Ubuntu is a thoroughly modern operating system that provides everything you might find in Windows or Macintosh OS X, but without the drawbacks. It keeps things simple, yet offers sophisticated features.
Want to browse the web? Firefox will do the job. This is the same Firefox you might have been using under Windows and, yes, the same add-ons will work. Want to instant-message friends using AIM, MSN, or ICQ? Pidgin provides the solution. Need to do some word-processing, or spreadsheeting, or presenting? OpenOffice.org will do the trick. GIMP will handle image-editing, while RhythmBox will take care of music playback (stand-alone video playback is handled by Totem).
All of these programs are installed by default. They're not extras and they're all free of charge.
Hardware support is excellent, with virtually every item of day-to-day hardware supported, including graphics/sound cards, printers, wireless, USB memory sticks, cameras, iPods, and so-on. There's no need to fumble around with driver CDs—practically everything will be up and running straight after installation, although as with any operating system you may have to configure the system to your own tastes and needs.
TIP Ubuntu works well on older hardware. The minimum realistic requirements for Ubuntu 8.04 are a 700MHz processor, 384MB of memory, and 8GB of disk space. You might consider installing Ubuntu on an older PC to evaluate it, before installing it on your day-to-day computer.
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