September 17, 2013, 3:02 PM — The end is nigh, and the date of doom has been foretold. The Windows XPocalypse is set to unleash hell on April 8, 2014, and in a bid to preserve the security of its citizens, the German city of Munich is turning to an unlikely savior: Ubuntu Linux.
Both security experts and Microsoft itself have warned that the impending end-of-life date for Windows XP could spark a hacker holiday, as the still-popular operating system will stop receiving security patches to plug vulnerability holes. Microsoft went so far as to warn that people who continue to run Windows XP beyond April will forever suffer from zero day exploits that could harm both your PC and spread to infect your friends.
Microsoft's solution, naturally, entails upgrading to a new version of Windows or picking up a newer PC. Munich's solution is much less costly: The city plans to distribute 2,000 Ubuntu Linux installation discs via the Gasteig library, giving its citizens a no-cost solution to the Windows XP conundrum.
Ubuntu, like virtually all Linux distributions, has a small footprint and should work just fine on the types of older systems frequently found running Windows XP. The minimum system requirements for Ubuntu is 64 megabytes of RAM (though 512MB is recommended) and 5GB of storage space.
Munich won't provide official support for the discs it hands out, though the version being distributed is Ubuntu 12.04, a long-term support release, rather than the newer, yet shorter-lived Ubuntu 13.04. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is guaranteed to receive updates and security patches until April, 2017.
A solid replacement
Seriously: Windows XP users should abandon the ship before the ship goes down, and Ubuntu Linux is a great no-cost option for casual users.
Ubuntu Linux is one of the more popular Linux distributions around on account of its silky-smooth installation and fairly flat learning curve. The OS comes preloaded with a bevy of helpful open-source software (like Firefox, the Thunderbird email client, and the LibreOffice productivity suite) to ease the transition even more. And hey, Steam's boss says Linux is the future of PC gaming!
But even still, trying the open-source operating system on for size after years of Windows usage could result in some shock. PCWorld has guides for displaced Ubuntu users and aspiring Linux gamers alike, and if you're really feeling out of sorts after making the switch, we even have a guide to making Ubuntu look and feel like Windows 7.