Submitted by An_Old_Big_Tree 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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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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


An_Old_Big_Tree 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 :)


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.


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


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.

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:

And so does Lenovo (Thinkpad):

And of course there are the Linux-exclusive companies:


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.


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.


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.


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.