The future of technology is the Internet and not high end computing. An older refurbished computer can provide that just as well as any newfangled system can. But you say "How can you possibly get any use out of my old outdated Windows box?". Read on...
Microsoft and Apple dominate the software world that keeps driving us to upgrade our systems. Windows Vistas requirements are an abomination in my opinion and with Windows 7 it is only going to get worse. Its true your not going to install Vista or even XP on that old system. Nor will your old Mac fair much better as they've discontinued support for the OS on it. But there is a third option; Enter Linux. I use Linux on older systems and it provides all the features of a modern operating system without the high resource demand.
Most people have never heard of Linux or if they have they think its just an operating system for geeks and hackers. This is far from the truth. Linux operating systems like Open SUSE and Ubuntu are leading the way in innovations in the desktop environment. Microsoft keeps implementing features in its new OS's that I've had for years on my Linux boxes. In fact, when I distribute the systems people ask what version of Windows I've put on it! They truly can't tell the difference in graphics or functionality. I explain to them that its similar to a Mac OS only different.
If you have an old Windows or a Mac system you can't get updates for it any more. Not so with Linux. I've taken an old win 95 machine and refurbished it with a RAM upgrade and a network card. The computer ran perfectly but I couldn't find drivers for the network card for the life of me. No problem though. Booted to a Puppy Linux live CD and all was well. The system ran fast and had Internet.
I've had a lot better luck with installing Linux on laptops than trying to work with Windows. Even on laptops capable of running XP I prefer to use Open SUSE 10.3 because it runs faster and is more secure.
That's the other benefit of installing Linux. With every Windows installation I've sent out the tech support calls come in about a month later. Even with the anti virus software I install somehow they end up completely bogged down with ad-ware programs. People just can't resist installing all those free games and browser enhancements and who really reads those license agreements anyhow? I get a few calls on my Linux systems when people try to hook up a printer or a digital camera and I have to walk them through an installation. I've yet to receive a call about random pop ups or porn links mysteriously flooding the desktop.
Then there is the issue of running Microsoft software on a Linux box. Putting aside the fact that there is a Linux alternative to about anything Microsoft has to offer I can see the concern. But, as I tell people. It's like a Mac. You don't expect to run Windows software on a Mac do you? You either use the version designed for the Mac or you use the alternative. Or you use Wine. No, you don't just get drunk and forget about it .Wine (Wine Is Not an Emulator) is a program that allows you to run windows software in Linux. Although this program is not perfect I've found that it allows you to run many common Windows titles that that my clients use most frequently. Another option is virtulization.
Virtualization has been in use in Linux for some time now. You'll be hearing a lot mote about this powerful software soon, as Microsoft is poising to enter the market. Virtulization allows you to run entirely separate operating systems in a single computer. In other words you can run your Windows and Mac OS inside of your Linux installation. This is entirely different form dual booting or emulating an OS. You literally can have Windows in a window! These are known as a VM (Virtual Machine). I could write an entire blog about how VMs are going to revolutionize the IT world as we know it but I'll save that for a later time. Needless to say I never would have heard of virtualization software if not for dabbling in Linux.
The Main thing to remember here though is the Internet doesn't discriminate. It knows not weather your a Windows, a Mac, a Linux or any other Os. If we can refurbish a computer and install a functional Operating system on it that allows people to access Internet resources then we have accomplished our goal. Not only Is a world of information at your fingertips but the opportunity is there for education, communication, and enhanced social interaction.
That's what this is really all about. Its not just about keeping electronic waste out of our landfills although that is part of our primary mission . It's about providing opportunities to people!
For more information about how you can help to bridge the digital divide by donating your disused computer, please visit our website: http://computersforcharity.webs.com