Category Archives: Alternatives to Windows

Zorin Linux OS – The Look And Feel Of Windows 7

imageThere was a time, when Linux was crazy difficult to install and run on a PC. Those days are long gone, and running Linux, in various flavors, couldn’t get much easier. Average users simple want to point and click, and Linux based operating systems, by and large, allow them to do just that.

There’s no doubt that Windows and Linux are not the same operating system under the hood. But, average users don’t look under the hood of an OS – not in Windows – not in Linux.

Having worked with Windows 8, Developer Edition, since its release date –  I can assure you, running Linux (with the small initial differences from Windows), is a snap compared to the effort needed to rethink virtually every move in Windows 8. I say this, not because I’m down on Windows 8 (it has its place, and under the hood, there are substantial improvements), but, because I’m “up” on Linux.

I’ve been running dual boot systems for years – various flavors of Windows, and various flavors of Linux. With good reason – I wouldn’t, for example, do my online banking in any OS other than Linux. So, I’m comfortable with the idea that I can offer my opinion on how “hard” or how “easy” it is, to run with Linux.

Installing a Linux distro to run side-by-side with Windows (no partitioning required), is dead easy – and, on Startup, you’ll have a choice as to what OS to boot. It’s been my experience that Linux generally boots 2/3 times faster than Windows.

So, having said all that – let me introduce you to Zorin OS – a Ubuntu based Linux distro – which is built around an intuitive point and click user interface  -similar in layout, and function, to Windows 7.

If you would feel more comfortable with a Windows XP look – no problem. Zorin’s built-in Look Changer lets you change your desktop to look and act like either Windows 7, Windows XP, or a straight Linux look.


Take a peek at the following graphics from the developer – I think you’ll be impressed.

Zorin OS runs on various platforms


Start Menu

Start Menu expanded.

Desktop cube


Multimedia applications running


Look Changer

Software center

Fast facts:

Top-notch security – Thanks to Zorin OS’s immunity to Windows viruses you will never have to worry about them. Zorin OS also comes with integrated firewall software to keep your system extra safe. When a potential security threat arises, software updates usually come within a matter of hours through the Update Manager.

Easy to use, familiar desktop – The main goal of Zorin OS is to give Windows users easy access to Linux. That is why Zorin OS incorporates the familiar Windows 7-like interface by default, to dramatically reduce the learning curve of this system while still experiencing the main advantages of Linux.

Out-of-the-box software solution – From the versatile LibreOffice suite to the feature-packed OpenShot video editor, it’s got it all. Zorin OS is sure to facilitate all of your everyday tasks such as web browsing, document creation, social networking, making videos, chatting with your friends and beyond, all without having to install anything.

Software Galore – If the pre-installed software isn’t enough for your requirements there is no need to worry about it. Zorin OS comes with the Software Center which allows users to download and install tens of thousands of free programs. All you have to do is open the Software Center from the start menu, find a program which you want and click Install. You can even install Windows programs on Zorin OS in a similar way with PlayOnLinux.

Compatibility – Nearly every file that you use with your current operating system will work perfectly in Zorin OS with no need for additional setup. All your office documents, music, videos, pictures etc. will work out of the box in Zorin OS. Zorin OS also supports a large library of devices such as printers, scanners, cameras, keyboards. These devices will work as soon as you plug them in without the need for installing additional drivers.

Flexibility – Zorin OS gives users more flexibility. It allows you to use Zorin OS alongside your current operating system. While you install Zorin OS to your computer you have the option to keep your current operating system alongside Zorin OS and choose which one to load on start-up.

Zorin Internet Browser Manager – The default web browser in Zorin OS is Google Chrome. For those who want to use other web browsers, we have included our exclusive program called the Zorin Internet Browser Manager which makes installing and uninstalling web browsers simple and quick.

Social from the start – Zorin OS has been built with you in mind so staying in touch with your friends easily was a large aspect of building Zorin OS. The Me Menu lets you access your Facebook and Twitter accounts straight from the desktop. You can connect to all your favorite chat channels and make updates through a single window with Gwibber. Instant Messaging chat with Empathy is super simple. Quickly integrate your chat accounts from Facebook Chat, Yahoo, Google Talk, MSN, Jabber, AIM, QQ and many other sources and start talking.

Minimum system requirements:

700 MHz x86 processor
3GB of Hard Drive space
376 MB of system memory (RAM)
Graphics card capable of 640×480 resolution
Sound card

Downloads: both 32 bit and 64 bit.

The Core, Lite and Educational versions, are available to download for free from the Free download page.

The Premium versions (Business, Gaming, Multimedia and Ultimate), are available in exchange for a donation on the Premium page for a physical DVD, or a download.

