Archive for October 4th, 2008

Saving money with your computer

If you have a Windows computer, running Windows XP, think carefully before deciding to upgrade to Vista. This may incur more expense upgrading your hardware. And, in addition, many companies are refusing to move over to Vista for a lot of other reasons, too numerous and inappropriate, for this article on saving money. You can find more by Googling “Microsoft Vista” (without the quotes).

I want to talk here about another option for your computer.

There are three basic operating systems used on Micro Computers. The Mac OS X, Windows and Linux. Both OS X and Windows are closed systems and the respective companies impose their ideas of how you must work upon you. Linux, however, is “Open Source” and allows you to run your computer environment the way you want to. In addition OS X and Windows cost money to buy or to upgrade. You do not realise it but these costs are programmed into the price of your new computer.

Open Source” means, generally, that not only is the software free, but the source code is provided, and you are free to alter the code, recompile it, and share your new version with your friends, as long as you do not then charge a fee. It’s called “copyleft” and recently a judge upheld the term in law.

Who uses Linux? There are so many organisations, I will just mention three. Citroen are moving 250 servers and 20,000 Desktops from Windows to SuSE Linux. The French Government are moving over to Linux and recently 70,000 Gendarmes’ desktops are moving to Ubuntu Linux. It was the Gendarmes who were my inspiration for this blog as it was they who used this method to bring all their people over to Linux programs. Then there is the Spanish Government moving over to Linux and are in the process of moving 500,000 educational PCs over to Ubuntu Linux.

Apart from Linux being more secure, nothing can be done of a serious nature without using passwords, and you have to give express permission before any software can be loaded. No point in writing deadly malware for Linux, the writer would have to find the passwords for each computer the writer was trying to infect! In addition, Linux is a perfect operating system for use on a network as it is so much more secure than anything else. I never used Windows without a firewall or anti-virus package. I don’t bother with either with Linux.

At this stage I should mention that Linux can be run on both a PC and a Mac.

I chose Ubuntu Linux as it seems one of the easiest to handle for a Windows or Mac User – however, in the past I have experimented with other flavours including SuSE mentioned above.

Before I go into how to set up your computer, I would like to mention that there has been a lot of talk about the “Command Line” which frightens people. I have been using Ubuntu for six months now and I can assure you that most people never have to use the command line. Ubuntu is graphical, like Windows. Did you know Windows also has a command line? To see it in Windows, press the start button and you should see the “Run” button at around the middle on the right. Press this and in the box type: cmd. The black Command box will open in a window (type exit to close the window). But you never use it, right? Of course, this is usually used, like the command line in Linux, by the system administrator or one of your more geekish friends.

The trick for a successful move to Linux is simple, download the applications programs that work, and look, the same and are free with both Linux and Windows. Use these in Windows first – until you are familiar with them. Only then should you download Linux. If you commit yourself to using Linux today, you will only actually download the operating system after at least a six months period of familiarising yourself with the following programs.

To start to prepare for Linux……

Internet Explorer – Download Mozilla Firefox, it’s a better, safer alternative, with thousands of add-ins to make the browser perform the way you want it to. Load this up first and get to know it for a few months. You will love it. It’s free.

Then, and only then…

Microsoft Office – or whatever other word processor you use. Download Open Office and use that for a few more months. It has a Word Processor, Spreadsheet and Presentations programs, and more applications. It’s free. Get to know it as well as you know Microsoft Office.

Then, and only then…

Outlook – finally, you will need an email program that also works on both. Download Mozilla Thunderbird. It handles email and newsgroups. Like Firefox it also has add-ins to enable you to make it run the way you want it to. And, yes, it is also free.

And do you run Photoshop for your photographs? Download The Gimp it is also free. It is totally different in operation to Photoshop so you may want to run them both simultaneously until you feel at ease with it. But it is worth the effort as it does almost everything that Photoshop does and it is improving with each version. Google Picasa version 3 is in beta at the moment for Windows and is not yet available for Linux but will be very soon {Newsflash – it was released yesterday for Linux} it is superb for organising photos and for cropping, retouching and exporting via email or to their web depository or to photo companies to print proper photos for you. In addition, it allows you to change your picture by adding coloured tones, sepia, or black and white. Also you can sharpen, put in a changeable soft focus lens effect and much more.

Before I go on, let me mention the Adobe CS suite. Now over £2000 with VAT. In Linux you can use The Gimp instead of Photoshop, Scribus instead of In-Design and Inkscape instead of Illustrator. Apart from The Gimp, these programs are no way near as good as their Adobe counterparts; but for home users who want to produce their Christmas newsletters, manipulate their digital photographs, or produce local club posters, they are more than suitable.

This article is aimed at home users needing to save money in the on-coming bad times ahead, so it doesn’t apply to graphic professionals anyway.

Once you are happy with your Open Source programs in Windows, then is the time to move over to Linux and the Linux versions. Your data from your Windows programs will immediately work with the Linux editions. But do make sure you spend at least six months familiarising yourself with these programs before installing Linux. This will ensure that once you have loaded Linux, you won’t even notice you are running a different operating system.

Just imagine:

  • You will never have to purchase any more software. {save money}
  • You will have access to over 18,000 free Linux programs.{save money}
  • You will only need lower specification computers. {save money}

I am not going to explain how you load up Ubuntu Linux in this blog as you need to digest and start using the free programs that replace your normal Windows programs. But keep my blog in mind as I will write about it soon. If you use Google Reader, add my address to the Reader list and you will see each blog link as a new blog is written. Use it for news, blogs, websites you visit often – Search within “Amper’s Rants” for Google Reader(with the quotes) to learn what it is really about.

To whet your appetite I will tell you, in simple terms, what you have to do.

Go to the Ubuntu website and download the program. Burn it onto a blank CD. Restart your computer from the CD. Say you want to install Ubuntu onto your hard disk at the prompt. Answer a few questions (keyboard, language etc). Click the button, go and make a cup of tea, and come back to Ubuntu. It will be up and running, the Internet should be available, no disks to add to it. WiFi and Bluetooth run out of the box. I will spell this out in full detail in a future blog.

Firefox and Open Office will be preloaded in your new Linux system, and you can download Thunderbird with one or two clicks. That’s all there is to it. Copy your data over from a saved disk and you are all ready to go. You did save your data, didn’t you?



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