WHICH LINUX COMPUTER?
by Dick Miller, Miller Microcomputer Services
  visits since 141201; last updated 190927.

MMS 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.

Software:
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.

Hardware:
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.
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. (Although Chromebooks are tempting, I avoid  them - 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".)
 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.
A textured outer surface is 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.

Variable pricing:
The weekly sales often bring great bargains.

Used:
A good used computer of similar specs can be retreaded with Ubuntu, for nearly all of the same advantages - or more. We recently installed Ubuntu on factory-refurbished flagship 14" Intel Core i7 notebook computers, with 8GB RAM and 1TB SSD storage for a total of $340 for hardware. (The computers sold 2-3 years earlier for $1,800 each.) MMS often has some used ones, with Ubuntu already installed.

Professional installation:
We charge $200 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

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| A. Richard & Jill A. Miller            | MILLER MICROCOMPUTER SERVICES |
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