E July Update

Another hot and humid work week is coming to an end. It’s been raining a lot, and that hasn’t cooled things off. It’s just steamy. The warm weather won’t be around for too much longer, we’ll just transition into cold and snowy soon enough.

It’s a good time to get out and about and try to enjoy the warm weather if you can. I like to have a lite weight laptop with me most of the time, but I’m not too keen on taking a very expensive one out into the somewhat harsh environment. Especially if I can get some productivity out of an older less expensive unit. Looking at the prices on the new MacBook Pro configurations makes me hesitant to upgrade my old MacBook Pro. In fact, I’ll usually take my sub $200 IdeaPad or my long in the tooth netbook. They still work, and if either gets dropped or soaked – it’s not that tragic. If I ruined a brand new $2000 laptop out in the swamp I’d probably feel a little nauseous for days – and I’d be noticeably displeased for quite some time.

Fortunately, there are still some well supported Linux Distributions that enable many users to get a lot of functionality out of older or less expensive hardware. This doesn’t mean you need to forgo any decent level of security or reliability. Ubuntu 18.04 and Mint 19 XFCE distros work quite well with lower system requirements, but I have similar results with Windows 10.

Yes, I do get a lot of usefulness out of my iPhone and I know lots of people who use their iPad as their main mobile productivity tool, but they can be a little pricey too if you’re on a limited budget. I shouldn’t leave out Chrome-books, but I don’t have a lot of experience with using them. I don’t see why I would when I can run Linux.

I’ve used the Lenovo IdeaPad 110s for over a year. I added a 32 GB micro SD card and it works great. It’s very lite and I have used it many times for trying out various distros.

At the moment I’m running the latest Mint 19 Tara. There was Grub loader issue on an earlier installation iso image, but the latest iso installed very smoothly. I have been impressed with how well even Audacity works on this laptop. Add a decent USB microphone and you have a nice little podcast production studio.

You can do a lot of the same things with just an iPhone, but I can also run Wireshark on the IdeaPad, which is kind of handy. It’s not only better for your budget to extend the life of older or less expensive laptops – it’s probably better for the environment.

The basics you may require a laptop to support are: Wifi and hardwire Ethernet. Basic command line tools including SSH and Putty Tools, Wireshark, Web Browser, Text editor, Calculating spreadsheet, Python and/or Powershell, Audacity, Skype.

Usually, all are available either in a decent Linux Distro – or available in supported repositories.

Windows basic install supports most of these requirements, including some usually available in the “Microsoft Store” – which is similar to Ubuntu’s Flagship Distro software “Store” I’m not a fan of either. You may find yourself filtering or trimming out some unwanted commercial applications.

I recommend keeping an eye on your resources – CPU and memory impact under normal operating conditions. If your system is slow responding crashes too often, then maybe it is time to upgrade – by how much will be dependent on your current and future needs, but if most of your needs are fulfilled by a web browser or at a shell prompt – you probably can get a lot done with a limited system.