I’ve been running with Zorin OS on and off – from a bootable DVD – for the last several months and, I must say – I’ve been very impressed.

I pointed out earlier – “It’s been my experience that Linux generally boots 2/3 times faster than Windows”. This is not the case when running from a DVD. Should you decide to go this route, you will encounter a much slower response than an installation will provide.


Filed under 64 Bit Software, Alternatives to Windows, downloads, Freeware, Linux, Operating Systems

Run Splashtop, A Free Web Centric OS To Reduce Your Exposure To Malware

imageCurrent statistics indicate that over 95 percent of viruses, spyware, and other types of malware, are designed and targeted to attack Microsoft Windows. And, the route by which the majority of malware spreads, and intrusion attempts take place is the Internet Browser.

It seems reasonable to make the point then, that if you’re not running Windows while surfing the Net, but instead, you’re running an alternative operating system, you shouldn’t have to unnecessarily worry about malware, viruses, and spyware.

Regular readers might recall that I do most of my surfing using Linux; specifically Ubuntu. And yes, I’m aware of of all the counter arguments that surround this choice – “security through obscurity”, “Linux is built from the ground up with security in mind”, and on and on.

None of the various contentious points of view really make much difference to me. The reality is straightforward – all statistics indicate that surfing with a non-Windows system can reduce the malware risks Windows users have to contend with.

If you are leaning towards running an alternative to Windows, while interacting with the Net, then Splashtop OS, a Linux driven Web centric, (Chrome focused), specialty operating system (which coexists with Windows),  and is close to “instant on”, – about 10 seconds to boot and reach the Net in my tests, is worth taking for a spin.

Splashtop, (in beta currently), was initially designed to run on specific HP systems only, but it can now run on virtually any Windows system. Following installation, (from within Windows), on subsequent boots you will have the opportunity to boot into Splashtop, or Windows, through a boot menu.

Booting back into Windows once you’re in Splashtop, is “one click” simple.

You won’t get lost during the install which is very straightforward.


On completion of the install process, you will have an opportunity to gather additional information.


and perform a number of setup tasks.


The desktop is rather plain, but given that Splashtop has been designed as a Web centric OS, it’s still very functional.


Fast facts:

FAST:  Starts in seconds — way before Windows

EASY:  Featuring Instant Search, powered by Bing

SAFE:  A Linux-based platform running Chromium

READY:  Includes Adobe Flash Player pre-installed

PERSONAL:  Choose from thousands of Web Apps, extensions, and themes at the Chrome Web Store, and install the ones you want

SIMPLE:  Your existing Windows bookmarks and Wi-Fi Settings profile can be imported from Windows into Splashtop OS

CONVENIENT:  Visual Bookmarks show thumbnails of recently visited web pages (or can be hidden if desired)

CUSTOMIZABLE:  From the Status Bar, check the status of network connections, volume, power supply; or open the Configuration Panel and then set your preferences

FLEXIBLE:  If desired, you can exit Splashtop OS and boot to the Windows OS at any time

Running Splashtop will allow you to surf, and interact with the Internet as you normally would – including interacting with instant messaging, email, music, photos, documents, gaming, etc. And, it really is virtually “instant on”.

Additional details available at the developer’s site:

Using features of the Web Browser

Using the Splashtop OS Configuration Utility in Windows

Using the Boot Menu (unsupported computers only)

Announcements and Frequently Asked Questions

More information at the Splashtop OS web page

Download at: Splashtop


Filed under Alternatives to Windows, Beta Software, Chrome, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Google Chrome, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety Tools, Linux, Operating Systems, Software, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

BitDefender Releases Free Antispam for Linux Mail Servers

imageBitDefender styles itself as “an award-winning provider of innovative Internet security solutions”, and I must admit that I agree. Moreover, BitDefender has taken a leading role in providing free security solutions, including a host of specialty malware removal tools – particularly, in the past few months.

Yesterday, BitDefender released a Free Antispam application designed specifically for Linux Mail Servers. This new application is driven by BitDefender’s award winning anti-spam engine, and according to Alexandru Balan, BitDefender’s Innovation & Technology Product Manager, the application is aimed at “small businesses and individuals who run mail servers in environments other than Windows, but are dissatisfied with the lackluster performance of existing open-source or proprietary antispam solutions.”


Fast facts:

Antispam – Using constantly updated blacklists and whitelists of known Spam sites, Bayesian learning provides another layer of detection that adapts to the changes made by Spammers to bypass static Spam filters.

Antiphishing – While considered more of personal threat than a corporate threat; phishing sites can also harvesting information from your company’s employees. Using a combination of constantly updated blacklists and whitelists, BitDefender prevents users from known accessing phishing sites and preventing compromise.

