Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How to Switch Operating Systems: Linux, Windows, OS X

Are you thinking about switching Operating Systems? Here are five things to keep in mind prior to making that big move.

* Stability You want to make sure that the Operating System you are going to use is functional. A buggy Operating System is more or less useless. From my experience, XP is the most practical Windows Operating System to use at the moment. I’m relatively new to Linux, but my favorite distro is Ubuntu, due to the ease of my migration over from XP. MacOS X I know absolutely nothing about, but I have heard that Leopard is somewhat more buggy than previous versions. I haven’t tried it, this is only what I have heard.
* Compatibility (Hardware) This is mostly for Windows and Linux, as OS X hardware is pretty much controlled by Apple. Check to make sure that your video card, sound card, printer, motherboard, and etc has drivers for, or is compatible with the Operating System of your choice. Some dated hardware will not be supported by some of the newer Operating Systems (speaking mostly to Vista). Make sure that everything you have will work in the future.
* Support Know where to go for help. You are bound to run into problems whenever doing something for the first time. Find websites or communities with experienced users of the product that you can reach to for help when you need it. Example: When I first installed Ubuntu, the X Server could not detect my graphical hardware no matter what I did. I went to the Ubuntu forums, and I was directed to a program called Envy that automatically setup the X Server for me, and installed the latest nVidia drivers for my video card.
* Have a Life Line Data is bound to be lost when installing and uninstalling Operating Systems. Make sure that all critical data on your current OS is backed up, and can be restored in your new OS. When in doubt, I recommend partitioning the empty portion of your hard drive. Then install the OS you want, and try it out. This way, your entire system hasn’t been hosed, and you can revert to what you were using before. Dual booting is also a great option for compatibility (hardware and software). My current setup is 370gb Ubuntu and 130gb XP. This is so Ubuntu (my primary OS) has enough room for documents or work-related files, and Windows has enough for programs that have no equivalent in Linux (Good for gamers who want Linux, but don’t want to sacrifice performance with something like WINE or a virtual machine).
* Can the OS do what you want it to do? A key point for Linux is the eye candy. It’s great, we love it. Eye candy is why a lot of people get Linux over Windows or OSX. But this isn’t practical. If a program you need for school or your work is only available in Windows, and you are running a pure OS X or Linux machine, you need to either find a comparable application, run a virtual machine, or reinstall Windows. This is another reason I strongly recommend not confining yourself to only one Operating System. Different Operating Systems are good at different things. Take advantage of this and use all at your disposal.

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