Recently, my wife's computer fell victim to a virus that left her computer with the proverbial “blue screen of death”. My repeated efforts to remove it and restore the computer were in vain. The wife got a new computer and the old laptop was banished to the attic for future recycling.
Not too long afterward, I read an article announcing the upcoming release of Precise Pangolin , the odd name of Ubuntu's latest release for their Linux based operating system. The claims – faster than a PC, prettier than a MAC, thousands of free apps, built-in security, all this, and did I mention, Ubuntu is free! Generally, the phrase “too good to be true” should be a red flag to anyone. But, guess what? In this case, it's all that and more.
Ubuntu is not Windows 7, XP or Apple's OS X, but, with a little tweaking, you can make it look like, and in some cases, act like them. There is even a program called Wine that will let you run some Windows based programs. I have had some success using it. You can also install Ubuntu on a Windows based computer and chose to run either Windows or Ubuntu at start up. This is called a dual boot. I have been too chicken to try that. Alternatively, you can run Ubuntu off a flash drive or CD without installing it. It runs much slower but allows you to sample it without committing.
To download and install Ubuntu, you will need a blank CD or USB stick (flash drive). If you have an older computer, you will want the 32 bit version. If you have a newer pc, try the 64 bit version. Detailed instructions for all flavors of installation are available on the Ubuntu website.
For my wife's computer, a 2007ish HP laptop with a 120G hard drive and 2G's of memory, I burned the CD on my working laptop. I fired up the dead computer, opened the CD/DVD drive and inserted the CD with the new Ubuntu operating system on it. I had to go into the BIOS and press the f12 key. On different computers, you may need to press a different key to access the BIOS. Her computer needed several re-boots and honestly, I did not think it was going to work. But, all of a sudden, I saw the Ubuntu screen magically appear. I selected the option to install, selected my time zone, keyboard layout, erase disk option, log in automatically etc. and clicked install. It took about 15 minutes. After that, I had to restart the computer and was off and running. The computer now boots and shuts down faster than it ever did.
My four year old daughter now uses this laptop without difficulty. There are many free games, especially educational games that she likes and uses. She also surfs the net to sites like Nick Jr. using Firefox. Opera is also available. I have also loaded the free Open Office suite, a free Microsoft Office type program, but free. The Ubuntu version is called LibreOffice but it's virtually the same.
There are also many free apps including GIMP, a free Photoshop type picture editor and too many to mention here. Free! Free! Free! Ubuntu, and all LINUX based operating are virtually virus free too. That is the best part. On a difficulty scale of one to ten, I would give it a five. It's not for the totally computer illiterate but heck, my four year old is using it, and loving it!
If you have an old PC or laptop languishing around, it's worth a try before sending it off to be recycled. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.