Content Filtering – Content filtering allows for the detection of predefined information such as credit card or account information, report names, client databases, etc. from passing outside the company’s control.

High performance NeuNet technology (advanced adaptive neural network).

Easy installation and easy to use web-based and command line administration interface.

Highly compatible kits that are available for all major Linux distributions (available as RPM, DEB, IPK) and are Linux FHS compliant.

System requirements:

Linux – Linux Kernel 2.6.18 or newer, glibc 2.3.1 or newer, libstdc++ from gcc 4 or newer.

Supported Distributions:

Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 or newer, Fedora Core 1 or newer, Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, Linux 8.2 or newer, Mandrake/Mandriva 9.1 or newer, RedHat Enterprise Linux 3, Linux 9 or newer

BitDefender Security for Mail Servers, is the only product to have won a VBSpam award in every single VBSpam test – and with one of the highest spam catch rates in this test, and no false positives, it outperforms all other products and achieved the highest final score in the September 2010 test.

Download Free AntiSpam for Mail Servers at: BitDefender – registration required.

A user guide, in PDF format, is available here.

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Filed under Alternatives to Windows, BitDefender, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Email, Enterprise Applications, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Linux, Phishing, Software, spam

Time To Surf Without Windows? Is Ubuntu The Answer?

Many of my friends think that I lean towards a “scare them to death” philosophy, when it comes to the Internet. I often get badgered with questions like – “Don’t you ever see anything good about the Internet?” Or, “Don’t you get tired of scaring people with all your talk of the dangers on the Internet?”

Just to be clear – there is no doubt that the Internet can provide a rich educational and cultural experience, at a minimum, but at the same time, it is virtually impossible for Microsoft Windows users not to be exposed to the underbelly of the Internet.

The sad reality is, that most of my friends (as I explain to them), are just like the majority of computer users who are undereducated when it comes to recognizing the dangers, and threats, that the Internet poses to their computers, and to their personal privacy.

Most cyber security vendors will tell you, that a little common sense, a properly configured and updated system, coupled with their antimalware software will keep you safe on the Internet. Don’t believe it.

Cyber crime has undergone a fundamental change this past year. Much of today’s badware is smart enough to probe a system, searching out vulnerabilities in either the operating system or installed applications, with little or no interaction required from the user.

If you’re tired of having to consider whether the antimalware applications running on your system are up to the task of protecting you against cyber crime: identity theft; email scams; system penetration; viruses, spyware; adware; rogue software; web site spoofing; social media scams; erosion of your privacy rights; denial-of-service attack; then you need to start thinking outside the Microsoft Windows box.

I’m not a Microsoft hater – in fact, I love Windows, and I have been on board since Version 1.0. But, there’s no denying, that based on Windows installed base (well over 90% of the PCs in the world operate using some version of Windows), cyber criminals have seized the opportunity such a large market presents.

Current statistics indicate that over 95 percent of viruses, spyware, and other types of malware, are designed and targeted to attack Microsoft Windows. I’m not laying the blame at Microsoft’s door – third party application developers could do much more to ensure their applications are hardened against cyber criminals.

It seems reasonable to make the point then, that if you’re not running Windows while surfing the Net, but instead, you’re running an alternative operating system, you shouldn’t have to unnecessarily worry about malware, viruses, and spyware.

So, is it time that you took yourself out of this cyber crime market? Is it time for you to consider using an alternative operating system, while you interact with the Internet? And, if you are leaning this way – what operating system should suit your needs?

Since having to learn the fundamentals of a new operating system is a legitimate dissuader for most people, when faced with the question of the feasibly of changing to an unknown operating environment, familiarity in terms of the look and feel of the new system is of primary importance.

Ubuntu, an open source operating system, arguably the most popular distribution of Linux, has the look and feel of a Windows installation. I recently installed Ubuntu alongside Windows 7 Ultimate, which allows me to choose which operating system I want at Boot, and I haven’t been on the Internet since in Windows. Windows however, remains important to me since so many of my offline applications are Windows specific.

One fundamental difference you will observe immediately when using Ubuntu is it’s blazing speed.

The following screen captures indicates just how easy it is to install Ubuntu to run alongside your Windows installation. Be sure to choose the right installation from the selection.



The following screen capture shows the Ubuntu install on my C: drive. Installing Ubuntu in this way, is dead simple – no partitioning or any other esoteric steps required.


So what does Ubuntu look like when running? The following screen shots show just some of the possibilities.



Ubuntu installs with all the applications you are ever likely to need, but it doesn’t stop there – there are literally thousands of applications readily available through the  built-in Software Center. No more searching the Internet for free applications, and having to download from questionable sites.


