Sometime last year, I stopped using my old personal laptop (late ’09 vintage) all together simply because it was too slow. Well ok, I did keep it around and use it rarely for the one or two apps I had installed on it. But after migrating away from those apps, I ditched it. After all it was only an Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB of RAM with zero battery life made by MSI. (It was a very good laptop back when I bought it, not knocking on MSI.) Having done all I could in Windows to speed it up, I just let it collect dust. All was not lost thought …
After giving my parents an Acer C7 Chromebook and seeing how good it was I decided to give Linux on the desktop a second look. I’ve used Linux going all the way back to 0.8 and while its great on servers I never really saw it as being all that practical on the desktop. Given I’m usually working in Visual Studio it was never really an option for me especially. Setting Visual Studio aside, as I can always Remote Desktop into another machine with it installed for work or just run VirtualBox worse case.
Hearing so much about Ubuntu recently, I decided to setup a Virtual Machine on my desktop and give it a try. Not really being a fan of UI and the fact that the live DVD wouldn’t run on my laptop I set it aside. Later I found out it didn’t have anything to do with Ubuntu, but more on it later. I did a little searching and came across Linux Mint 14 which is based upon Ubuntu and a much more traditional UI. Again, installed it in a VM before trying it on my machine. Deciding i didn’t have much to loose, so I jumped in and installed it on my laptop, but the video just wasn’t quite right. Didn’t know at the time, but Linux and Nvidia need special attention. After finding the steps to pull down the drivers, I had it up and running.
Having been using it now for more than a month, I’m very impressed at how well it runs. Yes I did spend $30 for a new battery, but with a 2-3 hour battery life its not great, but certainly long enough for my needs. For the most part, I just live in Google Chrome with a few other apps. I have to say Chrome is extremely quick on this machine Here are a few of the apps I run on a regular basis …
- Google Chrome (and yes I have a ton of extensions including Last Pass and they all work great!)
- LibreOffice (although most of my docs are on Google Drive)
- Pencil (A very good GUI mockups tool)
- Insync (No not the band, a 3rd party tool for syncing Google Drive on Linux)
- Remmina Remote Desktop Client
- TeamViewer 8 for Linux
The only thing I’ve found that doesn’t work all that great is watching Netflix. Yeah you can do it, but its rather hacky using Wine. Otherwise, I’d say it works great. In addition, I’ve found that using Eclipse to building Android Apps works great. No drivers to deal with related to my Nexus 7 or Samsung Galaxy Nexus and I’d have to say it is as quick or faster than my desktop running Eclipse.
I don’t think I would recommend it yet for the complete novice user, but since we are doing more and more on the web, the need for apps is dropping every day. For someone who knows their way around a PC and is comfortable with a command prompt, I would say, yes go for it. I’ve even added an account on here for my wife (who is not computer savvy) to be able to browse the web in Chrome and do a few things. I find myself using it more and more as time goes on. So far, the only minor, minor issue I’ve seen is where the Menu button doesn’t let me select an item in the list. Granted I’m not sure if that’s not an issue with the touch pad. I’ve had a few sensitivity problems with it before. So I’m not sure its a problem in the OS.