by A. Richard Miller
visits since 140219; last updated 140219.

Microsoft has announced that its 2001 Windows XP operating system will lose all normal support on April 8th, 2014. MS tried to drop its support when Windows Vista arrived in 2007, and several times since. But the new Windows versions, other than Win7, were much less popular. Because some 20% of all computers still run WinXP, I believe Microsoft at least will attempt to keep its derelict computers from becoming even greater virus carriers than they already are. But that won't be easy.

I advise WinXP users to move on now - to a free Linux OS rather than to another round of expensive and proprietary software. I can (and sometimes do) give a one-hour presentation about the details, which are many. More briefly, millions of individuals, entire schools, and entire nations have already made this transition and report good results. The move is gathering speed. Free, open-source software (FOSS) is as available for Linux as for Windows or Mac OS X, and the best of FOSS is more reliable and user-friendly. Much of FOSS runs well on older and less-powerful hardware, FOSS saves gobs of money, and FOSS enables motivated users to become more computer-savvy. MMS specializes in Ubuntu Linux, which is a polished and rather "fat" Linux - and still only about a third as fat as the current Windows 8.1. Like Mac OS X, Linux is based upon Unix and is remarkably virus-free compared to Windows. Unlike OS X and Windows, stores don't want to promote it, so it's a relative secret in the USA. Any school that isn't teaching FOSS is missing the boat; sadly, that's most of them around here.

This often comes as a surprise: The most common OS in use is not Windows, but Linux! Google's Android Linux now runs on most smart phones and tablets. Google Chromebooks (2013's best sellers and thus the target of a deceitful Microsoft ad campaign) are running another flavor of Linux. All of the world's largest super-computers run Linux (including IBM's Watson), as do the big server companies: Amazon, Google, Wikipedia. So do most banks, more and more store chains (to lower costs, errors, and data theft), the US submarine fleet, its Drone fleet, NASA space vehicles, NSA's spy program (because Linux openness prevents the hiding of malicious software)... Shh, it's a secret! :-)

Back to our local computers... A computer that comes with a user-oriented Linux is as easy or easier to use than others. For most users of WinXP or Win7, the transition to a computer (perhaps the old one) running Ubuntu Linux will be easier than moving to a new computer that can run Win8. Most computers are large enough and new enough to host a parallel, "multi-boot" Linux option, but it takes more knowledge to install it. A full Linux substitution is much easier. MMS does both, and we give away that training twice a year at the monthly FOSS User Group meetings in Natick.
A community center or school can, of course, train some volunteers to facilitate that local transition.

Linux advocates think this end-of-life problem for WinXP is a great incentive to move to Linux rather than to a new computer and Win8. Although I typically recommend a well-chosen $300-400 new computer (with far better performance and much lower maintenance cost over the next few years), we see many ten-year-old computers still doing normal tasks well with a modern Linux.

New computer or old, for business or pleasure, there's a free Linux OS that will make it fly right!