LABS GALLERY: What Does Windows 7 Have That Linux Doesn't?

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LABS GALLERY: What Does Windows 7 Have That Linux Doesn't?

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By default, Bitlocker hard-drive encryption needs a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip to store encryption keys, although administrators can, via Group Policy, use a removable USB stick for that purpose instead. Windows 7 makes Bitlocker easier to use, by automatically creating boot and OS partitions at OS install time.

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Bitlocker for Linux?

Most Linux distributions offer full disk encryption as an install-time option, as seen in this screen shot of Red Hat's Fedora installer. Another option for Linux (as well as for Windows) is TrueCrypt. Both the install-time and TrueCrypt encryption options are available to a spectrum of free and for-fee Linux distributions; in contrast, Microsoft withholds BitLocker access from all but its Enterprise and Ultimate Windows 7 SKUs.

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Bitlocker ToGo

Windows 7 offers removable drive encryption with the Ultimate and Enterprise SKUs. Users can easily encrypt drives from Windows Explorer, and the drives can be shared with older Windows PCs because the BitLocker To Go Reader applications are automatically added to encrypted drives.

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Bitlocker ToGo for Linux?

Linux users who want Bitlocker ToGo functionality can again turn to TrueCrypt, which, in addition to its full disk encryption capabilities, can encrypt USB devices.

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Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate editions include AppLocker for application whitelisting. AppLocker finely controls what can run on the PC, thereby reducing the available attack surface. Through Group Policy, administrators can approve or deny the use of installers, executables and scripts by allowing individual file hashes, file or folder paths, or software publishers.

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AppLocker for Linux?

On most Linux distributions, including Ubuntu and Fedora, restricting software installation to signed packages is the default behavior. These distributions also offer enhanced access controls through frameworks such as SELinux and AppArmor.

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Microsoft has enhanced its powerful command-line PowerShell scripting tool with Powershell ISE, a host application for PowerShell that allows administrators to write, run and test scripts from a single interface.

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PowerShell for Linux?

Microsoft's return to the command line with PowerShell doesn't have a direct analog in the Linux world, partly because the Linux world never left the command line behind. However, for a direct implementation of PowerShell on Linux, there's a fledgling open-source project called Pash (PowerShell + Bash). Unfortunately, the project appears to be stalled for lack of a complete, public description of PowerShell's grammar.

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Federated Search

Windows 7's built-in search can be focused beyond locally stored data to look through intranet SharePoint instances, Internet search engines and customized libraries. Administrators can add these destinations through Group Policy.

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Federated Search for Linux?

Labs couldn't find a search client for Linux that taps the OpenSearch protocol that powers Windows 7's federated search feature (other than the strangely named Surfraw—Shell Users' Revolutionary Front Rage Against the World Wide Web—which we couldn't figure out how to use). However, it's possible to index and search any sort of remote location that you can mount as a folder using the open-source search tool Tracker.

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XP Mode is a virtualized copy of Windows XP Service Pack 3 that works on top of Windows 7 running the updated Windows Virtual PC hypervisor. XP Mode is designed for older applications that don't work natively on the new OS. Although the VM and hypervisor must be downloaded separately, they are free for those with the Ultimate, Enterprise and Professional SKUs of Windows 7.

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XP Mode for Linux?

XP Mode is one of the coolest new features in Windows 7-it's basically a free Windows XP license that you can use for virtualization. Since only Microsoft can hand out free Windows licenses, Windows 7 has Linux beat on this front. You can virtualize XP on Linux quite well using Parallels Desktop; VMware Workstation or Player; VirtualBox; or Linux's own KVM, but you'll have to supply your own Windows license.

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Problem Steps Recorder

Windows 7 aids remote troubleshooting through the Problem Steps Recorder. An end user starts the applet, then performs the actions that are causing a problem. The tool takes a screen shot and annotates every action taken while the PSR is running, then bundles it all together in a zipped MHT file that can be e-mailed to an administrator.

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Problem Steps Recorder for Linux?

The Windows 7 Problem Steps Recorder troubleshooting tool is pretty slick, and if there's an equivalent tool for Linux, we haven't seen it. With that said, most popular Linux distributions have been steadily improving the bug-reporting tools that ship with their systems. These capabilities would need to be adapted for use with internal IT operations, however.

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New Taskbar

Windows 7's revamped Aero interface displays thumbnails of an application's open windows, allowing users to more quickly access the page or document they want. Even better, users can stop using to cycle amongst all open windows, and instead use the Windows key and the corresponding number of the application's placement on the Taskbar to cycle through only that app's open instances. (So, for example, to get to IE in the screen shown, a user would press <5>.)

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New Taskbar for Linux?

The Windows taskbar gets its first real overhaul in quite some time in Windows 7, but in the world of the Linux desktop, there have long been more taskbar options than anyone's known what to do with. With that said, we're not aware of one that offers quite the same per-application switching behavior that the new Windows 7 taskbar sports.

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Windows 7 allows users (or administrators) to organize links to like content into categories, no matter where that content may be-local or remote. Windows 7 comes out of the box with libraries for documents, pictures, music and videos. Users and administrators can add additional sources, and new libraries also can be added.

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Libraries for Linux?

Linux users who wish to emulate Windows 7's Libraries feature could populate their generic Pictures, Documents or Downloads folders with symlinks to the folders they wanted to include.

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Burn ISO

Windows 7 finally lets users natively burn ISOs to optical media. Unfortunately, we don't want to deal with optical media most of the time. Let us mount the ISO!

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ISO burning for Linux?

Desktop Linux operating systems have shipped with the tools to burn CD and DVD ISO images onto blank disks for quite some time now. And, on Ubuntu, for example, ISOs can be mounted with a simple right-click.

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