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.

caja_checksum_action_1

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.

caja_checksum_action_2
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.

The new laptop arrives

Okay, I am going to be very traditional man in this post and waffle on about my latest electrical gadget.  Please forgive me and be assured that I am still as modern a man as before, I still do the cooking in our house for a start.  I never fail to make the Yorkshire Puddings rise when I cook the roast, and my Sunday joint comes out of the oven juicy and tender…anyway, back to this post.

The new laptop arrived on Friday and I am already enjoying playing with it.  I would drive up to the Entroware office to thank all their staff personally but I hope that my payment to them tells them everything that I want to say.

For the first time in my life, my choice of new laptop has not been almost entirely dictated by price tag with whatever scant specification I can be lucky enough to get.  I enjoyed this position as I had been saving specifically for the event of having to replace my laptop especially as it was clearly reaching the end of its useful life.

My Entroware Aether laptop with my choice of Netbook desktop layout
Ubuntu-Mate lets you choose from several different desktop layouts – I opted for Netbook with a dock (plank) as an extra option

I was running a Linux OS (Operating System) on my old laptop and was finding that I had time between pressing the on switch and subsequently seeing the logon prompt to switch on a kettle and throw a teabag in a mug.  Oh, and start the washing machine!  Man, it was like I had been running Windows XP rather than Ubuntu.

A little research showed that I would be not be charged a premium for getting a laptop with Linux pre-installed, and so I decided early on that I would take this course.  I weighed up a few different providers and narrowed my search after eliminating  Elementary OS as my choice of Linux OS.  It seems a very solid OS but I find Elementary OS a bit boring, to be honest, but don’t let that scare you off if you like the look and feel of Elementary OS.  The reason for so many Linux distros is that a multitude of wants and needs are being provided for.

I settled on Entroware as they had two things that I particularly covet.  They seemed to offer quite a lot of specification in return for each pound spent as well as also enjoying favourable reviews online for after sales care.

I had to choose between Ubuntu and Ubuntu-Mate to be pre-installed and opted for the latter OS.  I prefer the Ubuntu-Mate desktop to Ubuntu and was finally persuaded on choosing Ubuntu-Mate on noting that Entroware is named on the Ubuntu-Mate website (ubuntu-mate.org) as one of the four main sponsors of the development of the OS.  Hmm, I thought, there’s a good chance that Entroware may have provided some machines for testing during development, so Ubuntu-Mate is likely to fit Entroware laptops like a glove (to use a cliché).

I decided on the Aether model and opted for the default size SSD (solid state drive) on which the Ubuntu-Mate OS is installed.  SSDs are lightning fast in comparison to HDDs (Hard Disc Drives) and opening LibreOffice has never been so quick for me.

As an upgrade on the default specification, I both upped the processor as well as opting for a second disc drive on which I am storing my files.  The second drive is a 1TB (terabyte) HDD and appears to be the only moving part that makes a noise in my new machine.  I realise that a SSD should last almost as long as a HDD under normal use and so this was not the reason I opted for an additional HDD rather than choose a larger SSD.  The reason that I opted for a HDD for my file storage is that I could get more space for my money.  HDDs are cheaper than SSDs and storing my files on a slower HDD will have a negligible effect on the laptop’s overall speed.

Everything is dramatically faster on the new laptop than my old machine and not just in the start up times.  Uploading files to my SpiderOak account is so much faster, for example.  I can upload in excess of 1GB (gigabyte) of data in the same time that my old laptop would take to upload five or six LibreOffice documents.  This is entirely down to the laptop’s performance as my internet connection is no different now than it was a month ago.

So, that’s the end of me reverting to type as a man and banging on about my new gadget.

I should now be able to get a lot more done in the same time which is the important thing.  I’m not a gamer but do most other things online, such as bill paying.  And yes, in case you are wondering, my VPN was one of the first things that I configured in Network Manager.