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Toss-up between a headache and a total monopoly

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AJ+. column

Browsing through that great newsletter 'The Register' (subscribe at www. the register. co. uk), I found this link to an online calculator http: //xproi. forbes.com, which tells you how much installing Windows XP costs. I got a big error message, but you wait a few seconds and proceed through the following pages as if all is well.

The problem with the Forbes calculation is that you have to make assumptions about how many of your machines need upgrading which, until you actually do the upgrading, can only be based on Microsoft claims.

The Langa List (www. langa. com/newsletter. htm ) has shown that Microsoft can be extremely optimistic about how much of your existing kit you will be able to keep using.' The Register'also reports an alleged attempt by Microsoft to nobble the Austrian Big Brother Award, in which it was nominated for an 'unprecedented attempt to win complete control over its customers'.

With the above in mind, plus the fact that Amazon, the online bookshop, has knocked a quarter off its IT costs by replacing Windows with the Linux operating system, I've started playing around with this latter system, which is a sort of free Unix clone.Free? Okay, between the cost of postage and pressing two CDs (see www. linux123.co. uk and www. linuxemporium. co. uk) and perhaps 30 quid.And you can install it on as many computers as you like.

Using what was - that week- the latest Linux version from the German firm SUSE (www. suse. co. uk/index_uk.

html , the installation worked well first time on a basic machine, took four days of hard slog to install on an old 233MHz PC , and installed first time on a 500MHz machine.This is crazy, but it shows what I have to do to keep you entertained.

I recently took three days to coax one of these machines into accepting Windows 98 SE - by taking happy pills, looking ahead and remembering to blink. If your IT person is weird and has strange eyes, you now know why. sutherland. lyall@btinternet. com

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