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 I know this article has been written before on the internet, but all the ones I found are out of date and don't cover what I want to cover.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!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article!