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shopping for a laptop again (DigitalStorm sucks)  RSS feed

 
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paul wheaton wrote:Myron, the processor in that consumes 28 watts. I would like to get one that is under 15 watts.



OK - I was only looking at the 65 W power supply, not the processor consumption.

If all other requirements are met, is 8GB RAM a deal breaker? It makes a big difference on available options.
 
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If it is 8gb and can be expanded to 16, that's okay.

 
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Looks like your keyword to watch for here is "Ultrabook". That's what these (U)ltra-low power processors are designed for. They are generally only 2 cores.

Everything I checked in that category of laptops seems to max out at 8gb RAM.
 
paul wheaton
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This windows 8 laptop that I have now has the i7-4500U with 16g of memory.

Even though it has only two cores, it seems to run circles around my old laptop.
 
Myron Weber
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paul wheaton wrote:This windows 8 laptop that I have now has the i7-4500U with 16g of memory.

Even though it has only two cores, it seems to run circles around my old laptop.



So is the search over? Did I not get the memo?

Or is this the Win8 machine that sucked (but that one didn't have a i7-4500u)?
 
paul wheaton
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I still have the win8 machine. Moving on to another computer soon.
 
paul wheaton
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The search continues.

John thinks he might be able to massage win7 into the current laptop. Maybe. It would take a fair bit of trial and error. He found some new resources. If so, I think that would be really great. The battery life on this thing is excellent. And the screen size is excellent. And it doesn't need a barrage of fans pointed at it. The general speed seems far better than the other laptop.

Here are two that I am considering as "plan B". They both have win7 and low power CPUs.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00DQ2DXF8/rs12-20
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00DT3X5FM/rs12-20

Here is the low power CPU list:

http://cpuboss.com/cpus/Typical-Power-Consumption-cpus-best-Overall-Performance-6824100

So, the only thing on the list is low power CPUs. The CPUs at the top of the list are, apparently, the most powerful in what they can do for you in a second.

My current CPU is the i7-4500U. Apparently, it can accomplish the same computing as my previous laptop that was perpetually overheating because of all the mega processor stuff in it. With 1/3 the power. You can see on the list that it is rated at 513. The above laptops perform at 409 and and 601, respectively.

I don't understand why all laptops don't use these low watt CPUs. It makes batteries last a very long time. I would think all consumers would want that.

John has been working very hard. One of the problems he has come up with is that the low power CPUs appear to be very coupled to windows 8. And windows 8 seriously sucks. They also tend to be coupled to laptops with teeny tiny screens. I suppose that is fine for people that do a little internet once or twice a week, but I spend about 14 to 16 hours a day working with about 40 windows open (I used to have over a hundred windows open, but when your computer keeps crashing, you end up with fewer windows). So I prefer the bigger screens (also my eyesight is getting old).

I think normal people would just pop out and get something at costco that seems to be fine. But this is something where I want to try to blaze a better trail. When we get something figured out, I think it will be podcast worthy.




 
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And windows 8 seriously sucks.



I agree. I believe that Win8 is the most unstable version of Windows ever released.
Mine crashes/freezes programs more times in a week than Vista did in 5 years!

I see no reason for choosing W8 unless you want 'Touch Screen".
It amazes me how many millions of machines are still using XP.
(My dentist just bought a $quarter million, state of the art X-ray machine, but all of their PCs are still on XP.)



 
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Don't forget a solid state drive. It will increase speed of almost everything and use less power.
 
paul wheaton
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Bill Rahn wrote:Don't forget a solid state drive. It will increase speed of almost everything and use less power.



I am open to that.

It would be great to be able to custom pick and choose that sort of thing.

Do they SSDs ever get to the point where they age and start to forget stuff?

 
Bill Rahn
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paul wheaton wrote:

Bill Rahn wrote:Don't forget a solid state drive. It will increase speed of almost everything and use less power.



I am open to that.

It would be great to be able to custom pick and choose that sort of thing.

Do they SSDs ever get to the point where they age and start to forget stuff?

