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Operating Systems

Windows 8 - Windows 7 - Windows Vista - Windows XP - Linux General

Updated June 2013

Windows 8

Currently Windows 8.1 (Blue) is being tested for general and free release in November 2013. This update addresses in a half hearted way some of the criticism but still does not go far enough in giving the user an even half decent desktop experience - a Tablet / i-Pad interface on a desktop comuter is frustrating and limiting no matter how MSFT spins it.

Looks like Windows RT is being dropped by all the OEM Manufacturers as there is almost no demand for it and the full version of Windows 8 will be on everything from now on. There will be cheap RT Tablets around - don't be fooled these are not Windows machines see below.

The new "Metro" interface is probably brilliant on a smart phone or tablet but useless on a PCor laptop although some of its features are good as a novelty for about 10 minutes.
The good news is the OS itself is fantastically slick and very fast but Microsoft are insisting everything comes with this silly Metro interface with no easy way back to a Windows 7 type desktop. There are workarounds so it is possible to have a Windows 8 Installation on any PC (and it will run on anything that can run Vista wih ease) with the Windows 7 Desktop and Explorer system back as it should be complete with start buttons. The new Metro Interface is still useable but as a secondry system if you wish.

II would recommend an upgrade install of Windows 7 then download and install Classic Shell & Modern Mix from here this will restore the Desktop and Start Menu to the Windows 7 version and load it at start by default so you do not have to go through the Metro Interface, it also allows you to run Metro apps in windows and resize them so looking at a photo does not bang you out of desktop into a full screen metro photo veiwing app which is incredibly annoying.

More Info here



Windows RT - Found on some tablets and the Microsoft Surface RT is a bigger problem - it will be available on new phones and all new windows tablets but also will come in various netbook and ultrabook laptops from the usual suspects (Dell, HP, Lenovo etc) and it will be slightly cheaper than Windows 8 in most cases.

Going to shout now this is the important bit.

WINDOWS RT WILL NOT RUN EXISTING WINDOWS APPLICATIONS THAT ARE NOT PRE-INSTALLED BY THE MAUFACTURER.


If you are buying a new PC or Tablet make absolutely sure you ask for and get Windows 8 not RT unless you know exactly what you are doing. The dealers and online sellers will offer both and you will have to be very careful not to get stuck with RT because you didn't read the specs on the site properly.

The new and excellent looking Windows Surface is a hybrid Laptop / Tablet / Touchpad PC see this in the Mirror
http://www.mirror.co...se-date-1382028

Looks brilliant no? But nowhere do they mention you cannot install anything on it that is not specifically built for the RT system - it looks like a windows machine - it is not a windows machine this is the problem.

If you are not sure and need a new Laptop in the next couple of months either contact me or talk to Paul at Arcadia Express in town to ensure you get what you think you are getting.

Microsoft have not made any of this clear, the big chain dealers staff are probably not all aware of this it is a mess.

As of April 2013 the Surface is available with Windows 8 Pro on it which will run existing windows 7 software including Office 2013 but this tablet is very pricey compared to an i-Pad or Android tablet - unless you have to have Office don't bother.

 

Windows 7 Professional

What can I say.......Windows 7 is near enough perfection

This is what Vista should have been and was not. It will run on pretty much anything including small Atom powered netbooks. It is clean, simple and it does just work. The main bugbears of Vista ie annoying UAC, sluggish running and compatibility problems are banished, networking is easy as pie with the new Homegroups system (why has it taken so long for MSFT to install a simple way for ordinary folk to share their stuff securely?) Media Centre is excellent and very simple, overall it looks great - if strangely Mac-like ,,,,,,, however.....

My copy is a clean MSFT retail version System Builders (Dell, Acer, HP etc) insist on installing all the crapware they can possibly get paid to cram into their machines such as McAfee and Symantec rubbish and my pet hate of all time the Acer E Helper Toolbar which is a dreadful piece of unecessary crap, but as I just wipe and do a clean install minus the rubbishware.

Installation and Upgrading

Installation is best done as a clean install, trying to "upgrade" a machine is problematical it always has been. You can buy an "Upgrade Version" or a "Full Version" from Amazon for £64 & £99 respectively. Buy the upgrade version you can do a clean install with either even on a bare machine. The only criteria for using the "upgrade" version to do an install is that the machine must have Windows on it first (not activated even just there) so if you want to do an install on a bare machine all you have to do is install Windows 7 Upgrade twice ie over itself then you can activate it.

Versions

There are many versions but only 2 are important

Windows 7 Premium - this is the minimum version you should accept pre-installed for a home PC if you can get Windows 7 Professional then do so because.............

Windows 7 Pro is perfect for home and business, it has everything and most importantly it has "XP Mode" which will run your old XP applications especially important for businesses using old but mission critical applications.

Forget Windows 7 Ultimate it is a rip off, Windows 7 Business does have XP mode but not Windows Media Centre, Basic is rubbish and as for Starter Edition its for the third world to try and convince them a totally neutered operating system for 10 bucks is better than a full pirate version of Pro - good luck with that one MSFT.

