Open source gives new life to old Windows XP machines

8 04 2014

I’ve been using Linux for over twelve years now….  may even be 14, but can’t remember.  In 2000, I gave a Peak Oil Powerpoint presentation to a packed hall in Brisbane as part of my Greens Party campaign.  In the audience was my (now) mate Doug who introduced himself, asking why someone like me, obviously anti establishment, was still using windoze….. The rest, as they say, is history.  He came to our house, installed OpenSuse on my computer, and I’ve certainly never looked back.  I’ve since switched to Ubuntu…. as has my wife who is not exactly computer literate.  She finds it easy to use.  So when this article turned up on The Conversation, I thought it fitting to share it with you, especially if you are about to be dumped on by Micro$oft…..

The Conversation

 

As the sun sets on Microsoft’s support for Windows XP this may be a great time to think about trying out a Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) operating system for your still-working PC.

This is especially the case when older hardware cannot run newer versions of Windows (such as 7, 8 or 8.1). Your only other option then is to either dispose of the old XP machine or it keep running and face potential security threats.

But many software developers, both hobbyists and professionals alike, have contributed to a growing body of FOSS programs that now numbers in the tens of thousands. These software programs are licensed for anyone to freely download and use.

To simplify the downloading and installing, collections of these many software components, called “distributions”, are available ready for users to download and start using straight away.

Go Linux

Many of these distributions are based on the Linux kernel, which is highly regarded due to its robustness, performance, security, broad support and low cost.

Linux has become the dominant operating system for internet sites, powering Google, Facebook, YouTube and many others. It is also the dominant operating system powering Android phones and tablets, televisions, home routers and many other devices.

 

If your machine can run Windows XP then it can probably run a Linux OS too. Flickr/Antony Pranata , CC BY-NC-ND
Click to enlarge

 

Over the years, Linux-based distributions have become more and more popular and any machine capable of running Windows XP is a good candidate for running a Linux distribution such as:

That’s just to name a few – there are many more available.

Anything Windows can do Linux can do … mostly

 

Firefox is one of many alternative browsers to Internet Explorer. Mozilla, CC BY
Click to enlarge

 

These package together a suite of standard programs which enable you to do the types of things you would do in Windows XP, such as search the web, send and receive emails, edit and print documents.

For the most part the user interface and experience is very similar to what you would have experienced in Windows XP and typical alternatives to Microsoft software include:

More software options are available too with many included in the Free Software Directory.

Easy to install

In the early days installing and running Linux on a computer required considerable technical abilities but over the years this has become a lot simpler. Users can now install and configure the system desktop by following a few onscreen prompts without the need for any technical command-line interaction.

But before trying out any new operating system software, it is very important to backup your files to external media such as a USB device, and also to test that your backup works.

To install a new operating system you need to create a bootable USB device, CD-ROM, or DVD of the distribution you would like to give a go. Instructions on how to do this are available on the website of each distribution. Once you have this you simply restart the computer and during the first few seconds of the computer turning on you instruct the computer to boot off the media you created.

Try out the “live” Linux system for a while without installing it on your computer. When you are happy with what you see, there is normally an icon on the desktop that you can use to install the operating system onto your hard disk. Click on the icon and follow the instructions.

You then have the option of installing it either alongside your existing operating system, or overwriting the old system with the new.

 

Once you get your Linux system up and running it’s just as easy as a Windows XP setup. Flickr/Simon Law, CC BY-NC-SA
Click to enlarge

 

Once installed, updates and bug fixes of the operating system and the software you run are easily downloaded and incorporated into your system, much the same as they were with your use of Windows XP.

Linux has long been extensively used for servers and so security has always been a key part of its design. Known security issues would normally be quickly fixed and updates made available and there are far fewer viruses or cyberthreats.

Although there are a large number of FOSS games available you may not be able run your favourite Windows game on Linux. There are some ways around this, such as Play on Linux, which lets you run some Windows games on Linux but the latest blockbuster games will probably not work.

What about help?

If you are worried about support then there is a large community of users for Linux in Australia and around the world. Many local user groups exist, such as the Canberra Linux User Group, which has monthly meetings held at the ANU.

Linux Australia has a list of other local Linux user groups. They are generally friendly and happy to help out new comers to Linux. There are also numerous online forums which provide help for working through problems.

So when Windows XP support ends rather than throwing out that old box give Linux a go – you may be pleasantly surprised!

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3 responses

9 04 2014
Is Your Business Still Using Windows XP?

[…] Open source gives new life to old Windows XP machines […]

9 04 2014
Don

Hi Mike,

I know this is off topic but I thought you would be interested in this article.

http://www.dailytech.com/Cities+to+Carpoolers+Sharing+Your+Car+is+Illegal+We+Will+Seize+Your+Cars/article34659.htm

And we still call ourselves homo sapiens. (thinking man)

9 04 2014
Idiocracy

“Free (a.k.a Libre) Software” and ” Open Source Software” are commonly bundled together under the “FOSS” banner, which is perfectly fine for average Joe articles like this – but it’s interesting to note the historical rift and ongoing debate over their ethical/philosophical differences…

As the father of Free Software Richard Stallman simply puts it – “Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement.” – http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html

I like and agree with Richards societal views on software, but that’s not to say Open Source is bad, it’s just not as righteous as Free Software! 🙂

Personally I’m a long time user of Linux starting with Red Hat/Fedora way back when, but I’ve since settled into Debian (which Ubuntu is based on) which has a Social Contract committing the project to Software Freedom.

So keep on raging against the corporate IT machine (Micro$oft/CrApple/Googlez/etc…) and use free/open software!

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