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Operating Systems

Windows Vista - Windows XP - Ubuntu - Mandriva - Fedora - Suse - Linux General

Windows Vista

Good things about Vista - well its growing on me SP1 has been an improvement. I have it set up without the irritating security and use Firefox / Thunderbird not IE7 plus I have a lot of hacks and tweaks in there and its not bad at all now - but I don't see any major reason for anyone to upgrade from XP unless they have to, hardware demands are onerous and expensive

Microsoft will stop selling XP as of June, there is a still a severe lack of interest from the business world so Dell are still selling pre-installed Vista machines with a downgrade to XP but you have to be very specific that you want a downgrade option. XP will be available and supported for a long time yet 2014 in fact and it looks like Windows 7 is being fast tracked to replace the monumental flop that is Vista, they say 2009. Windows 7 is going to be Vista Mk2 with i-pod touch like control as well as keyboard and mouse.

In the meantime if you do get Vista I suggest getting Ultimate or Business versions which come with "downgrade" rights allowing you to put XP back in should you wish to and re-upgrade later - If you like Vista then it can be made a lot faster and more user friendly by removing the junk, the bloated pre-installed stuff and a couple of dozen tweaks to the user interface.

Driver support is a lot better now but older hardware may or may not be supported. Software wise Zone Alarm and AGV now work properly on Vista, most common stuff will run on Vista now with no problems. Games play OK, frame-rates are pathetic on the reasonably specced Dell I run it on but hey, I think an investment of £1500 plus may make games bearable - so I bought an Playstation 3 instead. Also its worth bearing in mind that all those nice shiny new £700.00 Laptops with impressive sounding specifications are barely capable of running Vista out of the box largely because of the crapware pre-installed on them, it is very slow compared to XP on the same boxes. I have either replaced Vista with XP on Dell and HP Laptops for people who could not stand the thing or sorted out Vista so it runs smoother. Replacing with XP is very difficult at the moment because XP drivers are hard to find (unless you buy Ultimate or Business versions of Vista pre installed) but it is not impossible by any means.


The Basic Version is a total waste of time, has very poor spec compared to XP and gives you all the Vista headaches with none of the new features. I am not even sure if they still sell it.

Home Premium is best value still expensive though, but better still is Business or Ultimate. The upgrade OEM versions are very cheap and can be clean installed with a couple of minor tricks. Ultimate comes with the new Media Centre, looks very pretty but I have not used it yet, well I have but I got bored after spending 3 hours trying to set it up and binned it as a waste of effort in favour of the open source free Video Lan Player which does what it says on the tin.

Hardware wise 2Gb RAM is a minimum else it is dog slow and a dual core AMD or Intel CPU helps a lot. Graphics wise 128mb minimum but 256mb is better. I am running it on a Dell 5150 with a Dual Core Intel CPU, 2Gbs RAM and a Nvidia 256Mb PCIE Video Card pretty low spec for Vista and rates 2/8 - god knows how you get up to 8/8 never seen it yet on any machine.

64 Bit Vista

I have played with the 64bit version of Vista Home Premium on a very high spec liquid cooled 4 core CPU 4Gb RAM, twin Nvidia Graphics Asus box, it was hugely quicker - very impressive I was "wowed". The box however was at least £2000 worth of PC and as far as I know drivers for 64bit versions for older peripherals are hard to come by so you need to replace printers and stuff.

Comprehensive list of tweaks to remove the annoyances and how tos for almost anything are here:-

Windows XP

Familiar and easy to use but in its raw state, installed it is full of junk you don't need and so full of security holes its not funny. XP needs about 5 hours of setting up to become a secure, fast operating system. I do a custom install of XP on all my machines, takes a fair while but is well worth it in the end. I remove all the built in spyware and software that is not required, disable or remove the bad stuff like "Lookout Express" and the truly horrible Windows Messenger client, get rid of the cartoony childish themes and make it look and feel exactly like Windows 2000. Lose the irritating bubble windows and stop it communicating with Microsoft unless the user wants it to. I replace the rubbish with good, professional software, a custom security suite, and set up the installation properly. If things do go wrong recovery is very easy and complete using a proper disk imaging backup system. If you want a clean, fast XP installation or a re-installation of a Dell box or similar without all the advertising and buy me stuff, contact me.

Also see Help & Advice for more info on XP security issues and Wireless Networking Security. I have done many installs of XP for people on why guernsey, just post a request for information and one of my "installees" will tell you if I know what I am doing.

Ubuntu v8.0 Hardy Heron

Just got Hardy Heron and it is terrific, everything just works, its easy to use and to set up, there is some very trick 3D desktops Compiz which are great and best of all there is a dead easy recovery / backup system built in that you do not have to be a Linux Guru to use.

