For many of my clients and people I have spoken to, the prospect of moving from Windows XP to something else has provoked annoyance, outrage and in many cases a blank refusal to accept that they need to do anything. The fact of the matter is that in April Microsoft will stop all support for XP desktops and the first well designed piece of malware that hits the net will (potentially) have the power to wreck havoc on XP machines. Whether that actually happens only time and malware will tell, but this blog post is for the people who don’t want to take the risk and
a) Decide to migrate to another operating system and;
b) Do not want to spend money on a new computer.
That really means a Linux Operating System. Linux at time of writing is about 150 free open source operating systems, covering a range of PC hardware. Just about any computer from the last 10-15 years will run some form of Linux distribution or “Distro.” But one of the weakness of Linux from the point of view of the new user is the sheer number of operating systems – which one is the best?
From the point of view of someone an XP user and at the risk of annoying the various distro fans out there I think you can narrow the choice to 3
1) Lubuntu – an OS decided for systems with no a lot of RAM and low powered processors. Pentium 4 Pentium M and the like and less than a gigabyte of RAM
2) Linux Mint – for more powerful systems, dual core processors and more than a gigabyte of RAM
3) Ubuntu – Modern processors, i series, 2 gigabytes of RAM and better
There are numerous caveats to this list but it’s a good starting point for a beginner.
Zorin market a heavily customised version of Linux with a strong Windows “feel” it needs a fairly good machine to run the eye candy but might make the transition easier. I will do a blog post on Zorin in the near future
One consolation for the XP user coming to terms with Linux is that in addition to the OS Linux will come with lots of software, typically, an office suite, usually Open Office or Libre Office, Audio and Video players, image software, PDF readers and much much more. To add to the bargain, literally thousands more pieces of software can be downloaded using a dedicated download device built into the operating system. No hunting around trying to find what you want only to discover you have downloaded all sorts of nasties in the process.
However anyone hoping to use Microsoft Office or Quicken or another MS programme will be disappointed. It is possible to get some software to run under Windows but I would always advise beginners to look to some of the alternatives. http://linuxappfinder.com/alternatives
Most distros will come with a Live CD, DVD, or USB flash drive version appropriate for the user that wants to try it out before committing to an installation. ‘
If this all sounds too good to be true there are downsides. Linux is not Windows so there is a new thing to learn, even downloading new software can be daunting to the uninitiated. There is a good chance your printer or scanner may not work and all your carefully purchased Win XP software is just a mini Frisbee collection! Against that, the big Linux Distros update twice a year cost nothing to run come with all the software available for free and Linux is virtually virus proof.
Is it for me?
If you are a power user of Microsoft products probably not, if you spend time on Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and browsing the web for Lolcats the chances are you will hardly notice the difference. Chrome and Firefox work perfectly well in Linux and some users may even enjoy a new challenege.
Information on Ubuntu http://www.ubuntu.com/
Using Synaptic to download software in Ubuntu https://help.ubuntu.com/community/SynapticHowto
Information on Linux Mint http://www.linuxmint.com/
Information on Zorin, the Windows Friendly Distro http://zorin-os.com/
List of Linux operating systems http://distrowatch.com/