Anyone who knows much about me knows that I’ve been a strong advocate for alternate energy, and that I’ve put my money where my mouth is by putting solar power projects on my home as well as at Little Chico Creek School in my former role as CUSD Trustee.
Now I’m going to push an alternate way to do home or business computing.
A couple of months ago I wrote about the upcoming release of Windows Vista, and how I was disappointed that this new release from Microsoft and all of its Digital Rights Management (DRM) nonsense made the operating system turn your PC into a version of George Orwell’s Big Brother.
A friend of mine, school Trustee Rick Anderson recently dumped his PC and bought a Mac Mini because he said he was tired of all the viruses, spyware, upgrades and the like. I pointed out that if all he needed to do was do email, web browsing, word processing, some digital picture work and maybe some video editing, then the Mac Mini would be a good choice since it comes with all those things right out of the box.
It’s an important point, because what I described is what the majority of non technical people need in a personal computer. So why go through the expense and hassle that has become Windows? That got me to looking at an operating system that I once only thought of to be the domain of the uber Geeks – Linux.
For those who don’t know about Linux, or have the view that you have to be one of those people that stares at a computer screen until 3AM and then falls asleep on a stack of empty pizza boxes, that used to be the case. But Linux has grown up. While there are still a few distributions aka distros out there that cater to that some new ones have emerged recently that are as easy to use as Windows. They even come with applications like word processors, spread sheets, etc and the best part is they are free or low priced. Some work right out of the box, requiring only a simple install.
Since Microsoft had me so ticked off because of the expense and corporate control issues in Vista, I recently started experimenting with a Linux distro called Ubuntu. Now don’t let the weird name scare you, this is actually the most amazing thing I’ve seen in awhile. Ubuntu is as African word meaning “humanity to others” and the company that is distributing it bills the software as “Linux for Human Beings”. The company seems to be setup like a philantrophy, they want to bring computers to people whom can’t afford it. With Vista costing upwards to $500 for ll of its features, they are positioned well to do that.
I recently installed it on a blank PC, and was instantly impressed. Best of all it’s free if you know how to download it and burn it to a DVD. If not, they have lost cost media you can buy.
My installation experience was fast and easy. And I had Ubuntu up and running within 30 minutes. It was just as simple as putting in the DVD, answering a few simple questions about configuration, and off it went. It came up, updated itself automatically wiht the web connection and was ready to run.
It comes with everything a home or small office might need. Word processor and Open Office Application Suite, Firefox web browser, Email, and a bunch of other applications including a cool paint program called “gimp” that rivals Adobe PhotoShop. Ubuntu comes installed with a project management application called Planner. The tool allows users to create simple Gannt charts, tasks, and allocate resources. There’s even a Microsoft PowerPoint clone. And you can read or save Microsoft document formats for all their office applications.
There are hundreds of other free aplications available for download.
Ubuntu recently announced they are offering a free video/graphics/audio editor to make DVD’s and edit video from camcorders and sound/music tracks. You can see a preview of Ubuntu Studio here
If you can run Windows you can just as easily run Ubuntu Linux. It’s fast, relaible and virus/spyware free.
I gotta say that if you just want a simple and reliable student, home, or office PC at minimal cost, one that will actually run effectively even on older inexpensive hardware, Ubuntu is it.
Microsoft is going to lose some of their edge to unique companies like this.