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Best OS For Home Use?

I've been lurching along on Win98 up till now, but I fear an upgrade is in order.

What is the best OS to choose? I have no money, no time, and no patience.

Fernanda Stickpot
Monday, September 15, 2003

> I have no money, no time, and no patience.

What are we supposed to say to that?

Matthew Lock
Monday, September 15, 2003

You need to get into the "modern" windows world...  either Windows XP (Pro or Home) or Windows 2000.

Of course, if you're running Windows 98, your PC might not be powerful enough to run either of these operating systems. 

For Win2k, you'll need 128MB of RAM to be comfortable and a decent speed processor (300-400mhz).  For WinXP, you should probably have 256MB or more of RAM.

Almost Anonymous
Monday, September 15, 2003

Sorry. I've heard it said that the various manifestations of Linux, though free, require some time input to make them work.

What I really hoped for was recommendations along the lines of "Well, I use Foobar, and I didn't have any problem getting it up and running apart from the conflicts with Bazquux."

Fernanda Stickpot
Monday, September 15, 2003

Who cares about the OS. What applications do you want to run? That will probably make your choice straightforward.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, September 15, 2003

I don't particularly mind which applications I run. Any word processor, email client, browser etc. will do as long as I don't have hours of hassle trying to configure them.

Someone has just suggested that I of reformat my hard drive and reinstall Win98, but also install Mandrake as a dual boot. Then I could get used to Mandrake, and always go back to Windows if I don't like it.

Fernanda Stickpot
Monday, September 15, 2003

Why reinstall an OS that is no longer supported?
Get W2K or XP Home, depending on your HW config.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, September 15, 2003

for  a gentle and safe introduction to linux, check out Knoppix linux..

boot and run off a disk. Plus very free. Comes with entire OS, GUI desktop, and OfficeSuite. All on one CD.

doesn't get much better than that.
http://www.knopper.net/knoppix-mirrors/index-en.html

Tapiwa
Monday, September 15, 2003

Get a new, powerful PC, with Windows XP.

Windows XP is excellent!

James Molinsky
Monday, September 15, 2003

No it's not.
Go for Windows 2000, it's by far the most solid of them all.

RP
Monday, September 15, 2003

I moved from Windows 98 to Windows 2000 because my Win98 PCs would deteriorate due to "bit rot" every 6 to 9 months. IE, the system would simply get flakier and flakier and less reliable, and finally some catastrophic event would happen such as the video completely going out (say degrading to 16 color mode for no good reason) that would force a complete re-install.

Normally I describe things more scientifically than this but basically, a Windows 98 PC that I used for applications and development would not "last" for very long.

Windows 2000 has been much, much more stable. I've had the present installation going in heavy everyday use for over a year. I have many applications installed and I have deinstalled and reinstalled quite a few too. You can find grey market (OEM) full versions of Windows 2000 on the internet for under $150. And W2K does not require product activation as does Windows XP.

Unless you're planning to do something specific in Linux, I don't recommend it as a general desktop OS. For one thing, printing and fonts will be primitive in comparison to Windows. For another thing, the office applications are limited. And even though the developers of KDE try to make it Windows like, it's still quite different because it's still on top of Linux.

Bored Bystander
Monday, September 15, 2003

Another vote for W2K Professional. Seems to be the best choice for home OS. I have never had problems with it.

Patrik
Monday, September 15, 2003

Fails the money test, plainly, as it requires a new computer, but Mac OS X is really fun to use and probably the least hassle, overall, of any OS for home use.  You can get an iBook or eMac for under $1000 new, or check dealmac.com for refurbs or check eBay.

So if you get an unexpected raise (or job, as case may be), win a lottery, windfall inheritance, etc. ... :)

Jim Rankin
Monday, September 15, 2003

If you go for a new version of Windows then make sure that you do a clean install rather than an upgrade, otherwise things can get messy.

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Monday, September 15, 2003

I'll second Bored Bystander's testimonial above: every Win9x machine (and dear gods, don't get me started on WinME) I ever saw would flake out and need reinstallation once or twice a year.  (Actually, thanks, BB, for the "bit rot" analogy!)

I installed Windows 2000 Professional once and left it alone for over a year with no problems.  The only reason I bothered to reinstall it was that I had hosed the dual-boot W2k/W98 setup when I first did it (didn't install 98 to D:, so W2k overwrote some of its folders), and needed to be able to boot into 98 for testing.  It's rock-solid and doesn't require product activation.  (=  I don't game at all, though, so if you do you might want to go dual-boot.

