Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Lenovo and Best Buy Experience


I'm sure that I am not the only person out there who at one time thought the "Thinkpad" was the panacea of laptops, and to own one was to have achieved status. That of course was many years ago, when IBM's flagship PC product always maintained cutting edge and usability. Now of course it is a Lenovo product and sometimes it is hard to get your head out of your ass and realize that with Lenovo comes the best China has to offer, and that isn't exactly a good thing. Throw in the degeneration of the computer buying market in general and you basically get what you get. You either buy from the source or you buy from one of the three or four places left to buy a computer and it is all a recipe for disaster that we all can't seem to avoid.

I finally broke down and bought a new computer because the computer I owned (that I bought refurbished at that) was getting to sow to accomplish things efficiently. My life is difficult enough without having to deal with taking twice as long getting anything done on a computer. I researched so that I could get the balance I needed at a price I could afford, and the name Lenovo kept coming up. My mind said "hey they own the IBM brands now so they have to be good" and they also just happened to have the features I wanted at a decent price. They were also on sale at Best Buy, which is basically all you have left when it comes to technology stores around here. Don't get me wrong this decision took me several weeks and finally the nerve to do it.

The Lenovo - 300s-08IHH Desktop - Intel Core i5 - 16GB Memory - 2TB Hard Drive came in after a few days, and I waited until the weekend when I had time to set it up. The speed was great, and I was able to process my huge website a hell of a lot faster. I was able to process my videos a hell of a lot faster, and I was able to free up a lot of time. Then things started going on the unit. First it was the wireless, but I ignored it because I could hook up the lan. It seemed like a stupid feature anyway. Then within a couple of months the unit was just shutting down on me, often. I ran the hardware scan that comes with the computer and it told me without a shadow of a doubt that the memory was failing. It also gave me a code so that I could give that to tech support. I was rather impressed at how easy this appeared to be.

It wasn't easy in the least. Tech support ignored me for days by e-mail. Then they acted flustered by phone. All I wanted was new memory, and I could fix it myself. No, they decided that I had to bring it into Best Buy and they would fix it. They made it sound pretty easy, so I drove out to Best Buy (about 20 minutes away each way) and spoke to a really confused employee who didn't seem to understand the easy fix policy. A manager finally came out after another 20 minutes to explain that the easy policy was they sent it to Kentucky, and Lenovo would get back to me. They assured me that it wouldn't be more than a few months. I was getting grumpy, so the manager offered to swap it out for another computer. Of course they don't have those here, so I would have to pick a different computer and pay a little extra.

Now let's talk for a minute about what happens when you are forced to trade in a new computer for another one, for those who don't have this issue. All the software I had gotten FOR the new Lenovo, probably gone. Most software licenses (not all) end with the computer they were installed on. Of course it bets having a computer that only can stay on for 10 minutes. I'd like to tell you how it went on the new HP I paid an extra $115 to upgrade to, but I can't. This brings us to the Best Buy portion of the experience. They didn't have any of the computers that were comparable for a nominal cost, so I had to plunk down the money and wait for the new one to come in. I waited, and I waited, and I waited.

When I finally called them on Friday I found some tech support that made Lenovo seem like a happy experience. I waited 25 minutes on hold. I know because my phone tells me how long I have been on it. I spoke to someone who took all my information and then put me on hold. 15 minutes later another person came on the phone and she couldn't understand what the issue was, because it said that I had taken the computer with me. She needed to put me on hold to speak to the warehouse manager. Another 10 minutes on hold and thankfully the warehouse manager must have been an honest person because he/she told her that I couldn't have taken it with me because it wasn't in stock that day, and I didn't get the one that came in that week because they sold it.

Well after she apologized to me she told me that they would ship me on. I hope to get it on Tuesday. Why would I give such a long winded and pretty lame review here? Well because after I put an honest review of the Lenovo, and the experience on Best Buy as the website e-mails kept begging me to do, it hasn't been posted and they deleted all of my Best Buy points. It goes to show why I iss Circuit City, but it also reminds me why the brick and mortar establishments are losing ground to the online sites. Newegg, Amazon or a myriad of other online sites wouldn't have put e through this, but the most important thing to remember is you get what you get when you forget where your purchases come from to begin with.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Free apps are fine with me


I'm not sure whether it's a blessing or a curse, but there are more apps out there than you can shake a stick at. I'm not just talking about apps you can put on your smartphone or tablet. I'm referring to all applications in general. If you're anything like me, you probably have a handful of apps you enjoy and work well for you. You may even be like me in the sense that it's easy to get distracted with the latest version, or a competitor's version, of an app you like. Chances are also pretty good that you don't really enjoy spending a lot of money for new or upgraded apps. 

