I may be forced to get a new laptop soon. I'm considering getting something more affordable, that runs smoothly with Linux, and covers my needs. Can you help me out? (Details inside)

Submitted by Tequila_Wolf in lobby

Things I primarily need a laptop for:

  • word processor
  • internet browsing / tor / vpn
  • downloading and watching/listening to video/music files
  • Mendeley / dropbox / other cloud apps
  • printing / scanning

Ideally it'd also have the processing power to run something like InDesign so I can make zines/books. I don't play games so no worries there.

I need two things. (1) a Linux distro to run and (2) a laptop or similar thing to buy.

Regarding (1)
I am not used to Linux and not super tech savvy and have historically had trouble with things like getting my mac wifi hardware to work with the distro. So basically I need it to be a relatively easy distro to use that is compatible with a lot of software and hardware.

Regarding (2) Relatively affordable with replaceable parts (compared to my macbook situation now), decent hard drive size ideally (let's say at least more than 250Gigs?), ideally a bit hardy, good battery life, and whatever other shit is normally good for a laptop.

Any definitive help would be ideal. I probably don't have the capacity to do a lot of research myself, so if there's some kind of consensus that somehow comes from posting this that might be the direction I go. Thanks!

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Tequila_Wolf OP wrote

Ok! I can't thank you all with separate messages right now so, thanks to u/TheLegendaryBirdMonster, u/enforcedcompliance, u/transtifa, u/avbeav, u/kore, u/ordinaryDrain, u/mofongo, u/ziq, u/celebratedrecluse and u/F_x for all your help!

A lot of people have recommended thinkpads but it seems that there is a large variety of them so I'm slightly lost there, but I've got some great directions. If I have time I might ask more direct questions later in relation to specific comments.

I appreciate you all :)

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ziq wrote (edited )

You can buy laptops that come with linux pre-installed by the manufacturer if you're worried about hardware support. Newly released components (especially wifi cards) sometimes take a few months before they're supported by the Linux kernel, but this is becoming more rare.

https://www.techradar.com/news/best-linux-laptops

https://www.cyberciti.biz/hardware/laptop-computers-with-linux-installed-or-preloaded/

If you get the laptop from a manufacturer or a shop that sells it with Linux pre-installed, you'll know it won't have any hardware problems. Dell sells some laptops with Linux installed, for example:

https://www.linux.com/articles/dell-xps-13-7390-review-the-best-laptop-for-desktop-linux-user/

And so does Lenovo (Thinkpad):

https://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2019/06/lenovo-thinkpad-p-series-ubuntu-preinstalled

And of course there are the Linux-exclusive companies:

https://system76.com/laptops/adder

http://zareason.com/Laptops/

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avbeav wrote

You're welcome.

One more thing, maybe. I usually just bring a bootable Debian live USB drive with me to some electronics second hand shop and ask to try out a laptop before buying it. Many shops are fine with that.

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ordinaryDrain wrote

I've been thinking of getting a libre boot thinkpad, if you want something completely non proprietary then I'd suggest this route as well.

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ziq wrote

They only ship to USA.

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kore wrote

Actually, "libreboot" doesn't ship to anyone. libiquity is one seller of libreboot-preinstalled laptops run by a former developer that ships to USA only. libreboot's founder runs a separate seller called minifree that ships worldwide.

See https://libreboot.org/suppliers.html

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ziq wrote

): I've got most of my orders done. Financially I'm in the shit. I have just enough money to make shipments, for all my current orders, but not enough money to order more stock, or even to buy food. Therefore it'll be a while before Minifree can come back. This also means that if you've asked for a refund, currently I'm unable to provide one.

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kore wrote

ah, i see :( thanks for alerting me to the situation

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ziq wrote (edited )

It's also not reasonable to recommend a 12 year old (at best) used laptop to someone looking to replace a high end macbook imo. Few people are going to want to spend hundreds on something that old, just to have libreboot.

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TheLegendaryBirdMonster wrote

Indesing doesn't work on linux!

  1. Ubuntu is the most "basic" linux distro, you'll be able to find guides and help online easily.

  2. second hand thinkpad are often quite good. They work well with linux, and you can get good deals because the industry buys good laptops and toss them away every 4 years. I don't know what other brand works in the same way.

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avbeav wrote

Indesing doesn't work on linux!

I can recommend Scribus, a free/libre software for working with InDesign files.

(Although, couldn't you get InDesign to work with Wine if you really wanted to?)

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enforcedcompliance wrote

InDesign

https://alternativeto.net/software/adobe-indesign/?platform=linux

Also I recommend Xubuntu over Ubuntu because xfce is best desktop enviroment!

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transtifa wrote

Another good reason to use Ubuntu forks over vanilla Ubuntu would be: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/ubuntu-spyware.en.html

I still like Fedora better though :P

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enforcedcompliance wrote

I'm a Debian worshipper -- I've never used Fedora, but I have played around with CentOS.

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transtifa wrote

Vanilla Debian is NOT beginner-friendly. I never liked Ubuntu; never ran it though, the name just makes me squirm. I like Debian too though, more so than Fedora.

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throwaway wrote (edited )

I'd recommend Elementary OS over Ubuntu and Xubuntu! It's a fork of Ubuntu, so mostly everything applies, but it's such an upgrade, and has been my trusty daily driver for the last 2 years.

