May 24, 2007

Linux: Free Operating System

You see, almost daily, those funny, witty commercials from Apple about how hip and cool it is to have a MAC, and how lame it is to have a PC. Of course, Microsoft fires back with their new Wow campaign, but not as hard as Apple because lets face it, Microsoft is top dog and they don't really need to do to much advertising. The funny thing is, with all of this bickering between Apple and Microsoft, most people don't realize that there are more than those two flavors of operating system available. Just like there is more than just chocolate and Vanilla, there are other choices in operating system.

Think about it for a minute. Let's say you still have an old Pentium III computer, with 256MB of Ram, running Windows 2000. You see these commercials and you realize that you are behind on technology and it really is time to upgrade. Now let's talk turkey for a minute. If you want to use MAC, you have to run out and spend about $2,500 for one of their iMAC desktop computers, because MAC OSX doesn't work on PC (Not without some serious hacking.) Okay, so maybe MAC is out of the question for you now. Let's think about Vista for a minute. Even Windows XP wouldn't run very fast on your current computer, so that means you have to buy a new PC too, with enough physical and video memory for it to operate efficiently, so you are looking at approximately $1500 just for the PC, which may or may not come with Vista. You also have to consider that your current software may not be compatible with Vista, so that means upgrading your software as well. It all adds up very quickly.

I'm here to tell you that there is a cheaper, and more viable solution. It comes in the flavor of open source, and it's name is Linux. There are many distributions of Linux out there, not all of them are free. Redhat Linux for instance is a very popular distribution, but it isn't free. Others prefer Gentoo Linux, but with that one you really have to know what you are doing because you literally build it yourself from the ground up. My favorite distro out there, and most others favorite as well according to Disrowatch's page hit rankings, is Ubuntu Linux.

Ubuntu is a really straight forward, user-friendly operating system that comes with just about anything you need already installed. You need office software? Open Office is already installed. You need something to edit your photo's? The GIMP is already installed. Something you need is not installed? Check the Synaptic Package Manager and do a search for it, you will be able to check a box and it will be installed over the Internet. If you don't know how to do something on Ubuntu, just open a browser and search for it on Google, there are all sorts of forums, and tutorials for anything Ubuntu available online.

Maybe you are a systems administrator, and have been tasked with building a new web server, or database server, or mail server, etc. Ubuntu's server version is free too, and you know what else? So is the support for it. You can also select the pre-configured L.A.M.P. (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) during server installation so you don't have to load all of those components separately which can be a real daunting task.

If you don't want to upgrade your hardware at all, you can probably get by on running Xubuntu, which is a lighter, more minimal version of regular Ubuntu and doesn't require as much processing power, or memory.

Do you have kids? There is an Ubuntu version out there built especially for kids, with all sorts of tools for homework, and learning games already built in. That one is called Edubuntu.

Maybe you are already familiar with Linux, and you like the KDE interface. No sweat, Kubuntu is the version you need.

You're options are pretty much wide open when it comes to Ubuntu, so in closing, my recommendation would be to save your money on the software side (i.e. operating system, and software upgrades) by using a free Linux operating system, and spend your upgrade money on the top of the line hardware.

Don't Forget your Bauer-Power Gear!

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