Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Having Good Functional Running Old PC's

A lot of us have old PCs stuck in the corners of classrooms, machines we just can’t afford to replace and whose owners just can’t do without. At the same time, a lot of us are acquiring netbooks and inexpensive hardware instead of investing in the latest and greatest “Vista-capable” computers. Normally for FOSS people like me its a YEHEY think to put in Linux in those running Boxes.

Some people have issues however if indeed there appears to be a need to install Xubuntu on a 7-year old computer when it’s running just fine on Windows 98 or Windows 2000? From a security point of view , there are risks in running these dated operating systems, however,what matters to us is just to keep people who are using these computers functional (since they have grown used to it, considering that many people in these spaces are creatures of habit). Perhaps the machines are only used for word processing or accessing specific applications with minimal Internet access (if a computer only hits your student information system and sits behind an adequate firewall, chances of a breach are pretty low).

There are time that Students or even your teachers bought netbooks for themselves and had XP Home installed, no matter how many times you suggested they buy the Linux model. To that end, there is some very lightweight software available to maximize the utility of aging machines or low-end netbooks (and it runs on Windows!).Chris Dawson and Tech Radar featured a cool roundup of ultra-light applications for aging PCs. We will highlight some of the apps that would be most appropriate for educational settings:

  1. Word Processing - AbiWord 2.6
    Boasting most of the same functionality as Microsoft Word 2003, AbiWord is free and light on its feet. Needing only a paltry 16MB of RAM, it runs on Windows 2000 upwards. You can grab an earlier version for Windows 98 if your machine is really wrinkly. [Also a great choice on Linux; it isn't a full office suite, but it's a very fast word processor]
  2. Graphics - IrFanView 4.23
    Forget about Photoshop and even its open source rival The GIMP - IrfanView’s the photo editor to choose on underpowered platforms. With support stretching back to Windows 95 it opens and saves dozens of image formats, with batch editing, cropping resizing and other basic photo manipulation tools built in.
  3. Coding - NoteTab Light
    Looking for a seriously lightweight coding tool? NoteTab Light does the job. A text editor that’s optimised for working with HTML and CSS, it has features like code snippets, HTML tidying and auto-correction. It’ll run happily on Windows 98 upwards - Windows 95 too if you use the help file patch.
  4. Video - VLC Media Player
    Judging media players is difficult as they’re only ever as fast and reliable as the data you try to squeeze through them. VLC Media Player is portable. though, has a small footprint and - though it will struggle to play full HD video on older systems - it’s perfect for DVDs and MP3s on Pentium class computers. [This will take care of all of your video needs on Linux machines and Macs, too, regardless of file type]
  5. PDF Reader - Sumatra PDF
    PDFs have become the industry alternative to printed documentation - but Acrobat Reader, Adobe’s free tool for opening PDFs, is something of a resource hog. Enter Sumatra PDF - nimble on its feet and stripped of bells and whistles, it’s a fast loading alternative to Adobe’s offering. [Think Preview on a Mac]
  6. Instant Messaging - Pidgin
    Multiple messaging clients scoff your system resources, so switching to a single, universal IM tool makes sense. Pidgin does the job well, with support for AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo!, MSN and more. [I'd only recommend this one on those netbooks, by the way; IM is just too risky on older machines]

So in the view of using old machines and making people be functional. Keep these tips on hand and God Bless

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