Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Top 3 Alternative Operating Systems (and a handful of others)

I find it fascinating that most people don't know what an operating system (OS) is. This is because Microsoft's Windows has so cornered the market that it is generally thought to be what is on a computer as a given.

Well, only if you want to pay for it and don't know any better.

If you want to find an inexpensive copy of Windows XP, use the Amazon search box found in the left-hand column of this page; Amazon kicks butt on prices. But this article is not about Windows.

Believe it or not, there are alternatives OS's that are frequently better choices. I know this article has been written before on the internet, but all the ones I found are out of date and don't cover what I want to cover.

So, here are some other operating systems that are great, frequently (if not always) better for your needs, and free. Yes: free.

How can they be free when Windows isn't? Windows is a commercial product and an excellent tool. It is not the tool I usually use, however...Commercial products are what most consumers are used to: they are a certain product for a certain price. If what you get for that price is acceptable to you, then it is a good product.

Free OS's (frequently are Open Source, but the explanation of that is a whole other article) can be seen as created like this: Hey, I came up with this software, what do you think? Oh, that's cool, but you might add this. Yeah, that's even better, but what about this? And thus the creation of an Open Source project, or new, Free Operating System, is born. Lot's of community support, lot's of people working for free to make things better.

Oh, and it should be mentioned that all of these listed out here are impervious to Window's viruses, have almost no spyware problems and are basically free of worry in that regard. Yes, they can be corrupted, but their basic design allows them to avoid all the usual virus problems associated with Windows. So, you don't have to run an anti-virus, spyware cleaner and all that; it just isn't necessary in almost all cases.

Ok, now on to the lists.

First of all, you can pick what you want in an OS's. Yes, you can choose from a few hundred that are constantly improving, updating and changing. So, even though this article will give you some ideas now, half a year from now you'll have to research on your own and start over because things will have changed.

So, do you want an OS's that is minimal effort and requires very little tweaking or changing and is quite polished "out of the box?" Then try these:

Minimal Effort:
1. PCLinuxOS
2. Ubuntu
3. Slax

What if you want something that is very customizable and can really be a new adventure and an optimal system for you?

Customizable:
1. Gentoo
2. Ubuntu (yes, I said it again)
3. Mandriva

Then there a few hundred that match any other kind of OS need that you might have.

For example, got really old hardware that won't take a big OS? Try these:

Old hardware:
1. Damn Small Linux (DSL)
2. Feather Linux

Or do you like a certain kind of desktop look and you want the best one for it? There are many different desktop, so you can research even more if you want. But, for the sake of more specific lists:

For Gnome:
Gnoppix
Ubuntu (again, yes)

For KDE:
PCLinuxOS (yet again also)
Knoppix (click on the flag for the appropriate language)

For Fluxbox:
PCFluxboxOS
Feather Linux
DSL

Like I said, the choices can sometimes be over-whelming. But isn't that better than under-whelming? Pick and choose! Download one, install it, try it for a week, then get rid of it and install another one! Or install a dual/multiple boot system and have a different one try out whenever you want. Many are very easy to install (especially those in the first list) so go nuts!

Since what you spend the most money in a new computer purchase is typically the OS (yes, it is) then using one of these alternative OS's may be just the thing for you.

Oh, and so as not to leave those non-linux OS's out, here are even more that aren't on the list above. In fact, the first one is one of my favorites, but is not always for a new person transitioning from Windows.

Other alternative OS's:
1. FreeBSD (Unix)
2. Apple OS X (not free, but definitely a great alternative)
3. Menuet (not Linux, not Unix, completely independent; something new to try)
4. FreesBIE (Unix livecd)

So enjoy the choices, enjoy learning, and pick one according to your needs. Do you just surf the internet and send email, like my kids? Then PCLinuxOS may be a great choice. Want to learn Linux like I did, thrust into the cauldron, learn quick or die? Then Gentoo may be a better choice. Try them all, if you want. Enjoy!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cheapest Way to Track free Surfing

What is the cheapest way to get on the internet? Why, mooch off of someone else, of course!