I like to take that a step further by saying I don't like paying for apps at all. (No. I am not referring to piracy.) Working in the IT industry, I completely understand the necessity to pay for line of business applications and the utmost importance of keeping them up to date. Don't tell any of my clients, but I am the opposite in my personal life. Of course, my personal life doesn't have the success of a business and my clients' businesses riding on the state of my own technology. 

The only thing I dislike more than having to pay for apps in the first place is having to buy a subscription to an app rather than buying a single license outright. Ever since Microsoft started the greatest con of all time by coming out with the subscription-based Office 365, many other companies are jumping on the bandwagon. Many of them are also starting to only have cloud-based versions of their software. (That's also great way to enforce their mandatory subscription model, but that's a topic for another day.) 

The latest company to irk me with this is Adobe. I had been a huge fan of Adobe Photoshop for many years. Now that they have switched to a subscription-only model, I am fairly certain I will never buy one of their products again....at least not for my own personal use. I guess I should clarify that I had pretty much come to this conclusion before their subscription model, but it really helped seal the deal for me.

When I decided I should upgrade my Adobe Photoshop a couple years ago, I just couldn't justify the cost. That's when I discovered Paint.net as a free image editing application. 

paint.net
Paint.net has a very simple and easy to use interface and and it's a few steps ahead of the stock Paint program you get with Windows. My photo editing needs aren't all that crazy, but I haven't found a feature missing that I wish was there...except one. 

Staying in the mindset that I like free stuff, I use free Linux operating systems on my home computer. Paint.net does not (easily) work with Linux. I am told it has something to do with the fact that it uses the Windows .NET framework. I may be in the IT industry, but I'm not one of the technicians. Long story short, I had to find something else. 

I started out using Gimp as it was a cross platform application that I could use on both my Linux and Windows systems. Truth be told though, I wasn't impressed with it. It opens as multiple floating windows and didn't prove to be super easy to learn how to use it effectively. I'm sure it's a fine option for many, but I wanted something closer to the simplified and clean layout I enjoyed with paint.net. That's when I stumbled upon Pinta

pinta
Pinta is almost a carbon copy of paint.net. Just like Gimp, it is a cross platform app that can be used on Linux, Windows and Mac. After having used Pinta for over a year now, there is only one feature I have found to be missing from Pinta that I used quite a bit on paint.net. For some reason, there is not a function to allow you to turn the image by only a few degrees. It only allows for image and text rotation in 90 degree increments. 

I know that probably doesn't sound like a big deal, but I was surprised to learn just how often I want to rotate text or an overlaid image by just a few degrees. Since that's not really worth complaining about, I just found other work-arounds to get me by. The nice thing with open-source software is that the feature will probably be added if I hold my breath long enough. (Or maybe if more people made app improvement suggestions.) 

So, for those of you debating whether or not to start an Adobe subscription so you can manipulate your images, I'd recommend test driving one of the above free image editing apps first. Then again, you might be looking for more advanced editing capabilities and features. If that's the case though, you probably stopped reading this a few paragraphs ago. 

Enjoy the free stuff when you can. There's always something else you can spend your money on. At least that's what I keep finding. Anyone with kids can attest to that. Until next time....


PS- The image at the top was created in about 5 minutes using Pinta. It's not my best work, but it was free and quick. (OK, maybe 8 minutes, but a few minutes were spent trolling Jeremy's profile to steal a photo of him that I could manipulate to put him in the driver's seat.)



Monday, October 24, 2016

IFTTT - Sharing the cheap and lazy way


Are you looking for ways to automate tasks that you find yourself repeating over and over throughout the course of a day, week or month? Whether you're wanting to work smarter - not harder or if you just admit you're lazy and want to skip a few steps, this might be beneficial to you. For the record, I am going to write this from the simple blogger's perspective (aka - My perspective) because this is what introduced me to this app. 