The most popular the best Linux for newbies especially experienced windows users for whom Linux can be a total pain. Installation and dual booting with XP or Vista is all automatic. The desktop is minimalistic and not as polished as Windows or Mac but is functional, very simple and clean. There is zero command line stuff or tricky software setups eveything runs by wizard and works out of the box. Music, Video and DVD playback are all supported with a couple of clicks not hours entering obscure command lines in terminals. Even the area / clock setup has Guernsey as an option. This is the one I am using myself now as a day to day Linux box, it is a true alternative to Windows; if you do not want to pay through the nose anymore to increase Microsoft's billions this is the one to go for. I thouroughly recommend this in fact I have seen people play with Ubuntu who were entirely unaware it was not a Windows box.

As a matter of interest Ubuntu originated in the Isle of Man.

Mandriva One 2008.1

Mandriva Free 2008 is an excellent Linux Distro, very easy to install, dual boots with Windows XP (Vista is a bit more problematical). Very easy to use and one of the best Distros around. Has 3D desktop graphics if you want which put Windows Vista to shame, clean and clear user interface which works very similarly to Windows so the culture shock is not too bad. Comes with a vast array of software, networking is easy to set up between Mandriva and Windows boxes with the latest Samba Server, Remote printing is a bit more tricky but OK. Firefox is installed by default and there are all the free alternatives to MS Office and Adobe Photoshop installed in the latest version.

There is some pretty good standard wallpaper shots also and the screensaver slideshow is amazing.

The latest version Mandriva one 2008.1 works out of the box with the Eeepc but you need the 4Gb version minimum or a 4Gb SDHC card on a 2Gb version. Most of the hardware works straight off just Wireless needs setting up and Samba networking needs installing. Upside of Mandriva is you can play networked media files on the Eeepc.

Fedora Core

Fedora is a free Linux distribution and replaces Windows totally, also it comes with all the software you could ever need all for free, it can even run your favourite Windows programs using an application called Wine which fools the Windows software that it is running in a Windows pc. It is far safer than Windows; even without an anti-virus client & firewall it is still pretty safe. The drawbacks are its hard to install and get to grips with for a Windows user because things work differently and it demands some effort to master. If you are a new user and have little experience with Windows then Linux Distros are a doddle to because you don't have expectations and habits to break, perversely experienced Windows users have the most trouble getting to grips with Linux.

See this Fedora site, it has comprehensive detail about Fedora Linux and exactly what it can do. The same information goes for any Linux O/S it just differs in implementation.

Fedora 8 is the latest version but I have not used that yet, 6 is pretty good but one of the less newbie friendly distros. It is mainly for enthusiasts and is a cutting edge Distro where a lot of stuff gets tested.

Suse 10.3

Another Linux Distro, same as Fedora but a little different, not much to choose between them but to be honest Suse is a bit easier than Fedora and more Windows like in its operation. Installation and setup is a bit of a pain but once done it is a very good O/S. Does all the same things Fedora can which is true of any Linux Distro. I use Suse occasionally, I have been put off a bit because it is no longer truly a "free" OS as Novell and Microsoft have their fingers in the Suse pie, but it can be set up without using non free software and is a pleasure to use, however the latest version is a pain to set up.

Linux General

There are many other flavours of Linux, some general purpose like Ubuntu and Mandriva, some specialised like Knopix and DSL (Damn Small Linux), all are free and can be installed on anything, plus as many machines as you want. You only pay for official support which is optional and mostly comes with a "boxed" version of Linux which cost about $50-00 or less. Download your Linux and its free, you are on your own support wise but there are hundreds of Linux forums will help you out anyway. I can advise and help or install most versions of Linux, they all work pretty much the same overall (sort of) and they all exist happily with Windows machines on a network. Linux whilst harder to learn and use to its full potential is a lot more versatile than Windows and as it is "open source" meaning anybody can inspect the code used to write it (unlike Windows which is proprietary code) the issue of hidden routines in applications doing underhanded stuff is totally absent, if anyone can read the source then you can't hide anything in it.

Linux is pretty much immune to web nasties and security hacks, not because it is totally secure but there are far less exploits around, the one that are demand a high degree of technicalknowledge and the user base for Linux is so small that its not generally worth the effort to bother. Linux is based on the same system as Mac boxes (Unix) which was around years before Windows so it is not new. There is also a lot of street cred involved with Linux because its regarded as a "proper" operating system by the real people out there in internet land and gets you an instant credibility boost from those in the know.

Info on all Linux distros with advice / reviews / general info and download instructions here

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