Examining options for Windows 98 users - Part II

In my previous article I examined the first of two options available to people who currently use Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, or Windows Millennium and face a potentially tough decision following Microsoft's decision to retire these operating systems. In this continuation I set the stage for purchasing your new machine and encourage your consideration of buying a Linux computer when buying a newer more powerful machine.

Choosing Linux

Now before you rush off and order the hottest new model featured in all of the Dell advertisements, let me tell you why you should buy a new machine with Linux pre-installed at the supplier. We have covered many of the technical reasons why you should choose Linux, and I won't repeat them here. I'd like to focus instead on some reasons that are pertinent to Windows users that are considering the switch to Linux. One perspective you should seriously consider is committing completely to Linux with your new machine. Instead of considering a double boot configuration, consider switching completely and ordering a machine with Linux pre-installed.

First of all I'm suggesting that you jump into Linux with both feet because the time is right. If you're reading this you are already on the edge of the pool. You're looking for a change and you don't want that change to be to Windows XP or Windows Vista. As I've prefaced this article, you already have a working machine, although it has reached a dead-end -- at least in terms of operating systems support and options. So before you go searching your new machine, consider the following reasons why you should jump into Linux and not look back:

  • Vendor supported Linux installation
  • If you purchased a Windows machine and you wanted to get Linux installed, then you would have to reconfigure the hard drive by installing a dual boot Linux partition on your machine. Assuming you were successful with the installation, afterwards you would be responsible for the future support of that configuration. With a pre-installed Linux machine, you can receive support directly from the manufacturer. While that support might not make the jump effortless, it will provide some protection from a catastrophic problem. Some suppliers might even offer extended support options for sale with the purchase of a new computer.

  • Embracing the future
  • Linux will not replace nor displace Windows from the world of information technology. However, everything points to Windows sales beginning to decline and market share shifting to Linux. The combined forces of Linspire, Mandriva, Novell, and Xandros will continue to achieve strong growth and pursue further improvements in their desktop offerings. These alternatives are going to make choosing Windows more and more difficult, especially for people who are buying new equipment.

    Choosing Linux now also means that you will have made your last operating systems selection. Due to the freedoms guaranteed by the GNU Public License, GNU/Linux can never be closed from the world. This means that switching to Linux means a permanent switch to Linux. Once you find a distribution that meets your needs, no one can ever force you to move to something else. You're in control. By picking a distribution that also has a vibrant and active community you can rest assured that you have found an operating system that will be with you for a long time.

  • Real support
  • One of the biggest misconceptions of Linux and open source is the lack of support for the software. It is a misconception because most people and companies have little or no support from Microsoft and other software vendors. If you do have support and you encounter a problem, it is your responsibility to prove to the agents of the company that your problem is bonafide. If you can't recreate your problem consistently, many vendors will ignore your request until you can. For the home user, if you have an application error with a proprietary piece of software what are your options? For the home user, I know that there is real support available from real users of Linux. Furthermore, this support extends to having access to real engineers or developers, who can help you with your issues, all without having to prove to anyone that your issue is re-creatable.

    Where is this support available? The open nature of Linux promotes sharing and technology transfer. This openness means that through Internet relay chat, mailing lists, and forums there is a large community available to field your questions. In many of these forums there are no stupid questions, the participants are there to help. Others do ask some for some groundwork before submitting a question, but typically it is not burdensome. Typically, the biggest challenge lies in finding the right source of support. For help in this area, always check on the Linux distribution's home page or project home page for support options.

Combining all of the technical, security, and stability benefits with vendor support, embracing the future, and obtaining real support pre-installed Linux offers a convincing alternative to Microsoft Windows. In the next article, I'll examine the alternatives for purchasing a new computer with Linux pre-installed. There are some tricky vendors out there who still want to sell you a Windows machine, but with TUX's help you'll have the right information on hand to make a good choice.

Kevin Shockey - Fri, 2006-06-30 23:06.

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Real Support for Linux

Kevin, I agree that there is a wealth of support for Linux out there, but when it comes to certain subjects, no amount of help seems to be able to help me, e.g., with printing in Linux. Just Google the phrase "unable to create the foomatic driver" and you will see what I mean. If Linux is to be at all ready for the desktop, one thing it should have down pat is printing. I have had distros like PCLinuxOS where printing just works. The latest Knoppix just does not print for me, even if the test page prints. I think what I am trying to say is that if a Linux desktop is to be accepted by a reasonable amount of people who do not care to be progammers, it might have a long way to go. As an aged newbie I am not averse to break my teeth on a few new things. If it's just for Gurus, well, then I stick with PCLOS.
Thanks for listening
ebvt
An BTW, I LOVE Tux magazine!

Eb Altmann (not verified) - Wed, 2006-08-02 16:06.

Don't forget Xubuntu!

Although I never tried Xubuntu ( http://www.xubuntu.org/ ) I think it's definitely worth considering, as I had good experiences with both Ubuntu (but on a modern system) and XFCE (under, Mepis, I believe...). I got it running on a really old and quirky laptop with 64MB ram with Mepis and XFCE a couple of years ago.

Literally every other combination of distro's/DE's I had was either too slow or would not install at all. Of course back then Ubuntu did not yet exist, or at least not as a grown-up distro.

Best of all it's available through ShipIt https://shipit.ubuntu.com/

There's also VectorLinux, which was specifically created for older machines, but my last experience with it (VectorLinux Soho) is that it's not very userfriendly.