Create
Not anymore and likely less of a chance of data loss than a regular drive. They have built in clean up to even wear and usage call TRIM. You can buy a SSD separate from the computer you get and use windows 7 system image. Control Panel>System and Security>Backup and restore>create a system image and copy your complete setup computer to your new drive. I did this for my old desktop and gave it new life on a SSD and my sons brand new Laptop to SSD. This change alone changed my boot time from about 50 secs or more to about 10 on both computers.
 
Bill Rahn
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"Not anymore and likely less of a chance of data loss than a regular drive. They have built in clean up to even wear and usage call TRIM."


One reason is if you drop a laptop with a regular drive it is likely toast but a SSD does not have moving parts so is much more resilient. And it it called TRIM not call TRIM.
 
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A mac. My macbook from 2005 still works perfectly and pulls around 15 watts and can even still edit video. My mac from 2002 also still works fine but is pretty slow by modern standards. My new macbook air runs around 7 hours on a charge and pulls around 10 watts. And if you really love viruses and blue screens you can even install windows on it (though you're likely to pull more juice since it won't interface the EFI and because windows uses way more CPU cycles just to be on). Yes, I know a mac costs more, but you get what you pay for; better hardware, serviceability, EFI instead of a clunky BIOS, and a machine that will run for years.

One nice trick to revive a dead windows machine is to install ubuntu on it, it's free and easy. You can often get way more life out of a machine that is too slow to run windows.
 
paul wheaton
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from the first post

I tried a mac for two weeks and learned that their "intuitive" thing includes resizing images in the image viewer - which does not seem intuitive at all. Plus, I just came to the conclusion that i am not a mac guy.

 
calen kennett
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Yes, it does seem to be sacrilegious or something but you can put windows on your mac. They really do make exceptional hardware with really low power consumption. I have a mac mini (20w power consumption in a very small box) that runs dual boot windows and osx. I've cloned the windows partition from osx so when the registry gets all buggy and it gets slow I just restore a functioning version of windows from the mac partition. All the files are stored in another partition. Any time you want to make software changes just restore the original partition, install the software, and clone your partition. It's a great way to keep windows functioning.

calen kennett wrote:And if you really love viruses and blue screens you can even install windows on it.

 
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I realize linux has been declared "unacceptable", and the specs on this near-future device don't quite match what Paul is looking for, but WOW, this device would be an amazing piece of equipment to own! I think the "laptop" concept will be obsolete long before an "eco-laptop" demonstrates its worthiness.



They fell short of their crowd funding goal, but in a 30 day run got over $13 MILLION pledged!

EDIT: apparently the forum software / youtube tag doesn't like youtube's "share" link with the "youtu.be" domain?
 
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I'm not sue it is a viable option yet but the chrome book is looking better and better to me. Running games will be a problem, but what I use a computer for the most this is close to working. I believe in the past you couldn't do much without being connected to the internet' but I just heard that is changing. The apps and docs can be local to the device and sync with the cloud when you have a connection.
 
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hi Paul,

i'm not computer savvy but have had good luck with tiger direct

http://www.tigerdirect.com/sectors/category/computers.asp

maybe they can help find what you need
 
paul wheaton
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$740. i7-3537U. 8 gigs of memory. 1 tb hd. John installed win7, thus wiping away all the crapware. I am running it now. According to CPUboss, this processor does more than my previous two processors and uses a paltry 13.81 watts. It has a 17 inch display. I unplugged it and after an hour it said it still had 3.5 hours of battery life left.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00CRGJFT2/rs12-20

If anybody else buys this laptop from this link (or buys anything from amazon through this link) I get a kickback.

The laptop went directly from amazon to john in one day. John installed win7 and handed it over. Nothing to it.

The digitalstorm: i7-2630qm cpuboss rating of 712 at 36.56 watts
The month old dell: i7-4500U (even though it advertised a different chip) cpuboss rating of 509 at 12.19 watts
The new dell: i7-3537U cpuboss rating of 599 at 13.81 watts

The battery on the digitalstorm would not last even an hour and the power supply was 120 watts. I ended up having to throttle down the CPU to 60% when plugged in and 20% when not plugged in to keep it from overheating. So the extra processing speed ended up being wasted.

