Consider Switching From Windows to Linux

In simple terms Linux is a Graphical User Interface driven version of UNIX, which has been developed to run on current personal computers. There are a number of different organizations that put out what are called distributions, which are basically different flavors of the operating system. Current operating systems like Mac OS X, Android, Chrome OS and even the PlayStation 4 system are all descendants of UNIX.

Two of the more common distributions that are good Windows replacements are Ubuntu and Mint. They use familiar navigation, file accessibility and offer free basic apps to do just about anything a Windows machine can,.

Why would someone consider a migration to this foreign operating system? Linux can run better on older systems that don’t do a well with current versions of windows. If you have an older laptop that came with Windows XP; 1. Microsoft doesn’t support it anymore and 2. Current versions of Windows will not run as well on that old hardware. Linux operating systems tend to be less virus prone that Windows machines and are very stable.

Good candidates for Linux are basic machines that need to surf the web, answer email and run basic Office type apps. Kids that need a machine for school are perfect for a Linux based system. You can take an older laptop, install the operating system, maybe put a new batter in and get some extra life out of that old machine. The operating system is free, making it a very cost effective solution for a decent running computer.


A Simple Way To Protect Your Kids Online

Domain Name Servers or DNS for short is the Internet’s way to translation computer addresses to easy to remember names. For example if you had to type in 31.13.65.36 every time you wanted to view Facebook it would be a huge hassle.

In order for your computer to know what server address to connect a domain like Facebook.com to, there are servers that your computer connects to to get this information. These are called DNS servers and the most common provider of them is your Internet service provider. There are additional companies that provide this service but add a layer of protection by filtering out sites that are not family friendly.

You can make some simple changes to how your router is configured to take advantage of these services, there is no charge for them and it can be changed back very easily if you don’t want to continue to use them. One of these providers is a company called OpenDNS and you can find information on how to use their services here:

https://www.opendns.com/setupguide/?url=familyshield


The Skinny On Portable Hard Drives

These portable USB drives come in lots of flavors and sizes. Some use a desktop sized 3.5″ drive other use a laptop sized 2.5″ drive. There are now even versions that use a solid state drive. I want to talk about a few of the points on these drives to help folks understand what they are getting.

  • Many of the smaller 2.5″ drives use a controller card that is part of the hard drive itself. This can be problematic if the drive has a problem, as you cannot remove it and install it in another machine to try and recover the data. If you are using one of these drives for data portability the small ones are fine – if you want something for data backup I would suggest the larger 3.5″ drives that have a separate USB interface card from the controller card that is on the hard drive itself.
  • SSD or solid state drives are beneficial in that they have no moving parts, but are much harder to recover data from. So if you are using a drive to make your data portable – then an SSD would work. If you want it for data backup then I would use a conventional drive.
  • If the drive you chose is purely for data backup I would avoid using any encryption on it. If for some reason that drive has a problem it will be difficult if not impossible to recover the data. Furthermore – try to handle a data backup drive as little as possible, especially when running as it will minimize chances of a problem.
  • Just like any hard drive the advertised data capacity of a drive will be less once its formatted. For example a 4TB drive will end up giving you about 3.8 TB of storage space.
  • You can make your own setup by buying a bare drive and then putting it in an enclosure. This route can be a little more expensive that a prepacked combo deal. I good idea when upgrading a laptop drive is to take the old drive out of the computer and use it as an external portable drive. Most cases can be had for under $20.
  • Stick with name brands when buying drives, I recommend Seagate and Western Digital.
  • Finally remember that no drive is fail proof. If you are using these drives as a backup, make sure that you have the data replicated elsewhere.

The Dell That Won’t Die

This is a story of a laptop. This is a Dell D630 Latitude, that I bought second hand in 2009. These laptops were launched around 2007 and were part of a series of Dell D6xx machines.

This machine was a business grade laptop that I acquired after it came off lease. I had been using a D600 Latitude series machine that was running out of steam for what I needed.  I used this machine daily for the last six years and it has performed admirably. This included four motherboard replacements, as my toddler like to give it a drink on occasion. Its had three different hard drives and a few different batteries. The laptop traveled to China and has seen several trips across the country.

The D630 is still in use today, running Windows 7 and working quite well. As a matter of fact the D600 it replaced is currently serving as a music player on the home stereo running Linux Ubuntu.

The moral of the story, just because your tech is a bit older it doesn’t mean it still can’t serve a purpose. Hardware repairs, upgrades and the right operating system can keep a machine serving you for years.