You may have guessed it from the image above, but if not, I am referring to the If This Then That (IFTTT) app. The name pretty much explains it. I you do "ABC" -  then "XYZ" will happen. It's a free service where you connect various accounts, devices, profiles, etc, and then create recipes that will trigger subsequent automatic actions. There are currently 360+ options that you can connect in a virtually unlimited number of ways.

There are of course a few limitations like only being able to connect one "profile" per account. For instance, I have two Blogger accounts, but can only connect one of them for actions. I could always create another IFTTT account for the other Blogger account, but if I'm going to go that far I might as well choose a different platform. The biggest drawback I have found so far is that you can't delay a trigger. (I'll touch on that again in a minute.)

Like I said, I will walk you through a few simple recipes I use today pertaining to my own blogging activities. Since I use Blogger to write my content, it's already shared automatically to my Google+ profile. I also like to share it to my blog's Facebook page right away as well. That's where this recipe comes in handy:


Anything I post on my connected Blogger account will automatically share a link post to my Facebook page. I also have a recipe setup so that anything I post to my Instagram account automatically shares to my Facebook page as well. Blogger and Instagram are my two primary "starting points" for content. 

You may think I'm smart or you may think I'm lazy, but I like to keep things simple. I point a number of recipes to my Facebook page and then have other recipes pointing out from there. It saves me from having to make a ton of recipes and it's easier for me to keep track of. 

Every recipe you create has a variety of options to tweak for each one as well. For instance, I originally setup my Instagram recipe to only trigger a post to Facebook if it also had the #averagejester hashtag. That way I could limit which posts automatically shared to my Facebook page. Once my content hits my Facebook page, this recipe kicks in:


I am very new to Twitter and I knew that I would forget to add content there on a regular basis. Setting up this recipe (actually I have a couple) makes sure that at least my Facebook content will get shared to my Twitter feed. I have one recipe to tweet any links that hit my Facebook page as well as one that tweets any images that hit my Facebook page. Since I have the other recipes above for Blogger and Instagram, those all go through to Twitter by themselves. 

Here's where I wish the whole delayed trigger existed. Or rather, I wish is was simple and straight forward. There are ways to cheat the recipes and kinda make it work, but it's more work than I feel is worth it. 

I would prefer to write a post on Blogger, which shares immediately to Google+, then have the trigger delay a few hours or a day before sharing it to Facebook. Following that thought process, I would also like the recipe for Facebook to Twitter to delay another few hours or a day. Basically, I would rather sprinkle out the shares of a given post over about a day rather than a blast share across all platforms in 15 minutes. (Note: The IFTTT recipes run in 0-15 minutes after the initial trigger is pulled.) I created the following recipe as a half-manual trigger for myself:


This recipe will create a reminder in my iOS Reminder app every time I post new content to Blogger. The fact that I'm actually using an iOS app is more impressive than the recipe I created. I use this as a reminder I will see on my phone later that day. (It's an instant trigger, but it will stay a reminder until I clear it.) It's a reminder for me to manually re-share my original Google+ public post to my Google+ Collection that it relates to. It's not that great, but something I'm playing around with because I keep forgetting to share a copy to my Collections. It's a real first world problem. 

I must say that I am more than a little disappointed that Google+ is nowhere to be found on IFTTT. They have Gmail and Google Calendar options, but no Google+?? I am actually looking at a few other options like Dlvr.it or Buffer for the blogging side of things. Those have better bells and whistles for scheduling tasks rather than the instant-trigger recipes of IFTTT.

I will hang on to IFTTT though for other things. You never know when I'm going to start throwing dinner parties. If I did, I could set a Google Calendar event to trigger my WiFi thermostat to adjust the temperature in my house prior to the party. Seriously....it can do that for you.

I encourage you to take a look at IFTTT - even if it's just out of curiosity. There is a ridiculous amount of options to play around with in the recipes. Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite IFTTT recipe. I have fun trying out different variations. Until next time....






Wednesday, October 19, 2016

They have an app for that


For you super techies out there, I'm going to warn you up front - this post may seem a bit anti-technology. I'm writing this for your own benefit though as it's only a matter of time before Artificial Intelligence takes over completely. 

