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Living The Linux Laptop Lifestyle – ChicagoNow (blog)

Living The Linux Laptop Lifestyle

As a freelance writer and social media consultant, I rely on my Windows 10 laptop (a ten-year-old Hewlett Packard Elitebook) for my work. However, the replacement charger blew out…two weeks after the original HP-branded charger blew out, and my laptop battery drained. That meant only one thing…getting my Linux laptop out of storage while I ordered another replacement charger.

My Linux laptop was purchased shortly after my 40th birthday: a decommissioned Panasonic Toughbook CF-29 with an SBC logo. I had always been an advocate of open source software, and considered myself to be living an “open source lifestyle.” After all, it was the integration of two sides of my personality: a rugged, military class laptop integrating community-driven software. It was powered (then) by Xubuntu (following some experimentation with Ubuntu), and towards the end…well, the Toughbook only had 512 KB RAM and was only upgradeable to 1.5 gigabytes. With such limited resources, could my old Linux laptop keep me going until I received a new charger? c-now-linux-03

The answer, with some considerations, is yes.

Thankfully, I had ordered a new 1 GB RAM stick for my Toughbook…but Xubuntu would not be the right Linux distribution (or “distro”); my Linux laptop would require something more flexible with such limited RAM and processing power. After doing a little research (one of the advantages of open source software is that communities have formed specifically around implementing software), I found some Linux distros that work on older computers. After test driving some distros on my mother’s computer, I decided that Linux Lite would best serve my laptop needs.

Another great advantage of open source software: you can run it off of a flash drive before installing it. And I have to admit that I loved Linux Lite’s out-of-the-box feel, so much so that I reconsidered installing my number two selection: LXLE, which is designed for underpowered older machines. According to a label on the bottom of my Toughbook, this pre-Linux laptop was decommissioned in 2005, making it well over ten years old. And so I replaced the RAM, installed Linux Lite, and after a short period, I was back to living a Linux laptop lifestyle while waiting for my charger.

In short, it took a week…but I realized that I had missed working with a Linux laptop.

Part of it is the unique look of the Toughbook, especially with its carrying handle. Walking around through various neighborhoods whether the Walker or Beverly branches of the Chicago Public Library or LaCatrina Cafe for the Chicago Doctor Who Meetup, I received plenty of flattering comments about my Linux laptop. (Thanks to some add-on software, I was able to use the laptop for a Meetup screening). One of my old high school classmates revealed via Facebook that he had used Linux to extend the life of his kids’ laptops. Although web browsing was a bit slower than usual, finding alternative browsers helped ease the strain on my Linux laptop.

Mostly, what I missed was the sense of freedom that I had with my Linux laptop. I have a great sense of liberation knowing that I will not get updates for the software unless I specifically request them. (Unlike Windows’ forced updates whichc-now-linux-02 slow down online access). When I had issues or wanted to add or remove software, there was a great sense of discovery. Plus, my Linux laptop became extremely customizable in terms of fonts (which I had to download), wallpapers, and organizing my files. (Linux Lite takes up 10 GB of a 40 GB hard drive, while Windows takes up 60 out of 140 GB). Even working with open source equivalent software became fun…if a bit of a challenge (I love discovering features in VLC Media Player, but could do without the slight learning curves of LibreOffice and GIMP Graphics editor).

In time, the new charger arrived, and my Windows laptop is now working. (In fact, choosing a higher wattage charger has eliminated many of the issues I was having previously). However, when it comes to heading out and above and “fun” computing…my Linux laptop has become my computing “friend with benefits.” I’m not sure I’ll ever be serious about integrating Linux full time…but I have to admit, it provides some great opportunities for learning…and exploring.

And if Windows 10 is too much for my HP laptop, will I go full-on Linux with that laptop? What do you think?

Have questions or comments? Please feel free to leave them below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. If you need to contact me privately, use this e-mail form.

And as always, thanks for reading!


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