Differences between Linux and Windows XP
Someone asked what is the difference between Linux and Windows XP. A better question is what ISN'T different between the two. In many ways comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges.
With that being said please don't think that because they are so different that Linux is that much harder to use than Windows XP. They are different, that's it. No one started out automatically knowing how to use Windows, we learned how to use it. As my 3 year old daughter has proven to me, It's just as easy to learn how to use Linux first. She knows how to turn on the computer, go into her profile, and open then play her (educational) games. She knows how to use her kiosk style browser page for her (approved) online games as well. She also knows how to shutdown the computer when she's done.
There are many different flavors of Linux. Most are designed to optimize older computer hardware and make the newer hardware sing. As long as you take a look at the specs, especially RAM of an older computer, and choose your Linux version appropriately you will find that your computer seems to fly. Linux does NOT slow down over time like a Windows computer will.
There is no need for anti-virus software. Yes you read correctly, with Linux there is no reason to install anti-virus software. The people who code viruses target Windows because that is the most prevalent operating system and therefore they can do the most damage. Since permissions, files, and programs are handled differently in Linux it would be difficult to write a virus that will affect Linux. Add to that the variety of Linux flavors it becomes even harder to write a virus that could affect all Linux machines.
There is no need for anti-spy software. The reasons for this are very similar to the reasons for the no need for anti-virus software, but there is a caveat to add here. Basically having to do with web browsers and extensions. Know what you're adding and why you're using it.
Linux doesn't have the dreaded BSOD, also known as Blue Screen Of Death. I know it's uncommon for newer Windows computers to have it. But as they age, and the more software you install, remove, play, and everything else, eventually you'll run across one. Especially if you've been attacked by a virus.
There are thousands of free applications available to handle your software needs. While you won't find the latest games free, there are many different games to keep just about anyone happy. There are programs for managing your daily finances, digital photo editing, graphic programs, web development software, multimedia applications, and naturally programs for email, web browsing, and instant messaging. You will also find free office software for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. (And yes it can read and edit the .doc format from Word.)
When using Linux there are many different options referred to as flavors. There are too many for me to list them all here, but here is an overview of the ones that I consider the major flavors.
I am going to start with Ubuntu. It has many subversions including: Lubuntu, Xubuntu, andKubuntu. Each of these use the same core operating system. The differences are based on the different Desktop Environments they use. Ubuntu uses Gnome, Lubuntu uses LXDE, Xubuntu uses XFCE, and Kubuntu uses KDE. Gnome and KDE are feature rich environments, while LXDE and XFCE are designed to work well for systems with lower specifications. I currently run Lubuntu and Ubuntu, and my daughter knows her way around both since they are so similiar.
Fedora was originally conceived when Red Hat Enterprise came into existence. While this may not be exact and is a simplification basically Red Hat decided they weren't going to offer their operating system without paid support (which was paid up front as I recall). Some of the programmers decided they needed a new version that wasn't paid and still community supported rather than paid support and that's how Fedora came to be. I have never used Fedora, but I have used Red Hat. When I used it, it wasn't as easy to use as Ubuntu is now, but since that was at least 7 years ago, it's reasonable to assume they have become more newcomer friendly. I will say that Red Hat was the first Linux flavor I used, with the occasional assistance of die hard Linux friends.
Open SUSE is another where there is now a paid and a free version. In this case the paid version that Open SUSE is based on is SUSE Enterprise which apparently did something very similar to what Red Hat did, just a few years later as I recall. I last used SUSE about 5 years ago, and have never used Open SUSE. I changed from SUSE to another OS, mainly because I only had an older free version and new hardware and accessories, so I felt a need to upgrade.
Debian is another well known version of Linux. This is not one I have used directly, but I will mention that Ubuntu is based on Debian foundations. That is not to say they are the same thing by any means. I know of many Debian uses who are very satisfied and therefore naturally loyal to Debian.
I mentioned several different desktop environments when I listed Ubuntu. All those desktops are available for the various Linux flavors. Each flavor has a default desktop environment when you install Linux, but you would have the option to change the desktop if you prefer. You may need to find the appropriate instructions (especially for removing the old desktop environment once the new one is installed).
While some flavors of Linux do have paid support often they are community supported instead. This means that most of the time you can find an answer to your question or problem by doing a search of the forums or a web search. Ubuntu for example is well known for it's diverse community support.
Is Linux different than Windows XP? Yes! Which is the better OS? For me that is an incredibly easy answer of Linux. With the lack of OS cost, running faster, antivirus software unnecessary, antispy programs not needed, and thousands of free applications to handle your day-to-day computer software needs, it just fits.