In a little less than a year, there will be no more updates for Windows XP users. Microsoft is ending all support around this time next year, despite nearly half of all users still using XP.

Can we live without updates? Sure. Easy. Updates are thought to be necessary to protect against hackers. However, with a good anti-virus and anti-spyware program, you should be fine. (Knock on wood.) The best freebies we know of are from  and

If you’re moving on from XP, where should you go? Many people these days are buying tablets. That’s great if you mainly just watch the screen, browsing the web, for instance, but not so good if you do a lot of typing.  If you plug a keyboard into the tablet and use it a lot, you  may get what has come to be known as “gorilla arm.” That is, your arm starts to develop a cramp from frequently reaching up to tap the screen.

Quite a few people in the computer business like Linux. There are several versions but they’re all free, fast and don’t crash. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a little technical knowledge to get everything working properly, hence the popularity with those in the tech business. The latest Linux flavor is called “Mint.” If you burn it to a DVD, you can test-drive Linux without making changes to your computer. An additional program, called “Wine,” lets you run many Windows programs on Linux.

If your computer is a dud and you’re in the market for a new laptop, a Google Chrome machine is a good choice. Nearly everything you do with the Chromebook takes place online. So if you mainly use a computer for email and web browsing, which is what many people do, this is the easiest way. Chrome laptops go for as little as $200. We find ourselves reaching for ours whenever we’re away from our office. The long battery life (about 6.5 hours) means it’s usually ready to go.

Things are cheap now, computers especially. is selling Windows 8 laptops for under $300. Of course, getting used to Windows 8 is a pain in the nether regions for many. But we find that it’s mainly a matter of learning to switch quickly from the screen with the big colorful tiles to the familiar desktop. Use the Windows key and the “D” key for that. If you get used to using the Windows 8 “search” function, and you pin your favorite programs to the taskbar along the bottom of your screen, you won’t miss the old familiar “start” button. Go to Google and type “Windows 8 shortcuts” to get all the tips you need.

If you still can’t stand Windows 8, but are stuck with it, consider “StartIsBack,” a $3 program. It returns the familiar “start” button to Windows 8. We’ve previously recommended “Pokki” or “Start8” for the same purpose, but we’ve since uninstalled both of those. We’re waiting for the Windows 8 update in August, which we hope will bring back the start menu.

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