Microsoft XP users can turn to Linux as alternative
Microsofts decision to stop providing technical support for Windows XP after Tuesday has caused a great deal of confusion and consternation among the millions who still use the trusty old operating system. Ive opined that theres no reason to ditch Windows XP, which will continue to work as it always has, and that you can safeguard its security by installing a good antivirus/antimalware program.
However, there is another solution that is faster and more secure than Windows XP - or any other version of Windows. Its Linux, the long-suffering stepchild of the PC industry.
Although it runs most big corporate and Internet servers and is the basis for Android, the worlds most popular mobile operating system, Linux has never gained popularity as a desktop OS. For two reasons: (1) It wasnt as easy to use as Windows or the Mac OS. (2) There wasnt enough software made to run on it. Both of those issues are now moot. New versions of Linux are just as user-friendly as any other operating system, and software is fleeing to the cloud, where it can be accessed by any operating system.
As it happens, one version of Linux is tailor-made to replace Windows XP. Called Zorin, it mimics the user interface of Windows 7, or XP. It will work on almost any brand of desktop or laptop, and it comes with all the software anyone needs, including a Microsoft-compatible office suite (LibreOffice), a photo-editing program (Gimp) and the Chrome browser.
The best part is that its free from http://zorin-os.com, If you download it, youll have to burn it to a CD or flash drive in order to install it on your computer, but if thats too daunting, you also can get it shipped to you on a disc for a little over $8.
Q: Were visiting Spain and Northern Italy for two weeks in May. Between the two of us, we have an iPhone 5S, an iPhone 4 and a new cellular/Wi-Fi iPad. My question is, whats the most cost-effective way to get voice and data service while were traveling? Should we buy SIM cards in Spain and Italy, or just use the travel plan offered by our carrier, AT&T?
A: Its always cheaper to use a pre-paid SIM card when youre overseas, but you cant do that unless (A) your mobile device can operate on GSM, the network for Europe and elsewhere, and (B) the device is unlocked so it can be used with different carriers.
AT&T uses GSM, but it wont unlock a phone or tablet unless the device is completely paid off. I assume that you own the iPhone 4 free and clear, so you can have it unlocked and get SIM cards for it in Spain and Italy. But if youre still paying for the iPhone 5S and the iPad as part of a contract, your only option will be to use AT&Ts international rate plans.
For all you future world travelers, youre better off with either Verizon or T-Mobile.
The Verizon network utilizes CDMA, which isnt available in Europe. But most Verizon phones are also GSM-capable, and their SIM card slots come unlocked.
With T-Mobile, if you have a Simple Choice Plan you can use your phone overseas for data and texting at no extra charge.
Q: I have a dilemma - actually five of them. They are the remotes for my TV, cable box, Blu-ray player, sound bar and Roku. I would like to consolidate them with one universal remote, but I have heard horror stories about how those things are impossible to set up and often dont work as advertised. Are there any that can actually control all my devices?
A: Remote controls have come a long way since their introduction nearly 30 years ago. But, as you suggest, theyre still not exactly plug-and-play. Setup can be laborious, and even after youve successfully configured it, some basic functions may elude you, such as the ability to switch between HDMI inputs on your TV.
But even a universal remote thats only 90 percent effective is better than juggling five individual remotes. You cant go wrong with one of the high-end Harmony models from Logitech. The best balance of price and performance may be the Harmony 650 (around $75). An even better deal might be the Sony RM-VLZ620, which goes for $25.
By the way, both the Harmony and Sony models are learning remotes, which means they can learn the codes for buttons on remotes they wouldnt otherwise recognize.
David Einstein is a freelance writer. Got a question about personal technology? E-mail: email@example.com