In this day and age everyone seems to be looking for ways to cut their costs. Whether it’s cost of living or cost of a new car, we are all out for the best bargain for our buck. It seems odd to me that in a time like this, when we all seem to be hurting in the financial department more people have not considered switching their operating system as a way to save money. Sure, maybe they have heard that some “nerd” down the way runs his computer with absolutely no Microsoft software, but they don’t understand what that really means in the first place, much less how they could go about it themselves. The simple fact is, the switch to a more robust, user-friendly, customizable, and certainly more affordable operating system is within any Window’s user’s grasp, no matter their technical knowledge.
Linux isn’t just for nerds.
That’s right, you may not have ever heard that before, but it’s true. Today there are all kinds of people running Linux, from super-programmers to someone’s grandmother. Just a few months back I installed Ubuntu 9.10 for my sister, because her severe lack of technical knowledge was getting her into trouble in her Windows environment. She, like many typical users had been visiting sites and using programs laden with viruses and spy-ware, which had eventually rendered her computer basically useless. So far I have received only one call from her regarding her new operating system, and it was simply something she was curious about. To be honest, I expected a lot more questions from her, I really did, but Ubuntu proved itself, once again to be extremely user-friendly even for someone who doesn’t know a hard-drive from a motherboard.
You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for Microsoft Office upgrades, you really don’t.
So many people have been loyal Windows users for years, many of us updating to the latest and greatest operating system when we upgrade our PCs, after all it comes pre-installed with every one. Now, if Windows, as an operating system had gone ahead and left everything relatively in the same place with each new installment, perhaps this alone would be a good excuse to keep coming back. However, Microsoft has changed not only their look and feel with every new version, but also core components, that a lot of us had just re-adjusted to in the previous version. The simple fact is that Microsoft products are ever-changing and always updating, often requiring many users to get upgrades for their current system just to keep up with everyone else, and it gets expensive. Really expensive, a brand new copy of Microsoft Windows 7 runs about 200 dollars right now, depending on the type of install you need. For this young college student, it simply wasn’t an option when I wanted to make the switch from XP to Vista, I had to either deal with what I had, or find some other way, and that’s when I found Ubuntu.
Sure, it’s free, but it’s way too hard to use. Right?
Like many Windows users, I had already explored Linux a bit and found my share of limitations. About 5 years or so before I had discovered Ubuntu, I was introduced to Linux through Suse 9.2. A version of Linux that was supposed to be extremely user-friendly, and more like Windows, a transitional step, if you will, into the Linux world. My father had heard me talking about what I was learning about Linux on-line and bought me the distribution as a Christmas present. As every nerdy teenager would, I dashed to my room and installed a Linux partition on my hard-drive as fast as it would let me, And than came the problems. My wireless wouldn’t connect, the drivers were propriety, meaning basically “not for linux”. My CD drive was acting crazy, able to read but not write. It was a mess. Suse is a wonderful operating system, and has all kinds of amazing and fun features, but what’s the point of having an operating system when you can’t even check your email with it? I did my fair share of research and troubleshooting, and never ended up fixing either of the problems. There was no need, my Windows partition booted, and everything was already installed and operating perfectly. I remained a faithful Windows user, because it simply worked, out of the box, always. So, when it came time to take another look at Linux, I was definitely already skeptical, sure I knew it worked for all kinds of people, but could it work for me, for my computer? I knew that I would have better chance than most because of my technical hardware knowledge of computers and IT. I knew there were all kinds of distributions, including Suse, Redhat, Mandrake and others. I even knew some of them were completely free of charge, which was exactly what I was looking for. I had already decided that if I was going to pay for any operating system, it was going to be a new copy of Windows. I was pleasantly surprised when I went looking for new distributions of Linux that the world of Linux had changed drastically since my last short visit. Where once you only had some minimal options for a free operating system, there was now a plethora of different kinds, some with low memory requirements, some boasting awesome graphics, and one that boasted all of the things I was looking for : Ubuntu.
So, What’s so great about it?
It really doesn’t matter what Linux version you choose, whether it’s an older version to bring new life to an old and dead windows 95 system, or to try it out on your brand new monster with more ram than all your neighbors combined it’s a good idea for about a million reasons. I’m only going to go over five though, and we’re going to use Ubuntu as our example, because well, it’s my favorite.
