I am in the lucky position of having a spare laptop to play around with. It cost me 0c so I can’t quibble with the price. But I might as well give out about it anyway. Nothing screams “I will struggle to run Windows” like a laptop from 2010 (under)powered by a Celeron processor and 2GB of RAM. Having briefly dabbled with a version of Ubuntu running off a DVD a few years ago, I was curious to find out how it’d work installed properly on a computer. So I got downloading.
This is where the fun starts. There seems to be an endless selection of Linux distributions (distros) out there. I don’t think I have enough years left on this planet to try them all so I tested a handful of the more popular ones. Even though all the Linux distros are quite alike, they have their own quirks. In the end I settled on Linux Mint. It runs very nicely on my creaking old laptop and has almost fooled me into thinking it’s a half decent machine. Also, because it is such a popular distro, there is plenty of help online for users. More on this later…
On a superficial level, Linux Mint operates a lot like Windows. There’s still a Start button, menus, windows and plenty of familiar software. Skype, VLC Player, Firefox, Libre Office, Dropbox, Steam and Spotify are just a few. It also comes with quite a lot of open source and paid software written especially for the platform. There is also the option of installing and running some Windows programs using Wine . It works very successfully with some programs but can be problematic with others.
The enigmatically named Synaptic Package manager is Linux’s equivalent of the App Store familiar to smartphone users. It’s the simplest, most straightforward way of installing software.
Installing Linux Mint was painless but I ran into problems straight away because of the wireless card in the laptop. Of all the laptops in all the world, I had to own the model that had a card Linux doesn’t recognise 🙁 It worked fine when connected to the router by an ethernet cable but who wants that when you have a laptop? To cut a long story short, I bought an inexpensive little USB Wi-Fi adaptor made by Plugable. I went with Plugable because they make devices which are compatible with Linux. Not all devices are. Once the adapter arrived, it plugged and played like a regular device.
I’ve done well to get this far without mentioning The Terminal. When I need to open this up, I know there is a chance my braincells will start to hurt. I’m still sorry I tried to install the Tunnelbear VPN on this. Basically, if you want to keep your sanity and enjoy using your perfectly nice, functioning new operating system, don’t try anything out of the ordinary. The linux people on internet forums speak geek and it will melt your braincells.
I mentioned at the top of this piece that I’d plumped for Linux Mint because it’s so popular. It’s easier to find answers to questions tailored to this operating system.
From my limited experimenting with it so far, peripherals such as printers and scanners may be troublesome. I shall update this post should I try to install any of these.
The conclusion….so far
I’ve no regrets about installing it on this laptop. If you have an old computer or laptop which isn’t being used, then by all means give it a go. Many distros of Linux, including Mint, come with the option of trying it without installing. I like Linux but I don’t love it. 20+ years of Windows has done the damage.
I stumbled across this very useful web page not long after I installed Linux Mint and followed the instructions.