Surprising revelation: for the last month or so, I've been using a Linux-powered laptop as my primary work machine.
Linux, of course, is the free, open-source alternative to Windows and Mac operating systems. I've fiddled with it from time to time, but never considered it a viable replacement for either one.
Mind you, I can't abandon Windows altogether. Not only do I write about it for a living, I also rely heavily on certain features and programs not currently available in Linux.
But this much I've learned: If you want to breathe new life into an old and/or slow PC, or you're just tired of paying for operating systems, Linux rocks.
My Linux "distro" of choice is Ubuntu, which is quick and easy to install and about as user-friendly as they come. Right out of the "box," it has everything you need to do, well, just about everything. There's Firefox for Web browsing, LibreOffice (an OpenOffice variant) for word processing and spreadsheets, Banshee Media Player for music, and even Ubuntu One for online backups (you get 2GB free!).
Beyond that, the Ubuntu Software Centre hooks you up with the vast library of open-source (read: also free) software.
The OS is admirably fast, too. I'm running it on a 3-year-old Acer laptop that came with Vista. It took forever to boot and was just maddeningly sluggish overall. With Ubuntu, it boots in about 60 seconds and runs very nimbly.
Wondering how Linux fares from a business perspective? Check out my related post: Linux Vs. Windows: Should Your Office Make the Switch? It outlines a lot more of Ubuntu's pros and cons.
In the meantime, hit the comments and share your thoughts on Linux. (I'm expecting an earful.) This probably goes without saying, but it's the best operating system money can't buy.
Bonus deal: The Verizon MiFi 4510L is a little slice of 4G mobile-hot-spot heaven (here's my review). It normally sells for $99.99, but Verizon is currently offering it for $49.99 shipped. That's with a two-year contract, of course, and monthly plans start at $49.99. But just like cheap printers that require pricey ink, at least you're getting a good deal on the hardware.