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Reasons why Windows XP users should upgrade to openSUSE

Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP this April. I have written in length why Windows XP users ‘must’ upgrade their PCs to Linux in this article. In that article I promised to share with my readers which OS do I recommend to Windows XP user. In order to suggest you the distro that I think is right for a majority of users, let’s have a look at what you use and whether this OS will work for you.

Whether a particular OS is for you or not heavily depends on what are your computing needs. If you are still using Windows XP (and that’s why you are reading this article), I assume your computing needs are minimal as XP is not capable of running modern applications or hardware.

You never use the operating system

So let me ask some generic questions. What do we use our PCs for? What applications and service do we use? Does the OS really matter if we can access those services and use those application? And let me tell you one thing that most of us don’t know – you never use the operating system, you never use Windows. What you do use or care about is ‘applications’ to get the job done. You use a browser, a word processor, a movie player, a chat program, an image editor…but you never ever use the OS. These apps _use_ the OS to get access to hardware that they need to do the job. For example your browser needs CPU, RAM, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and network so that it can show you the content you want to see. Your browser talks to the operating system to give it access to those resources so you can do your job. So, all you care about is whether that application can be installed on a particular OS or not. That’s what decide whether an OS is for you or not. At the same time you do have to care whether the hardware that you use will work with the OS or not as it’s the OS which talks to the hardware so applications can access it. For example if you are doing Skype that application needs microphone and video camera. Skype itself can’t talk to these devices, it’s the operating system which talks to these hardware and let Skype use it.

Which apps do you use?

Let me ask you, which is the first application you open after booting your system. The chances are your answer would be ‘a browser’. That’s try because today most of our computing has either moved to the ‘cloud’ or we are less and less dependent on local applications. That said there are a lot of users who still need local applications to do a lot of things. So there is always a mix. In order to see whether openSUSE is for you or not we need to see what you do with your PC. That would make it easier for us to see whether Linux is for you or not.

Browsers

Almost everyone uses Firefox or Google Chrome browser. These two browsers, and many more including Opera, are available for openSUSE so you won’t miss anything that you would do on your Windows XP system.

Office Suites

Most of the people use LibreOffice or OpenOffice these days and both office suites are available for openSUSE. There are more office suites like Calligra which can be used. Then there are cloud-based online suites such as Google Docs or Microsoft Live which can be used via browsers on openSUSE. So there is no dearth of office suite and looking at Microsoft’s bad support for standards it’s not at all a good idea to use MS Office or save documents in docx formats.

Social Networks & video chats

Most of us use Facebook, Google +, Twitter or other social networks to stay in touch with friends. All of these can be accessed via a browsers so you will be able to use all of it on openSUSE. Then come instant messaging or audio video chats. Both Skype and Google Hangouts are available for openSUSE. However after Microsoft’s purchase of Skype and reports that NSA spies on Skype users, I refrain from using Skype. That said you will be able to use all social networks on openSUSE.

Image and Video editing

An average user doesn’t need expensive and high-end image or video editing software such as Photoshop or Adobe Premier, at most we need moderate image or video editing. There is an excellent image editing software called GIMP which does a great job and offers Photoshop grade quality for free of cost. There are many more image editing software that you can pick from. In terms of video editing, there many Open Source editors like kdenlive, PiTiVi or OpenShot which can be used to edit home videos. All these applications are available in openSUSE.

Games

Linux is catching up fast in gaming, a revolution triggered by the creator of Left For Dead – Valve Software. They are bringing consoles to the market which are powered by Linux-based Steam OS. Many game companies have now started to move towards Linux. Currently you can play a lot of games natively on Linux and soon more games will follow.

That’s what I think an average user needs and if your needs are more or less same as mentioned above then openSUSE is the natural upgrade path for your Windows XP machine.

But why openSUSE: Familiar UI

There are many operating systems out there including Ubuntu so why do I prefer and suggest openSUSE over other operating systems? One of the reasons of picking openSUSE is that openSUSE, by default, offers KDE which is quite similar to Windows XP interface so a user won’t have to delearn and relearn a lot of things. In addition the DVD of openSUSE also comes with something called LXDE and Xfce which are extremely light weight desktops and can work on older machines.

Typical Windows XP interface

Typical Windows XP interface

opensuse-windwosxp

As you can compare from the above openSUSE looks more or less like Windows XP so you will find a familiar interface.

Software

Another advantage is availability of software and ease of install. There are hundreds and thousands of applications available for openSUSE. They have a site called software.opensuse.org where you can easily search for the software that you want and then it will install on your system with one click. In openSUSE you won’t ever need to open terminal to install any application. You won’t have to create any account with openSUSE to install applications. And then there are applications by 3rd party which you can download and install just the way you do on Windows.

You will find all applications neatly nested in their sections.

You will find all applications neatly nested in their sections.

Respect for Privacy

Privacy has become very important in this age when NSA, Facebook, Google and everyone else is trying to know what we are doing. Every commercial operating system out there including Windows, Mac, Chrome OS or Ubuntu has built-in tracking systems to monetize from your activities, which also poses a privacy risks. For example if you are searching from a torrent for latest film using Ubuntu’s Dash, Canonical will know that you ran that search and may be forced to share that info with UK’s GCHQ or US’s NSA if they forced them to do so with a gag order. The less any company knows about you, the safer you are. That’s why I prefer and OS which doesn’t want to know what I am doing on my system. And that’s why I recommend openSUSE as there is no such tracking system built in openSUSE which will monitor and store your activities. openSUSE is extremely secure by default and design when compared with other such operating systems. So if you are concerned about privacy and want to use a product that respects privacy by default then openSUSE is an obvious choice.

I hope after reading this article you can now see that openSUSE will be able to address all or most of your needs and you will be able to upgrade from Windows. Now, the question is how do you install openSUSE on your system. Well, that the topic of my next article.

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PS: In case you have any question about Windows to Linux upgrade you can join our community and ask the question there.

Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.