helps clients select best-bang-for-the-buck computers for their Linux
tasks. We find good deals at the stores, but they often are not what
the salesmen have incentives to recommend. Here, as of late 2014, are
some general observations that may be helpful.
MMS normally recommends the latest 64-bit Desktop Ubuntu Linux. Sometimes, we recommend the latest LTS (long-term support) version, instead. We can retain Microsoft Windows as a multi-boot option.
I prefer a competent 11.6" netbook, while many prefer a heavier 15.6" notebook; say, 4GB RAM and 500GB HD at about $300-350 regardless of size. (Although they are tempting, I avoid Chromebooks - because of a quirky keyboard design, software incompatibilities, and typically tiny on-board storage capacity, and also because of a healthy doubt about entrusting your data to "The Cloud"; a.k.a., "The Fog".) That's more than enough computer for nearly all users - even more so with Linux, which demands less room and offers more flexibility than Windows. The stores want to sell you a far more expensive computer; if you do demand more, Ubuntu runs fine on those, as well.
Beyond that, there are many trade-offs including these:
Linux compatability: Some computers are less Linux-ready, and need an extra driver or two. I test passively on a store demo unit without affecting it (by booting Ubuntu from a Live USB thumb drive), and/or I search on-line.
The battery will be too small or too heavy; pick one.
I prefer a removable battery (for later) and a matte-surface display; but each is becoming harder to find, and they are not deal-breakers.
A textured outer surface is becoming easier to find; it's less slippery and, one of these days, that may keep the computer from hitting the pavement.
There are some good and bad models of components, but most are of good quality.
Extended-service contracts generally are money-makers for the store; the first five years are apt to be failure-free anyway, and these contracts bind you to a store that often ships your computer elsewhere for impersonal and slow repair.
The weekly sales often bring great bargains. (And today is Cyber Monday - although "Cyber Monday" and "Black Friday" seem to have blurred over into two weeks.) Last week, I saw a nice-looking Asus netbook at Best Buy, at an extraordinary $250. This week? I don't yet know of anything that good.
A good used computer of similar specs can be retreaded with Ubuntu, for nearly all of the same advantages. MMS often has some used ones, with Ubuntu already installed.
We charge $135 to install Ubuntu onto a typical computer at MMS. We provide an Installation Worksheet with optional free applications, and we invite the client to sit in for a valuable learning experience.
--Dick Miller, Partner, MMS <TheMillers@millermicro.com>
Co-Leader, FOSS User Group at Natick Community-Senior Center
| A. Richard & Jill A. Miller | MILLER MICROCOMPUTER SERVICES |
| Mailto:TheMillers@millermicro.com | 61 Lake Shore Road |
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