Windows 7 has reached the end of its life. It will no longer receive security updates and Microsoft’s technical support will stop. Running an out-of-date OS can have serious potential risks, and if you’re one of more than 750,000 people using Windows exposed to the internet, you may have a problem. Fortunately, there are two simple solutions: 1. Buy a new computer running another operating system, or 2. Install Linux on any computer you like. In this blog, we’re talking about the Linux option, specifically Ubuntu.
What is Ubuntu?
Ubuntu is an open-source operating system supported by Canonical, with millions of users and five years of support, for free. It runs on PCs, in the cloud and on “Internet of Things” devices. It can host thousands of applications, it is a platform with a global community of users backing it, and it is designed to be secure by default.
Upgrading from Windows to Ubuntu gives access to thousands of apps ready to install. The majority of these applications are free and open-source. You can do anything from photo editing to media streaming, from reading the news to messaging your friends. But crucially, you can continue using your old favourites too. Like:
Moving from Windows, it’s more than likely a lot of users will be used to Google chrome. Ubuntu runs Firefox by default but changing to chrome is very simple to do. With chrome, the approximate 56.1% of web browsers who were using Google Chrome at the end of last year can happily move to Ubuntu. You can even move all of your bookmarks from chrome on Windows 7 to Ubuntu.
To do so, click on the three dots at the top right of the browser. Move your mouse to “Bookmarks” and open “Bookmark manager”. You’ll see this part can also be achieved with Ctrl+Shift+O. Next, select the bookmarks you want to keep, select to the three dots at the top right of the page, and click “Export bookmarks”. Google Chrome will then save your bookmarks as a HTML file for you to save online. You can later use that file to import your bookmarks back into chrome once Ubuntu is installed.
If you’re moving from Windows 7, you’re going to want to keep your music. And given that Spotify is the most popular global audio streaming subscription service with 248m users. It’s a good job Spotify is on Ubuntu too.
WordPress has a dedicated desktop client for Ubuntu. The app lets you manage WordPress sites, write and edit the design of your site without having to switch to browser tabs.
A free, open-source 3D creation application, for creating 3D printed models, animated films, video games and more. It comes with an integrated games engine that can be used to develop and test video games
Skype is the most widely used cross-platform video calling app. It brings features like voice calls, video calls and desktop screen sharing to your computer. On Ubuntu you can continue skyping to your heart’s content.
With these apps, most PC users will be able to function as normal. You can continue to search the web, listen to music, watch films, talk with your friends and download new apps. Plus, you can discover thousands more designed and built by the community.
Getting new apps
For general users, there is still a preconception that Linux is complicated. But the technology you are already using has had roots in Linux for years. Chromebooks run Linux outright and the Android operating system is based directly on Linux too. Plus, installing software on Ubuntu is actually easier than on Windows. On Ubuntu users install apps using the Software Centre and the Snap Store. Both are similar to the android and ios app stores you are used to but have been around much longer. And then installing is just a case of clicking install. Without needing to click through Windows asking to make changes to your computer.
Though to be clear, there are things that do not hold up. The two biggest stand out differences at the moment are gaming, and Microsoft Office. Gaming on Ubuntu is a work in progress that can be difficult unless you already know how to do it. For example, installing Steam on Linux is really easy and there are lots of popular games available (Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Hitman, Dota) to play. However, a lot of other popular games are not yet available to run natively. To play, they require work which could present a big challenge for the average user.
Microsoft Office is also not available on Ubuntu. It has become the go-to office suite for writing documents or creating presentations, but it is not the only option. There are alternatives that are worth trying, or that you might even prefer. The Linux answer to Microsoft Office is LibreOffice. A set of applications that aim to achieve the same things as Microsoft Office, pre-installed with any version of Ubuntu.
There some great online alternatives too. Applications with the same functionality as Microsoft Office, available through Ubuntu, that do just as good a job. For example, google’s office suite. These applications provide the same functions as Microsoft Office, online, for free. The basic tools are the same and your documents are more accessible. Sharing and storing work is easier simply by hosting them online. All online web apps are available with Ubuntu.
Open-source means Ubuntu is built by people, for users. It is backed by Canonical who provide extra services and support for large businesses to use Ubuntu in their organisations. It is free for anyone in the world to use, for anyone to contribute to, and so anyone can suggest or request new things. Even Microsoft is contributing in order to have their say. Open-source communities are famous for being passionate about their work and for being collaborative, they are open to everyone. Using Ubuntu is a step towards joining a global community, and contributing your work to a bigger picture.
But people are what makes a community great. The Ubuntu community is not just software people and computer people, but artists and photographers, entrepreneurs and inventors. People who contribute and feedback their own views to make apps and features the best they can be.
Going back to why the switch from Windows 7 is necessary, Ubuntu brings security. Every line of code is thoroughly reviewed and vetted by Canonical or a member of the community. Code isn’t implemented until it works as it’s supposed to, and is checked for vulnerabilities. There are full-time employees at Canonical actively looking for bugs and vulnerabilities.
Ubuntu is the most popular choice for an operating system in the cloud and within enterprises. The system you can download for your own computer is based on the same robust security principles that companies like Amazon and Google rely on for built-in security. It’s also popular on a smaller scale in devices like robots and home automation for the same important security reasons.
Documentation for Ubuntu’s security features is available online. For example, a feature known as AppArmour confines applications to limit attack space and restricts access to specific users more tightly. And a feature known as LivePatch allows for live security updates to be installed onto your computer without restarting. If a bug in your system is found the update rolls out automatically to fix it without you needing to do anything. It’s done in the background to keep your computer secure by default.
How to get Ubuntu
There are several ways to get going with Ubuntu. Following this blog, there will soon be a series that will walk you through the stages of upgrading from Windows 7 to Ubuntu. There are three main options.
You can install Ubuntu on a computer you already have. This can be difficult if you haven’t done it before, but there is a blog series which walks you through the transition, specifically from Windows 7, and more general tutorials that are available to walk you through getting Ubuntu.
You can buy a new computer pre-installed with Ubuntu from one of Canonical’s partners. This blog post on Dell’s computers will point you in the right direction. Buying a pre-installed computer is the quickest and easiest way to get Ubuntu, but it can be expensive.
You can also install Ubuntu in a virtual environment. This option might sound the most confusing and is the least intuitive if you’re new to Linux, but it is the most straightforward. This option means installing Ubuntu in a virtual environment on Linux, Windows or MacOS. Inside an application that lets you access Ubuntu from your desktop. A simple walkthrough is available on the Ubuntu community Wiki page.
To conclude, if you know anyone still running Windows 7, a relative, a small business owner or any other less than techy person in your life, let them know Windows 7 is soon going to leave their system exposed. There are a few options to take, one of which is Ubuntu. A Linux operating system that offers thousands of new apps to explore and most of the features you can get from Windows, for free. Ubuntu is well looked after by the community, with users across the globe, and by Canonical, who help to make it secure and function to an industry-leading level of reliability.