One would think that researching and purchasing computers for the University would make it easier to purchase a computer to use at home. For me this just isn’t the case. For one thing I am cheap. I start configuring a system with all the goodies I want, and I am suddenly looking at a computer that costs $1,700-2,500. Ouch! So I asked myself, what does this computer really need to do. I want to:
- check e-mail,
- surf the Internet,
- work with numbers and presentations,
- play music,
- handle my digital photos, and that’s about it.
So here is what I did. I found a refurbished IBM Thinkpad at Tiger Direct for around $500. The Thinkpad I chose is a lightweight laptop with a 14” screen, Pentium M processor, CD-RW/DVD, 1G RAM, a 60G hard drive, Windows XP Pro, and a 1 year warranty. Not a power house, but solid, proven, and dependable performer. Windows XP Pro ran well on the computer, but I decided to look into Linux. Linux runs a computer just like Windows or the Mac operating system does (the Mac OS is a version of Unix just like Linux.) Linux has been around for years, and has been considered an operating system for “computer geeks”. Recent improvements to versions of the Linux operating system have made it more user friendly. Many computer manufacturers are offering computers running the Linux operating system right next to Windows based computers these days.
I talked with Chris Rutledge and Pat Riehecky in IT about the versions of Linux they like best. They both were singing praises of Ubuntu Linux version 7.10. I did some research, downloaded the free installer from http://www.ubuntu.com and burned it to a CD. The Ubuntu distribution CD comes with Open Office for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. Open office works similarly to Microsoft Office and is compatible with Microsoft Office documents. Also included are programs to edit, scan in, and view photos, listen to music and watch movies. The Firefox web browser is included, as well as an instant messaging client, an e-mail client, several games, and many other goodies. All the features I wanted for my new computer. Another neat feature is that Ubuntu and the bundled applications are Open Source, in other words, available for free (I did mention that I am cheap).
The Ubuntu operating system is easy to use. If a person has used Windows or the Mac operating system, they will have no problems using a computer running Ubuntu. I am very happy with the computers performance. Programs load and run very quickly. My printer and digital camera installed very easily. I plugged the devices in, the computer configured them in about 10 seconds and told me the devices are ready to use. I have the e-mail client checking my IWU e-mail, and have consolidated all of my pictures on the computer. So far the computer is perfect for my needs, and seems to find it’s way to my lap every evening.
I will post updates to my computer adventure as I discover new features and install new software.