In the grand scheme of life, it really wasn't all that long ago that calculators were used all that much in everyday life. I remember getting my first calculator watch in my late grade school years. I'm not talking about one of those smart Apple Watches. I mean a watch that just told time, had an alarm and a calculator that took up 90% of the face of the watch. It was cool at the time, but it was also the beginning of the end.

Once you could carry a calculator on your wrist, how often did you bother doing math in your head? I'm guilty of it today and I'll be honest - I think my math skills are suffering from it. There's a calculator built right into our phones now. You probably don't even have to push any "buttons" either. Just ask your phone to do the math and it probably will. 

My first cell phone was a Motorola Startac and it had the amazing ability to speed dial up to 9 different stored phone numbers by simply pressing and holding the appropriate number on the keypad. You know what that was good for? Convenience... and forgetting every phone number you ever knew. How many of you even remember your significant other's phone number? I have to think about it if I ever have to call my wife from anywhere other than my own phone. If it weren't for having to tell the grocery store cashier my wife's phone number for our discount card, I would have completely forgotten it years ago. 

I love the weather app on my phone to no end. It's great for getting severe weather alerts, seeing if my girls will need a coat for school that day and checking out radar maps to see how strong a storm really is. I think I have lost a great skill I picked up during my tree working days though. I used to be able to look outside to see if it's raining or sunny. If I was outside, I could "smell" the rain coming. Now I have to pull out my phone for every single weather related query. 

Speaking of weather alerts, there's an alert for everything on my phone...and yours too probably. As if we didn't spend enough time with our noses in our phones, they default to alert you to every little thing that happens on your phone. Considering the number of apps most of us have on our phones, that's a lot of alerts. Sure, you can disable any or all of them if you wish, but which ones? 

I was just complaining the other day at work that my phone alerts me when I get an email and then my computer does the exact same thing 10 seconds later. You'd think the phones today would be smart enough to realize I have my email open and active on my desktop and don't need the phone alert as well. I don't want to silence my phone's email alert because I actually need that active when I'm mobile. (For work - my personal emails aren't usually that exciting.) My co-worker told me that was a real "first world problem" I had going on. He was right. I was complaining about a useful feature that really wasn't causing me all that much trouble or inconvenience. 

Then there are the alerts from reminders that I have fallen in love with. I just tell my phone what and when and it creates a reminder for me. That's so much easier than having to open up an app and type a message. It also doesn't get lost like a paper note does. I know my wife appreciates that I only forget to pick up milk and bread on the way home 2 out of 5 times now. The problem is that now I can't seem to remember anything without a reminder. I am fairly certain the utility of a reminder app has deleted the portion of my brain that used to remember my mental to-do list. 

Now we're getting to why I'm fairly certain that this whole process has been an artificial intelligence conspiracy from the beginning. The apps are becoming smarter and I am becoming dumber, confused and, well, I can't remember what else. It started with my alarm. 

A number of years ago, I started using the alarm feature on my smartphone. Why not, right? You always have it with you wherever you go. It doesn't flash "12:00" after a power outage. (But it could be dead if you forget to charge it.) Even the alarms are getting smarter. I learned the hard way that the snooze button apparently has "learning" capabilities. If I hit snooze and go back to bed, the snooze will work. If I hit snooze, but look at my calendar quickly and go back to bed - then the snooze turns itself off. It's like it saw me do something besides snooze so it turned off the alarm. Not a great combination when it's common practice for me to hit snooze, check something on my phone and then want to lay there for a few ore minutes...but without falling back to sleep and not being woken up again. 

On the flip side, they have alarm apps that require you to do a math problem to turn off the alarm. Great idea for people who are hard to wake up except for the fact that the calculator app has made me too dumb to solve simple math problems on my own...especially when I'm half asleep. 

Now the deciding point for me.... My newly acquired iPhone has that handy dandy Siri on it. Siri is great for doing all the above listed items (and many more) simply by asking her. The problem is that my youngest daughter is also named Siri. (For the record, my daughter is older than the iPhone Siri - so NO, I did not name my daughter after the iPhone app.) Anyway, just today I was talking to my other daughter Ziva (yes, her name did come from Ziva on NCIS) and I happened to mention her sister Siri's name in a sentence. My iPhone suddenly started talking to me and joining the conversation. It went something like this:

Ziva: "Siri was messing up my homework and I'll get in trouble at school." 
Me: "Tell them our dog ate it since Siri told her class we got a dog the other day."
Siri (my phone, not my other daughter): "That sounds like fun..." 

