Q: I’ve been using the free Linux operating system on my PC for 10 years, and I wonder why more people don’t have it. It’s easy to use, there is free software for it and it installs on most PCs (it can even can be installed alongside Windows). What’s the problem?

Joe Hesse, West St. Paul

 

A: Linux, an open-source (shared for free) operating system, isn’t likely to become widely used on personal computers for several reasons.

• No compelling need. Most people are content to use the well-known Windows or Mac operating systems that come with a new computer. They’re not inclined to switch to Linux because it doesn’t solve a problem for them; it’s just different.

• Lack of compatibility. To emerge as a third desktop operating system, Linux needs to work with existing PCs and their accessories, such as printers and enhanced-graphics circuit boards. It’s still a long way from achieving that (see tinyurl.com/jofl4v9).

• The Linux user base is tiny. It’s used by only about 2 percent of the world’s desktop computers. As a result, there’s no financial incentive for software developers to write compelling new programs for it. You have to rely on what people will develop for free.

• Even Google can’t promote it for PCs. Google Chrome OS, a Linux-based desktop operating system, isn’t widely used.

That’s not to say Linux can’t be a popular consumer product. Google’s successful Android operating system for smartphones and tablet computers is a version of Linux. Its success is partly because of its early introduction into a growing market. Android debuted in 2008, a year after the iPhone made smartphones a mainstream consumer product.

 

Q: My Acer eMachine EM250 netbook PC worked well until last summer. Then it slowed down so much when I was online that it became unusable, and the hard drive ran constantly. I’ve checked for viruses and reinstalled Windows 7, but it hasn’t helped. I want to keep the PC running because I use amateur radio software on it that won’t work with Windows 10. What can I do?

Kevin Busse, Prior Lake

 

A: Your 2010 PC has only 1 gigabyte of RAM (random access memory). As a result, it’s being overwhelmed by more modern software, such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 11 browser and the latest Windows Update program. You can either try to minimize your PC’s memory usage or buy a newer Windows 7 computer; the latter is the better option.

To reduce the PC’s RAM memory usage, make sure you are using only one continuously operating antivirus program.

To minimize RAM use by Internet Explorer 11, reduce the number of add-on programs it uses, and empty its folders that hold temporary internet files and cookies (bits of computer code that identify you to certain websites). See the directions at tinyurl.com/hgb2sxt.

While Windows 7 PCs are rapidly disappearing, it’s still possible to buy one with 4 gigabytes of RAM memory, which is enough to run most of today’s software. Refurbished Windows 7 desktops sell for less than $200 (without a monitor) at retailers such as Wal-Mart and Staples.

 

E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander@gmail.com. Include name, city and telephone number.