I have written a number of times about the advantages of Linux over Windows as an operating system. Linux is cheaper, faster, and much more stable. It is also a bit more complex, and there is very little genealogy software available for the Linux operating system. One good genealogy program is available free of charge although it is not quite as powerful as its Windows and Macintosh cousins.
I have experimented with several versions of Linux but settled on Xandros. Xandros Linux is easy for any Windows user to learn as its user interface looks very similar to Windows 98 and XP. You can read an earlier article I wrote about Xandros. You will note that it refers to a review in eWeek magazine.
I recently upgraded to the new Xandros Version 3. It is available in three versions. I paid for the middle version that is designed for home use. It includes the Firefox web browser, Thunderbird e-mail, and Skype Internet calling to make free telephone calls. It also includes OpenOffice.org, a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation office suite that competes favorably with Microsoft Office.
While the version I purchased is inexpensive, a new release introduced this week provides most of the same functionality at an even better price: free. Xandros Open Circulation Edition version 3.0 includes the native Linux Skype client for crystal clear Internet voice calls, as well as the OpenOffice.org office automation suite of programs. It also includes the Firefox web browser (safer and faster than Internet Explorer), Thunderbird e-mail (better and safer than Outlook Express), and more. This is not a cut-down, limited-feature version. Xandros Open Circulation Edition version 3.0 includes the full versions of many programs that are the equivalent of hundreds of dollars worth of equivalent Windows programs.
You can download the Open Circulation Edition from http://www.xandros.com via any suitable BitTorrent client for free or pay $10 to download via a regular Web browser. If you are not familiar with BitTorrent, you can find more information at http://www.bittorrent.com. Once downloaded, you need to create a CD-ROM ISO image of the file. Instructions are included on the Xandros web site.
Xandros Open Circulation Edition version 3.0 is an excellent method of trying out Linux at no cost. You can convert an existing PC to "dual boot;" that is, you can install Xandros Linux in addition to the Windows operating system already installed. When the system is booted, you will be presented with an option of which operating system you wish to use for this session. The Xandros Linux system can access all your data files stored in the Windows partition on your hard drive.
Another method of taking Linux for a test drive is to blow the dust off that old PC that you abandoned when you upgraded to a new Windows system. Load Xandros Linux on the old system; you may be very impressed with it.
For more information, go to http://www.xandros.com.
You can read some other reviews of Xandros at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1760197,00.asp, http://www.pcworld.com/howto/article/0,aid,119360,00.asp, http://www.linuxplanet.com/linuxplanet/reviews/5699/1/ and at http://os.newsforge.com/article.pl?sid=04/12/23/2039209&tid=2&pagenum=1.
To see a good, free genealogy program that operates well on Xandros Linux, look at http://gramps.sourceforge.net/. I also wrote a review of that program in a Plus Edition article last year.