Proctele apps in the App Store

Proctele apps in the App Store
Click the picture to see Proctele apps in Apple's App Store

Friday, April 18, 2014

Linux for your home PC?

There are two very good operating systems (OS) for the desktop or laptop people use at home: Microsoft Windows and Apple's Mac. They are both very good; they don't require you to be a computer expert to get something done, they look good, they present your photos and videos in the best possible way, you can connect them to your TV, they have easy Internet access, they don't crash on you, they don't destroy your data. So why look for an alternative? I do because I'm interested in computers and some other reasons, like keeping old PCs alive. Installing a new Windows version on an old PC means you usually have to install more RAM and a bigger hard disk. One major reason to look for alternatives was that WinXP is no longer updated, and my homePC runs WinXP.

There are alternatives to the above mentioned big favorites: the different Linux distributions. They all look a bit different and they're made for different uses. I think Ubuntu and Debian are the most popular and easiest to use for the home PC. I've been looking at Ubuntu for a few weeks now and I think it may be good enough and easy enough to use for non-experts. Well almost. Finding the best applications will take some time for Linux beginners. Installing them is very simple now, but used to be a major problem until quite recently.
Peripherals used to be a major problem for Linux users. There were no drivers for the devices you had or they were difficult to find or to install. That problem seems to have been addressed by Linux distributions lately and it gave me no problems, although I must stress that I haven't tried many devices. One problem I ran into was when connecting the PC via HDMI to my TV. I had an overscan problem, which means all edges of the desktop were off screen. Very irritating and unusable. However I googled and found a utility that magically solved it. My desktop is quite pretty even on the TV.

I'm jumping ahead a little, because I actually installed Ubuntu first on my EeePC-900. It had its own Linux called Xandros. In a totally static world it would have been fine, but new things keep being invented and existing products improved. The EeePC had Safari browser version 2. That is not acceptable. With such an old browser there are things you just can't do, like banking. Banks want safe browsers and an old browser isn't safe. I therefore decided to get rid of Xandros completely and chose Ubuntu. I browsed some other Linux distros, like Debian, but in the end I chose Ubuntu. I think its simple and attractive user interface won me over. It runs very well on both my PCs.

Finding a replacement for Picasa, the photo/video management program I knew from Windows took some time. The replacement is called XBMC and originates from Xbox. It really looks beautiful on my TV. What I miss in XBMC is simple photo enhancement, like red-eye removal, rotation and cropping. XBMC has an enormous number of add ons, like streaming services. I'd be happy if it had simple photo enhancements too. There are other applications that you can use as a compliment to XBMC, like the Shotwell photo manager, the gThumb or F-Spot.

If you decide to try a Linux, be sure to create a double-boot, so at start-up you can choose either Windows or Linux. That way you still have Windows to go back to.

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