Not so terrible after all

This week I’ve got a really interesting little tidbit for you that I came across on my web wanderings recently.

It is a complete Linux-based operating system and set of applications that fits on a biggish memory stick and which you can carry around with you and use on any Windows PC you come across. It’s known as Portable Ubuntu and you can find and download it for free from portableubuntu.sourceforge.net.

At 438 MB in size, it is a fairly substantial download, but I eventually did manage to get it down onto my PC. It comes in the form of one executable file which decompresses itself into a folder that you’ve designated. It doesn’t install on Windows as such, so you have to go to the folder where you’ve put it and double click a file called portable_ubuntu.bat.

After humming away to itself for some time, a new program icon appears on your Windows Taskbar and, at at the top of the screen in the centre, you get a panel which allows you to access all the various features of Portable Ubuntu. The Applications menu gives you access to a number of applications including accessories such as a calculator and a dictionary, a fairly wide selection of basic games, a photo manager, a word processor, and a spreadsheet.

From the Places menu you can access your home folder and desktop within Portable Ubuntu, the computer as a whole, and any network that you might be connected to. There is also a System menu, a button for the Firefox browser, a panel with a calendar and clock, and a button to use to quit the program.

Portable Ubuntu is a complete computing environment and could be useful if you’re moving around a lot and you want to take your computer with you on a memory stick. I guess that it could also be useful from a security point of view because it won’t leave any settings or data behind on the computers that you use; files you create are stored in the same folder as Portable Ubuntu and go with you when you unplug your memory stick.

My computer is now over four years old and it ran Portable Ubuntu speedily enough to to make it entirely useable. I have a lot more exploring to do but it does seem to be pretty easy to use and likely to give its users the feeling that Linux isn’t so terrible after all.

There will be people that have a serious use for Portable Ubuntu but I suspect that they are probably far more for whom it will be an easy way to get a look look at Linux, without having to install it on their own PCs. Portable Ubuntu is based on the fully-fledged Ubuntu Linux operating system which is also available for free from the Internet at ubuntu.com.

Ubuntu goes back to 2004, according to online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, and is developed and refined by members of the open source programming community. The project is generously supported by billionaire South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth and brings out a new version of Ubuntu every six months.

I did originally play with Ubuntu a couple of months ago and was convinced that it, together with the plethora of free applications that you can run on it, had become a viable choice for computer buyers. Certain users may need to stay on the Windows or Macintosh platforms because they use applications that will not run on Linux but, for the rest, I think that the future is Linux, one of whose many varieties is Ubuntu.

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