Yes You Can Move Away From Microsoft
I have recently been experimenting with two user-friendly Linux operating systems that have everything it takes to tempt those lifelong Windows users away from the expensive world of Microsoft and into the free world of Linux.
In order to be able to do this, in most cases the Linux operating system should immediately feel similar to Windows and function in a way that Windows users can understand. The latest releases of Linux Mint certainly fulfil those criteria.
There are two branches of Linux Mint at the moment. One is based on Ubuntu with added functionality and the other which is based on Debian and is more suitable for more advanced users. The Debian based system is a rolling release which means that the system is being constantly updated and therefore might be less stable at times.
The safer option that is more suitable for users migrating across from Windows is the Ubuntu based Linux Mint with the Gnome desktop. Without getting technical about this, the desktop is merely what you are presented with after the installation as a way of operating your system. In Linux Mint it provides the same type of point and click functionality that Windows users would immediately be familiar with.
Obtaining Linux Mint
Linux Mint is FREE. There are 2 downloads available from the website
- The cd version which is a light stripped down version without the media codecs or some of the default programmes available on the DVD version. If you chose this installation you can easily update from within the OS after the install.
- The dvd version which gives you full multi-media codecs plus default installation of a suite of programmes that give you just about everything you need to from your computer in terms of entertainment and productivity.
I chose to install the 32 bit DVD version of Linux Mint Katya which comes in at 864mb and took around an hour to download on my connection. The 32 bit version works with 32bit processors on older computers but also works for 64bit processors. It is an ISO (disk image) and can be burnt to DVD using free software like ISO Burner that is readily available. If you have a 64bit processor choose the 64 bit version which is better at running larger hard disks.
Why Not Make A Dual Boot Linux Mint/ Windows System?
Once burnt to DVD you have a fully functioning operating system on a bootable disk ready to just slip into your DVD drive and install. If you want to install alongside your Windows operating system to try out the distribution it detects your Windows and offers to partition your drive to create a dual boot Windows/Mint system. This is great if you want to take a peek at Linux Mint without committing yourself entirely.
Alternatively you can use mint4win contained on the live cd that you have burnt, which allows you to install Linux Mint from within Windows
- Linux Mint 64-bit requires a 64-bit processor.
- Linux Mint 32-bit (works on both 32-bit and 64-bit processors).
- 512 MB RAM (1GB recommended).
- 5 GB of disk space
- Graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution
- CD/DVD drive or USB port
The Default Installation
Linux Mint found and installed all of my hardware and appropriate drivers including wifi with no problem at all. After answering a few configuration questions like my time zone, locality and keyboard layout the first thing I see is a screen with a panel of links to forums and websites where further information and assistance with any problems can be found. Moving past this, the desktop was laid out in a way that as a Windows user, I immediately felt comfortable with. I would advise clicking around to see what is available to you and have a little tinker. In general though, you will find links to systems setting panels, installed software and the software and package manager which provides an easy way to chose and install software from a repository containing over 35,000 items.
The programmes you get by default include:-
Libre Office – A fully MS Office compatible productivity suite
Mozilla Firefox browser
Mozilla Thunderbird email client
Pidgin - A multi platform chat client
Gimp – A photoshop like graphics editor
Banshee – Multi-media platform for playing audio and video files
If you want to dip a toe into the world of Linux Mint as a free alternative to Windows, then you can do no better than obtain a copy of Linux Mint and use the many options available to run it alongside Windows to see it in action. Linux Mint is functional, stable and under constant development. Testing the water with Linux Mint will clearly demonstrate that you can move away from Microsoft.
Why not check out my separate article on PClinuxOS as a free alternative to Windows?