February 09, 2012, 3:24 PM —
"Good artists borrow, great artists steal!" -- Pablo Picasso said it. So did T.S. Eliot. And, more recently, Steve Jobs. Let's face it: If something makes sense and succeeds, it gets imitated.
Though Windows 8 and Linux distributions differ greatly from each other in design, ideology and -- last but not least -- their primary audience, they're all built on the same basic principles of OS design so there's bound to be some overlap. And while Microsoft has long been accused of stealing from the open source community, according to some Linux fans, it's getting to the point where Microsoft simply appropriates good Linux features.
I've been following the Windows 8 development very closely and noticed some hefty backlash on some of the features of Windows 8. This was especially true in some Linux/Windows forums and the Building 8 blog, where Sinofsky and friends write extensively about the new upcoming Windows iteration.
All this fingerpointing made me curious about where some of the best new-to-Windows features in Windows 8 really came from and how Microsoft put its own spin on them (or not).
1. File copy dialogue
In an effort to create more transparency, Microsoft implemented an improved copy, move, rename and delete dialog that doesn't just show the progress of each operation, but also a throughput graph and the ability to actually pause individual copy operations.
Oh, did that cause a firestorm in the open source community! Pretty much the same dialogue has been part of Linux's Dolphin and Nautilus file managers -- the file transfer dialogue also lets users pause operations and view multiple copy jobs in one window. We've even got the gimmicky bandwidth graph that appears once the user hits "More details".
The Microsoft twist: When there's a problem with a file operation, Windows 8 doesn't just stop the entire process but keeps these problems in the error queue. However, it's quite obvious that Microsoft took a good, hard look at the open source world here.
What neither Linux nor Windows 8 have is a queue feature. Of course, you could manually pause and resume individual copy operations, but that's not helping you on a massive copy job. Users of both Windows (see the comments on this post) and Linux have been waiting for this for quite a while.
2. ISO mounting
In Windows 8, Microsoft finally introduces mount ISO files. Once mounted, a new drive letter appears in Windows Explorer that represents the virtual CD/DVD ROM. And while it's a nice addition that lets users finally get rid of annoying third-party tools such as Daemon Tools, Power ISO or Virtual CloneDrive, both Linux and Mac have had this ability for quite a while.
The Microsoft twist:
No Linux distro does ISO mounting as easily as Windows 8, as it requires some command line trickery (or, again, third-party tools). Thanks to all commenters for chipping in: Of course, easy ISO mounting is part of various Linux distributions – both via the GUI and command line.
3. Windows To Go
Windows To Go allows (enterprise) users to create a bootable Windows 8 environment on a USB 2.0/3.0 flash drive. It even supports unplugging the drive, which causes the OS to freeze momentarily until you plug the Windows To Go stick back in. Awesome.
The Microsoft twist: Obviously, such "live environments" have been around for quite a while in the Linux world, but their performance was never quite up to par with a natively running OS. Since Microsoft optimized their NTFS file system for such a scenario, Windows 8 runs fluently even on USB 2.0. Upon testing Windows To Go, I found that both boot and overall speed were far superior to any Linux live distribution I have ever tested.