Fanboy Post Alert – Why can I run a secure modern operating system on a P4?

Written by James McDonald

August 11, 2010

My home computer is a P4. P4’s are like 6+ years old. However it’s still suitable for what I use it for. In fact it’s performance has been improving of late. Why?

Linux is maturing and the people who are designing the entire GNU/Linux eco-system are optimizing.

Here are some recent improvements:

  • Openoffice starts in an appreciably quicker time than earlier versions (I would say it’s about 50% quicker but haven’t tested it personally)
  • Where I used to use XFCE to make my P4 system faster Gnome now seems to be less bloated and is perfectly OK for my needs.
  • The X server is at the point where it’s rare for it to quit and send you back to a login prompt
  • And the mainstays of the Linux desktop eco-system (GIMP, Inkscape, Scribus, OpenOffice etc) have enough tutorials on Youtube and elsewhere so you can spend 10 minutes and learn a new and useful technique or two
  • New Kids on the Block like Google Chrome shake up the likes of Firefox so they are all pushing to be snappier
  • Email? I can only recommend Thunderbird because Evolution is so buggy it should be pulled behind a horse. But TB is good
  • If you have used Linux for a while, when was the last time you had to search for a driver to get your system running? I seem to just put the disk in, and in half an hour I have the latest Linux installed and all the devices are recognized. Even my digital camera plugs and plays.

On the server front we are spoilt for choice. Each distribution publishes a server centric manual to allow you to create for the cost of your time and perhaps a Linux Admin Book (I like to learn in dead tree format).

Normally with Microsoft you pay 1000$+ for a Microsoft Small Business Server or similar license (oh and don’t forget once you pay 1000 dollars each connecting client needs a Client Access License 100$, A Pro Version OS License 300+, MS Office 400-700, Antivirus $80 per seat. But wait there’s more. How about some terminal services licenses another 100+ for each client, and a proprietary backup solution for 1500 + 500 per remote agent). Oh and you will need a new computer/s too 5000 for a decent low end server and 1500+ for each client.

Linux has all the functionality and yes it comes at a cost and that cost is time. Many of the applications still have rough edges. But as mentioned above the rate of improvement means I haven’t needed to use M$ at home for years. Everytime I think I have no option but use Microsoft software. Some other method of achieving the same result bubbles to the surface in the Opensource arena.

It’s not all time cost. I do pay for some Linux software QCAD rocks and is worth a license for the Pro Edition. FWbuilder rated a license for the Windows Edition (on Linux it’s free but it’s nice to have a cross platform firewall editor).

And it’s all running on a lowly P4.

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