And yes, I also have a Mac with OSX, and it's pretty sweet as well -- if you have need for a particular Unix tech (and, yes, some windfall cash), I'd look into it.

Sam Livingston-Gray
Monday, September 15, 2003

I'll add another vote for WinXP - it's proven very stable and usable for me. As stable as Win2k, provided you keep your drivers up to date, and avoid legacy win98 drivers - they will cause instability in many cases...

Andrew Cherry
Monday, September 15, 2003

If you have no time or patience, then do NOT install Linux. You will regret it. It's "free" for a reason.

runtime
Monday, September 15, 2003

WinXP if you want the latest as well as "compatibility mode" to ensure your older apps still work.

Win2K if you want a good, solid OS. Don't forget that XP is basically the same as 2K with more bells and whistles (and compatibility mode).

Linux only if you're a Unix person and understand how everything works (and why). Otherwise, the investment in time isn't worth it, especially if you ever need a game or other popular app that only runs on Windows.

Mac OS X? Why? I used a brand new, wide-screen iMac recently and thought everything was kind of slow and way too fuzzy. The eye-candy was dandy, but my VAIO is wow-o.

BTW, am I the only person who thinks the Mac's display is too fuzzy on flat panels? Every time I sit down at a Mac, I feel like I'm watching Cybill Shepherd in Moonlighting (she was always filmed behind a gauzy lens).

StickyWicket
Monday, September 15, 2003

Moonlighting,

my alltime favorite series. Man, would I love a rerun of that.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, September 15, 2003

StickyWicket:  It depends on the screen.  I was wavering between a 12" Powerbook and 14" iBook, and wound up with the iBook because there was a noticeable difference in screen quality.

Sam Livingston-Gray
Monday, September 15, 2003

Windows XP is the shizzle!

I, Robot
Monday, September 15, 2003

Red Hat is okay if you have common hardware, don't want to venture into the command-line, have a broadband connection (no dial-up modem) and don't want to do anything "complicated" like share a printer or anything. You can typically buy books with copies or download it for free at:

http://www.linuxiso.org/

Otherwise, I would go with WinXP Home - it is some good stuff and well worth the money (like $99 to upgrade).

m
Monday, September 15, 2003

It depends on what you want to do.

If you just want to go online, check mail and read things,  it doesn't make a huge difference. Win Xp home should do you fine, redhat 9 is just as easy at windows to install and configure. Both have application built in to view the web, check mail, world processing etc...

Or maybe if you have the disk space, you might want to try both, both xp and redhat are simple to install and won't take too much of your time.  Just a thought.

fw
Monday, September 15, 2003

I agree that if all the user wants is to do "internet appliance" type things, and they NEVER intend to change things on it or upgrade anything, then Red Hat, etc would be a good choice.

However, I can't recommend it to anyone, really, because a user will ALWAYS want to do something with their PC that they didn't anticipate. And installing software on Linux is a messy time consuming hassle. (yeah, yeah, tar, gz, RPM.... edit /etc/bunchocrud... ./configure.. make...  right... bite me, this stuff gets complex REALLY fast.)

I was stuck dead just trying to figure out how to install the Shockwave plugin into Netscape on Linux. It Windows it's so frigging easy to install new software. In Linux one lousy damned module burnt an hour of my time and I couldn't understand the fragmented "I only tell you pedantically about one narrow thing" gibberish that passes for Open Source documentation that didn't help worth a crap.

Bored Bystander
Monday, September 15, 2003

Win2k or XP for windows (no real benefit with using XP)

Otherwise, try Linux, but be prepared to need to mess around with it.

Flamebait Sr.
Monday, September 15, 2003

I'll second the notion that XP is the shizzle.  I can't wait to see what longhorn is like.

XP was the first OS I've bought since NT4.  I've used every version of windows since 3.1 and every Redhat since 4.2 at my place of employment.  The only reason I bought NT4 was that I qualified for an education discount while I was enrolled in a class.  That said, I think XP is definitely worth the money (I bought home edition).

One caveat:  People have told me that the longer it runs the slower it gets.  I haven't been running it that long (few months) so I can't validate one way or the other.


Monday, September 15, 2003

LINUX

me_in_the_corner
Monday, September 15, 2003

"One caveat:  People have told me that the longer it runs the slower it gets.  I haven't been running it that long (few months) so I can't validate one way or the other."

