Sure, I feel a slight pang of jealousy whenever I see a writer compose his or her work using a sleek MacBook Air, but I do think such a machine is overkill for most writers, especially those who use computers primarily for word processing and surfing the internet. In fact, did you know you can buy a decent, used computer from DePaul for only $50 or $60? DePaul sells its older computers through its own web store called University Salvage. As of this writing, there are four desktop computers for sale under $50! But there has to be a catch, right? Right: these computers don’t come pre-loaded with operating systems like Windows or Mac OS. However, if you’re feeling adventurous–not to mention budget-conscious–you can install a popular Linux distribution on your system for free. One of the most popular Linux distributions is Ubuntu. (As a matter of fact, Dell just announced it will be bundling Ubuntu with PCs it sells in China). I’ve used Ubuntu myself, and if you’ve ever used a Mac before, you’ll notice a lot of similarities. If you’re ready to take the open-source plunge, you’ll need to download Ubuntu and install it using a CD/DVD or USB thumb drive. Canonical, Ubuntu’s maker, has made this process relatively easy by including how-to guides with screenshots right in the download page. If you get stuck, just click “Show me how” and follow the instructions. For those of you who are a little more tech-savvy, you may want to consider some of the other major Linux distributions.
Regardless of which distribution you choose, you’ll be able to create and edit Microsoft Word-compatible documents by using an open-source word processor like Open Office. By opting for an older $45 computer versus a shiny new one that costs $1,500, you’ll be saving some major money for other things. Like food. And shelter.