John cleaned up the digitalstorm and it would still overheat.

The digitalstorm laptop cost $1400 and was a lemon.

This is day 1 with the new laptop at $740 and so far it has been perfectly smooth. No crapware. And it has one feature i was not expecting: the 17 inch screen is a slightly lower resolution than the digitalstorm which turns out to be good for my aging eyes.
 
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Woohoo!
 
paul wheaton
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It has been a week.

I have worked long, long hours. This machine has been boring. Which is, I think, the highest recommendation you can have a for a computer. It has behaved exactly as expected.

I suppose there can be more testing as I travel. Or as I install more and more apps.

So far the response time is a huge improvement over the digitalstorm. No more of that thing where I type stuff and then the computer catches up to me two sentences later. Every character appears as I type. Which is what a computer is supposed to do.

Unlike win8, when I watch a netflix video, the screen saver doesn't kick in.

I have dozens of windows open, and have not bounced the computer for a week. Nothing has been lost. No blue screen of death. No surprises.

On a related note: for years i've just put up with whatever keyboard was cheap. When I started having trouble with a keyboard where i would press a key and it wouldn't go down I thought "keyboards used to be far better than this." I did a little research and got this about a month ago.


http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B007VDKLLM/rs12-20

I have doubled the rate that i type with far fewer errors. I'm getting more done.
 
Ryan Barrett
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Those keyboards have different keys listed with them(blue, black, brown, etc.). Here is a link to what that means:
http://lifehacker.com/how-to-choose-the-best-mechanical-keyboard-and-why-you-511140347

I think I've used the brown in the past, No click, but they give you a bump when you've keyed. Looking forward to getting one again, maybe when my current keyboard craps out.

 
paul wheaton
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It has now been 15 days. I think the last time I powered down was around day 2. I suppose it is possible I've been running it nonstop for 15 days (I do put it into "sleep" mode at night; and I have it set to go to sleep after a few minutes; so it has been in and out of sleep mode a lot).

It does seem like most computers would barf by now. And this one is still running. I have 11 different apps running at the same time. I've been just leaving the running. The big pig is chrome. I have about 40 tabs open. This load would have made the digitalstorm strain and typing this note would be riddled with pauses. But typing this note (and every post/email) is silky smooth.

I'm throwing everything I have at this laptop and it is drinking it all in like it's nothing.



 
paul wheaton
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Day 28. I still have not powered down. It is still going. Nothing to report.
 
paul wheaton
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I bounced the laptop today. There were just heaps of updates. Chrome started to be a bit sluggish. The reboot fixed the sluggish. I think having a bit of sluggish after a month of not bouncing is pretty acceptable.


 
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Glad that you found something that is working for you...I must say I am surprised that it is a Dell. When I worked for the big yellow company they gave us Dell and they were POS.

I was about to tell you to build a desktop and use the laptop for light weight work. I only use my wife's laptop for light weight stuff and I do all my serious work on a desktop.
 
paul wheaton
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The Dell died yesterday.

We are in a mad scramble to get things done for the upcoming workshop - so I don't have time to research what to do next. When the innovators event is over, I suppose I'll look into getting it running again. And/or exploring the next phase of computer purchase.


 
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Paul, I bought an hp dv9000 series lap top directly from hp with my own custom specs. It was a pretty penny, but it's still around after 6 years and runs pretty close to how it did when new.

I think the trick to its long lasting is using a cheap lower powered used machine for my research and daily internet fiddling, and having the serious big guns for doing things that take high power processing. Before I started this division of labor type setup I lost some very large and time consuming work in a computer crash. It was creative type work that I could never recapture and was so incredibly frustrating. With two computers in use they both last significantly longer than if you only have one, kind of like pairs of shoes.
 
paul wheaton
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I want to consider linux again. There are two things I hope are now fixed with linux:

1) can you watch netflix?

2) can you record skype calls?

 
Ryan Barrett
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paul wheaton wrote:
1) can you watch netflix?


Yes, Chrome + HTML5. I haven't tried this in a while, but it did work when last tested. (couple months ago)

paul wheaton wrote:
2) can you record skype calls?