So, let's use a friend's computer. But you don't want to leave all your tracks on their computer, do you? One of the easiest ways to use another computer without leaving a trace is to use a livecd.

There are a variety of livecd's out there, and I've tried a great many of them. A livecd is an entire operating system (OS) on a cd. So, instead of running the Windows (or whatever) OS on your buddies computer, you would simply put in a livecd as the computer boots-up and allow it to boot to the cd rather than the hard drive. Then all of your work would be done via the cd without the computer's hard-drive knowing anything about it. Nothing installed, nothing left behind.

What type of livecd is best? Well, I'm going to say for the average user that is just getting off of the Windows OS train, try the PCLinuxOS 2007 livecd. Go to their website, find out how to burn a cd iso file, download it, burn it to a cd, then you are ready to go. Completely free, except for the cost of having a cd to burn it on.

PCLinuxOS is great 'cause it is about the most Windows-ish of Linux versions out there. By that I mean it finds almost any hardware, has a long list of drivers, has a great forum/community that will work for you, all for free. Very tough to beat. Of course, the geek-ier you become the more you can pick a livecd that is closer to the specifics you want and/or you can re-master your own livecd. Recently I've enjoyed the PCFluxboxOS (an off-shoot of PCLinuxOS) that I configured to my own spec's.

Now that you've got your livecd, you are ready to get started. Find a cooperative friend, make sure their computer's bios are ready to boot to cd (most are already set to that) and get that cd going. Now you can surf, nothing is stored, the friend's computer is essentially untouched!

But what about data storage? As mentioned in the past (and in the future) there is a great deal of data storage for free online. But I have been very impressed with external hard-drive prices these days. I saw this one on Amazon at 500 Gigs for $120, an amazingly good price. This could be easily taken with you, boot the livecd, put all your data on the external hard drive, no computer of your own necessary!

Of course, you have to make sure you have a friend that is willing to help you out. Or, at the very least, a computer that you can play with. With someone else's computer, a livecd and an external hard drive there is very little that you can't do in the internet world.

TV 2 Internet

What does the future hold for us and computers? Well, that remains to be seen, but more and more items are being accessed on the internet and stored on the internet instead of the home computer. By storing data and forms online one can create a virtual world that can be accessed not only from one's home computer, but from anywhere that the internet is available.

For example, let's set up a take off point by creating a home page. From my home page I can access my email, check out my bookmarks and do a wide variety of things without even opening another website. This can be done freely and easily from a variety of websites. My favorite is www.pageflakes.com. Start there and get organized.

But what if we want to store larger amounts of data. Various websites offer storage data on the internet. Want a free account that allows you to store 25 Gigs worth of data? Then go check out http://www.mediamax.com/. There are other sites that offer ways to store data entirely online but this is one of the best.

But what if you really just have to have an operating system? Well, you can find those on the web as well. Windows is the classic Operating System (OS) but there are many others (Linux and Unix come to mind). In fact, the latest trend has been WebOS's. One of my favorite of these is eyeOS. Using eyeOS you can create an entire operating system, files, documents and more all on the web to be accessed from anywhere. This wasn't my choice over a homepage but it is an alternative that many are enjoying.

What about those bookmarks? Like a website, then store it on your home computer's browser, right? Well, by accessing and using http://del.icio.us.com you can set up your bookmarks to be checked anywhere you can get on the internet. In fact, you can check out the most popular websites and see what others think are helpful as well.

What about documents? Using Google Docs you can create a variety of document types, store them under your account then access them from anywhere.

So, do we even need computers? This will be a question asked over and over again by the web4everyone blog. So far, computers are the main way for everyone to get online. But not the only way.

Do you have a TV that has picture within picture display capabilities? Then this may be for you: the RCA/MSN TV 2 Internet and Media Player. Using this device you can get on the internet without a computer. Hook it up to your television and within just a few minutes you can be searching the internet and taking care of all your computing needs without a hard drive and without a computer at all. And for around $100 the price is much more affordable than the few hundred that is typically spent on the average computing system.

The web4everyone blog will continue to cover more specifics with review on a variety of different devices and trends that we continue to show that the internet is here to stay, but computers may be on the way out. Stay tuned for more.