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David Harper
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For almost two decades, Microsoft Windows has been the default operating system for traditional computers, with Mac OS X coming in a distant second despite strong pockets of dominance, particularly among students and creative users. However, the times are changing, and Windows is now being challenged by the rise of mobile operating systems such as Google Android and Apple iOS.

Often lost in this conversation is the availability of free alternatives for traditional computers. Historically there has been good reason for this oversight, as the low-cost and no-cost software was usually buggy, typically lacking in features, and required higher levels of technical knowledge to administer. However, now that mobile operating systems are on the rise, there are a lot of people who have learned to interact with different user interfaces - Windows on a desktop, and Android on a phone, for example. This makes the idea of using an alternative desktop operating system more viable.

Enter Ubuntu 16.04. Ubuntu is an alternative to Windows developed by Canonical Limited, a UK-based company founded by Mark Shuttleworth, the South African entrepreneur who spent 11 days on the International Space Station as a tourist. Since 2012, Ubuntu has been maturing rapidly, and is now stable and reasonably feature complete. Ubuntu can be downloaded and installed for free, and comes preinstalled with a free equivalent to Microsoft Office. Ubuntu also supports common software that is available for both Windows and Mac OS X, including Google Chrome, Skype, and Adobe Flash Player.

If you have an old computer that needs a boost - particularly a computer still running Windows Vista - or want something that your children can use to get online without having to worry about viruses and spyware, Ubuntu may be worth considering. Although Windows software is not supported, as with iOS and Android the solution is pretty straightforward - just find an alternate app, usually one with a funny name, in the App Store (called the Software Center in Ubuntu) to replace the Windows equivalent.

Deploying Ubuntu is usually pretty straightforward, and it can be tested on your existing computer without any changes being made. If you want to see what Ubuntu looks like without touching your PC at all, no problem! An interactive online tour is available at http://tour.ubuntu.com/en/ so you can take a look for yourself any time.


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