Or something more sensible
By John ďjaQĒ Andrews† firstname.lastname@example.org
The long national nightmare is over. After innumerable delays and changes in direction, Windows Vista is finally ready to ship to consumers at the end of this month.
Already shipped to computer manufacturers and some volume license customers, Vista is the first operating system from Microsoft in five years. Yes, XP has been around since 2001; if it hasnít seemed that long, itís probably because XP is genuinely more stable and usable than previous versions, which only promised perfect stability. It also got frequent updates that actually mattered, from security features and spyware removal tools to good device support.
So why upgrade? Good question. Internet Explorer 7, with popup blocking and tabbed browsing, was released for XP. The new file system originally planned for Vista was scrapped. And you need a fairly new PC to fully take advantage of all Vistaís features: 1GB of RAM, 15GB of free hard drive space, a DVD drive and 128MB of graphics memory.
The most visible changes from XP to Vista are the user interface and the search feature. The new interface is the main reason for the graphics memory requirement and adds 3D and transparency features. Thatís right, when you stack windows on top of windows, you can look at the stack from several views, and even look through some! The mind truly boggles.
The improved search feature is touted to be faster ó in fact, itís called Instant Search. Hard drive contents are indexed constantly, so a search is looking through that index rather than the actual file system. Itís also looking at more file attributes, like keywords you assign to them. You can even save your searches for later use.
If all this sounds like thin excuse for spending hundreds of dollars on an operating system upgrade, consider that you get better security and file sharing capabilities. Supposedly.
Or, consider something else entirely. If you really want a new operating system, there are plenty of options out there for experimentation. And theyíre free.
Yeah, Iím talkiní Ďbout Linux. I know what youíre thinking: no applications, spotty hardware support and lots of command-line typing. I canít honestly tell you that Linux is free of these disadvantages, but itís easier than ever to try out Linux without a lot of pain.
Various Linux distributions have long been available for free download. All you needed was patience and a CD burner and a willingness to futz with your hard driveís partitions. That was too much commitment and risk for some people.
Now, many distributions let you download whatís called a Live CD. Thereís nothing to install ó once you download the operating system and burn it to CD, it runs right from that. In some cases, you can even download to a USB flash drive. Best of all, a few distributions have been made a lot smaller for a quick download.
Take SLAX. Based on the hardcore Linux geekís favorite distro, Slackware, SLAX comes in a few compact sizes. Frodo Edition is 53MB, but itís just a text console. Popcorn Edition is twice the size at 115MB, but includes a graphical user interface, the Firefox browser and AbiWord document editor.
Damn Small Linux packs a graphical desktop, a music player, three browsers, spreadsheet and word processing programs and a bunch more into just 50MB. Like SLAX, it can run from a mini CD or a USB drive.
There are literally too many other options to list here, but try looking at www.livecdlist.com. Or just buy a Mac.