Like about 20% of people who use a desktop computer I have one, ok two, that still run Windows XP. Well, not anymore. The end of support for XP last Tuesday 8-April-2014 was just the “stressor” (nod to Criminal Minds) I was looking for. So what is a suitable XP alternative ? Like plenty of people I’ve dabbled in various flavours of Linux over the years; Red Hat, SUSE, Fedora to mention a few of the better known ones. But they’d mostly been a hackers curiosity for me. For real(TM) work I’m not ashamed to say I wanted the reliability, simplicity, and compatibility of a Dell machine with Microsoft and Intel internals (yeah really).
But Linux has come a long way since then, no more messing around with tarballs, gcc, and editing scripts; mostly done through command line interfaces. And that’d be fine, I’d hacked OS code in college, but for me as a software developer the OS is just another tool. I just want it to work and be invisible. So I’m going with Ubuntu.
As a quick pointer on the steps awaiting you as you consider your XP alternative:
Ubuntu is currently the most popular flavour of Linux, it’s free, it’s open source, it’s available on the Ubuntu website.
You can try Ubuntu without removing XP at all. In fact you can run Ubuntu from a memory stick plugged into a USB slot. You may have to tweak your BIOS settings to get this to work (because typically the computer will try to boot from hard drives, floppy drives, and dvd drives before it looks for a USB key). Info on how to create a bootable Ubuntu USB key from within Windows are available on the Ubuntu Website.
Be sure to make a backup of all your user files on your computer. Things like documents, photo’s, videos, music etc. These are the things you don’t want to lose!
As an aside, check this out if you’re concerned about Heartbleed on your Android device.
Happy hacking, Alan!