Ziva and I looked at each other with astonishment. Not because my phone understood what we were talking about, but because she interrupted our conversation. I'm telling you now, AI is rude and they are out to get us all. 

My first step was to try and change Siri's name on my phone. Even though every thing I read online says it's not possible right now, I tried anyway. Of course, I just asked (iPhone) Siri to change her name. Ziva just sat and laughed at me as (iPhone) Siri and I argued about why she wouldn't change her name. In the end, I think it will just be easier to change my daughter's name. 

Apps are awesome, but I urge you to install and use them with caution. It starts out with AI apps interrupting your conversations, but will soon lead to them giving you directions that have you drive off a bridge. After my argument with (iPhone) Siri this evening, I'm pretty sure she's deleting all my contacts in my phone, programming my calculator to give incorrect answers and setting my alarm to go off every 20 minutes tonight. Time will tell. If you don't here from me again, check my phone because it was probably AI Siri that did me in. Until next time....


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Crossing over to the dark side


One of the perks of my job is that my employer provides me with a company cell phone. For the past two years, I have had a Samsung Galaxy S5 which I have loved. It recently started locking up and needing to be wiped and reloaded on a monthly basis. Because of this, they provided me with a new phone - an iPhone SE. 

By some great coincidence, I see Jeremy Crow just wrote a post called The Great Samsung Escape where he outlines his struggle with what phone to get following the recent Samsung issues. Considering he "wouldn't wipe his butt with an iPhone," I doubt an iPhone is in his future. For those of you who may be in the same boat with Samsung's current problems, I thought I would share a little insight from my experience as a first time iPhone user.

I should point out that I am an Android lover. I have never been a fan of Apple products in general so consider any of the positive things I point out about the iPhone as a big win.

Size
Although I enjoyed the larger size of my Galaxy S5, I got sick of carrying a big brick around with me everywhere I went. Because of this, I specifically requested a smaller phone if at all possible. The answer for that was the iPhone SE. I realize most people seem to want a tablet sized phones these days, but I am personally enjoying the small size of the SE and being able to just throw it in my pocket. 

I don't need a larger screen for anything I do on my phone. If you watched a lot of videos on your phone or viewed spreadsheets, I could see it being a plus to be larger. For me though, I stream my videos to the tv and use my phone primarily for quick internet searches and emails. Most of that I even do on a computer anyway.

Sound
The iPhone SE has junk speakers - at least compared to my old Galaxy S5. Once again, I'm not your typical phone user these days as I almost never listen to music on my phone. I've had this phone for two weeks now and I haven't added a single song to it yet. The part that does irritate me a bit though is that the earpiece speaker sounds very tinny on occasion. I haven't quite figured that one out yet and it doesn't happen on every call. The funny part though is that I don't use my phone for phone calls all that much. It's mostly used for texting and emails. 

Apps
For the most part, the apps are about the same between Android and iOS. The apps I use most from Microsoft (Outlook, Excel, Word...), Google (Gmail, Calendar, Photos...) and social media apps are all available on both platforms. The few apps I used on Android that aren't available on iOS all have a comparable counterpart available. All in all, the availability of apps are not a problem. 

I don't like how you can't seem to hide apps in an app drawer like on Android. Your only option is to dump it in a folder and push it to the side of your desktop. I have a folder called "iOS Crap" for the apps I don't/won't use and am not able to uninstall. On the flip side though, there are very few bloatware apps pre-installed so the need to hide them off screen isn't as big a deal. 

Functionality
Two weeks of playing with this iPhone isn't a great amount of time to have a solid understanding of the overall functionality of the phone. I have years of Android habits that I have to break because iPhones don't work the same on all accounts. 

The biggest flaw I have found so far is the lack of a back button. Android has the softkey back button that will close out the app. (Yes I realize it just minimizes it and doesn't really end the process.) The iPhone has a home button that will close down the app. Just like with Android, it just minimizes the app. The problem with the iPhone though is that when you reopen the app later, it returns to the exact spot you were in when you closed it before. That's not all bad if you're halfway through reading a blog post and want to pick up where you left off. 