Recent article about doing just that: http://www.webupd8.org/2014/03/automatically-record-skype-calls-linux-skype-call-recorder.html



So.. My two cents. (Without knowing the details of what crapped out on the dell, assuming it's dead-dead)
I bought a macbook air about the time you got the dell. I hate to admit it, but I love it. It's just simple.
There was some getting used to the OS. My goal was to get something that would last for 5 years. To ease my mind I did buy a 3-year warranty, which I normally never do... and backup is as simple as plugging in a USB drive.

I do still run windows and kubuntu in a virtual machine for times when I need something only they can do.
 
paul wheaton
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As for my current laptop: Jason extracted the hard drive and we got a copy of everything off of it. So nothing is lost (other than the 120 windows that were open, each with a "to do"). I said to Jason "there is an office pool on how many hours of tinkering it will take to bring this laptop back to life - where do you put your dollar?" He said "eight hours". Jason is so multi-talented that everybody wants as much of his time as possible. And we are scrambling to get ready for the workshop. So the old laptop will need to wait until after the innovators event. And maybe wait until the ground freezes and we cannot build any more wofati stuff.

mac: I learned I am not a mac person. I embrace that many people groove on a mac. I'm just not one of those people.

linux: excellent info. The last time i tried linux, I tried mint because the theme of mint seemed very well aligned with my philosophies (I am not a power user - i just want my stuff to work and I prefer learning next to nothing about linux). Might mint still be the choice for me?
 
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I have never used mint but I hear it is really good. I used ubuntu and kubuntu in the past and I liked both and they did not require too much knowledge to run once it was all setup properly.
 
Ryan Barrett
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In the process of downloading Mint-KDE(I prefer kubuntu; figure this will be similar). It looks to have a huge user base; That's a good sign.

From over a decade of linux use... There is going to be some learning curve/some give or take when moving from windows. Some things will be easier/more reliable, some things willn't.
Same experience when moving from windows to mac(seems less nittygritty bits are needing manipulated with mac though they do manipulate your wallet more often).

That said. Go for it. "aptitude" or other package managers are your friends.

 
paul wheaton
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I have many years of linux experience. It's just that it is all as a "user" and not a "power user". I also found that using linux without a power user nearby is very difficult. But I got the impression that mint fixed a lot of that.
 
pollinator
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paul wheaton wrote:I have many years of linux experience. It's just that it is all as a "user" and not a "power user". I also found that using linux without a power user nearby is very difficult. But I got the impression that mint fixed a lot of that.



Thats funny. I have been using Linux solid since about 1995 when I gave up on OS/2 (version 3 came out and it had no NIC drivers... the cost of those was more than the OS... otherwise OS/2 was way better than windows) Anyway, I have not enjoyed my MINT experience at all. My wife and children are using Kubuntu and I use UbuntuStudio. Ubuntustudio is based on xubuntu, but has a lowlatency kernel and lots of audio, video, and graphics stuff included. Yes I can record skype calls. I do use a lowlatency kernel. I use an i5 instead of an i7 (for better low latency performance) I use pulseaudio to Jackdbus audio right from boot. That is I use the jackd server as the backend closest to the soundcard and run PA on top of that. (even on my wife's computer) My wife uses skype almost daily to talk to family halfway around the world (Manilla). To record I use idjc which is set up much like the old radio studio console. It has level for the "host", local guests and has an input for "phone" which is connected direct to PA. IDJC can also play jingles or stream music from the two internal players. It is probably overkill and many people use it for internet radio or in some cases live to air radio along with rivendell. For simply recording I would use mhWaveEdit which is very much like Audacity, but it works correctly with jack.

So the overly complex way I deal with linux audio... I have written a bash script called autojack which starts jackdbus when the user starts the session (when they boot up) Then it waits a few seconds and starts PulseAudio which then sees jack is running and connects it's outputs and inputs to jack and auto connects them through to the audio card. SO far the user has done nothing, but they have a fully running audio system. If they run FF and utube they will get sound. Now they make a skype call. They say hello, can I record this? The callee says, ok... I start mhWaveEdit. There is a menu item that says play (this is backwards) and at the bottom it says record. I select that. A meter shows up and there is no signal yet. Open Qjackctl. There is a button that says connections and that opens a window that shows inputs on one side and outputs on the other. The first thing you will notice is that mhwaveedit has connected its input to the system input... you probably want to leave that there... or better yet, leave the left side there, but disconect the right side and connect it to pulse jacksink. Go back to mhwaveedit and click the start recording button. and start talking.

