How To Get Out of the Microsoft Habit
By Lorie Therese Locara
In our country, we have become so addicted to Microsoft that we cannot seem to do without it. It has become like morphine: we get off it, we feel pain so great, we writhe in sheer agony.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a BIG fan of Microsoft Word and Microsoft Encarta. But the OS’s? Oh, don’t ever get me started!
From the moment I saw Ubuntu Linux, I was… Stunned to say the least. I always thought that Linux OS’s were… Primitive. Turns out, it just got bad press.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed Ubuntu, I had to delete my Ubuntu drive after about a month or two of using it when I needed the space for my other files. And the parting wasn’t easy. Though I loved Ubuntu Edgy Eft like crazy, I wasn’t ready to be weaned off Windows yet. I thought I “needed” Windows. Yeah right. Like a hole in the head.
The decision to fully migrate my desktop to Ubuntu or any other reliable Linux distro came when my Windows XP melted down. I decided I was finally ready to move permanently… When I discovered Wine. But more on that later. This is an article on how to choose a different OS. :p
The mainstream Operating Systems for desktops for the everyday user come in two major branches. I know, I know, there are other OS’s out there, but for the moment, I’ll just talk about the most well-known, most user-friendly “Windows alternatives”.
How to choose the OS for you
Choosing is a universal function of needs, desires, and availability, among other factors. There is no one way to go about it, and sadly, it is not a science. but I have made a system for myself on how I can go about my own choices. I hope my system would help you. Below are the steps on how I go about making Operating System choices.
Know what you need.
Knowing what you need need not be a precursor to lobotomy. Just grab a notepad and the guidelines and questions below may help you:
What is it that you do?
Are you a graphic artist? A web designer? A writer? A student? A casual user?
Base your choices on what you do, because your needs will depend on this.
What software needs to be on your computer?
If you are a graphic artist or a web designer, you would definitely need tools like Adobe Photoshop. If you cannot afford the price, there are alternatives like the Gimp on Linux. However, I have a friend who says that he can never work on Linux, though he’s not a Microsoft loyalist. According to him, Adobe Photoshop doesn’t look as good on Linux as it does on Microsoft Windows. BUT, there is Adobe Photoshop for Mac, and it actually looks light years better than on Windows. Why? Mac screens are just rich, with the million-color support. If you have the money to burn, and you need apps like Adobe Photoshop and even Dreamweaver, then you better get OS X. Or else, get yourself a Macbook/Macbook Pro/iMac. Now. :p
As for the writer, since word processing is light, and doesn’t really require as much RAM as applications like Adobe Photoshop or Dreamweaver, which, in turn, require support for high resolution, I guess it would be safe for me to recommend that you use Linux. There are excellent applications to replace MS Office, like Open Office, Star Office, etc. AbiWord is an excellent MS Word replacement. It’s light, fast, and simple. And you can write in pure white space, if you’re allergic to distractions. These applications can save in the MS Word .doc format. But if you just have to have the MS Word formatting for your work, then by all means, go for Ubuntu Linux’s Feisty Fawn! It has Wine built into the system. Wine is the application that can run your MS programs, and it’s really an excellent tool to wean you off the Microsoft addiction. Though I have yet to try out Wine on Linux, as I am waiting for the official release of Feisty Fawn on April 19, I have tried Crossover, a non-free distro of Wine, on my OS X. It was able to run MS Office seamlessly so far. It’s not slow when it’s up and running, and though the fonts are just smaller, the main point is, it’s running the Microsoft program. Enough said. I’m planning to pay for my copy when the trial expires.
Students, on the other hand, have varied needs. I recommend Linux if you’re not into heavy photo editing anyway, as:
- It’s free.
- If you want games, Wine can run World of Warcraft for you. Yes it does. Games are the priority of the Wine community!
- Linux helps sharpen your skills, if you’re a Computer Science or Information Technology student.
- It’s free.
If you are a casual user with money to burn, then you could definitely work well with OS X! OS X, according to my friend, is better for the dummy user than Windows! Why, I am a very destructive dummy user. I actually install anything I fancy. I have installed some pretty serious stuff here in my Macbook, decided I didn’t want them anymore, couldn’t find the documentation for how to uninstall the stuff I did, and decided, “What the hell, I’ll just toss all the programs in the trash”. The only thing I noticed that was different right after was that the fonts in iTunes got messed up a little. :D But after installing an update on everything including the system, that problem was fixed. :D Oopsie. :D
But if you’re like me, a total cheapskate, I believe that you would do well on Ubuntu or PCLinuxOS. Both are very user friendly, and I was blown away by the two Operating Systems. As soon as I get a stack of CD’s, I’m trying out the other user-friendly Linux OS’s, and I’m going to feature them here. Meanwhile, why don’t you check out these OS’s themselves, and see for yourself that they really are nice. :) Go to http://www.distrowatch.org or http://www.ubuntuforums.org to see what people think about the different OS’s, and which are the popular favorites. :)
What are the primary features that you would want on your operating system?
