GNU/Linux works fine on those old Lenovo laptops

A few years back, I suffered one of those computing hardware disasters. I had to submit a completed document online by the end of the week and my Ubuntu/Windows dual boot laptop decided that its inner hardware would suffer what I would describe as an electrical appliance’s equivalent of a coma. Everything just froze and gradually died.

I had been astute enough to have a 3-2-1 backup program in place and it was just a case of getting hold of a laptop quickly to access the copy of the partially completed document from my SpiderOak encrypted at rest cloud storage. My local external hard drive also had a copy but not with the latest revision before my laptop’s hardware issues.

I acquired a laptop to finish the job. It was a Lenovo Yoga 510 14AST which, with its limited specifications, was asthmatically running Windows 10. I managed to install Libreoffice and the SpiderOak client and finished off my document.

Since then, I have bought my current GNU/Linux workstation from Entroware and also recently bought a reconditioned HP Elitebook 840 G1 complete with Windows 10. This means that I had a Lenovo Yoga laying around doing nothing useful.

So this week I thought that I’d put a GNU/Linux distro on the Lenovo Yoga and make it usable. With it running Windows, I had enough time between entering my password and being logged into the working desktop to be able to boil the kettle and make a cup of tea – I literally did that most times using the Lenovo Yoga! So, for all practical interpretations, the Lenovo Yoga was not currently viable as a working production rig.

Of course, I could use the Lenovo Yoga to have a bit of getting my hands dirty fun and mess about with one of Linux From Scratch, Slackware, Gentoo or even Funtoo; but I thought it a good idea for a user friendly install for any visiting children (or even adults) to play with (we do occasionally have to entertain friends and their offspring).

The following image shows Caja calculating the SHA256 checksum.  I’ve already entered the expected SHA256 checksum for Caja to check against.

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One of my forms of relaxation is watching distro reviews on YouTube and, more recently, also on LBRY.tv so I had a few distros in mind for the job. I also noted a few videos discussing the recent announcement from Lenovo that they will be certifying all their future machines to be Linux compliant and will also be supplying pre-installed linux machines. So, in keeping with the announcement, were the best options Fedora or Ubuntu?

I also searched for which distros installed better with the Lenovo Yoga and it seems that with this particular model Pop_OS has worked better than Ubuntu. Hmmm, great news there! Pop_OS has some great recent reviews and with this being based on Ubuntu, just like my main driver Ubuntu-Mate, the additional learning curve will be close to non-existent.

Caja, the Ubuntu-Mate file manager, allows easy checksum verification via the right-click menu on the downloaded file. I’ve a couple of screenshots with this post showing how easy it is to do this. So, another quick prod to those scared by the command line, that nowadays many GNU/Linux distros can be used without jumping into the terminal.

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The SHA256 checksums match so this ISO download is genuine

There is also the built in functionality within Ubuntu-Mate to copy this ISO file to a USB drive so that it is bootable on another machine.

Gone are the days when you have to jump through many hoops to do the most usual things in GNU/Linux.

I had to turn on the Lenovo Yoga, and press Fn+F2 to get into the UEFI menu. Secure boot switched off – check! Boot via USB – check! Reboot machine and install Pop_OS.

Now, I get into a working Pop_OS desktop in less than a minute, quicker than the time it took the previous Windows install to just ask for my password, even! I just need to set a few things up and then visiting fidgeting children can play about to their heart’s content.

Do I still care about the same things?

Go back a few years, and it was easy to realise how much I cared about certain things.  I worried about how girls were always the first to suffer in any culture experiencing war or extreme poverty.  I was angry that a day’s work was not always rewarded with a fair wage.  I was repulsed at any form of discrimination.

I still care about the same things, you may be pleased to know.

Nowadays, I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve so much as before.  I don’t have a sob story about why this is – I just approach life a little different.

I don’t want to go on about how great a human being I am.  I’m as flawed as most people.  I’ve come across numerous people of integrity who care about their fellow human beings.  It’s always good to have faith renewed in the humanity of others.

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I still care about drinking whisky

One other thing that I also care about is free and open source software (FOSS).  I will use proprietary software, but prefer to use FOSS if it is available.  I won’t choose FOSS if it means compromising on functionality, I will add.  For example, I prefer using GIMP to the proprietary alternatives I have tried.

I don’t like excess data being collected about myself and others, and this is a major reason why FOSS is so important.

Everyone needs privacy.  Those who say that they have nothing to hide must be happy to shower in the middle of town in a see-through bathroom whilst having everything that they say reported on the news.  And if your data is on a server somewhere, it’s only a data breach away from appearing in your next door neighbour’s RSS feed.

I do like using GNU-Linux.  Why so?  Well, not to prove how great I am at fiddling about with software.  I am at ease with doing command line stuff but you can use GNU-Linux and never touch the command line should you wish.

Windows is a horrible operating system to use in that it is so rigid in its implementation.  It can be so very clunky.  And the update process for Windows is so painful!

Some people love Windows, and I won’t try to convert them – that’s their preference but not mine.  It was using Windows in my younger days that led me to swapping my operating system because of its limitations.

The start of my transition was dumping Internet Explorer and using Opera.  Opera isn’t the browser it was, unfortunately, and today I am very much a Firefox and Chromium user.  But, anyway, it was using Opera that led me on the road to the choices out there.

My first jump into using GNU-Linux was setting up a dual-boot on a Windows laptop I had.  I first used Linux Mint as my main workstation before going to Ubuntu and now to Ubuntu-Mate.  I’ve used a few other GNU-Linux distros in VM machines – it really is a case of using the best distro for you depending on your fiddle level and your knowledge of computer programming.

I’ve never used a BSD based distro or used an Apple Mac in anger.  Maybe one day, but at present everything is working for me as I want so all is good.

So, I still care about the same things in general.  I wish that I was able to save those subjected girls around the world.  I wish discrimination was a thing of the past.  I also wish for less collection of personal data and more usability in major operating systems.

I also wish that sandwiches were the secret to losing excess weight – but sometimes I wish for the impossible.

Changing the WordPress scenery

I thought that my WordPress blog was looking particularly plain so I have just been fiddling about with it using the WordPress customizer (sic).

It was a little frustrating as extra widgets kept appearing when previewing different themes. For some reason, I still had these extra widgets within the unused widget area. These showed up when previewing different themes. (I’m not even trying to figure that out).

Anyway, this may not be the most eye shattering blog that you will find on the web nowadays but it’s not so plain as before.

I needed to take my mind from the dramas that are happening today. Believe me, when you have an ill wife and a daughter in her twenties with emotional problems, it might be a good idea to spend a little time messing with the WordPress customizer (sic).

Text Editor Warzone

So, I was finding it all very frustrating. Windows is a well-funded operating system and yet it comes with the worst text editor imaginable.

Eventually, this week at work, I asked aloud, “Is Notepad the worst text editor of all.”

The reply I received suggested a different text editor, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Software is a strange thing, or, to be more precise, the reaction of a number of people to software is a strange thing.

The amount of arguments that I have witnessed over whether the PS3/4 or XBox is better; or whether Windows, Apple, Linux or BSD is better; or which is the best text editor. Actually, I haven’t witnessed many text editor arguments but search for text editor wars, or just editor war, and you will find that in the online world, this argument gets strangely heated. There are even mock religions for these editors (I know!).

The big fight seems to be between users of VIM and EMACS. NANO and ED are also drawn into the fight, sometimes. Well, all four of these command line editors are on my laptop and I can see the attraction with all of them. I am diving into VIM most of all, but I would love to have known of either VIM or EMACS in those days when I used to build some websites. VIM and/or EMACS would make website building more of a breeze than using an alternative GUI based text editor, such as Bluefish.

As you can tell, using Linux opens up a world of text editing possibilities. There are alternatives that you can use on Windows, but all of the editors that I am about to discuss ship with some or most Linux distros as standard.

So, what is the difference between all the editors?

There are some great GUI text editors. I’ve mentioned Bluefish, but better alternatives include gEdit, and its Mate desktop environment fork Pluma. They are both very capable and robust. The KDE Advanced Test Editor aka Kate adds more functionality to the mix, but has the downside that a number of dependencies are pulled onto your desktop environment if you are using anything other than KDE as your desktop environment.

I personally believe that even the deliberately lightweight Leafpad is more pleasant to use than Notepad, even if the functionality is not much different.

Okay, that’s my brief nod to the GUI editors that put Notepad to shame.

What are the attractions that the text based editors that I mention?

For ED, not much at all. This is a really old line based editor and is a forefather of the others, so to speak.

NANO is a simple editor which has so many more options than Notepad. The options can be gained mainly by pressing the CTRL key along with another key.

Editing my blog post draft in NANO
Editing my blog post draft in NANO

Both EMACS and VIM boast so much more. Syntax highlighting, comparing files for differences and copying different lines from one file to the other, split screens to work on multiple files simultaneously and shortcut instructions to jump around the file and manipulate text quickly and easily.

Editing my blog post using EMACS
Editing my blog post using EMACS

So, I am preferring VIM out of all the text editors at the moment. I’ve used EMACS a little bit, but I am preferring VIM. Both of these editors are fantastic.

Editing my blog post using VIM
Editing my blog post using VIM

Anyway, just a quick tip if you are using VIM. If you want to paste the contents of your copy buffer from outside of the VIM, there is an easy way to do it. Just type the following command
“+gP

That snippet of advice seems to be hard to come by.

Oh, yes, which was the editor that my work colleague suggested as worse than Notepad? WordPad! Man, that suggestion is so right.

I searched for any uses for WordPad and one posting suggested that it can save RTF files. Okay, it can save RTF files but any text editor can save RTF files, and why would you want to? They are massive in comparison to other formats.

Oh…I think that I am joining a different text editor war!

2018 Awards

With it being New Years’ Eve, I thought that I would announce my return to WordPress with a 2018 Awards post.

I thought that a post would be a better idea than organising a formal ceremony as I suspect few people would want to attend. Also, I am too tight to hire a venue and lay on catering.

Most disappointing social media presence award

Well, I need to present this award to myself.

At one time I was blog posting weekly and throwing in extra Tweets for good measure. This year has been quite pathetic.

I don’t intend to defend this award during 2019 so I will invite certain others to do their utmost to win this award next year. I give every encouragement to Donald Trump and Piers Morgan to lead the chase for this accolade in the New Year. (Please guys, please!)

Worst country to be a girl award

Unfortunately, many countries continue to clamour for this award.

There continues to be a depressingly high number of countries where the lot of being born a girl is a likely life of neglect and abuse unless you are born into a rich family or your parents believe in fighting for your rights. Sometimes, even this is not enough.

The unfortunate irony of war within countries such as Yemen is that the lot of boys is more equal to the lot of girls in that both have an equal chance of a short and suffering life.

This is all a little depressing, so let’s listen to some music…

Movie action hero award

Chloë Grace Moretz’s turn as Mindy MacReady aka Hit-Girl in the 2010 movie Kick-Ass is a great nomination for this award should it be awarded only once every decade.

However, there are plenty of deserving cases for 2018 that aren’t in the movies.

I am plumping for Trash Girl this year. That is, Trash Girl aka Nadia Sparkes.

The ‘how on Earth do I live in the same country as these people’ award

I realised a long time ago that there are a number of my fellow country people in Britain who are not quite the full packet in the common sense stakes, so to speak.

However, this year demonstrated how even I had underestimated how inept a number of my country folk are.

KFC decided to ditch Bidvest and use DHL to distribute their chicken to their outlets. They didn’t check how many depots DHL had and this led to most of their branches running out of chicken in February during the first week of DHL’s contract.

Well, that was funny until it was headline news how people seemed to be struggling with KFC not selling chicken. Going to another fast food outlet or even heating some chicken up at home seemed to be beyond some people.

Best glass of whisky of the year award

About a month ago, I really enjoyed an evening out with an old friend fuelled by some Jameson Irish Whiskey.

My Christmas Eve tradition of a shot of whisky whilst listening to Arcangelo Corelli’s Christmas Concerto led to my first glass of Glen Keith Scotch. Interesting drop of stuff.

Both of these share the 2018 award.

Best cultural misappropriation award

Whenever I enjoy a cup of tea in the afternoon I think of Catherine of Braganza who, as the wife of Charles II, brought the practice to England from Portugal.

In further irony, my wife’s parents hail from St Helena, an island originally discovered by Portugal and now a British dependency.

…and now for 2019

These awards hopefully get us all in the mood for 2019 and more noise from me.

Anyway, a great new year to you all.