OK as I wrote that, I realize that normally one would set the recorder up first before making the call. Which you can do with this setup because pulse is always there unlike skype that only shows up as a stream when you make the call. Then, because you have recorded your half on one track and the phone half on the other track you have two tracks to mix to mono. Now this sounds really complex, but it is not. I gave the background first which is a one time setup. You do that once and it gives you a connection panel that will allow routing the output of one application to another. mhwaveedit is a recording program it is not hard to use... ardour would be overkill, but if I was doing this, that is what I would use because that is the way I am set up for recording music in the studio down stairs. The only extra step really is opening the connections window in qjackctl and setting up the extra record connection.

I realize I have said way too much in this message, sorry. but thats the way it is. netflix I don't know about. http://www.pcworld.com/article/2824623/ubuntu-linux-gets-netflix-without-weird-workarounds.html says it should just work with Chrome.

If Linux is ready for your needs or not I don't know. I don't reboot unless I install a new kernel. I personally find windows and OSx hard to use and frustrating.
 
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Well Paul I am definitely late to 'this party' but since it is still listed as a Hot Topic and I read so darn much of the posts I thought I would share this thing I saw on Kickstarter, it might be what some of you might like. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/753230753/packed-pixels-an-extra-monitor-for-your-laptop-0?ref=discovery

I swore I saw a previous style that you could use with your smart phones... oh well.
 
Len Ovens
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Mike Feddersen wrote:Well Paul I am definitely late to 'this party' but since it is still listed as a Hot Topic and I read so darn much of the posts I thought I would share this thing I saw on Kickstarter, it might be what some of you might like. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/753230753/packed-pixels-an-extra-monitor-for-your-laptop-0?ref=discovery



This is meant to be used on a desk or some sort of stable platform. The KS page makes this very plain. I am guessing because the unit is not very sturdy. Almost all laptops (including my lowest priced netbook) have a video output and a 19inch screen is $90 CAD at Walmart any more. Yes they do require external power, but 12vdc is easy to lug around in lots of battery packs if 110AC is not available, which seems preferable to burning out a USB port or battery on my laptop (netbook, note pad, whatever).


I swore I saw a previous style that you could use with your smart phones... oh well.



Google "ubuntu for android". Again, it is externally powered... but I think with a smart phone it would have to be anyway. Ubuntu for Android turns a smart phone into a desktop where the phone does the processing and data storage and a bluetooth keyboard and mouse are added. the screen is connected through the smart phone's USB/charging port with a special adaptor. I don't have the adaptor to try it out on my wife's nexus4 (which happens to be the platform it was developed on) so I can't tell you from personal experience how "well" it works. The project is on hold as the developers that were working on it have been full time on Ubuntu "Touch" which is a replacement for Android. However, ubuntu for android was to the "working" state, I am just not sure how many "desktop" applications can be used with it. I am thinking a wifi connected hard drive may make sense too.
 
paul wheaton
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My sick laptop went to dell. It came back and I opened it and fired it up. Dell replaced win7 with win8.

The idea of playing "go find the win7 driver" does not appeal to me. So I'm thinking that the thing i want to do is .... try linux again.

I am leaning toward mint. Any other thoughts?
 
Len Ovens
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paul wheaton wrote:My sick laptop went to dell.


That one is wide open to fun with bad spelling


It came back and I opened it and fired it up. Dell replaced win7 with win8.

The idea of playing "go find the win7 driver" does not appeal to me. So I'm thinking that the thing i want to do is .... try linux again.

I am leaning toward mint. Any other thoughts?



I can't comment on win 7 or 8 as I consider windows the free demo that comes with computer which "of course" will be replaced with a real OS as soon as the computer makes it home. Others are free to use what they like best however.

My comment on Mint is above. To clarify... I tried Mint during the time Gnome 3 was getting ironed out. Mint had been running gnome 2 (like most of Ubuntu/debian at the time) which was well liked and accepted by the Linux community. KDE was the leading edge and considered a big CPU user (it seems to have been worked over and seems to sip cpu these days), Ubuntu was just starting to think about Unity as a DE. At this point Gnome announced Gnome 3 with Gnome Session. I still can't figure out how to make good use of it, but that is because I like to have a real menu where I can see what apps I have installed. Gnome Session and Ubuntu Unity think differently and operate in in the search engine fashion... type in some letters and it helps you find the app. There was only one problem with that. Gnome Session did not work (read core dump) with a lot of older HW, but did include a classic mode that looked like Gnome 2. That is what Mint was using at the time I tried it as it still worked on my older HW. Because Gnome 3 was new, it had the usual teething problems and I found it unstable. I did get Gnome Session to work on my (then 2 year old) netbook, but where gnome 2 ran just fine, gnome session was so slow as to be a waste of my time... about this time, gnome announced "classic mode" would no longer be supported as there were now modules available to make Gnome Session work like Classic mode.... well sort of. The menu is still sub-standard for anything fancy and is not fully XDG compliant (in my opinion). Mint had no choice but to follow this path or maintain a branch of Gnome 2 which they talked of doing and I think they did get so far as making a branch of Nautilus which had become "Chrome-ish". In the end I think they either went Gnome 3 with classic modules or went XFCE. I had given up trying by then though. I use Kubuntu, Xubuntu or Ubuntustudio (Studio is based on Xubuntu) right now. Kubuntu with the KDE desktop environment, is probably the closest thing to win 7 (or xp for that matter). Mint has been based on the Ubuntu repos in the past, not sure where now.

If you go that route I would suggest whatever Mint is based on the latest Ubuntu LTS (14.04) repos as they seem to be the most stable. Ubuntu and Debian are since then going through the switch to systemd instead of initd/upstart.... which RedHat and Arch have already done. (Run Levels are on the way out ) Unless you want to go old in which case Slackware is still going strong. I personally think both SlackWare and Arch would take too much of your time (Read "I am sure you could do it, but both include rolling your own of a lot of things... Arch uses compile as part of the install process) and would not recommend them. I stopped using Redhat for anything when they went corporate, but have not tried the community versions and those may be well worth checking out. They are quite highly rated.

I would choose the DE first and then the distro that best supports it. For example, Debian probably supports gnome best, and Ubuntu is KDE's dev platform. XFCE is developed in Debian, but lot of the devs also directly work on Xubuntu as well.

Ubuntu Desktop (and touch) are the closest thing to win 8, but I would not go there just now as I would call it a work in progress (though quite stable) and expect big changes with each release. They are working on replacing X11 with "MIR" while the X11 community (and the rest of Linux) seems to be headed the Wayland route for rendering. MIR may beat wayland out the door (In the same way upstart beat systemd) and may be sidelined when wayland does make it out (in the same way as upstart is now being replaced with systemd).

Have I scared you enough?

Fear not, go LTS (long term support) and things should just work.

Quite honestly, right now KDE is probably the longest running and most stable DE. There are things about it I don't like, but then I like unixy ways of doing things and KDE is made for (ex) windows users, I think.

Disclaimer: Len is a UbuntuStudio dev.... though not very active right now, but then Studio is not the most active Ubuntu flavour either. I do follow Xubuntu development as well because Studio is based on it.
 
paul wheaton
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As of about 25 minutes ago, I switched to mint.

Jason set it up for me. I'm a little nervous because jason isn't here right now - so if I get stuck, i'm on my own.

I just found "system monitor" which is something i like to keep running to look for wonkiness.

I see that i am using "linux mint 17.1 rebecca" - gnome/kde? maybe it doesn't matter?

Chrome seems to be working really great.

I'm told that jason got netflix working on this. And i have a new way to record skype calls. And I found a linux based video editor i'm going to try.

I need to get an ftp client this morning - any suggestions?
 
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