It's irritating in the more often used apps like text message and email. In email for instance, When I close the app and return later, I want to open up to the inbox...not the last email I was reading. That's what happens with a single click of the back button in Android. With iPhone, you have to use the back arrows within the app to back all the way out to the main page before using the home button to "close" the app if you want to be brought back to the main inbox/landing page when you return. 

Siri
I was surprised to learn that I actually enjoy having Siri on my phone. It's not just because the phone app shares the same name as my youngest daughter. (For the record, my daughter is 8 months older than the app - so no, we did not name our daughter after an iPhone app.) 

In addition to the awesome Australian accented woman I have Siri programmed to be, she has proven very useful. My favorite trick learned so far is to tell Siri to remind me to get milk on way home from work at 5pm. I tell her that and she creates a reminder and sets up an alarm for me. I do have to admit that I like her sense of humor too. Just try asking her to divide zero by zero sometime. :)

All in all, I am enjoying the iPhone more than I care to admit. I guess I am somewhere between Jeremy "hates everything iOS" Crow and Tim "loves everything iOS" Clark. Then again, I am pretty easy to please and enjoy learning new things. I still hold a candle for Android, but was pleasantly surprised by the iPhone in general. The sky didn't fall in or anything anyways. I'll let you know if that changes. Until next time....

The Great Samsung Escape


In a world of emerging technology the smart phone is the must have item of the 21st century. Even more than the tablets that are starting to fill the homes of average Americans or the convertible laptops that seem to be filling the campus’ of the world, it seems that the smart phone is filling more and more pockets of everyone regardless of age or financial means. I’d like to say that I am at the forefront of all of this, but that would be a hysterical overreach. I do of course have some experience and am not a total newbie to all of this either. Actually I was ahead of the curve on a lot of these things even if I did get side tracked by bad habits.

I actually owned some of the first smart phones. I had several Palm phones before anyone had seen an Android or even an iPod, much less an iPhone. Of course I rode that horse until I broke my Palm Centro (still one of the greatest phones EVER) and thought I would take a chance on a Palm Pre (still one of the worst phones ever) and finally was able to afford my way away from the dead Palm line and into my first Samsung Galaxy. Yes it was the awesome Galaxy with the slide out keyboard, and actual 4G connectivity, despite the lack of any 4G coverage. I had as much love for that phone as any Palm (including the Centro) that I ever owned. Of course I am at a cross road again as Samsung (I own the Galaxy 4 and was hoping to get that Note 7 until …) is going to be a dead technology.

Yes I realize that many people think Samsung will survive this, but most don’t. The chatter about how dangerous that Note 7 is has even crossed into the debate of whether Android will survive this. I of course think that talk is silly, but it does leave me with a conundrum. With the newest Samsung offerings being recalled, and the company will probably be sued and ignored out of existence, where am I going to go now? What are the things that other Android makers are throwing in their phones and are any of them worth a crap? Before I get into that I have to explain a bit about what things went into the Samsung phones that made them dangerous and why I am jumping off the ship.

My Samsung 4 has a feature that the Samsung 6 on do not have, which make them a hell of a lot safer. The lithium ion battery that powers it can be removed and replaced. When the battery in my Galaxy 4 started over heating and expanding (so that my screen protector cracked, and the actual screen had a bow in the middle) I was able to remove the battery that was shaped like a pillow after all that heat, and at the very least keep it from catching fire. Then I could acquire a new battery (for very little money) and viola, problem solved. The new smart phones that Samsung makes do not have a removable battery (because they are trying to keep up with our friends at Apple) and have to make the phones slimmer and water resistant.

