I’ve been reading about it for a while now, but dismissing it as too far off to be concerned with, until now, Microsoft ends support for Windows XP in 2014 which is now only a few months away. That means it will become more vulnerable to attacks, other vendors will stop supporting it so drivers will not be updated etc. etc. So it’s time to decide which OS (operating System) I should use next, and there are a few choices to consider.
My computer credentials
Before I weigh up the pros and cons of the various choices I have to say that when I’ve talked to others in the know before I have been accused of not wanting to change, or not being able to adapt to change so I feel I should give some history of my computer ownership and adaptation over the years. My first computer was a ZX81 which only booted to a command prompt and had to either load tapes or be programmed in BASIC to do anything. I learnt enough BASIC to write programs to do stuff, and then moved up to the Spectrum and learned enough to write simple games as well. I skip a few years and went on to MS DOS and Win 3.1 and again had to learn command line stuff to get games working with sound and memory fixes through the Autoexec.bat and config.sys files, so I can use command line and learn the commands I need.
Then I was Spoilt with Windows 95 (not so much with 98) then Windows ME and finally Windows XP which I am still using, all of which can be used with a mouse and keyboard and no need for command line stuff. So I’m no luddite but I do like an easy life with something which is supposed to make life easier. Now with that said, I have to weigh up the choices of OS now that XP is getting left behind.
The Choices from Microsoft
From the Microsoft camp first off we have a choice of 2 Windows OS’s, Windows 7 or Windows 8. Windows 7 is good, I use it at work, I used it on my wife’s laptop and everything works just like it did in XP, and it can be setup, once installed, in a few minutes to browse the web and get emails from my own email account. Windows 7 is a definite contender for my future. But it’s not the latest OS from Redmond so it too may be phased out sooner rather than later leaving me with the same problem for the not so distant future.
That brings me to Windows 8. Oh dear, how did it go so wrong. My wife got a Windows 8 laptop, handed it to me to setup her email account and wi-fi and a few other things. Firstly I was greeted by the front screen from someone’s mobile phone, which is called The Metro Interface or something. Unfortunately her screen’s not a touch screen and it just doesn’t work right with a mouse.
After half an hour finding out how to get at anything under the skin to get connected, it was time to setup email. A big button marked Outlook was promising, only Microsoft decided that Outlook was no longer supporting the standard used by most email providers, POP3, so after ages of fiddling we find we need something else to actually use the email accounts we have (Thunderbird from Mozilla). It’s the same every time you want to do something useful though, Windows 8 and the Metro interface gets in the way, photos- where are they? The photos app looks nice but it’s not intuitive like looking through a list of thumbnails and doesn’t let you grab a picture without getting in the way. Windows 8 isn’t even a consideration, it’s convoluted, looks awful and childlike and keeps popping up useless side bars every time you move and seems to be made to get in the way of what you’re doing.
The Open Source Alternative
I’m now considering Linux – again. I have tried Linux in many flavours before and when it works it is great with a lot of options to make it work how you’d like. But that’s when it works, a lot of the time things just don’t work and when they don’t work it is hard work. All the Linux distro’s (see I even know some lingo) I tried can’t do anything under the bonnet without going back to the command line, drivers usually need a command line command to download and install if your hardware is supported at all.
Moving to Linux would also mean finding new programs to do all the stuff I do on my PC, and if past experience is anything to go by that will mean trawling the net to find a program which might work, then using a command line to download and install it (Linux never seems to download something from a link to where you’d think to look for it and installation is never as easy as double clicking it) only to find it doesn’t do what you needed and then how do you get rid of it?
I want to like Linux, I would love to use it, but it always frustrates me when I can’t just get on with doing something and have to look up some obscure script to type in to make it happen.
My Choice Is:-
I’m undecided right now, I’m pretty certain Windows 8 isn’t going to be the one, even with the pseudo start button supposedly added back in the 8.1 update. So that leaves some flavour of Linux or Windows 7 as the only sensible options so I guess I need to install and run a Linux OS for a while and see how it goes, leaving XP as a stand by for when I need to do something and don’t have time for messing around in command line. I guess I’ll also have to consider the age of my PC in all of this as it’s getting a bit long in the tooth for new OS’s too.
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