Alright, time for a showdown! This weekend has kept me busy since not one, but two new operating systems were released. For those who are curious, that would be Ubuntu 13.10 (Saucy Salamander) and Windows 8.1 (from the fine folks at Microsoft). I am the unofficial "system administrator" of the three computers lying around our house (four if my Raspberry Pi counts). Two of them needed an upgrade to Windows 8.1 and all three needed an upgrade to Saucy.
So... which upgrade wins the award for ease and value? Let's take a look!
There's not much to say here about Saucy. Ubuntu always has been and always will continue to be free. No charge for a new installation and no charge for an upgrade. Windows 8.1 is also free - providing you have an existing copy of Windows 8. Otherwise, be prepared to spend some of your hard-earned money.
Winner: tie (assuming you have Windows 8 installed already - otherwise Saucy)
Now here comes one of those "how come they didn't think of that?" moments. Upgrading to Windows 8.1 should be as simple as visiting the Windows Store (look for the tile in Metro) and opting to download the update. However, this may not be as easy as it sounds:
As you can see, if you don't have a large enough screen, you might... have some problems. (Okay, you will have problems.) Curious to find a solution, I decided to bug the friendly people over at Super User. Here is my question. The best answer so far is to plug in another monitor. I haven't tried this yet, but I assume using Remote Desktop is an option as well.
As for Saucy, the upgrade can be run through the GUI or through the terminal. I opted for the terminal and ran the following command:
Also, I should point out that I didn't download updates for all three computers - I used apt-cacher-ng! Check out my article here for more details.
Winner: Saucy (only because of the screen issue - I mean, seriously)
There's no contest here. Saucy downloaded about 2.2 GB of packages for all three upgrades. (See my comment above about caching packages.) Windows 8.1 insists on downloading 3.2 GB for each installation. So I would suggest running the update overnight if your connection is slower than 10 Mb/s.
Winner: Saucy (although 2.2 GB is still a lot)
None of the upgrades would have much value if you aren't getting something fantastic in return, right? (You're supposed to answer "no" here because you should always install updates anyway to keep on top of bugs and security threats.) Let's take a look at what you get.
Windows 8.1 brings back the Start button (although all it does is take you to Metro). Also, and most importantly to me, you can boot straight to the desktop. Saucy brings... a new wallpaper. (Well, okay, we also get Smart Scopes and Gnome 3.8 but... you gotta love new wallpaper!)
Winner: Windows 8.1 (by a slim margin - neither really offers a "jaw-dropping" feature)
There's not really much more to be said here. Both operating systems offer a small number of improvements and I heartily encourage everyone to upgrade as soon as possible.