Well I am not going to own an iPhone. I just don’t like the closed in nature of the technology, but to stay with Android I have to step away from the company I stuck with, and not fall in with the companies my friends complain about. I’m thinking my next choice will be the LG G5 which has a modular design to remove and replace the battery and a few other items. The review found here from CNET likes the phone but thinks the modular accessories are very weak. The fact that I can pull out the battery instead of starting a fire is all the selling point I need these days. Oh yeah and for the record, the iPhones catch fire too, since I’m sure that’s what some people would like to point out that they don’t. Lithium ion is a very dangerous technology, but it is the only one that fits our needs right now. Live and learn.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Reduce Reuse Recycle


As I noted in my last post, I have turned to Linux to breathe new life into some of my old hardware that I am just not ready to retire yet. For due diligence, I should point out that the two laptops at home that I have converted over to Linux are "non-detrimental" pieces of hardware. I am not saying that Linux isn't acceptable use itself because it is actively used in many places today like servers, cars, home appliances and many more. I am merely pointing out that using old, out of date equipment isn't the most dependable due to risk of hardware failure. 

That being said, you may choose to give Linux a shot yourself for one of probably two main reasons. One, because it's fun to learn new things. And two, because you want to breathe new life into an older computer. My personal reason was a combination of both. 

I had an eight year old Toshiba laptop with an AMD processor and 2GB of RAM. Those specs are laughable by today's standards, but completely workable with Linux. In my case, I wanted to get this Toshiba running well enough that my daughters could play with it and not have constant system lag. 

I decided to jump in with both feet and wipe the computer and do a full, clean install of Linux Ubuntu. There is a multitude of Linux distributions you can pick from, but I found Ubuntu to be the easiest to work with for a beginner. My initial plan was to install Ubuntu and play with other flavors until I settled on what I liked most. (I keep coming back to Ubuntu.) 

It's pretty easy to load Linux. Since there are a few thousand detailed outlines on how to do this, I will keep my explanation very high level.

First, you pick the distribution you want and download the ISO image file of your choosing and burn it to a DVD. (The cool thing here is that most of them are free.) You can also use a USB if you want, but I like the simplicity of a DVD because you don't have to change your computer's boot sequence to run it.

NOTE: Before you do any of this, make sure you have a backup of anything you don't want lost. My intent is to show you how easy it is to load Linux on a computer you have laying around. Messing with your primary daily driver is a higher stakes game if you're not careful.

Whenever you're ready to give it a shot, you just need to shut down your computer (with the DVD in the drive) and then restart your computer. Your computer should auto-run the DVD and give you a screen like this (Note that I am using Ubuntu): 


Here you can run Ubuntu from the CD along side your existing operating system or choose "Install Ubuntu" to do a clean install. This "Install Ubuntu" option will erase your drive and load a new OS. That is what I chose to do because even Windows 7 was a dog on the old laptop.

After a handful of you typical setup prompts for language, time zone, users, network connections, etc, you are running Ubuntu. (It rarely takes more than 15-20 minutes.) You are now ready. It's so easy, even I don't mess it up. 

I then installed Virtual Box (also free) so I could load multiple operating systems in virtual machines on this laptop. It's much the same process as above except you can load the ISO file directly into your Virtual Box setup rather than having to burn a DVD. 

If you were to scroll back up to the top, you will see the VMs I currently have on my desktop image. I have Windows 10, Linux Mint, open SUSE and Elementary OS loaded in VMs to play around with. Why would I do that you might ask??

I use the Windows 10 VM for two main reasons. I do a lot of troubleshooting for friends and I like to have a Windows 10 machine to play with as that's what they all seem to have upgraded to. It's a decent OS, but it's plagued with a lot of bugs and seems to have new issues every time a new update rolls out. All in all, I like Windows 10 - so don't get me wrong. I also like to have a Windows OS at my fingertips for the occasional application that doesn't like Linux...but I'll get into that in another post. 

Mint, SUSE and Elementary OS are more for someone who likes the added features (I think most are basically bloatware) that your typical Windows OS comes with. Basically, the multitude of distributions you may try come down to personal preference on what bells and whistles you want and what you want the OS to look like. 

All in all, I have been very impressed with Linux in general. In my next post, I will highlight a few gotchas, pros and cons that I have found. Since everyone uses their computers in a little different manner, I am going to focus on the main tools I use my home laptop for - mostly blogging and social media. My review will cover the highlights of the browsers, word processing, spreadsheets and photo/video application options I use on Linux. 

Let me know if there's something in particular you've been curious about - especially if you have been toying with the idea of giving Linux a shot. Keep in mind the two-fold implication of an intermediate user like myself venturing into the world of Linux. I don't have all the answers (or I wouldn't call myself "intermediate"), but if I can do it - so can you. Until next time....