I've had Windows XP installed on my home PC since March 2002. The Add/Remove Programs applet has some 90 items listed in it (excluding patches). I've not noticed any significant slowdown. I simply don't think it's necessary to regularly repave modern Windows installations anymore.

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Monday, September 15, 2003

Re: Mac. I don't think it's the screen. I've used 15", 17", 20+" and even the wide-screen. They all look blurry. The really big one (24"?) looked the best of the bunch.

I think XP rules the home because it tirelessly does what you want it to do. My programmer friend has been programming on Windows since 3.0 (circa 1990) and has complained about Windows for almost the entire time. Then, he finally bought a new PC a year or two ago (upgrading from a Pentium 66 to a P4-1.7GHz) with Windows XP on it. Now, he tells me he LOVES Windows. Go figure. Microsoft must be doing something right.

StickyWicket
Monday, September 15, 2003

"upgrading from a Pentium 66 to a P4-1.7GHz"

Looks to me more like INTEL is doing something right.

Although, what kind of developer could have possibly gone that long on a P66?

Jim Rankin
Monday, September 15, 2003

"Re: Mac. I don't think it's the screen. I've used 15", 17", 20+" and even the wide-screen. They all look blurry."

Looks like it's just a matter of taste, then.  Maybe you just don't like anti-aliasing?  Dunno.

Jim Rankin
Monday, September 15, 2003

Anything with the NT kernel (NT 4 pro, win2k, XP) is a vast improvement over the 3.1/95/98/me series.

XP has the latest in terms of drivers, usability (see wireless, cd burning, etc.) and goodies.

AEB
Monday, September 15, 2003

Jim,

"Looks to me more like INTEL is doing something right."

They are.

"Although, what kind of developer could have possibly gone that long on a P66?"

This was his home machine. He upgraded to WinXP at work also at about the same time.

"Looks like it's just a matter of taste, then.  Maybe you just don't like anti-aliasing?"

I don't care for anti-aliasing very much, but it has its uses. For instance, I think Microsoft's ClearType is very good. However, I don't use it because (a) I'm a purist--I want the displayed text/image to be what the "artist" originally created, and (b) it's not necessary--and I only run what I have to. It seems if Apple is using anti-aliasing technology for their Mac displays then they ought to consider licensing MS's ClearType.

StickyWicket
Monday, September 15, 2003

I am a techie who has been using DOS, Windows and UNIX for about 16 years now. I found UNIX to be an ephiphany ever since I started using it about 7 years ago. Recently I fell in love with Linux for performing all my needs, and do not use Windows unless for specialized tasks where absolutely necessary.

You can always install Linux on a second partition and gradually learn more and more about the system while still using your old Windows installations. (we still have two Win98 systems here). Linux gives a working and programming experience that is second to none on PC hardware.

Linux is no longer as hard to use as it used to. You can do most common tasks using GUI tools. Effectively using the command line will give you a huge advantage but it's:

1. Not too hard to learn.
2. Usually not absolutely necessary.

And Linux is free as in free beer and free speech, so it is economically-friendly.

Shlomi Fish
Monday, September 15, 2003

I have Windows XP home edition here (with FAT FS) installed on one of the laptops. It crashes, displays a blue screen, and all kinds of other quirks very often. And it usually happens during log off and stuff like that.

The Linux system is rock solid.

Maybe Windows 2000 would be a better choice as far as stability is concerned.

Shlomi Fish
Monday, September 15, 2003

Mac OS X has several text antialiasing settings.  There's one that's better for LCDs and one that's better for CRTs.  It does subpixel antialiasing like Microsoft ClearType.  Perhaps the Macs one of the posters said looked fuzzy had a different setting.

I don't see why Apple should license ClearType, since ClearType is essentially a reimplementation of how the Apple II high-res mode worked...

Chris Hanson
Monday, September 15, 2003

Okay. You have helped me to decide. I am going to get Win2K as first choice, WinXP as second choice.

I guess I'll (regretfully) leave Linux until I have more time and space to experiment.

Thanks, everybody, you have been immensely helpful.

Fernanda Stickpot
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"I fear an upgrade is in order"

And expose yourself to all those new virii and worms that only attack newer systems?


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Hmmm... trade endless crashes and hangs for an OS open to viruses that could cause crashes and hangs?

