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[January 20, 2010]

A no-cost Windows killer

Jan 20, 2010 (McClatchy-Tribune News Service - McClatchy-Tribune News Service via COMTEX) -- Tired of Windows? Wish you could find an alternate operating system that will work on most PCs _ even those sold in the past decade? Reluctant to fatten Microsoft's coffers? Look no further than Ubuntu, a Linux operating system developed mostly by volunteers. Since the code in Ubuntu is what's called "open source," any talented developer can submit enhancements, have it reviewed, and have those improvements appear in the next release.

Best of all, if you download Ubuntu (www.ubuntu.com), it's free.

If you get the DVD version, however, you can boot directly from the disc, without having to install it on your hard drive. I've done it both ways, by partitioning my hard drive, and by booting from the disc. I prefer the latter, because it preserves your current Windows or Macintosh operating system.

Ubuntu has pretty much everything you need, software-wise. It boots up and runs fast, includes the open source Office Suite word processor and spreadsheet programs, which can be downloaded for free (openoffice.org) if you also want to run it in Windows, instant messaging, a free e-mail program and Web browser and software for desktop notes, photo editing and uploading, a media player, firewall and anti-virus program. E-mail tech support, should you need it, is available directly from the good folks at Ubuntu.

Like other Linux operating systems, Ubuntu is stable, has a clean, intuitive interface that requires hardly any learning time, and is pretty much immune from viruses.

I've been running it for several months, while keeping Windows Vista and 7 on my hard drive. The word-processing and spreadsheet files are compatible with Microsoft Word, and vice-versa. But there is software that simply won't run in Ubuntu, so I'd suggest using it as an alternative operating system, unless word processing, Web browsing and e-mail are your main pursuits.

Ubuntu is an African word meaning, among other definitions, kindness. The operating system's developers certainly possess that trait to labor so fruitfully for a program for which they won't get a penny _ and no recognition. A labor of love, I'd say, one that PC users will appreciate.

Ubuntu will run on most PCs sold in the past decade. To order the bootable DVD, send $20, plus $6 for shipping, to WashingtonCD, PO Box 351531, Los Angeles, CA 90035, or online at www.washingtoncd.net.

___ (c) 2010, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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