Cost of Windows 7= about $200
Cost of Ubuntu 9.10= FREE
Ubuntu is absolutely free, and I mean it, well they mean it. It will always be free. The word Ubuntu itself is an African word roughly meaning “to be open and available to others” and it isn’t just a word, it’s a philosophy and ideal that simply preaches interconnectedness. The simple idea that no one can do it alone, and it’s always better to share and share alike. The Ubuntu operating system was named after this philosophy because it’s what Linux is all about and always has been: Open source. Open source is an amazing concept and an even more amazing world, but that’s another article all together.
Ubuntu boasts some of the most user-friendly applications and settings in the Linux world, and rightfully so. This operating system, or OS comes stocked with all kinds of things the average user will need, all free of charge and ready out of the box. Things like a full office suite capable of saving files that can be read by virtually any computer on the market. Or the built in video player, and Audio program that are ready for your use as soon as your install is complete. I mean it when I say that your grandmother, who calls you to ask how to open her emails can use Ubuntu Linux. Everything is accessible and easy to find, and help is just one click away. Real help, not a form or a useless automated phone system but a real tutorial, or a forum where real live people answer your questions on the same problems they have had in the past, and it’s all free. For those who require more advanced technical support, payed options are available to speak with the experts any time.
Forget viruses. That last statement isn’t completely true, and unfortunately we’re not going to get into the specifics of what make a Linux system so much less susceptible to infections, the simple truth is that they are. Linux users need not be afraid of their system getting slower day by day as spy-ware attacks their hard-drive, eating away at important files, only to eventually render the computer un-bootable. The reason for this, like I said, we’re not going to get into, but it is important. No more paying for Virus or ad-ware scanners, no more worrying about your kids using the wicked Myspace and best of all no more sitting there thinking “I swear this computer used to go faster, I swear it”
Get ready to personalize. Windows and Mac Operating systems are both built to be standard. They come with default settings and a limited ability to change those settings. In Ubuntu, the sky is the limit. Don’t like that menu bar? Delete it. Don’t like your start up screen, or your audio files for system actions, change them. Absolutely anything you can dream up, you can do. That is the beauty of an open source operating system. Everything is right out in the open for you to learn about, change, and hopefully even improve upon. The best part about it too, is that most likely the setting you want changed has already been explored by others, most of the time it’s just a matter of finding a how-to on-line and following the simple steps.
I can’t tell people about this factor enough, I really can’t. I tell everyone of my friends or family members who complain about crashes or anything similar “Switch to Linux!”. Linux, has and always will be one of the most stable options out there. The fact is if you ask a Linux user “when was the last time your system crashed, or you had to manually reboot?” They’ll laugh at you. It doesn’t happen. I turn my computer on, I do what I need, and I turn it off when I’m done, whether that’s running too many things at once or not. A few windows go gray, the system slows for a moment and in less than 15 seconds most of the time, my machine is back to running all my tasks flawlessly. I’m not sure the exact reason why this is, and even if I knew it would be a lot of explaining, the fact is, it’s great. When I used to overload my Windows system on accident, whether it was 95, ME, or XP I would often have to restart manually at the very least, sometimes getting the blue screen of death and loosing all of my data. Now, I just wait a second and think “man, I really should get that new ram”
Sounds pretty good I guess, what now?
My first recommendation is to go ahead and visit the Ubuntu website and either download the latest ISO to make your own CD, or order your free copy from the website (small charge applied for shipping). After you have done that, simply pop it into your computer and restart. Most computers are set to read the CD drive first upon boot, if that’s how yours is set, the Ubuntu screen will load up, select your language and select “Try Ubuntu without making changes”. This will allow you to try out the entire system without making a single change to the machine, which is pretty darn cool. If you like what you see after reviewing it in Live disk mode, which is what it’s called when you boot an OS from a CD or USB drive, go ahead and try installing Ubuntu, leaving your windows partition intact, which is called a dual boot or side by side install. This will give you the ability to have full of use of both operating systems, and upon boot you will have a menu to select which you’d like to use.
So, in short, from a former loyal Windows user : stop paying for an inferior operating system. Go out there and find the free Linux distribution you like best, and join the big open world of completely free, open-source software, before you’re the only one who hasn’t.