Being one to unbashfully (is that a word?) suggest the use of Linux, I notice a lot friends with older PC's who still can't let go of Microsoft in spite of their equipment not being supported any longer. The older PC's still work but have low total memory, smaller hard drives, cheap video cards and slower processors. People install newer/larger hard drives, DVD players and all sorts of USB plugins. If you can't upgrade the flash ROM, add device drivers/codecs or if you don't have an original copy of Microsoft OS (can't get online updates), you are stuck with a doorstop. Aren't you? Conventional wisdom (a marketing ploy) says, if you can't find the treasure, dig deeper in the same hole or buy a new (same brand) computer. I guess I need specifics to make the point. A friend has an older PC running WinXP with only 64MB of memory. It's amazing it ran. I give it a 256MB memory upgrade and increase the page memory, it runs better, yet still not top shelf. It has a DVD player for which I can't find a reasonable driver and a cheap video card. The PC was not made for WinXP so it coughs and chokes when demanded to perform. As a techie friend, do I continue to recommend endless upgrades or abandoning this PC for a new one. A new one wins, but what to do with the old one, it still works? "Going to give it to my parents to use (just for email and internet)." And they inherit all the problems that come with it. Hummmmm.... Well, I suggest they give Linux a try of course. "But we need to have Microsoft to be compatible with other........" If you buy a new PC, most likely it will have Microsoft on it, but in reality you don't need Microsoft on past or present hardware. You only have to be concerned with file formats being compatible. I only suggest people try Linux because it is so easy to try it. If it does not work for you, that is fine, you are not betraying Microsoft by trying. You can try Linux without installing it, without Linux affecting your computer at all. It is called a live-CD Linux version. It runs from the CD. You can save settings and user files to a jump drive or to a shared MS Windows folder. And if you like it you have the option to install totally replacing MS Windows or by creating a special partition on your hard drive for it. Then using an operating system selector, you can choose either OS when you turn on the computer. Popping a CD in to try is akin to AOL's CD in every book, magazine and mailbox campaign, only not so pushy. You have the option to try or not. The most popular way of getting Linux is to download it off the internet for free and burn it to a CD. You could also order CD's at very low cost. What is in a name? Since Linux comes under so many names you need to educate yourself as to what are the choices. WWW.distrowatch.com list all the most popular "distributions" of Linux. It lists them by the most talked about, not the most used. Then, www.livecdlist.com list all the live-cd's with links to their descriptions and download sites. The different distributions of Linux are all Linux but target different types of users preferences. I recommend Xubuntu and Wolvix which I myself use, of course. They are good for lower hardware requirements. Dream Linux, Mepis, Knoppix, and Puppy Linux are all great portable and versatile Linuxes. A Linux distribution comes with a GUI desktop or two, and a selection of user software applications so you don't have to install anything extra to be able to do useful computing. With the live-CD, you have to be happy with the choices on the CD. When or if you install it on your hard drive, you can then add or delete the applications you want. With a live-CD and a jump drive you can move "your OS, apps and user files" to any compatible computer, then remove them without a trace. Some live-CD versions come with tools to let you design a new live-CD with the stuff you want on it. Is there a caveat? Yes, Linux will not run your Microsoft applications out of the box. You would need a virtual machine software like Virtualbox or something called Crossover Office or Wine to do the job. Mileage may vary as success is not a sure thing. Linux application equivalents to Microsoft applications is found at www.linuxalt.com and www.linuxquestions.org . Here there are links to descriptions of Linux softwares which are as good or better than MS stuff. If they fit the need, you have found a winner, if not maybe Linux is not for you.
Now that I said my unbashful Linux promotion we can look at other stuff.
We are approaching in computers, all avenues at once. From very green low power but highly functional laptops to light dimming during power up desktops. To get one machine that does it all is increasing impossible because we keep creating new extensions for every device. Look at USB external disk storage and video cards that handle computation intensive 3-d gaming and digital broadcast video, then cellphones and PDA's. Multi-function and cross-function consumer products have blurred the vision of typical buyers everywhere. I watched in a movie a bank robbery taking place, when the crooks said empty your pockets, it took ten minutes to unload all the devices people had. Computers once relegated to the study or den are now in the bedroom, living room and kitchen. Some of us are 24/7 connected to digital entertainment and/or digital work. I hope we do not forget our humanity in all this digital immersion. I hope we do not overlook the plight of those who do not have digital access to the mediums of exchange, be it money (credit) or information. Technology can make a people powerful but not always wiser. A good humanity is still highly valued in a world prone to selfishness and greediness while sharing supposedly scarce resources to meet our needs. We have said electrons moving at the speed of light is the holy grail and blood moves too slowly, even hindering the speed of our reason. We only look at each other when we need to and we don't regard each other so well. We need to be reminded that when we switch off the lights we can turn them on again, but when we turn off a human being, they are dead. We should appreciate life while we are on.