Monday, 7 April 2014

The options for XP users




From April 8th 2014 Microsoft has withdrawn support for Windows XP is most popular operating system. This withdrawal of support basically means that security holes will not be patched leaving any user open to potential hacks.  A number of anti-virus companies have promised to still support Windows XP but they will never provide full protection.

So the simple answer is if you have a computer with Windows XP you can use it as much as you like as long as you do not connect it to the internet.

If you are connecting it you have the potential for your computer to be used maliciously by others.
So what are the options?

Option 1: Buy a new computer

In many ways this is the most sensible option.  Certainly Microsoft are hoping that people will do this.  You then have a choice of three operating systems by Apple, Microsoft or Google Chrome.

Currently Chrome is somewhat limited as it ties into everything Google, which for most people will not be suitable especially if you have favourite software you enjoy, which might be incompatible.

Apple is the choice for those with endless pockets as you would get a computer which would be first class, virus free (mostly) and once you get the hang of operating it, a fairly limitless computer. For the majority the option of outlaying this sort of money is a little prohibitive. So this leaves Microsoft.

 

 

Which Microsoft Operating System (OS)?

The current Microsoft OS is Windows 8.1 which is a little difficult for some people to get to grips with as it has the metro screens as well as the desktop.  My experience of this is that as an OS it is ok, but far from great.  It requires a lot of RAM (Random Access Memory) to do task and hangs frequently. The metro apps are goofy looking and some barely work whereas others such as Skype (a Microsoft Company) work very well. From a security perspective I like this OS as it is possibly the most secure.  Also running a 64 bit computer allows for more operations potentially to be undertaken at once. 

Would I recommend it for people to move to Windows 8.1from XP?  Possibly, but I would add caveats. I would add a start menu similar to Windows 7 using something like Start Menu 8 from iObit (http://www.iobit.com/iobitstartmenu8.php) which makes you have a start button and menu system that is intelligent, an also allows you to boot into the desktop thus avoiding the horrendous Metro windows.  I would also recommend at least 8MB of RAM and the best processor and specification you can get. You also have the option of a touch screen, which might appeal to some but for the general user this is more hassle than it’s worth. If you want a touch screen, get a tablet computer (see below).


 

Option 2 Upgrade your existing computer

Upgrading a computer seems a sensible idea and is, in the short term, a cost effective solution. The choice of which OS to upgrade to will depend on the specification of your old XP computer. 

By the nature of XP, most computers running it will have fairly poor specifications by current standards.  This means low RAM, slow processor etc. Upgrading to another Microsoft Operating system might not be possible if your specification is too poor.  Your Microsoft upgrade options are Vista, which is universally acknowledged as Microsoft’s worst OS ever; Windows 7 (which is like Windows 8 but runs on 32bit computers and does not require the power that Windows 8 does; or finally the other option is Linux.

Windows Vista

I would avoid this upgrade at all costs, it is buggy and not worth paying for.

Windows 7

This is my choice of OS and one I have used on a couple of old computers.  The joy is that it is easy to learn and works in the same way as other Microsoft Packages.  You can also run older programs on compatibility mode, so any XP purchases can still be run on Windows 7. It is a safe and secure option and my clearest winner for upgrade at this time.  Before you make any choice try the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor (http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/download/details.aspx?id=20) to see if your system is compatible and will work well with it. The downside is that support for this OS will stop soon, but it is more stable and less resource hungry than its later updates of 8 and 8.1. Also if you are use to Windows this is the best option.

 

 

Linux

I could do a whole entry on Linux and very nearly did. No matter what computer you have you should be able to install Linux onto it and still have a functioning computer.  It is likely you will need a pared down version but you can still install Linux and have a working computer for free complete with free office software to help word process, spreadsheet or make a  presentation. Linux is open source and this means it is free from viruses and updates are regular and plentiful.

I am a Linux newby and have downloaded and installed a few OS’s to tryout. These include Xubuntu (http://xubuntu.org/) , SolydXK (http://solydxk.com/homeedition/solydx/), Linux Mint (http://www.linuxmint.com/) , and Ubuntu (http://www.ubuntu.com/). My overall impression of all of these Operating systems is that they are great or even fantastic. They are easy to install, and you can install them alongside your Windows XP installation, but boot directly into the Linux installation of your choice. The downside to Linux for me is the part after you have downloaded your OS and installed it.



Linux is not Windows, it takes a while to get use to certain things not being the way they were. If I were to recommend an install for newbies like myself, I would head for SolydXK which gives a Windows feel to your computer.

Linux requires the user to participate in the system, whereas Microsoft try to stop people doing this by locking them out. In Linux you have to learn to code a little to sort out any issues, such as getting new drivers or installing software correctly.  I have little doubt you could get away with not using code for a while but before long you will be called on to “sudo apt-get” something. The plus side to this is the Linux documentation and support sites are excellent so if you know how to search for your problem, there is a solution out there.  They can be a bit Techie thought.



 

Option 3: Buy a Tablet computer

Tablet computers are coming into their own and they are easy and cheap to buy. If all you use your computer for is surfing the Internet then a tablet is an ideal choice. If you want to run an office or do presentation they become more limited. iPads have a range of software that can be purchased to help with office functions, so purchasing the latest iPad along with a Bluetooth keyboard might be a short term viable solution.  You would require cloud accounts to upload your documents to as memory on most tablets is limited.  If you were considering a rival by Android the Google Nexus 7 seems a good possibility and something that could be used in a similar way. I would try to avoid tablets that have their own proprietary software built into them (eg Samsung) where the company that produce the tablet put their own version of an operating system in complete with helpful tweaks, which can prove very annoying and can limit your ability to use certain software.

 

Option 4: Use a Smartphone

This might sound stupid, but these days many Smartphones are up to the same standard of operational capacity as an XP computer.  You can download apps which can do what you could do on your computer.  Microsoft, for example have release a free version of their Office software for phones exclusively so a phone is a real contender but I would suggest you avail yourself of cloud storage for all documents and key material as your phone could be lost, and you would not want to lose all your data along with it.

And so the winner is....

As you would expect, there is no winner. You could upgrade your computer to Windows 7 or run a Linux installation on it.  Your could buy a brand new computer and use the XP computer for off line things such as a media centre to play movies and picture shows on.  You could buy a tablet, a Bluetooth keyboard and some cloud space. Or you could start to use your Smartphone in the way it was designed to be used as a mobile computer.  The choice is yours and only limited by your budget and your computer know how.