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Alternate Software

Rob Pegoraro
Monday, August 21, 2006 10:13 AM

Last month, I wrote a column about Microsoft ending support for all pre-2000 releases of Windows.

My conclusion that Microsoft had every right to do this, and that users must take responsibility for securing their own PCs, drew some slightly negative reaction.

Reaction, as in, "you scum-sucking Microsoft shill!" sort.

Many of those folks raised this salient point: What are they supposed to do with a perfectly usable old computer if Microsoft won't release any new software for it?

In yesterday's column, I looked at one possible answer, a new release of the Linux operating system, Ubuntu 6.06. I started hearing lots of good things about this software a year or so ago, then picked up a CD of it at the FOSE trade show in D.C. earlier this year. I was pleasantly surprised to pop that CD into my laptop, boot off it and find myself online via my wireless network almost instantly.

(For those Linux advocates wondering why I didn't write about any other distribution, I also tried out the latest Mandriva, Xandros and MEPIS releases and found them wanting in comparison to Ubuntu.)

After spending a month or so trying the current version of Ubuntu, including installing it on four or five of the laptops I wrote about last week, I think it's a viable Windows replacement, especially for the "I just use the computer for Web and e-mail" contingent.

That's not something I'm willing to say about most earlier Linux distributions; just compare yesterday's assessment with the verdict I rendered two years ago.(Yesterday's story is my fifth in-depth review of this operating system since I first threw a copy of Linux on a laptop in May 2002.)

Not Your Usual Internet Mogul

To note, one of the more interesting aspects about Ubuntu is the person largely responsible for it -- South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth -- who sold his company, Thawte Consulting, to Verisign, Inc. for $575 million in 2002.

Since then, Shuttleworth used some of his share of the proceeds to underwrite Ubuntu and other open-source projects. He also shelled-out $20 million to the Russian space agency for a visit to the International Space Station in 2002. No, I'm not jealous. . .

 Change of Address

What's different about yesterday's column compared to every other column? The e-mail address printed at the end of it. Instead of the usual rob@twp.com, it directed readers to contact me at robp@washpost.com.

Yes, the address I've used since the fall of 1995 is being put out to pasture. Now I have an address at the same domain as just about everybody else at The Post.

Why did I go to the trouble of using this separate system? I originally got it because the washpost.com mail system was suffering through a summer of woeful unreliability: I saw one message show up *three months* after it was setn. That system also required me to use Microsoft Mail, a dimwitted excuse for a mail program that could only be used inside the building. And finally, my assigned Post address of pegoraror@washpost.com took too long to spell out over the phone.

Since we had another mail system hosted outside The Post's network and accessible with any mail program, I asked for an account. Better yet, I got one with the super-easy-to-spell address of rob@twp.com.

It's worked very well over the years. But now, the washpost.com setup is much better and easier to use, thanks to the people in the IT department who were willing to listen to my feature requests. They even let me trade my "pegoraror" username for just "robp."

Not to mention the washpost.com account is protected by a much more effective spam filter (Postini).

Making this switch was easier than I had thought, since I can forward mail addressed to rob@twp.com to robp@washpost.com. The only time-consuming part has been figuring out which Web sites I've registered under that address. I looked through the list of stored usernames and passwords in my copy of Firefox and found most of them. Then I looked in my mail archives for any "welcome to our site" messages to find the others.

I'll keep that e-mail forwarding active for a few months, and then retire the old address. So please update your address books (unless you're a spammer, in which case you should first play with matches, run with scissors or fly a kite during a thunderstorm).

Elsewhere in Sunday's Paper

In the personal-technology pages we also have these stories:

  • In Web Watch, Frank Ahrens tries out a new site that offers video how-to clips.

  • We've got a quick look at the latest version of PGP Desktop, a program that can encrypt your e-mail and files against any snooping attempts.

  • In Help File, I revisit a recent topic: Microsoft's "Genuine Advantage Notification" software to explain what to do if this program says your copy of Windows isn't legitimate.

  • And don't miss Sunday Business's cover story analyzing TiVo's impact on TV viewing habits: Pausing the Panic.

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