August 22nd, 2015

Hard Stare

Remember, the world’s richest man got that way by selling people stuff they could have had for free.

I was just prodded by someone when suggesting that some friends try Linux. I forgot to mention that you can try it without risking your existing PC setup. It prompted me to write this...

I forget that non-techies don't _know_ stuff like that.

Download a program called VirtualBox. It's free and it lets you run a whole other operating system - e.g. Linux - under Windows as a program. So you can try it out without affecting your real computer.

https://www.virtualbox.org/

If all you know is Windows, I'd suggest Linux Mint: http://www.linuxmint.com/

It has a desktop that looks and works similarly to Windows' classic pre-Win8 look & feel.

Google for the steps but here's the basic instructions:

[1] Download and install VirtualBox

[2] Then download the Virtualbox Extensions from the same site. Double-click the extensions file to install it into Vbox. (They have to do it this way for copyright reasons.)

[3] Download Mint. It comes as an ISO file, an image of a DVD.

[4] Make a new VM in VBox. Give it 2-3 gig of RAM. Enable display 3D acceleration in the settings. (Remember, anything you don't know how to do, Google it.) Leave all the other settings as they are.

[5] Start your new VM. It will ask for an ISO file. Point it at the ISO file of Mint you downloaded.

[6] It will boot and run. Install it onto the virtual hard disk inside Vbox. Just accept all the defaults.

[7] Reboot your new Mint VM.

[8] Install the Vbox Guess Additions. On the VBox Device menu, choose “Insert Guest Additions ISO”. Google for instruction on how to install them.

[9] When it’s finished, reboot the VM.

[10] Update your new copy of Linux Mint. (Remember, Google for instructions.)

That’s it. Play with it. See if you can do the stuff you normally do on Windows all right. If you can’t, Google for what program to use and how to install it. It’s not as quick as a real PC but it works.

Don’t assume that because you know how to do something on Windows, it works that way on Linux. E.g. you never should download programs from a website and install them into Linux — it has a better way. Be prepared to learn some stuff.

If you can work it, then you can install it on your PC alongside Windows. This is called Dual Booting. It’s quite easy really and then you choose whether you want Windows or Linux when you turn it on.

All my PCs do it, but I use Windows about once or twice a year, when I absolutely need it. Which is almost never. I only use Windows if someone is paying me too — it is a massive pain to maintain and keep running properly compared to more grown-up equivalents. (Linux and Mac OS X are based on a late-1960s project; they are very mature and polished. The first version of the current Windows family is from 1993. It’s still got a lot of growing up to do — it’s only half the age.)

It’s genuinely better. No, you don’t get all the Windows programs. There aren’t many games for it, for instance. But it can do anything Windows can do, it’s faster, it’s immune to all the Windows viruses and nasties so you don’t need antivirus or a firewall or anything. That means it’s faster, too — antivirus slows computers down, but you need it on Windows.

All the apps are free. All the updates are free, forever. There are thousands of people on web fora who will help you if you have problems, you just have to ask. It’s educational — you will learn more about computers from learning a different way to use them, but that means you won’t be so helpless. You don’t need to be a white-coated genius scientist, but what it means is you take control back from some faceless corporation. Remember, the world’s richest man got that way by selling people stuff they could have had for free if they just knew how.