Presto OS: a way for Windows users to try out Linux

By: Tim Teatro

February 10, 2010

We received an interesting question from reader John Lunn about the Presto Operating System Presto.

Presto is a lightweight operating system introduced in 2009 that is installed inside Microsoft Windows.  If you’re interested you can download Presto here.

John asked, ” Has anyone experimented with the minimalist Presto OS for PCs? I’ve been curious about it and gave it a shot on my last laptop. It made my fonts so large it was impossible to read. But I’ll try it again on my new machine. I’d love to hear some reviews if anyone tries to take it through its paces.”

As the WhatsYourTech Linux buff it fell to me to answer John’s question which I will answer in two parts. I’ll start by addressing the  font issue.

Without more information, it is difficult to tell what the issue may be. The mostly likely case is that Presto didn’t take well to your video hardware and is running with very low grade graphics settings, including a low screen resolution. The lower your resolution is, the bigger things will look. On your toolbar, there should be an icon for “Presto Settings” and then “Display Settings”. You may want to check your resolution, and turn it to the native resolution of your display device.

For the second part, I’ll try to give you an ad-hoc review. I’m a Linux user, and so I’ll evaluate it as a Linux distribution. However, keep in mind that Presto OS targets Windows users. Presto’s claim to fame seems to be twofold: it installs under Windows, and it boots very quickly. Neither of these points are unique.

If you want to install Linux on Windows partitions, Ubuntu has its Wubi installer (http://wubi-installer.org/) which provides the same Windows-installer convenience (for free I might add). And, as for the boot time, I’ll give Presto credit: it’s fast. But it’s also so stripped down that it’s hardly useful if you hope to do any more than browse the web and check your email. It does however have a software store with many free open source solutions to expand Presto’s range. Also, don’t forget that there are many light and fast distributions of Linux to try, if you like the minimalist approach. Head to www.distrowatch.com to read about some of them.

Having said all this, Presto OS packages these two features in one easy box, without the need for tweaking or hours of wading through options. For a Windows user who wants to be able to boot very quickly, get in, send off a couple of emails, listen to some music and watch youtube, it’s a good product. It’s price of $20.00 US  isn’t expensive if you remember what you paid for Windows! It’s a good way for a Windows user to get his /her feet wet in the Linux pond. But experienced Linux users are unlikely to find any new value in the product.

Let me know if you have any questions. Write to me at editorial@whatsyourtech.ca.

About Tim Teatro:
Tim Teatro is a physicist from Oshawa, Ontario and a well received author and presenter in his field. He was born with a keyboard in his hand, and today works on multi-million dollar supercomputers across Canada, discovering the secrets of the universe by simulating reality on a massive computational scale. He has long had a strong fascination with the open source software community and its incredible, rapidly expanding network of people. Tim uses Linux on almost all of his personal computers.


3 comments

  1. Pingback: WhatsYourTech.ca Articles: Feb 2010 – t-square

  2. timtro@gmail.com'
    Tim Teatro
    Author

    Hi John,

    I think you’ve brought up an important point. Linux has been the choice of power users for some time, but many groups in the Linux community have been working to change that. Some distributions of Linux can be very easy to use. In fact, I was just listening to the Ubuntu UK podcast, and they were discussing how that distribution is gradually trying to bring in the casual users who don’t really have much of an idea about how computers work, and don’t want to know!

    I strongly recommend you try wubi, which will install Ubuntu under windows in a similar way as presto. I think you will find it to be a little more usable than Presto, but it won’t boot nearly as fast. However, a proper installation of Ubuntu does boot faster than Windows on most computers (click here for a comparison).

    As a final note, I’d like to point out that I don’t mean to say that switching to Linux is easy. Most people I’ve seen switch had a hard time at first because you have to figure out how to do simple things that are quick for you to do in Windows. But once you’re over the learning curve, you will eventually find it just as difficult to go back to Windows, once you get used to all of the things that Linux can do that Windows can’t. One thing that can really help you get to that point is the communities. Check out the Ubuntu forums, and see what I mean. If you have a question, or a problem, you can post there and you’ll usually get a response within a couple of hours. It really is amazing how many Linux users are willing to help each other.

    If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to come back and ask. I’d also encourage you to come back and post your experiences. It can be helpful to others. Best of luck John.

  3. 18k@comcast.net'

    Thanks for looking into this, Tim.

    I’ll check it out again on my Windows 7 machine, although, 7 boots faster than XP did.

    And I’ll take another shot at learning Linux. My prob with any linux distro is the legwork involved in getting it up and running. Linux users are uber-geeks in this and love to tinker. I just want my OS to start up on a full tank so I can take it out for a spin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *