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Is Linux Mint the best distro? It may be the only distro

What is the best Linux distro? There are tons of articles, YouTube videos, and social media posts dedicated to this subject. Ubuntu, Elementary, Pop!_OS, and Zorin OS are a few that can consistently be found in best of lists.

Another one that is usually number one or two on many lists is Linux Mint. This distro has three user interfaces that are similar to Windows: Cinnamon, XFCE, and MATE. These are some reasons why these versions of the operating system are considered to be the best distro:

  • Users can play DVDs on computers running one of these without having to install additional software.
  • They don’t have annoying update warnings that most operating systems flash before their users’ eyes
  • It also comes with unique applications that other distros don’t have and runs some applications a little better.
    • Warpinator, for example, allows users to share documents with other Linux Mint users on the same network.
    • An example of an application that works better is Insync. This application, that syncs Google and Microsoft accounts with different desktop operating systems, will run on almost any Linux distro. However, installing it places an indicator in the Linux Mint menubar that tells if the application is up-to-date, still syncing, or if there is an error. The only other distro that this indicator installs on is Ubuntu.

However, I have another reason why I consider it to be the best distro. It is the most important reason (at least for my situation).

Continue reading “Is Linux Mint the best distro? It may be the only distro”

LibreOffice: almost 40 years of development

When people think of software, they often think about multi-million dollar corporations. They do not always think of charities or non-profit organizations. However there are many applications that are developed by non-profits and their volunteers. The open-source office suite,LibreOffice, is such an application.

The office suite that is maintained and developed by a non-profit organization, The Document Foundation, has been in existence since 2011. Built on OpenOffice.org source code, it has become one of the most feature-rich suites on the market. It has several features that Microsoft Office for Windows does not have, such as the ability to export documents in the XHTML format. Its applications also can create and editor standard Office formats, from the 1997 versions of the suite to the most current ones. Its primary formats, however, are OpenDocument Formats (ODF).

It is composed of six applications and a document manager, called StartCenter. The applications are Writer, the word processor; Calc, the spreadsheet; Impress, the presentation application; Draw, the vector graphic program; Base, the relational database manager; and Math, the formula editor. These applications have been part of the suite since its beginning.

The suite has these same applications and features, regardless of whether its running on Windows, Mac, a Linux distro, or BSD (Berkely Software Distribution). It can be downloaded in various ways, and it comes preinstalled on most Linux distros. There are also several off-shoot versions that are available for iOS, Android, and Chromebooks.

LibreOffice’s heritage is two office suites that were developed at the same time that Microsoft Office began to dominate the market.

History

StarOffice

The original office suite that LibreOffice code was taken from was developed in Germany in the mid-1980s. In 1985, Marco Börries created StarWriter 1.0, and a year later formed the company Star Division in Lüneburg. It was originally created for CP/M and MS-DOS, and Star Division developed several versions of the stand-alone application in 1986.

For close to 10 years, Writer was the sole application. Then, in 1994, Star Division released version 2.0; its first suite. This included Writer; Calc, the spreadsheet application; and Base, the database application. The suite was originally designed for Windows 3.0.

Version 3 of the StarOffice suite, released in 1995, had a few more applications, and it was the first Star Division product developed for Windows 3.1 and Mac OS. It was also available on a few other operating systems. The next version, 3.1, which was released in 1996, was the first version available for Linux.

Versions 5.0 through 5.2 contained a dozen applications. Most of these were only around for this series of the suite.

Close to the end of the 20th Century, Star Division was acquired by Sun Microsystems, Inc. The California-based company, that was known for developing the Java language, released version 5.2 of StarOffice in Summer 2000. It acquired Star Division originally for internal use, but they decided to release it to the public.

Most of the code for version 5.2, which was released in Summer 2000, was under a free and open source license. This gave spawn to OpenOffice.org, which was developed by Sun employees and a community of volunteers.

Version 6, released in 2002, came with only the six applications. These are the ones that now compose LibreOffice. There were nine versions of StarOffice, all together, before its name was changed by a company that acquired Sun.

Oracle purchased Sun in 2010. It renamed StarOffice to Oracle OpenOffice. Like StarOffice, it was the commercial twin of OpenOffice.org. Oracle only kept them for two years.

OpenOffice.org

OpenOffice.org was owned by Sun for 10 years until the company was purchased by Oracle. Many of the OpenOffice.org developers were unhappy with how Oracle was handling the project, and several of them left in 2011 to form The Document Foundation, the organization behind LibreOffice.

The open-source suite was the dominate suite on Linux distros before LibreOffice came on the scene. It also had versions for Windows and a few other operating systems. Version 3.0 was the first one that ran natively on Mac OSX. Previous version required Mac users to launch the suite using Unix.

OpenOffice and LibreOffice have the same applications and source code. LibreOffice is based on it.

LibreOffice comes into existence

A group of volunteers for OpenOffice.org were concerned about the direction Oracle would take the open-source project. They had wanted Sun to take a more equal approach to the development of the project before the company was bought out, and Sun had stated in 2000 that a non-profit organization would be over the management and development of the suite. The intended organization was never formed.

The community was bothered by Oracle’s lack of commitment to OpenOffice.org, and The Document Foundation was founded in 2010. Several months later LibreOffice 3.3 was released. It was based on the source code for OpenOffice.org 3.3.

The two suites were very similar in the beginning, but due to the focus of The Document Foundation and the development cycle, LibreOffice is more advanced. It releases new versions every six months, so it is more advanced than OpenOffice.org. Oracle donated OpenOffice to the Apache Foundation, and it is now called Apache OpenOffice.

The first version of LibreOffice was based on OpenOffice.org 3.3, so it was called LibreOffice 3.3. LibreOffice’s latest version is 7.1.

Conclusion

LibreOffice is not a top-of-mind office suite like Office or Google’s office applications, but it has features and capabilities that these two do not. The foremost one is that all of its applications and features for each version are available on Windows, Mac, and Linux distros. Google’s applications don’t run natively on these platforms. Office doesn’t run natively on Linux distros, and their Windows and Mac versions differ.

For Linux users, LibreOffice is not the only office suite, but it is the most accessible. The Document Foundation and others who work on the suite have made it available on just about every distro and just about architecture. Those who use Intel computers and those who use Raspberry Pi or another ARM processor can install the suite or will find that it is already part of the operating system they install.

Windows machines received the most downloads and installs of LibreOffice, even though their users have many other choices. The uses like that it handles open formats and that it does not track the number of times it is installed or require them to login to use it. There is also a portable version for Windows that can be stored on an external drive and used on different PCs.

Mac users will have an office suite that is just as capable as the version that runs on Windows. It also has more features than Office for Mac and the iWork suite.

In many respects, LibreOffice is the best suite on the market. It has capabilities and features that are comparable to Office and some that the popular suite does not. Most users may not replace Microsoft Office with it, but it may be an excellent companion to it.

Click here to install LibreOffice free of charge. There are articles and videos about it on the OS-College Website.

Firefox and Chrome/Chromium trade off capabilities

Firefox used to be the most popular Web browser in the world. It took the lead from Internet Explorer in 2009, but in 2012 Google Chrome took over the top spot. 

Chrome (along with its open-source alternative Chromium) and Firefox bring Web access to most personal devices and operating systems on the market. Both can be installed on Windows and Mac OS. 

Firefox is the default and preinstalled Web browser on most Linux distros, including Ubuntu, Manjaro, Linux Mint, and Zorin. Most of these operating systems are designed to run on Intel and AMD processors, but a few of them have been built for ARM-devices, such as Raspberry Pi 4 and PineBook Pro. Firefox is the preinstalled browser on several of these systems. 

Google’s flagship product also runs natively on many Linux distros designed for Intel and AMD processors, and while it cannot be installed on ARM processor systems, Chromium has been made ready for these, as well as their Intel/AMD counterparts. 

Both distros are available for iPhone and iPad. Chrome is the default browser on most Android devices, and Firefox can be installed with a few clicks from the Google Play Store. 

Chrome is by far the more popular of the two. With Google’s list of Web-based products and marketing capabilities, Chrome has dominated the browser market.  

However, Web browsers are interchangeable, for the most part. Firefox can do most everything Chrome can and take users to just as many places. Mozilla, the organization behind Firefox, has been able to make its browser better in a few ways. 

This article covers some advantages each has over the other. 

Continue reading “Firefox and Chrome/Chromium trade off capabilities”

OnlyOffice a collaboration tool for all users

Many Linux users may believe they only have one choice when it comes to an office suite. LibreOffice is the only one they know about. It also is an office suite that those who are new to Linux can try on Windows or Mac before switching.

OnlyOffice is another office suite that works equally on these operating systems. It consists of three application that are common to any office suite: word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation. Like LibreOffice, the applications work offline. They have the features to create and edit professional documents, but they are not as powerful as LibreOffice’s applications.

OnlyOffice also doesn’t work on 32-bit systems or ARM processors, like LibreOffice can.

OnlyOffice is an office suite that works on Windows, Mac OS, and just about every Linux distro. Here version 6.0.2 is shown on Linux Mint 20.

However, OnlyOffice is a much better tool for collaborating with others. Linux users can collaborate with colleagues using Mac or Windows computers through the editors, seeing changes as someone else types them. LibreOffice users can’t work on documents with other LibreOffice users like this.

The reason why is that it is more than a set of applications that can be installed on an operating system. The applications also have versions that can be accessed through the cloud. Individuals and organizations can access them by signing up for OnlyOffice accounts or by installing them on servers they control.

These server applications can be accessed through any Web browser, on any operating system. The online version of OnlyOffice offers more applications than the three that can be installed on desktops. Click here to learn more about OnlyOffice.

The office suite that can be installed on operating systems, known as desktop-editors, can connect to those OnlyOffice accounts. They also can connect to ownCloud and Nextcloud accounts. Users can access documents stored in these accounts and work on them with others inside the desktop editors.

OnlyOffice is only available on computers with Intel or AMD processors, but users can install it on just about any computer built in the past 20 years, with just about any operating systems. It also is available through the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Operating systems

There are multiple versions of the desktop editors. The current version is 6.0.2, and it works on most operating systems. Older versions are also available. Several of them can be downloaded from the desktop-editors download page.

Windows

The page has two downloads. One is for 7, 8, 8.1, and 10. There is also one for older versions of Windows.

Version 6.0.2 is available for Windows 7 and later. For those who still have Windows XP or Vista, OnlyOffice has an up-to-date version of the suite. Version 4.8.7 that was updated in November 2020 is available

Mac OS

Version 6.0.2 is available for 10.11 and later.

Linux

For Linux, there are several different ways to install OnlyOffice. The office suite can be installed on just about Linux distro that is running on a computer with an Intel or AMD processor that is 64-bit.

Snap and Flathub

Most Linux distros have access to the Snap Store or Flathub Store. One or both of them is preinstalled on several of them. It is also easy to install either one by entering a few commands in a Terminal application on distros that don’t come with them.

Ubuntu, Zorin, and several Ubuntu-based operating systems sponsored by Canonical, the organization behind Ubuntu, come with Snap as part of their software centers. Zorin, Linux Mint, and Elementary OS are a few distros with FlatHub preinstalled.

  • Click here to learn how to install Flathub on various operating systems. Most distros not on this list have pages explaining what commands will install Flathub. For example, here it is how to install it on Manjaro.
  • Click here to learn how to install the Snap Store.

The Snap and Flathub stores have the latest version of the desktop editors, currently version 6.0.2. The Snap store also contains version 5.4 that can be installed on servers.

Packages

In addition to these two stores, DEB and RPM packages can be downloaded and installed from the OnlyOffice desktop editor page. There are two versions for DEB, which what Debian and Ubuntu-based systems use. One version is for Debian 8 and Ubuntu 14.04 and later. The other is for Debian 7 and Ubuntu 12.04.

The third package is for CentOS 7 and other systems that use the RPM package manager.

AppImage

OnlyOffice is also offered in the AppImage format. An AppImage is different from the other formats discussed above because it does not need to be installed to be run. There is no need to install a package or install an entire store before installing an application.

Version 5.6.4, an older version of the suite, is available as an AppImage.

Here are the steps for setting up the OnlyOffice AppImage:

  1. Download OnlyOffice by clicking the download for the AppImage on this page.
  2. After it is downloaded, go to the folder where it is stored.
  3. Right-click on the application icon.
  4. Click Properties.
  5. In the window that appears, click the Permissions tab.
  6. In the Permissions tab, click all the Access drop-down menus and select Read and Write in the menus that appear.
  7. Put a check in the Execute checkbox.
  8. Close the window.
  9. Double-click the icon to launch the application.

This is one of the easiest ways to run OnlyOffice. The application works best when it is installed directly on the drive the operating system is installed on. It is more difficult to change the permissions when the application is downloaded to a USB stick or other external drive.

Preinstalled

OnlyOffice comes preinstalled on several different distros:

Conclusion

While OnlyOffice doesn’t have as many features as LibreOffice, one of the most popular cross-platform suites on the market, it does collaboration much better. It gives Linux users, Mac users, and Windows users the capability to collaborate with each other on documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. Users can’t do this in LibreOffice.

OnlyOffice works offline as well. It is available on just about any operating system that can run on a 64-bit Inter or AMD processor.

Why these four?

OS-College’s Website has videos and Web pages about office suites and a few other applications that work equally on Windows, Mac, and Linux distributions (distros). Its social media pages and other media also focus on these applications.

However, it also publishes information about several Linux distros because one of its purposes is to help people interested in using Linux on their personal computers get started. Visitors to the Website and social media platforms will find videos, articles, and posts about Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Zorin, and Manjaro.

These operating systems currently are installed on millions of laptops and desktops worldwide. They are some of the most popular.

There are other choices, however. Many Linux users would not put these four at the top of their lists. There are other distros that occupy the hard drives of millions of personal computers. In fact there are well over 100 official distros from which to choose.

Why focus on these four, then? Why does OS-College give them all the attention and ignore the others?

Continue reading “Why these four?”

Turn a document into an e-book

Many authors self publish and only release their works in digital formats. E-books are also popular formats for publishing houses and booksellers who work with authors to release books in. One of the key formats is EPUB.

LibreOffice Writer can export an EPUB through its versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux distros without the need of additional software. This is a capability that other word processors do not have.

Microsoft Word doesn’t have the capability without a plugin. Google Docs has the option in the download sub-menu in the File menu of a document, but it doesn’t have the same settings as Writer. Corel WordPerfect has the capability to publish EPUB documents, but the office suite is not available to Mac and Linux users. Apple Pages can create EPUB documents specifically for Apple Books. Books on Apple Books are in a proprietary format based on EPUB.

What is EPUB

EPUB is not the format for Kindle books, and Kindle Fire and e-readers can’t read the format. However, other Android devices, Apple devices, and most e-reader applications for desktop computers can read the format. It is an industry standard.

It is a file that combines XHTML documents that contain the content, XML and cascading style sheet documents with metadata, and images that have been inserted in the EPUB file. The file can be opened and its different parts can be rendered by e-book applications. Archive applications allows users to access the XHTML and other document type of documents that compose an EPUB file.

WindowsMacLinux distros
Zip ExtractorUnarchiverArchive Manager
*This is already installed
or in the software manager
Examples of archive applications in different operating system. These are either already installed or can be acquired through the system’s store.

Writer exports EPUB

Writer has two ways to create an EPUB document: directly or through a dialog. Both can be accessed through the File menu.

The Export As sub-menu is in the File menu. It contains
Export as EPUB and Export Directly as EPUB.
  1. Click the File menu.
  2. Move the cursor tp highlight the Export As drop-down menu.

Export as EPUB and Export Directly as EPUB are in the menu.

Direct Method

The direct method skips this dialog and a special export dialog for the EPUB is launched. The same dialog is launched when the OK button is clicked in the EPUB Export dialog.

This is the same dialog that is launched when you click the Export item in the File menu, or it launches when you click the Export item in the menu associated with the Save icon in the toolbar.

One difference between this dialog and the traditional dialog is that the only choice in the File type drop-down is EPUB Document drop-down button.ß The traditional one has several choices, including EPUB Document.

Click here to go to the page that has more information about the Export dialog for Writer and Calc.

Export settings

Writer allows users to control the exportation of an e-book with an EPUB Export dialog. Users, who don’t want to change settings on the EPUB document, can bypass the dialog and directly export it. The EPUB Export dialog has three section: General, Customize, and Metadata. The general section has three drop-down menus. Each menu has two choices.

  • Version
    • EPUB 3.0
    • EPUB 2.0
  • Split method
    • Page break
    • Headings
  • Layout method
    • Reflowable
    • Fixed

The Customize section has two browse buttons. The first one allows you to choose an image stored in your hard drive and connected drives. The images can be in standard formats, such as PNG and JPG.

The second one allows you to add a directory of metadata and links to your EPUB document. The metadata in the document will override the metadata that LibreOffice Writer creates for the document that is about to be exported.

The Metadata section has five fields of metadata that are common in most metadata schema, so LibreOffice Writer can create an EPUB document that is ready to be uploaded to a digital library or bookstore and read by e-book applications.

However, many authors and publishers may use it as a starting point and edit the composing documents to make the book better fit into the desired system.

Links

Introducing Inkscape 1.0

Smoother performance, HiDPI support, new & improved Live Path Effects & native macOS app

After a little over three years in development, the team is excited to launch the long awaited Inkscape 1.0 into the world.

Built with the power of a team of volunteers, this open source vector editor represents the work of many hearts and hands from around the world, ensuring that Inkscape remains available free for everyone to download and enjoy.

In fact, translations for over 20 out of all 88 languages were updated for version 1.0, making the software more accessible to people from all over the world.

A major milestone was achieved in enabling Inkscape to use a more recent version of the software used to build the editor’s user interface (namely GTK+3). Users with HiDPI (high resolution) screens can thank teamwork that took place during the 2018 Boston Hackfest for setting the updated-GTK wheels in motion.
Smoother performance & first native macOS application

This latest version is available for Linux, Windows and macOS. All macOS users will notice that this latest version is labelled as ‘preview’, which means that additional improvements are scheduled for the next versions. Overall, 1.0 delivers a smoother, higher performance experience on Linux and Windows, and a better system integration (no more XQuartz!) on macOS.
So many new bells and whistles

One of the first things users will notice is a reorganized tool box, with a more logical order. There are many new and improved Live Path Effect (LPE) features. The new searchable LPE selection dialog now features a very polished interface, descriptions and even the possibility of marking favorite LPEs. Performance improvements are most noticeable when editing node-heavy objects, using the Objects dialog, and when grouping/ungrouping.

This article was taken from the Inkscape Website. Click here to read the entire article on its Website.

GIMP 2.10.20 comes with new features as well as important bugfixes

Release highlights:

  • Tool-group menus can now expand on hover
  • Non-destructive cropping now available by cropping the canvas rather than actual pixels
  • Better PSD support: exporting of 16-bit files now available, reading/writing channels in the right order
  • On-canvas controls for the Vignette filter
  • New filters: Bloom, Focus Blur, Lens Blur, Variable Blur
  • Blending options now built into filter dialogs
  • Over 30 bugfixes

Toolbox updates

We listened to users’ feedback on introducing tool groups in the toolbox in the previous release. A lot of people told us they appreciated the change in general but were quite averse to having to click to open the list of tools in a group. The new release adds the option to show the tool-group menu as soon as the mouse hovers over the toolbox button, without having to click it. This option is enabled by default when the toolbox is arranged in a single column, but it can be enabled for arbitrary toolbox layouts, or disabled entirely, through the Toolbox page of the Preferences dialog.

Additionally, when not using the new behavior, toolbox tooltips now list all the tools in a group, to improve their discoverability.

Basic non-destructive cropping

GIMP now provides a kind of a non-destructive cropping behavior by default. Instead of deleting pixels that you cropped out and thus changing both the layer and the canvas, it will simply resize the canvas. If you export such an image, the resulted file will only have what you see within canvas boundaries.

The benefit of that is (at least) threefold:

  • You can revert to the original uncropped version by going to Image -> Fit Canvas to Layers. None of your edits between cropping and uncropping will disappear.
  • If you save your project as an XCF file, you can close the file and even quit GIMP and still be able to remove cropping and then crop differently at any time later.
  • When you are on the fence about your cropping decision, you can view pixels that you cropped out by going to View -> Show All.

If you want the old “destructive” behavior back, simply tick the ‘Delete cropped pixels’ checkbox in Crop tool’s settings.

The article about GIMP is taken from the GIMP Website blog. Click here to read the entire article on the blog.

Announcement of LibreOffice 7.0

Berlin, August 5, 2020

LibreOffice 7.0: the new major release of the best FOSS office suite ever is available on all OSes and platforms, and provides significant new features

The LibreOffice Project announces the availability of LibreOffice 7.0, a new major release providing significant new features: support for OpenDocument Format (ODF) 1.3; Skia graphics engine and Vulkan GPU-based acceleration for better performance; and carefully improved compatibility with DOCX, XLSX and PPTX files.

Support for ODF 1.3. OpenDocument, LibreOffice’s native open and standardised format for office documents, has recently been updated to version 1.3 as an OASIS Technical Committee Specification. The most important new features are digital signatures for documents and OpenPGP-based encryption of XML documents, with improvements in areas such as change tracking, and additional details in the description of elements in first pages, text, numbers and charts. The development of ODF 1.3 features has been funded by donations to The Document Foundation.