In my humble opinion - aside from a large choice of mature software alternatives to choose from and hardware detection- the biggest factor here is easy software management (installation, removal, updates) and easy and reliable updates (security, stability, ...).

Especially since lack of (security) updates is why they want to leave Win95/98 in the first place (yes, there are still people running Windows 95 x) ).

I'm a SuSe user/fan personally, but for Win98 users I think Xubuntu could be ideal.

Darkelve (not verified) - Tue, 2006-07-04 03:42.

Linux all the way

I agree that the best way to use Linux is all the way, no windows. I am presently in a dual boot, although before this I only had Linux. I no longer need windows to do my taxes each year. But I do need windows for my genealogy program.
I have tried several times to load GRAMPS, but to no avail I have not been able to get it to operate properly. I have a large collection of genealogy material and cannot afford to lose any of it. If I could get around this one hurdle, I would have no problem loading my computer with Linux and nothing else.
I believe that GRAMPS could be the answer but it still has some bugs that need to be worked out and this is going to take some time. I would like to ditch windows completely but right now I can't. I have been using Linux for 4 years now as my primary operating system. Keep up the good works.

Herb Taylor (not verified) - M - , 2006-07-03 16:39.

GRAMPS EZ install

I see where you are having problems installing GRAMPS on your Linux box. You did not say what distro you are using, but if it's a Debian based distro, I would suggest the apt-get method. I have installed GRAMPS on several Debian based systems with good results using apt-get.

Bob Franklin (not verified) - Tue, 2006-07-04 10:15.

Linux and GRAMPS

I have been using SUSE. The dependance's have been the main problem. It semed for a while thayt no matter how many I added, it called for more. Once I got it loaded in SUSE 10, I entered my family gedcom which worked just fine. Then when I tried to add 2 more Gedcoms on other branches of the family I ran into a problem again.
As I said before this one phase of Linux has keep me from going 100%. I have a spare computer now since I just boiught a new Dell, that I plan on doing some research on before I change the Dell to Linux. Gramps home page is not much help and Gnome which sponsors Gramps is not any help at all. This is one of several problems that keep people like me from going 100% Linux. I haven't seen any Linux magazine that truly gets down to the basics pon some things for new people. TUX is good but it still doesn't cover some of the ground that new people need in order to change. I am getting to old (79) to go back to college to study Linux. But I still think that it is great.

Herb Taylor (not verified) - Wed, 2006-07-05 16:30.

Product activation

Xandros 4.0 comes with a feature familiar to most Windows users - Product activation. After installation, you must request an activation code from Xandros in order to unlock certain functionality within the product. Without the activation code, this functionality will remain disabled. You need to request a new activation code after each installation of Xandros and, after you have used up your limit (said to be around 5, this is not documented by Xandros), you will have to contact Xandros Support and request permission to keep installing.

singhat (not verified) - Sat, 2006-07-01 09:02.

I've been using Xandros for

I've been using Xandros for a while now on a laptop and love it. I've tried just about every distro out there just out of curiosity and not one has installed so smoothly and effortlessly as Xandros. Some were easy on some machines but I haven't had any other distro that installed flawlessly on every computer I tried it on as Xandros has. Of course nobody is going to have good luck with every distro. The installer looks more like one would envision business software would be like, very professional looking, crisp and clean look and feel about it, unlike the mickey mouse looks of windows, in my opinion. The activation mentioned above is for the business or deluxe versions, that's for the support and the non-free software it comes with like cross-over office for people that can't give up ms office and works great too. New users will find that very helpful and once they are more familiar with linux can drop it and the software is totally free to them if they wish after that point. I am using the free Xandros myself which is fine since I don't and never did like any ms software since there was always a better third party version available and most free ones were even better. I have 4 desktops and 5 laptops. The laptops were the ones most distros had their problems if any at all. Ubuntu and the other flavors of Ubuntu was one of the worst. Won't even install at all on 3 laptops I have, 2 Compaq's and one Dell so far. Ubuntu always gets hung while trying to install, I read how bad their installer was and now know what they were talking about. I think it would frustrate new users to the point of giving up on Linux if it was the only one they tried. I'm not knocking Ubuntu, I'm pulling for them as any other distro, if they can get the installer fixed I would love to give it another try myself.

An - ymous (not verified) - Tue, 2006-07-25 20:32.

Re: ubuntu install problems..

The biggest problems are the dell junk laptops, it's the cheap knockoff components
they use and unsupported chipsets that are the biggest problems with installing any
linux distro on a Dell,
i have rarely had a problem with loading linux on anything
i come across "Dell systems being the exception" more problems than a barrel of monkeys on crack not worth the measly 25.00 - 50.00 savings on the Dell vs buying from a quality system builders machines.
I've tried many different distros on my acer ferrari and all ran fine, and a friend has a voodoo pc notebook he has had no problems with a few distros he tried out and is now on kubuntu.. so i'ts the machines not the installers that are the problem.
Why would some one who is even thinking of running linux buy a dell and pay
MS for a copy of XP just to not use it? a custom builder would be a better choice naturally and they would make sure it's linux compatible for you as well...
Dont complain when your blatenly donating money to bill, but wan't linux to
install nice on your dell when thier the biggest MS suporters thier is ???? "I Dont get it."
Maybe if Dell supported linux and offered all thier machines without an OS on
purchase or came with Linux preinstalled some linux Distro's houses might just
care if thier distro won't run on a dell.

An - ymous (not verified) - Sat, 2006-07-29 20:37.