This past week has been an eye opener for me. I plunged into an entirely free operating system headfirst, with limited prior experience.
My Windows machine is over seven years old with 512 MB RAM. Service Pack 1 or 2 hadnt come out then. One day, one of the RAMs packed up and I was left with just 256 MB RAM. Most of the programs refused to open, and even if they did it took over 15 minutes.
Seven years ago this was a powerful machine. Now it runs at snails pace. I tried to replace the memory, but the RAM I had had long ago been taken off the market. My motherboard did not support any of the newer RAMs.
My only option was to move to Linux. I could not afford to upgrade my system with new hardware nor could I spare money for Windows 7. I already have a Mac running Snow Leopard. Windows 7 is like Vista, but made better by copying Macs previous operating systems Tiger and Leopard. And Snow Leopard is way ahead of Windows 7.
Ubuntu is absolutely free. You do not have to buy any accompanying software like an Internet Security Suite either. You can get it in two ways. Download the 700MB file or place an order for a CD. I ordered one and it came from Amsterdam in 10 days. I did not have to pay a dime.
Once you insert the CD you have three options. First, insert the CD and restart the PC. You can explore what Ubuntu has to offer without making any changes to your machine. The existing Windows will not be affected.
In some computers when you restart with the CD inserted, you may find Windows is still being loaded. In that case go to your CD drive and run the file wubi.exe. This is Ubuntus helper application to give you the three choices.
The second option is to keep Windows and install Ubuntu. The third is to get rid of Windows and keep just Ubuntu. But take a backup of all the Windows files, documents, songs and videos you may need.
I chose to keep Windows and install Ubuntu. So when I switch on my PC I am asked whether I want to load Windows or Ubuntu. (I needed Windows to stay on as I experiment a lot and recreate readers problems and try to solve them. Two, I didnt have the knowledge to install only Ubuntu. What if something went wrong?)
So what was my Ubuntu experience? Yes, Windows XP is good and reliable. Vista is poor in comparison, but Ubuntu is far better and close to Windows 7, which is a resource hog. Mac OS X, is of course the best with the huge number of applications available in comparison to both Windows and Linux.
The interface for Ubuntu is very clean. You get a default orange screen with just three menus: Applications, Places and System. Under Applications youll find the Ubuntu Software Centre where you can download thousands of applications free.
One good thing is you can type in your native language. Ubuntu supports almost all the languages in the world. Typing in Bengali was a breeze. You just have to set it up by going to Languages from the Tools menu of Open Office. Activate it, and log out and log in again. Most other Indian languages are supported too.
There is cloud computing in the form of Ubuntu One. You will find it under applications. You get 2GB of free file storage which you can access from any computer whether its running on Windows or Mac.
I did spend a lot of time installing drivers and configuring the system. But once done, it is a brilliant operating system to use. It is powerful and open to almost anything. The applications and packages, from browsers, Open Office, and mail to games are endless.
Once you get into the flow of things, most of the concepts are similar to Windows. You can still install, uninstall, customise, browse, work and play games. Things do look a little different, but you can easily change the way things look, much easier than in Windows. Icons and windows are still there, and there is even a file structure although it takes a while to get accustomed to this.
Send your computer-related problems to firstname.lastname@example.org. The solutions will appear soon.