Skia graphics engine and Vulkan GPU-based acceleration. The Skia graphics engine has been implemented thanks to sponsorship by AMD, and is now the default on Windows, for faster performance. Skia is an open source 2D graphics library which provides common APIs that work across a variety of hardware and software platforms, and can be used for drawing text, shapes and images. Vulkan is a new-generation graphics and compute API with high-efficiency and cross-platform access to modern GPUs.

Better compatibility with DOCX, XLSX and PPTX files. DOCX now saves in native 2013/2016/2019 mode, instead of 2007 compatibility mode, to improve interoperability with multiple versions of MS Office, based on the same Microsoft approach. Export to XLSX files with sheet names longer than 31 characters is now possible, along with exporting checkboxes in XLSX. The “invalid content error” message was resolved when opening exported XLSX files with shapes. Finally, there were improvements to the PPTX import/export filter.

LibreOffice offers the highest level of compatibility in the office suite arena, starting from native support for the OpenDocument Format (ODF) – with better security and interoperability features over proprietary formats – to almost perfect support for DOCX, XLSX and PPTX files. In addition, LibreOffice includes filters for many legacy document formats, and as such is the best interoperability tool in the market.

This is a press release from the LibreOffice Website, written by Italo Vignoli. Click here to visit the article on the LibreOffice blog.

You need a hooptie

While I am not a huge rap fan, I found myself thinking about a song from the late 80s/early 90s one day when I was using my HP hybrid laptop. Sir Mix-a-Lot produced a song about a loaner car, an old beat-up automobile that didn’t work properly, called “My Hooptie“. This is probably my favorite rap song. I think it is hilarious.

My HP has a few missing keys and some others that don’t work, so it is a lot like the car in the song. The laptop is my hooptie.

Hoopties are necessary for anyone who wants to experiment with desktop Linux and open-source applications. (At least they are extremely useful.) They also have a number of other uses and have features that are left out of newer machines.

As someone who experiments with Linux distros and open-source applications, I have acquired several laptops over the years, and I actually have three that I consider to be hoopties:

  • Dell Latitude D830
  • HP Pro X 2 410 G1
  • Acer Aspire One ZG5

Dell

This beast of a laptop has four USB ports, a PCMCIA slot to insert cards that allow for more USB ports and other ports, an ethernet port, as well as a few other ports. The former standard-issue business laptop also has a 15.4 inch screen and a DVD-ROM drive.

The Duo Core 2 processor with 2 GB of RAM runs Linux Mint 19.3 Xfce fairly well. It has some difficulty when LibreOffice is open at the same time as a Web browser. The WiFi and hard drive lights on the computer flash, so the laptop might be slowly dying piece by piece.

However, one great thing about this laptop is it has a replaceable battery, and the hard drive is easy to upgrade. It can be removed through a slot on the side of the laptop, and the battery easily pops out.

The upgradable hard drive and battery are two of the reasons why I keep this laptop. With the DVD drive, I also can watch movies on it when I travel, particularly when I can’t get a great WiFi connection or I want to rent a movie from Redbox rather than renting it through Amazon or Google Play.

Of the several laptops I own, the Dell has the best keyboard and the largest screen, so it makes it the best for writing for long periods of time and the best for editing the pieces I am working on.

HP

The X2 is an older hybrid laptop/tablet. The screen detaches from the keyboard and base. A micro SD port, power connector, and headphone jack are part of the screen housing. These connections, USB ports, and an HDMI port are in the base.

As mentioned in the beginning of this blog, the laptop is a hooptie because the “F” key and the spacebar are missing. They still work if I press those switches hard, but the arrow keys don’t work at all.

This is the computer I use to try out different Linux distros. It has an i3 processor and 4 GB of RAM, so it has enough power to experiment with just about any distro.

Currently, it is running Fedora 31, with the standard Gnome 3 desktop environment. I also installed Cinnamon because it works better with some notification apps that I use, and I like the traditional Linux Mint environment a little better.

I am a Cinnamon man, though I love me some Gnome 3!

It also is small and portable. The HDMI port makes it easy to connect to a television for presentations to demonstrate open-source applications and different distros.

Acer

This computer is a small netbook with an 8.9 inch screen and only 1 GB or RAM. It is running LXLE, a very light distro that is based on Ubuntu and Lubuntu. There is nothing wrong with the computer. Everything works great.

However, it is difficult to surf the Web and play even simple games because it is low powered.

