Protecting Windows From Viruses
There are several things you can do to protect your computer from viruses. However there are six things you can do.
Google Toolbar for IE - Install the google toolbar in the internet explorer. This will make the internet explorer, less dangerous and it will block popup ads.
When you buy a PC, you soon realize that you can do very little with your PC unless you buy software to go with it. That is why most PC retailers offer Microsoft Office with their PCs. My advice is DO NOT buy Microsoft Office. Order your machine with the cheapest configuration that will usually include WordPerfect or Microsoft Works. When you get the machine, uninstall that software. Now, you can install these free applications.
Replacing Windows with Linux
Until Linux becomes more promenant in the computer industry, manufacturers of computer components will not be required to make their products compatible. The technical users of Linux have added the functionality to work with a great number of devices without the help of the manufacturers. For example: Most printers, scanners, video cards and even Palm devices will work with Linux. Even with these successes, it takes time for them to figure out some devices, and there is simply not time to figure them all out. In a couple more years, who knows. I think there may be enough people wanting compatibility that the manufacturers will take notice.
For those with the techincal ability, Linux really is the answer to all our prayers. It's FREE. If you are not sure about Linux, please do try one of the CD distrobutions below. You can try any of these simply by putting the CD into your computer and restarting the machine. They are called Live CDs. It will start up your computer and come to a graphical screen that looks similar to Windows. You can try it out and if you like it, install onto your computer. NOTE: I would backup my data before installing it on my computer. Many of the distrobutions will allow you to keep Windows and install next to it, however it is not guaranteed to work.
Linux is now fairly simple to install and manage. If you are in need of a web server or network server, there is no reason to pay for a Windows 2003 Server. Linux is cheap, fast, more reliable and more secure than Windows. Also hiring support for Linux is much less complicated. As long as your network is functioning, you can have support personell monitor and repair your network remotely. If an on site visit is necessary, then the technician should be able to finish a repair with much greater confidence and speed than with a Windows network.
For those that think they will need some help, I would suggest buying a commercial distrobution. The best would be SUSE. You are actually buying telephone support to help you configure and troubleshoot your system. Both Novell and IBM can offer trained specialists to come and setup your systems.
Windows Programs - I have now stopped using any Windows programs aside from Quicken. So, I installed Quicken on my Linux machine after adding a program called Crossover Office. Crossover Office comes from CodeWeavers. When added to a Linux box, it allows you to install a great number of programs designed for Windows. Things like Photoshop, Quicken, Microsoft Office, Lotus Notes, etc.
Security - Is it safe? Well, unfortunately, the answer is a resounding, "NO!" If you follow safe computing practices, then you might be safe. However, if you are running Mircosoft Windows, then you cannot be certain that your computer is not going to be harmed by using wireless. Using the recommended software above, (Firefox, Thunderbird, Zone Alarm) will help, however, it is not enough. The explanation for this is far too technical.
"But my wireless card for my computer says I can activate WEP or WPA security." Although that will protect your network from casual observers, it will not stop the identity thief or the high school student down the street. High School? Who am I kidding, even a sixth grader will be able to get past the simple wireless security. There are freely available programs on the internet that will automatically break into wireless networks. Anyone savy with computers can get them.
When is it safe? Well, that is a tricky question. I is NEVER truly safe. However, if you live in an area where the houses are more then 100 feet apart and you are more than 100 feet from the road, you are relatively safe from prying eyes. Only because you will see them. If you live in an apartment or town home, forget it.
What is Linux?
Linux is an oversimplification of a greater thing. When people talk about Linux, they are usually referring to Open Source Software as a replacement of Windows. Linux by itself is simply an operating system kernel that allows a computer to turn on and start programs. When you start a computer with ONLY Linux on it, the computer would turn on and put a black and white "Login:" prompt on the screen. The software that makes it look like Windows, is Open Source software.
However, "Linux" is usually refering to Linux and all of the open source programs that are usually delivered with it. These compilations of software to accompany Linux are called "distrobutions" or "distros" for short.
You can buy a distro from companies like Red Hat, SUSE (Novell), Linspire, or MandrakeSoft. Or, you can download one of the many free versions, Fedora, Knoppix, Debian, MEPIS, Gentoo, etc. All of the distros are different. They have their strengths and weaknesses.
Why would I want to use Linux over windows? Two main reasons:
For my mom and dad, I would probably buy Linspire, since it functions much like Windows and in fact can run much of the software designed for Windows when necessary. Linspire is an oversimplification of the Linux operating system. Having said that, it's a good thing for casual users. My mom and dad do not need all the power of Linux. It would overwhelm them.
For a power user, I would recommend SUSE Linux. There is one reason for this. In Windows you have a control panel. SUSE has a similar panel that harness all the added functionality that Linux contains.
For a technical User. For the more technically minded out there, I would suggest Debian. You can install Debian in a variety of ways. The easiest would be to get the KNOPPIX or MEPIS live CDs and install them on your hard drive. With Debian and an internet connection, you have access to thousands of programs. For just about any task you would like to accomplish. You can search for the program you want and it will be automatically installed and configured. Very nice. Unfortunately, Debian doesn't have a control panel like SUSE Linux. If you want to customize Debian, it will require expert knowledge.