Friday, January 8, 2010
Top 10 Tech #9: Free Alternatives To Ms Windows
by Dennis Faas
Infopackets.com Senior Editor
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Thinking about throwing out that old PC because it can't run the
latest version of MS Windows?
Hold your horses!
In the last few newsletters, there has been much talk about upgrading
an computer -- which paths to take, and why an upgrade may not be the
Recently, I received an email from an Infopackets Gazette reader, Stu
W., which mentioned a great alternative to upgrading an old PC. He
" I would personally NOT upgrade the hardware [of an old PC]. Instead,
I would upgrade the operating system (OS) to something like [Puppy
Linux, Damn Small Linux or even Ubuntu]. These distributions [are free
and] will make an old [computer] 'sing a new song.' There are several
small downloadable versions of the Linux Operating System that are
geared at older and ailing Pentium / 486 / 386 class of computers. "
Side note: Linux is based on the Unix operating system. Almost all
Linux distributions are free and open-source. Linux is different from
Windows: especially in the way that programs are installed. Other than
that, using a Linux based-PC is similar to using a Windows computer.
Here are 2 of the best Linux Distributions we found:
Puppy Linux ~ Free ~ Great for Older Computers with Limited Hardware
In not so many words, Puppy Linux is probably one of the best linux
distributions I have ever come across -- especially for older
computers. I have personally used it on my old pentium 233 computer
and it detected all my old hardware without so much as a hiccup. I was
able to connect the computer to the Internet within minutes of running
the "Live CD".
Side Note: A "Live CD" is a bootable CD that allows you to run and
test the operating system on your computer before you actually install
it to the harddrive.
Pupply Linux comes standard with Firefox web browser a word processor,
mp3 player, paint program, and just about anything else you commonly
use on a PC. Here are a few facts from the Puppy Linux web site:
" There are a number of things that make Puppy different from other
Linux derivatives, but the most significant is its small size, around
80MB! This lends itself to some very useful and unique features;
--> 'Live' booting from CDs, USB sticks and other portable media.
--> Ability to run entirely from RAM, making it unusually fast and
particularly relevant to modern PCs with solid state CF drives, such
as Wyse & HP/Compaq 'thin clients' and the ASUS EeePC & similar 'next
--> Very low minimum system requirements, runs happily on old Pentiums
with as little as 32Mb RAM.
--> Sub-60 second boot times. "
Note that you can also get Puppy Linux with Open Office -- search for
PuppyOffice using Google.
Ubuntu ~ Free ~ More Options, and Easy to Migrate from Windows
Another favorite free Linux distributionis Ubuntu. While Ubuntu had
trouble running on my older PC, it is a much more significant package
and offers the user many more features / programs to install. Ubuntu
is a very popular distribution and is widely supported on the
Internet. One of the exceptional attributes Ubuntu offers is its
ability to easily migrate from Windows.
Here are some of the key features of Ubuntu (from the web site):
" ... [RE: Ubuntu Desktop Edition]: With Ubuntu Desktop Edition you
can surf the web, read email, create documents and spreadsheets, edit
images and much more. Ubuntu has a fast and easy graphical installer
right on the Desktop CD. On a typical computer the installation should
take you less than 25 minutes.
... When you start your system for the first time you'll see a desktop
that is clean and tidy, no desktop icons, and a default theme that is
easy on the eye ... We've done all the hard work for you. Once Ubuntu
is installed, all the basics are in place so that your system will be
... Ubuntu contains OpenOffice (a program similar to other office
suites, and includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation
program, and more). Easily open, edit and share files with your
friends that have Microsoft Office, Word Perfect, KOffice or
Acquiring Linux Distros via the Internet
Most Linux Distributions ("distros") are available from their
respective web sites in the form of an .ISO image file. An ISO file is
typically a single, large file, although some Linux Distributions are
more than 1 disc large.
Once you have the .ISO downloaded you will need to record it to disc
using a program that can read .ISO files. For Windows XP, you can use
ISO Burner (free):
Booting the ISO Image
After the .ISO file is recorded to CD, you will need to shut down /
reboot your computer (with the CD inserted in the drive). When the
computer restarts, it should boot the CD automatically. If it does
not, you may have to change your boot settings via the CMOS. For more
info on that:
Good luck and enjoy!
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