This is what makes the computer great for distraction-free writing. I type one handed, so it is important to have a small keyboard for free writing, and since the screen is so small, I don’t have to continually stare at it while I am typing.

While a modern tablet or large smart phone probably has more power and capabilities than this laptop, it allows me to focus on my drafts, and the ports make it easy to move those documents to another computer.

It also has a removable battery and a battery that can easily be replaced. This means it may have a longer lifespan than a tablet or phone.

Older laptops and Linux

Older laptops are not dead or obsolete when it has the right operating system. They still may provide years of usefulness when a Linux distro is installed. While not every distro will work well on one, there are many on the market that are designed to work on low to medium powered machines.

A lot of Linux distros are easy to install and don’t require adding drivers, applications, and other features to get it to work on a particular computer. The communities behind many of them keep older computers in mind when they release their latest versions of the distro, so users can still receive software and security updates on their older computers.

For example, the moto for the distro I use on the Acer is “Revive that old PC!” LXLE has 32-bit and 64-bit versions and it has been reported to work on computers that are 15 years old. Since it is based on Ubuntu, the installer application is very easy to use, and most people new to Linux will not have a problem installing it.

For those who have computers with DVD-ROM drives in them and don’t want to go through the process of installing codecs to watch movies, they can install Linux Mint 19. There are versions for three different desktop environments, and these come in 32-bit and 64-bit. When they are installed, there is no need to install codecs. Their video applications will be able to play movies out of the box. Most other distros require you to download packages before they can play DVDs.

All of Linux Mint’s user interfaces also are similar to Windows 7, so those switching from Windows will have an easier time making the transition.

These are just two examples of easy-to-use distros. This page lists several different distros.

Uses of old laptops

One of those advantages is that they are great for anyone interested in trying a Linux distro or for someone who experiments a lot with different distros. As mentioned in the previous section, several of these distros work well on older laptops. Most open-source applications are designed to work on most distros, and the same Terminal commands can be used on different operating systems. This means that Linux experimenters can use their old computers to try new applications and to try different features and settings in different distros.

While Linux users do not have to be tech-savvy, the distros allow users to change anything they want on them, so most Linux users are tinkerers, and the open-source nature of them tends to unlock the experimenting spirit in most users.

Many times these adventures lead to problems that require systems to be reinstalled, and many people are unwilling to start from scratch on a new computer. This is where owning a hooptie becomes valuable.

There are other uses for a hooptie:

Like with my Dell, old computers also can be used to backup data and information. Archived files can be stored on their hard drives, and their operating systems can connect with online storage and syncing services. This is a great use for old machines that are not used that often anymore.

Old laptops can be portable DVD players. They can be connected to speakers and play music using Rhythmbox, Clementine, and other music players and music-library organizers. They are also excellent writing tools, especially old business computers that have keys with decent travel on them.

Advantages of older computers

Old computers, whether they have missing parts or are in pristine condition, are not like your new laptop. They can’t run the latest games or run complex other applications, like video editing and programming applications. They probably are not as thin and as light. This means they may be harder to carry around.

However, they may last longer than you newer laptops because the computers made around 2010 have replaceable batteries, compartments to access RAM and hard drives, and other parts are easier to replace as well.

Users can maintain them and have them perform the tasks mentioned in the previous section for a long time. If the latest distro runs too slow on it, upgrading the RAM may help. If a hard drive is full of archived files, a larger one can probably be installed. Screens, ports, and other parts also can be purchased to replace failing ones.

This is not an option on many new laptops, even larger ones designed for power computing, which have their batteries and hard drives soldered to other components and sealed inside the laptop.

Many times older laptops also have more ports than newer powerhouse laptops, so more peripherals can be connected at the same time. This can be advantage when you need to move files to or from multiple external drives at the same time or have devices with older types of connectors that you still find useful.

The uses are endless for older laptops.

Conclusion

Older laptops are dinosaurs, but they are not the bones of a dinosaur. They are not dead, and many times they have unique features that are no longer included on newer machines, such as multiple ports and decent keyboards, that may give them advantages over the latest machines.

While speed and power may not be those advantages, they may be more comfortable to use and more flexible than the latest computers, even if they have a few broken or missing parts. They are also better machines to try new applications and operating systems on, in case you make a mistake and have to reinstall everything on your new computer.

Plus, like many older things, it may give you a sense of nostalgia, and you may find that you enjoy using an older computer more than a new one.

The message to anyone interested in learning more about desktop Linux and open-source software:

You need a hooptie laptop!