That'd be bad, but I think my firewall, my AV scanner, my spyware detector, my privacy screener, and I will take our chances ;-)

Fernanda Stickpot
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Shlomi Fish:

If your WinXP machine crashes (blue screens) often, you don't have it configured correctly. Make sure all of your drivers are updated, run CheckDisk etc., and for heaven's sake, use NTFS.

StickyWicket
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

for not time, no money and no patience a Mandrake install is perfect. In about an hour you will have not only the OS but the browser, word processor, spread sheet, graphics program, loads of games, various text editors, CD burners and a load of other stuff up.

None of the people who claim it causes hassle have set it up.

The only thing to remember though is that you do need a fairly decent machine 300-400Mhz and 128MB or more RAM (basicallly the same you need for W2000).

If you have Windows 98SE I second the idea of reintalling it from scratch and then adding Mandrake for a dual boot. As Bored Bystander has said adding components to Linux distros after the initial install can be a bit of a pain, and so having a Windows partition for just in case is an excellent idea.

As other people have said, Windows 9* does appear to ger unstable with age (".dll hell" is a partial explanation, and people installing and untistalling trial programs is another). W2000 is much more stable (though when it does go it's a bastard to fix) and few people have ever decided they need to reinstall it for stability reasons.

XP is less stable, one of the reasons being that it  appears to be more pemissive of dodgy hardware than W2000. It's interface is better, and it boots a lot quicker, though you can just leave W2K on for days anyway.

So you decide. Just want a hassle free basic machine - then Mandrake Linux blows MS out of the water. Want to hedge your bets? Reinstall W98SE, and dual boot. Want to get rock solid reliabiility, then choose W2K. Want ease of use, then choose XP.

Incidentally, I would stick with FAT32 even if you install W2K or Win XP. Not only will it allow you to share the My Documents folder with Linux, but also you will avoid the nasty surprises you can get with NTFS permissions.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"but also you will avoid the nasty surprises you can get with NTFS permissions"

Do you also recommend always running as root/administrator to avoid the "nasty surprises" you can get when operating under a less privileged account?

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"Incidentally, I would stick with FAT32 even if you install W2K or Win XP. Not only will it allow you to share the My Documents folder with Linux, but also you will avoid the nasty surprises you can get with NTFS permissions. "

Ahhh the mating call of the clueless.

I think you meant to say: "Stick with FAT32 because NTFS is scary and I don't  understand it and can't find my way to the help files to find out".

Robert Moir
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Putting commonly accessible files on FAT32 makes sense if you dual-boot. But "avoiding security surprises"? I suppose maybe he runs chmod 777 on everything in Linux. :-p

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Mac LCD: several things could cause the fuzziness. 1: the OS itself. Anti-aliased text with drop shadows everywhere, expecially on the desktop. 2: are you running the display at its native resolution? LCDs are great, but they are significantly less great at any resolution other than their native res.

brian
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Dear Robert and Just me,
                                        What a pity neither of you can bother to read the original post. The poster stated she had no time nor patience; that suggests she is not going to be too enamored at the prospect of having to read a few chapters of a book on NTFS permissions, and then a few hours more looking through the help files. You probalby both recommend that she uses EFS as well, so that like clueless Joel, she can lose all her data unless she pays serious money for a third party utility that may, or may not, get it back.

                                          Yes, I do recommend running as administrator when you are not connectd to the internet. And for the casual, home user, I would actually recommend running as administrator at all times. When I get an "Insufficient memory available or disk full" message running a program from the users group, I know that it really means "this is a legacy program, please update the user to the Power Users group, or use a compatibility template to upgrade the default user permissions", but the average home user doesn't, and is likely to lose more time sorting this out, than he would do restoring his whole system from backup in the unlikely event a virus hoses it.

Stephen Jones
Friday, September 19, 2003

BTW, Linux supports NTFS, If the distro you pick doesnt have it built in to the kernel ...."roll your own" . It not that scarey even for windows weenies...
I wouldnt hesitate to recommend Linux to a newbie(Hey,my wife is even coming around ...) Ive been developing in linux for 6 years and
other than a few windows only games that i enjoy playing...I have
no use for Windows. The thing about it is this...even though you may find the need to fine tune your system the resources(man pages,How-To's,Readme files,newsgroups,irc,etc) are endless when compared to Windows. The linux crowd tends to be vary patient and helpful to newbies...
But then again maybe you have hundreds of bucks to blow on an OS filled with security holes you could drive tanks through and bugs big enough to star in japanese monster movies.
Good Luck!

S Campbell
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

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