Monday, October 22, 2007

Advice comes free

A guy who lives on our estate met me in the Post Office last week. After the usual pleasantries he said "you're an expert on computers."

Woooh. Just because, like photography, I taught IT to A level for a number of years doesn't make me an expert. Far from it. Still, all he wanted to know was what should he buy to replace his ageing Windows 95 machine. That is almost like asking, "what car should I buy"? There are so many factors like; how much do you want to pay, what do you want to do with it and would you prefer a laptop to a desktop. We could have been there all morning.

He'd been told, by a friend, not to touch Windows Vista but to stick to Windows XP. Actually, considering that he has some older peripherals that he wants to keep, that is not such a bad idea. It's more likely that there will be drivers for his old stuff that work with XP than with Vista.

I have to confess that my own experience with Vista started out badly but has improved dramatically since. Software that was flaky to start with has been updated as companies sort out compatibility issues. The reliability index for my computer is now 10 out of 10. I would guess that most people, like me, who have Vista are happy with it. Even still XP is probably a better choice in this guy's case.

Actually there is an alternative. If he doesn't relish the idea of making Bill Gates a richer man, he should consider installing Linux instead. The Obuntu version (I know the name is weird) is apparently excellent. It's easy to use, has a great interface and comes with an office suite of word processor, spreadsheet and presentation program. There are all sorts of other programs available to download which work just as well as their Windows' counterparts. Best of all though it is all FREE of charge. I have a friend, who IS an expert and he swears by it.

The guy in the Post Office's main concern though, was that he wanted an English version of the operating system. He'd been told that once Windows was installed you couldn't change the language. That was almost correct. You can change the keyboard and input language and you can also change the way your computer displays numbers, currency, dates and times but it is true you can't change the language of the menus. You have to buy the correct language version in the first place to get that right.

Buying an English version of Windows is less of a problem here in Spain than you would imagine. Carrefour, for example, sell Windows Vista in both Spanish and English versions. I'd like to bet that PC City in Alicante do the same. I ordered my Dell in Spain but asked for English software. As it happens, the computer came from Ireland but with a Spanish warranty. I'm sure you can order from other companies like HP with English software.

Failing that, there are lots of little computer shops around that sell machines with English software. The downside though is that most of them sell their own "home made" computers at cut down prices. Personally, I would be wary of buying a home made system. It requires a lot of experience to put together a reliable working system which is something that the local shop doesn't necessarily have. I'm told that some shops even sell machines with non-genuine versions of the operating system. My advice to anybody is to avoid those like the plague.

So the bottom line is. Go to somewhere like PC City and see what they can do or phone a company like Dell or HP (both have people who speak good English) or failing all that, wait until your next trip to the UK and buy a laptop there and hope that it doesn't go wrong.

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