For the last couple of years I’ve been using Ubuntu which is an operating system for your computer, based on the legendary Linux. Ubuntu is a doddle to use because it designed for you, the non-techies, and me, the pretend techie. Apart from ease, it is free! It is free as in beer, as in freedom and it is free from viruses so you don’t need to use anti virus software, which inevitably slows your machine down. It is created and maintained by an worldwide community of real techies (not pretend ones like me), which means that it has far more people constantly improving it than operating systems sold by commercial companies (e.g. Microsoft or Apple).
In case you are worried about whether Linux based operating systems are any good, don’t forget that all the Android smart phones are also Linux based. They are rapidly becoming the most popular smartphones on the planet. From a technical point of view, all the Linux based operating systems are Open Source, which means that if you wish you can download the actual computer code that makes them. Whilst you or I probably don’t wish to do this, the world’s techies do and they can check the code, which is why so many of them contribute towards its development.
Software equivalents for everything you already use with Windows is available for Ubuntu and, you’ve guessed it, this is free too! You can demo Ubuntu from a CD, having downloaded it (you’ll be downloading a ‘disc image’ rather than a set of files, so make sure you burn the disc as an image rather than a regular set of files). The software to do this is also free. The demo CD works with your existing files on your Windows computer but do remember that it will be slower than it would be if you installed it. If you like it, you can use the same disc to install it. Don’t forget to back up all your data first though!
Windows software also works with Ubuntu. Ubuntu uses something called WINE to emulate Windows to make this happen. The only Windows software I found which doesn’t work under WINE is the Fritz Chess Engine. Although heavily used by the serious chess playing community, there are alternatives available for Ubuntu, such as Shredder.