My father is wanting a new computer, and I am trying to help him decide what he really wants. To refresh your memories, my father is retired and currently is using an XP desktop. I have already discussed laptop versus desktop. Next, we need to decide what OS to use.

Ubuntu is not an option. Even though it is quickly progressing as a mainstream OS, Ubuntu still requires too much tinkering under the hood. It will continue to get more popular, but it is not ready for primetime yet.

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XP seems to be the easy, logical choice. Dad is already comfortable with much of XP’s interface. If he decides to use a laptop, he is going to be learning about networks, trackpads, and a whole bunch of other new stuff related to that. Adding a different operating system on top of it all might be too much. All of his old programs and hardware will still work fine. Plus, he can always decide to upgrade to Vista at a later date.

However, if my father is wanting a new computer, he is probably not really enjoying his current computing experience. He has already asked me about upgrading to Vista when it first came out. He certainly seems to be anxious for a change.

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A switch to Vista would give most of the advantages of XP. (Vista Video Part 1 Here and Part 2 Here) For the most part the interace is very similar. In fact, you can even switch Vista back to an XP look. Most of his current software and hardware is likely to work too. On the down side, Vista only improves the user’s experience on a few fronts. Some of the changes to the user interface are confusing. Vista contains a lot of annoying bugs. Plus, Vista is treated poorly in the community, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Vista fades quickly much like Windows Millennium did.

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Changing to an Apple system with OS X would be a big leap. (OS X Movie Tour here.) OS X is a much better, much easier (but also very different) interface than windows. Most day to day activities are more simple on OS X, but learning a completely new operating system is tough. Spyware, viruses, and bugs are much less of a worry on the Apple system. However, much of his current hardware and sofware are unlikely to work. Many of the day to day activities such as editing and printing pictures would need to be retaught and relearned. Most of the games and software that he uses now, he would have to give up. (Parallels or Boot Camp would be way over his head.) The lack of a nearby Apple store for training keeps things tough. If dad can get over the hump and learn OS X, his overall experience is likely to be better than with a Microsoft system. That hump just seems to be large.

If dad was not already comfortable with an operating system, I would suggest starting with OS X. However, now that he knows XP, should I reinvent the wheel?

Any suggestions?