64bit or 32bit? - Well I use both but in reality the 64 bit version is far more of a pain in the bum and most software does not have a 64 bit version - for a start I had endless trouble with i-tunes on the 64 version amongst other irritations and it is not noticably quicker than the 32 bit version on the same machine.There is a long standing technical arguement about 64 / 32 bit machine - the bottom line is that for high power intense stuff like "proper" video editing, 3D Modelling, CAD, Photo Editing and heavy duty number crunching 64 bit is the way to go. For the vast majority the tried, stable and well supported 32bit Windows is more than enough.

Well supported nowadays as 64 Bit becomes more common but you find most software except specialist professional photo / video editing is really still 32 Bit - that includes Microsoft Office 2010 and 2007.

 

Windows Vista

Seriously don't even bother buy Windows 7 or a Mac, but if you must ............

OK I quite like Vista now, I have spent a lot of time and effort tweaking it, optimising and upgrading hardware so now its rating 4.1 out of 5 which allegedly allows it to run with full functionality. The only problem is that it is still noticably slow compared to XP doing the same stuff on a far lesser specced machine and in some situations it is excruciatingly slow. But its pretty and for me its a good toy but would I use it as a main PC yet? - no chance its too slow and clunky; would I like to use it as a main PC? - yes because it is near bulletproof and the only times it broke I broke it on purpose.

Replacing with VISTA with XP is getting easier because a lot of open source sites have been collecting generic XP drivers so ordinary folk with Premium or Basic versions can downgrade to XP without the driver hell scenario. I have either replaced Vista with XP on a lot of PCs for people who could not stand Vista or sorted out Vista so it runs smoother. 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.

How to's here

Versions

Basic Version - is a total waste of time, except it is very cheap for a PC you intend to downgrade to XP or up to Win7 and chuck Vista Basic in a bin.

Home Premium is best value still expensive and slow compared Windows 7 but it does a reasonable job now.

Vista Business - Everything but Media Centre so its a rip off.

Vista Ultimate - the ultimate rip off and yes I did buy it but I got a cheap OEM copy so there!

64 Bit Vista

I have played with the 64bit version of Vista Home Premium on a very high specification gamers PC way beyond what any sane person would buy, it was hugely quick. Well supported nowadays as 64 Bit becomes more common but you find most software except specialist professional photo / video editing is really still 32 Bit - that includes Microsoft Office 2010 and 2007.

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

http://www.howtogeek.com/tag/windows-vista/

Drivers for almost everything are here

http://www.driverpacks.net/DriverPacks/


Ubuntu v11.4 (Dec 2011)

Worst ever Ubuntu with more problems and issues than every previous version to the extent that I have largely up on Linux totally as anything but a test OS just to see what it can do. Various parts of the OS are at various stages of development and lots of useful stuff like Networking and Remote Control is broken, setting up on a windows network is a nightmare now esp with Windows 7 Homegroups. If anything all Linux has got even more stupidly user unfriendly. I assumed the 10.04 version would be fixed l was wrong it got 10 times worse and uses a new and especially unfortunate desktop called "Unity". but in I am only using Backtrack 4 Linux which is not supposed to be a desktop OS and is really a pure systems penetration test tool but it is Ubuntu based and uses the older version of Gnome which works pretty good.

http://www.ubuntu.com/

 

Mandriva 2011

Mandriva Free 2011 is an excellent Linux Distro, very easy to install, dual boots with Windows XP, Vista or Win7. Very easy to use and one of the best Distros around.Has a 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.

http://www.mandriva.com/

This latest version of Mandriva is the best I have seen yet and a contender for Ubuntu's crown in the ease of use stakes but I only played with it briefly to see if it installed OK and supported hardware on recent laptops and eeepc netbooks. It did all worked out of the box - cannot ask more of a Linux distro than that. Very good website, tutorials and support too.

Warning - Still Made in France, or it was last time I heard

 

Fedora 12

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 12 is the latest version but I have not used that yet, it is pretty good but earlier versions were far less newbie friendly distros than Ubuntu. Fedora 12 is however the alternative to Ubuntu, there are better Distros than both of them but they have become for some reason the desktop of choice contenders.

http://fedoraproject.org/

 



 

Suse 12.1

Always was a very polished & professional operating system but could be a little tricky.Owned by Novell and Microsoft seem to have a hand in it too. Suse is aimed squarely at subscription support paying business users but because it is Open Source they provide a free version as well. Open Suse 12.1 is probably as good as ever I have not tried it yet, it is not Windows and takes some getting used to but quality wise it is bullet proof. It is harder to learn than Ubuntu but with the Ubuntu Unity debacle I think Suse is worth the effort now if I ever get time. I do know a Suse guru thought -8)

http://www.opensuse.org/

 

Linux General

To be honest when Netbooks turned up pre-installed with Linux that was the chance for Open Source Linux distros to shine, all they had to do was become user friendly and just work - they didn't all the Linux people out there blew it big time. The entire gamut is either too specialised and inpenetrable for the ordinary user (backtrack 4 for eg), or is just a waste of time and effort when Windows 7 and Mac work properly out of the box. Personally I have better things to do than spend 2 hours trying to set up networking on Ubuntu - but hey its free. I now use only Backtrack v5.0 on an Asus eeepc 1000 for analysing networks and fixing PCs

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 technical knowledge 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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