Windows operating systems and software when used on lab PCs. Also, you're not taking into consideration cost around managing the lifecycle. In my opinion, there would be a greater cost on the back end in supporting, configuring, securing and managing Linux operating systems than Windows operating systems. There would also be  large transition costs, as both Windows and Linux operating systems would have to be supported for an interim period and all technicians would have to retrained for Linux. New support tools would have to be purchased, new infrastructure support policies and procedures would have to be developed.

If you notice, the exact same applications run on our PCs as on IT services PCs across campus, and at the Vancouver  Surrey campuses. This is because the library strives to work in close coordination with computing services in order to offer the same wide breadth of services to our students as they do.

Since they use Windows and have developed a large infrastructure around the support and configuration of Windows, we use Windows. This gives us efficiency of scale, and make support easier since someone will most likely have seen and resolved an issue that pops up on PCs elsewhere on campus.

Thank you,
Neal Baldwin
Manager, Computer Operations

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