Windows 10 – still undecided? Or already made your mind up and want to try an alternative? Read on.

Right, that’s it. I’ve spent many a happy hour ranting about Windows 10 and Microsoft. It spies on you, it pops up adverts in your start menu. If updates break it, there’s little you can do about it. The latest update has, deep in the code, something enabling ‘Windows Subscriptions’, so you can be reasonably sure that at some point Microsoft are going to start charging monthly for certain features. So what’s the alternative?

MintLogoHow about a system that you’re already using? It’s called Linux and it’s already running on about 95 per cent of smartphones – Apple and Android (so that’s Samsung, LG, Nexus, Motorola…) and 93 percent of tablets and iPads. 94 per cent of the computers controlling the internet use it. Even the International Space Station recently started using it,

“because we needed an operating system that was stable and reliable”

and

“for applications that require absolute stability … Linux is the obvious choice”

In the interests of complete disclosure, I should add they were switching from Windows XP, so an abacus and biro would have been an upgrade, but you get the idea…

Can I work it? Is it difficult?

start menu

I’ve installed Linux for around a couple of dozen definitely non-geek customers. A couple have said it’s harder to use than Windows. Three have said it’s easier to use than Windows. On balance, I’d say that means it’s about as easy as Windows. It has the same button in the bottom corner that pops up a menu, the same X in the corner to close a window, it even runs many of the same programs that Windows does, including Chrome and Firefox for browsing the internet, Thunderbird for email, LibreOffice (the completely free Office package that looks like Word and can open and save Word, Excel and Powerpoint files). It’s got a photo gallery and picture editor, and a folder called ‘Home’. In there, you’ll find your Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos and Downloads folders.

homeSo, as a user, it’s very much like Windows. Under the skin, it’s quite different – so different that in normal use it doesn’t even need an antivirus. Security is baked into Linux from the start. And because it doesn’t have antivirus running constantly to slow things down, it’s almost always quicker than Windows. If your Windows machine is running slowly, you might be surprised at the difference it makes.

The best bit is, you don’t have to lose Windows in order to try it out. For most people, as long as there’s a little bit of room on your PC or laptop, Linux will run alongside. When you turn it on, you get a choice of Windows or Linux. For most people, Linux can be all that they need.

The only time that might not be true is if you have a particular piece of hardware or software that only runs in a particular version of Windows, such as a scanner that only runs with Windows XP. Even then, Linux can help. Windows XP is now a security risk waiting to happen, if it’s connected to the internet. But it’s possible to have Linux handle your day-to-day internet, email and computing needs but have a special window inside Linux that runs a complete copy of Windows for anything for which Linux doesn’t have an equivalent. I recently installed Linux for a lady who had a business based on a very old piece of software that she was familiar with and didn’t want to spend £500 replacing. It’s now running inside Linux in a copy of Windows XP that has no access to the internet and so is completely safe from hackers.

And Linux is free. £0.

Do I have to make my mind up now?

Only if you’re still torn about Windows 10. The free offer expires on July 29th so you need to make your mind up by then. But Windows 7 is supported by Microsoft until January 2020 and Windows 8.1 until January 2023 so, if you’re sticking with either of those, you’ve got some time. Most modern Windows machines will support Linux with no difficulties at all. I’ve even had it running well on older XP and Vista machines.

Microsoft’s plan was to have Windows 10 running on on a billion machines by July 2016. So far, it seems that they’ve scarcely achieved a third of that figure, which suggests I’m not the only one advising people to resist. My suggestion is, if you’re happy with Windows 7 or 8 and unhappy with Windows 10, sit back and enjoy what you’re using now. At some point a couple of years before your Windows expires, perhaps give Linux a try. You’ll probably get on well with it, in which case you can just stop using Windows. If you don’t get on with it, you’ve still got time to work out where to go next (Apple Mac, Google Chromebook, tablet, phone…) but I have a feeling that you’ll appreciate the fact that your machine will be faster, more secure and private.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop you trying it out sooner…

 

What is Linux?

Like Windows, it’s an Operating System. It’s the thing that makes a letter appear on the screen when you press a key on the keyboard, that makes the mouse pointer move when the mouse does, that runs programs when you click their icons, that sends things to the printer when you click Print. At the most basic level you have hardware – disks, chips, motherboards – and at the top, software – office packages, email programs, internet browsers, video and music playing software, photo editors. In the middle is the operating system, taking your instructions and running the appropriate programs, saving things on disk, making things work.

Linux is described as Open Source, geek-speak for something that anyone can contribute to and, with the right skills, change. All changes are vetted by the community of Linux developers (the super geek squad) and, unlike Microsoft and other commercial software, nothing is hidden from inspection by anyone, so you can rest assured that if someone were to try to slip in something that spied on you or compromised your security, it would be noticed and corrected before it could be downloaded.

In case that makes it sound like a bit of a cowboy outfit, this page lists the companies that help support it, both financially and with expertise. I won’t bore you with all of their names, but the list starts with Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Intel, Samsung, Toshiba, Panasonic, Ebay, Facebook, Google…

Conclusion

That’s it! Unless Microsoft pull any more stunts between now and July 29th, I can stop frothing at the mouth and have a lie down.

If you’ve got any questions, get in touch.

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