This alternative to Windows comes with five years of security updates guaranteed
Ubuntu has earned a reputation for being one of the easiest Linux distributions to install and use. Ubuntu 12.04 is a long-term support version (known as LTS). This means that it will receive security updates for five years, making it ideal if you don't want to keep upgrading every six months.
Ubuntu 12.04 includes the latest version of the Unity interface. Opinion seems to be quite divided over Unity but it's worth persevering with even if you don't like it at first.
The equivalent of the Taskbar is displayed down the left-hand side of the screen and the icon with the Ubuntu logo works as the Start button. Click on this button and start typing to find programs and documents. There are icons that appear so you can browse for software if you are unsure what it is called. Programs are arranged by categories so they should be easy to find.
Running programs appear in the left-hand bar and can be set to appear as a shortcut when they are not running. Right-click on them and then select Lock to Launcher.
LibreOffice 3 is installed for Office duties and covers word processing, spreadsheets and presentations as well as database creation, equation editing and design.
Ubuntu One is an online storage service provided with Ubuntu. Sign up is free and comes with 5GB of storage. Extra storage can be bought as required. There are also versions of the synchronisation software for Windows and iOS devices so it holds up well against competition from the likes of Dropbox.
Email and internet browsing are provided by Thunderbird and Firefox respectively. If you want a different browser, it is also possible to install Chromium, the open-source version of Google Chrome, through the Software Centre. The Opera browser is also available for Ubuntu.
The Software Centre is the primary means of installing software on Ubuntu. Unlike Add/Remove Programs in Windows it is linked to the Ubuntu servers and you can search for software to install. Most of the software is free but some commercial apps and games are starting to appear as well, including the rather fun World of Goo.
This download is an ISO file that can be used to make an Ubuntu installation disc using the ISO burner tool built into recent version of Windows or a program such as Burnaware.
There are two different ways to install Ubuntu. The easiest is to do so from within Windows using the Wubi installer on the disc. A window will appear to select the disk to install Ubuntu onto and how much space should be used. Other options include setting up the main user account with a password. Click on Install and let Wubi get on with it. The computer will be rebooted and the installation will finish automatically. The big advantage of this system is that you can remove Ubuntu using the Add/Remove Programs tool in Control Panel in Windows.
A Wubi installation of Ubuntu can sometimes be sligthly slower than a normal installation, so if you don't plan on uninstalling Ubuntu, a normal installation is best. Restart the computer with the disc in the drive and tell the computer to boot from it. There is a choice between running the disc as a Live CD or just starting the installation straight away. We'd probably opt for the latter just to check the internet connection is working as this makes life easier.
Ubuntu is a great operating system that is fast, even on older computers. It can be used to give a new lease of life to older computers but is still a good alternative or accompaniment to Windows. We have both on some of our computers, and Ubuntu is much more convenient when wanting to quickly check some information on the internet.
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