It's also FOSS, which is nice

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ziq wrote (edited )

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TheLegendaryBirdMonster wrote

In the same vein, would this be powerful enough for TW's usages?

https://www.pine64.org/pinebook-pro/

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kore wrote

yeah the pinebook looks wicked cool and is cheap too. Only thing is Tequila wanted 250gigs and this is max 128. There is a microsd slot though but it'd be "external storage". You could set it up to just get mounted on the desktop automatically though i guess.

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ziq wrote (edited )

It has an ARM cpu so Idk if it would be suitable for their usage - desktop publishing especially, particularly if they need to use Wine with it to run Indesign. They should stick with an Intel architecture rather than a cheap cellphone chip that will be limited in what applications it supports.

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simianthrope wrote (edited )

I guess that the problem's in how the PC processors market is monopolized by two big companies, so any more grassroots tech business has no choice but to go for ARM for more open designs. Sux.

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celebratedrecluse wrote

Debian 9, choose GNOME desktop environment. Its very similar to mac OS environments.

I recommend getting a thinkpad, they are the nokias of the laptop world. Very hardy and last a long time.

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transtifa wrote (edited )

(1) I'm inclined to recommend Fedora.

(2) Take a look at Thinkpads at your local used electronics markets, maybe.

Do you reallyyyyy need a laptop? PCPartPicker has a list of completed partlists that you can sort by price to build your own desktop, which would likely get you a more powerful computer for cheaper. (If you're willing to look for used/old/cheap parts and leverage available deals to push down the price. In some places, a used thinkpad might really be more economical, but it depends.)

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mofongo wrote

Fedora is not beginner friendly, having non-free software work is a bit of a chore.

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transtifa wrote

Beginner friendly != comes pre-packaged with unnecessary non-free software

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ziq wrote

Yeah that's just going to frustrate them.

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throwaway wrote

Not at all. Elementary OS is perhaps the easiest Linux distro to get going with, and it's FOSS (unless you choose to install proprietary drivers of course).

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mofongo wrote

Since you use a mac, maybe Elementary OS would be a good starting point. It's based on Ubuntu and its design philosophy is based on Apple's. Otherwise, go Ubuntu.

I support going for a thinkpad, you can find many models at different price points used on ebay.

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ziq wrote

I tried elementary and immediately installed KDE over it because it had so many limitations.

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mofongo wrote

I did the same >.<

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ziq wrote

Wish I had just installed KDE Neon from the start instead of listening to people praising Elementary. Now I have a bunch of buggy Elementary stuff that gets in the way and I'm too lazy to do a fresh install of just KDE. People are always talking up these barebones OS's that are barely functional, I don't get it.

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mofongo wrote

It usually falls on use cases and personal preferences. I'm still in love with puppy linux and its 400x increase in battery life. But it's only useful for me when I'm going to write or do command life stuff on a laptop and may not have an outlet nearby.

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kore wrote (edited )

re: hardware and software support

hardware support comes from the kernel so it will be the same no matter what distro you choose and is usually quite good.

As for software any distro you choose with a well-developed package repository (Ubuntu, Fedora, etc.) will have a lot of software that you can just easily install, beyond that software compatibility for all Linux distros is the same (there are some gotchas but none that you'll come across).

The "ease of use" you're asking for mostly comes from your choice of desktop environment. For that you're probably going to be looking at either GNOME or Plasma

Re: InDesign, here's the perfect opportunity for you to go open-source :) check out Scribus

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oldusername wrote (edited )

My recommendations:

1.) Lenovo X60 with Trisquel. This will be 32 bit, so perhaps too old and slow for your tastes, but inexpensive and easy to work on. You can libreboot it yourself. LibreLeah is on Raddle, but she's going through some life stuff right now so I'll just pay it forward if you need me to give you moral support on IRC the same way she did for me.

I do have issues with Trisquel, both technical and the community tends to attract trolls, but since you're a Gnubie and accustomed to Apple, I think that's probably going to get the job done, let you find out how much fun free software is, and let you get on with yoyur life.

The X60 is easy to work on: get yourself a screwdriver and a hard drive of your choice. Max out the RAM while you're at it.

2.) If that's going to be too underpowered for you and too much of a project, then go for a pre-librebooted X200 or T400. I'd avoid Technoethical for the time being, drop /u/libreleah a note of support, and probably buy from Vikings:

https://store.vikings.net/libre-friendly-hardware

if I had to go that route this week.

3.) If that's too much too soon, I'd go for a T420 or T430 for full sized or X220 or X230 ultraportable. My T440 is newer, nowhere near as powerful, and much harder to work on. It's going to limit you. That's not what you want, coming straight from Apple.

Congratulations. Very few Apple users seem to be able to take even this first step. It's so much like you to have the courage to escape.

ETA: Trisquel is deblobbed/freed Ubuntu. It's not perfect, but it is easy. You'll want to sudo apt-get install openbox fluxbox i3 fairly early in the game to simplify and speed things up a bit.

You can put this: https://www.gnome-look.org/p/1275087/ on top of XFCE4 or Mate to make your desktop environment look more familiar.

If you need to temporarily enable Ubuntu's proprietary reps for a driver or something, you just go right ahead and do so and don't beat yourself up over it. You're still infinitely better off than most Gnubies. Better days are coming.

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shanc wrote

The highest spec used thinkpad you can afford plus a SSD. Don't try anything without a SSD. Debian with KDE or GNOME desktop.

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