You would do well to make a list of what you want as features on your OS. Below is my own list:
–Easy to install built-in applications
–Package manager/handler for easy installation
–Applications that are good equivalents for Windows applications
–Easy networking setup
–Compatibility with Wine or any other Windows emulator
–Can read Fat32 (hard drive format) for easy Windows sharing
–Customizable User Interface
–Installable Windows/Apple media codecs
–Easy install of Java and other media support
–Fast loading/non RAM hog
–The OS does not “hang,” restart randomly, or crashes. If it does, it should be rare, or like in Ubuntu, will only prompt that it has crashed, but will not affect the operation of the system or its applications.
–The OS should have a very helpful support community.
So far, Ubuntu Linux is my best choice. It is the best in application installation, has a really wide range of built-in apps, and with each release in its 6-month cycle, it gets increasingly user-friendly, and is getting more packed in features as the days go by. Ubuntu Feisty Fawn comes with a Windows networking setup manager, so it will be easier to manage your local network/s. It also comes with Wine, so you don’t need to really rack your brain with how to install this (non) emulator. The only thing that’s annoying with Ubuntu is that it takes long in starting up.
If you want a faster OS, you can try PCLinuxOS. I have yet to install it, so I don’t know about its application manager: if it’s easy to deal with or not. But it’s highly user-friendly according to forums, and as I’ve used it through its live CD. And it’s eye candy, too. :)
Ubuntu can also become eye candy if you install themes and change the desktop background. If you find the pre-installed brown theme yucky, change it! The options are shown when you right click on the desktop, the panels, and if you go to system>themes. Mine is delicious pink. Heehee. :D
Another thing that is great in Ubuntu is the kick-ass community. According to some people I read there, PCLinuxOS has a great community, too, as according to people I’ve read on Ubuntu’s forums. It’s actually better, according to them, as the programmers/developers themselves entertain questions on PCLinuxOS.
If your hardware cannot support heavy programs, there are “thin clients” out there, which can be run even on a decade-old machine. If your machine used to support Windows 95 and is still wired for 95, you can go for OS’s like Xubuntu or Puppy.
Research on your options.
If only I didn’t need to work, I would rather be on the forums all day and clicking away at Linux sites. So far, the best Linux distros as far as I’ve learned are Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, Sabayon, Arch, Mint (Ubuntu based), Puppy Linux, Mepis, Xandro’s and Knoppix, to name a few. Knoppix and Puppy can be installed on removable media, and you can save your files there, especially if it’s a multisession/rewritable disk or flash drive.
Again, do try to frequent the forums, you will sure learn a lot there.
Test the top three to five on your option list.
I do not like to wade through the hundreds of Linux distros, only to find them to be lousy. I would rather know about the best few then test them. It’s a good thing that most Linux OS’s come in Live CD’s, so you can run them without having to install them. I suggest you try Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, Xandro’s and Puppy. They are the most user-friendly around, according to most people. PCLinuxOS and Puppy are very fast. If you really like Ubuntu and just want it to run faster, as I’ve said, you can go for Xubuntu. Take heart, there is an OS out there for you. Or else, you can compile one from Linux’s source code. Hrhr. :p
As for OS X, I cannot say more. It is really an excellent Operating System. It has the stability of Linux, being also a Unix-based OS, and it is far more user-friendly than Windows. No, you do not need to have an Apple machine to run it. People have been able to run it on X86 machines successfully. Just read the how-to’s on the Internet.
OS X is really eye candy, and they have “dumbed down” the controls on a lot of the programs, to increase user-friendliness. Yes, there are moments when I feel that some Mac programs (especially the iLife programs) are too simple for my taste, but I really don’t want to complain, as they do the job, and they do it excellently. Where else can you install programs by just dragging the icon to the Applications folder? If that isn’t idiot-friendly, what is?! :D
As I said, choosing an OS need not be brain lobotomy. Just explore, research, and have a system in making choices. You need not suffer on a system that melts down with every trojan and spyware outbreak. You can be free. You can migrate. Screw Microsoft. Screw Vista. Go for Open Source (or Apple :p).