For most of its existence, personal and small business computer software has been dominated by proprietary operating systems, Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s MacOS. Corporations with large data and networking needs settled instead on the many variants of Unix, though by now Microsoft has made Windows a major player in that game as well.
This proprietary dominance is wavering, though. With the maturation of Linux, Linus Torvalds’ open source version of Unix—and even more, the adoption of an Open Source policy, where source code for everything used in Linux must be published and available for adaptation—more and more top-level developers began contributing free applications to the open source initiative. Additionally, as Linux has grown to be a more user-friendly operating system, more interface specialists have polished it.
Computer Valet can show you how to take machines you are replacing, convert them to Linux machines, and revitalize them to make them useful again. You’ll still want to use your new machines for your machine-intensive work, but most of what any user does on either Windows or Mac machines can be duplicated with free, open source software with little or no learning curves.
- Browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari already have Linux versions.
- The free LibreOffice (originally OpenOffice) suite duplicates MS Office, and even reads and writes files in the MS formats.
- High-end audio/video producers have used Unix-driven machines (remember, Mac OSX is one of them) since the beginning because its pipeline approach makes brute-force bit manipulation fast and less prone to errors. There are an assortment of editors and players available in all flavors of Linux.
- Graphics handling is also excellent. No, Photoshop won’t run on it, but the GIMP editor duplicates its functions with 70% of the polish, and it’s free, and on top of that, it will upgrade for free automatically to the new version… forever. One day after an automatic upgrade you’ll notice a function that even your old version of Photoshop didn’t have, because it’s in the new version and some wizard open-source programmer has already built the routines into GIMP.
That’s why we love Linux. You can buy or salvage a machine that’s not state of the art, that is maybe a generation or two back, wipe it, install the free linux operating system onto it, and when it connects to the internet you can download whatever software you need. By the end of the afternoon (or about an hour if you accept the default Linux installation, which has almost everything you need right out of the box) you’ll be up and running.
Most variants of Linux also have a Live CD, where you can boot it ant try it without changes. Ubuntu also has an installer that will run in Windows and take 20 or 30 GB of your current Windows drive space and make a bootable Linux partition in it, that you can load to run with full machine speed. If you don’t like it (unlikely) you can use the Windows Add/Remove Programs applet to remove it.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the Windows operating system you had on that machine absolutely crippled its speed. That’s the first thing Windows does to any machine you put it on: it eats up so many of the machine’s resources loading up a thousand things that may be useful to Microsoft, but are largely useless to you, and then it makes the meager machine resources it left to you, the user, carry that load of crap around with it every second the machine is running. If you bought a new machine with Vista on it, and replaced it because it was never as fast as you expected, you’ll be astounded how fast it is running Linux.
Get in touch if you want to know more. We’re available for all levels of help, from setup to administration to training. Computer Valet will soon be offering workshops where participants can bring in an old machine, and we’ll walk you through installation and the basics of running a Linux system. It’s almost inevitable that, before long, you’ll be looking at partitioning your primary computer so you can boot it into either Windows or Linux. You’ll probably even get to dread every time you are forced to open Windows.