14th January 2015
So, you are looking for a program for your computer/phone/device to do a certain thing. Maybe you want a guitar tuner software. Maybe you want a CAD program. Maybe you want a program that sits in your panel and displays system load. How do you find and install one? How do you avoid junk and malware? Here I discuss how this is done on a few different operating systems. This article does not aim to discuss which operating system is best, it simply compares them for interests sake.
Windows 8 provides a software repository, mainly aimed at the tablet and smartphone interface. For older versions of windows or desktop/laptops you rely on search engines, magazines, trusted websites etc to find good software. Windows computers have "anti-virus" programs which can help stop you installing malware. Anti-virus programs are only about 45% effective at detecting malware so this is only partial protection.
Android provides a repository of third party software called the Google play store. This repository is very minimally audited and any programmer can submit stuff there knowing it will probably be accepted. The auditing process is so minimal that there is actually some malware in there. There is huge amounts of junk in there and it's not easy to find the good stuff amongst all the junk. Users can review software in the play store and reading other people's reviews is the biggest thing that helps users find the good stuff and avoid malware.
By default Android will block the install of programs that are not from the play store but the user can override this easily by changing a setting.
There are other repositories a savvy user can use with Android such as F-Droid
I've never used iOS so I can write little about it but I believe they provide a well audited software repository called "The App Store" which has no malware. I also believe iOS blocks the user from installing anything that's not in The App Store, making it almost impossible to install malware. Apparently there is a lot of junk in The App Store.
Debian's software repositories are a step above any of the aforementioned. One cannot submit a program to the Debian repositories, Debian assembles the repositories themselves, carefully picking a good selection of software. All the software in Debian's repositories is free software which means they have access to all the code (and so does the user). When they put a piece of software in their repositories they take it upon themselves to maintain said piece of software. So for example if the original author of a program stopped maintaining it, and a security hole was found in it, Debian will actually write their own security fix for said program. The repositories are guaranteed to contain no malware or junk.
Debian does allow the user to install software from outside the repositories, in which case it is their responsibility to make sure it is non-malicious.
I now present a table to summarize some of the above data.
|Helps you find good software||Helps you avoid malware|
|Android||Kinda but not really||Somewhat|
If you use the repositories
Note again I am not trying to make any point with this article it simply compares different ones for interests sake.