I’m not suggesting for a moment, that you replace your current Windows installation – although, you may choose to do so when you experience the power of Ubuntu. Instead, I’m recommending that you interact with the Internet using Ubuntu in order to substantially reduce the risks Windows user have to contend with.

Hardware requirements:

1 GHz x86 processor

1 Gb of system memory (RAM)

15 GB of hard-drive space (although this can be split onto 2 drives, a 5Gb / and a 10Gb /home fairly easily)

Graphics card and monitor capable of 1024 by 768

Either a CD/DVD drive or a USB socket (or both)

Download at: Ubuntu

Note: A follow-up full review of Ubuntu is in the works, and should be posted here in the next week, or so.

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Filed under Alternatives to Windows, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Linux, Open Source, Software, Ubuntu

Google Will Avoid the Desktop Operating System Market

Guest writer Daniel Cawrey bypasses all the hype, and analyses the issues that may impact Google’s decision to enter the operating system market. See if you agree with Daniel’s conclusions.

image It’s been in the news the past couple of days that several companies have now filed antitrust complaints against Google. Some of the complaints have been generated by Microsoft, which has had its own legal issues with the recent European Union browser antitrust case that has forced those who have Windows installed on their computers and use Internet Explorer to be educated that they have a choice in what browser to use.

Specifically, the complaints against Google mostly have to do with their search algorithms and how they allegedly hurt some sites more than others. Another issue is that is the subject of lawsuits is the dominance of Google in the search advertising market.

I find it hard to pin down how search can be an antitrust issue since there are competitors in the market – the problem is that they just aren’t as good. And in addressing the lawsuits from sites that have lost their rankings, whenever Google makes alterations to their algorithm it is a widespread change and cannot affect just a small handful of sites.

In terms of the advertising business, however, there is no direct competitor to Google – and now that Android is becoming so popular that may make them cautious about the different platforms that they have previously planned on competing in. But we shall see how these problems eventually shake out.

It is clear after seeing CEO Eric Schmidt’s address at the Mobile World Congress that Google has a keen interest in continuing to capture share in the portable device market with both Android and soon Chrome OS. But I wouldn’t anticipate them trying to target the desktop market as many think that they will. One of the reasons will no doubt be these ongoing antitrust problems and legal issues that arise as Google becomes more ubiquitous, but it also has to do with their core strategy and how they can best keep their revenue growing.

Targeting the desktop PCs goes against the grain of the free or almost free model that Google has built its business on. That’s because providing a complex desktop environment where you can install just about any application you want sounds like a nightmare to Google. Keep in mind the issues presented with the recent Nexus One mobile phone launch that was wrought with customer service problems. And that’s just a mobile phone.

There are always going to be people who need powerful desktop workstations, but it doesn’t fit with Google’s mission to insert itself into a market like that. Along with Mac and Windows platforms, there are also plenty of good Linux environments out there, so why try to reinvent the wheel?

The key element that has enticed Google to enter the operating system market is its aim specifically for the devices a step up from the most powerful mobile phones. These portable computers are commonly referred to as netbooks, tablets or smartbooks that run on smartphone-style ARM processors.

Plus, because this currently is a small market yet comes with tremendous upside, a large company like Google is actually able to dictate to hardware manufacturers specifications for future Chrome OS products such as powerful Nvidia chips, solid state hard drives and built-in 3G wireless capabilities to offer premium performance and optimum user experiences which is paramount to their strategy.

Besides, Google still has the Chrome browser. Let Microsoft and Apple deal with problems that don’t related to the web, just as long as Google has its own browser that provide unfettered, speedy access to all the services it provides, which will only continue to grow in the future.

Daniel Cawrey is a freelance writer and tech enthusiast, among other things. You can check out his latest musings in blog form at thechromesource, where he writes about Chrome browser, Chrome OS and just plain Google in general.


Filed under Alternatives to Windows, Google, Google Chrome, Google Operating System, Guest Writers, Operating Systems

Google Operating System – Not Just a Rumor!

Google Chrome OS announced: Google takes on Windows

Google Chrome Logo

A Google operating system has been one of the web’s most consistent rumors for years, but today Google announced it is real: Google Chrome OS will be launched next year, going head to head with Windows.

Announcing the existence of the Google Chrome OS today, Sundar Pichai, Google’s vice president of product management and Linus Upson, Google’s engineering director said it would be “our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.”

Promising the Chrome OS will be open source, lightweight and speedy, Google also pledges that Chrome OS will “start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds.”

Read the rest of this article at

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Filed under Alternatives to Windows, Freeware, Google, Google Chrome, Google Operating System, Google Software, Interconnectivity, Operating Systems, Productivity Software, Software, Tech Net News