When the MacBook Pros came out it looked like that’d be a great opportunity to switch and while the feature set finally looked reasonable the price point for what I want was artifically high due to selections that I couldn’t get with other configurations. It’s not that a particular end configuration was expensive compared to a Dell (or System76) but the fact I could get the exact configuration I wanted out of the Linux laptop and not the Apple made the actual price point lower by over $1000. With the new MacBook Air models that just came out I decided to do my standard configuration. For this one I’m doing a 13″ to replace my MacBook Air but with the reasonable bump ups to make it last a long time. After all, I like to keep hardware for awhile so no reason to skimp out to have to replace it yet again in a couple years.
What were the end results? When I put together the exact configuration I’m looking for in both systems the Mac comes out to $1599 compared to $1659 for the Dell. That’s pretty astounding to me. I finally have a Mac option that fits my need at essentially the same price point. What does that mean? First, it means that the imminent demise of my antique personal laptop is imminent. Second, it means that it’s probably getting replaced with another Mac.
Since the release of Ubuntu 18.04 I’ve been using it a bunch in various VMs. I do love the new minimal install feature. Even though it doesn’t save that much hard disk space it does make things a lot less cluttered, which I absolutely love. Because I work in VMs I’ve been experimenting with migrating OS’s up to 18.04 rather than crushing old VMs, building from scratch, and porting data over. This process has worked almost seamlessly the dozen or so times I’ve done it across many VMs from various different baselines: Mainline 16.04, Mainline 17.10, Ubuntu MATE 16.04. The actual core software itself seems to work perfectly fine out of the box, but as I said it is almost seamless not seamless. There seems to be a bit of a wrinkle with the Ubuntu MATE update with respect to the VirtualBox Guest Additions, specifically with respect to shared folder drives.
I first ran across this in one of my main VMs when I tried the update. Everything went great, I re-applied the guest additions and voilà my shared folder drives mounted and I was in business. The next day when I fired up the VM they were missing. It was a hectic day, so I thought perhaps I had remembered it working so I applied the guest additions again. The drives reappeared. This time I rebooted to confirm it stuck but sadly they did not. I’ve continued to do some experimenting and have come to discover that while they are there the systemd process doesn’t seem to want to start on reboot even though it is set to. So to fix it I just need to do the following command to get them to show up:
sudo systemctl restart vboxadd-service.service
I wasn’t having this problem on Ubuntu 18.04 or Ubuntu MATE 18.04 virgin machines so this was either a problem with the general Ubuntu 16.04 to 18.04 upgrade process or specific to Ubuntu MATE 16.04 to 18.04 upgrade. I therefore went about creating two brand new VMs, one each for mainline Ubuntu 16.04 and one for Ubuntu MATE 16.04 and then went through the upgrade process directly. Those steps are:
- Fresh install OS with 3rd party and upgrades turned on
- Follow https://virtualboxes.org/doc/installing-guest-additions-on-ubuntu/ for installing guest additions
- Shutdown/Power on
- Add user to the vboxsf group (sudo usermod -a -G vboxsf <username>)
- Confirm RW shared folder
- Bring up graphical updater, do any additional updates
- Invoke Upgrade to 18.04 through graphical system:
sudo apt update && sudo apt dist-upgrade
- See if shared folder drive there
- After Update re-apply kernel extensions
- Confirm shared drive
I can repeatably show that mainline Ubuntu 16.04 goes through these updates without this artifact but the MATE version does not. Again, a fresh Ubuntu MATE 18.04 install doesn’t have this behavior at all. I wonder if this write up can shed some light on this problem for the Ubuntu MATE team.
It was just a few months ago when Ubuntu announced they were killing off Unity, their main desktop option. Many people were wondering if this was part of their larger pivot towards more profitable ventures and thus they would be leaving the desktop behind. I too was filled with worry about that potential outcome but calmed myself remembering that I was not locked into one vendor for my OS any longer. In the intervening months however it has become clear that Ubuntu is not killing of the desktop, far from it. In fact the strides they are taking with Ubuntu 17.10 and Ubuntu 18.04 look like they are about to put out the strongest desktop offering to date. Not having to carry the weight of a phone platform, their own desktop environment, etc. has allowed their team to focus on giving positive contributions to Gnome proper. I’ve had the opportunity to play around with the Ubuntu 17.10 betas and have to say that I don’t think I’d be missing anything from my current Ubuntu experience. I look forward to upgrading to 18.04 when the time comes and no longer worrying about if one of my desktop baselines was going away.
As the whole “what happens to Unity” thing unfolds I decided to redouble my efforts in trying different distros again. I’m trying everything from trailing edge (latest Debian) to bleeding edge (Solus). As luck would have it it was time for me to refresh one of my development VMs so I decided to jump that one from Mint to Solus to give it a real world spin. My first impressions are that it is a really interesting distro and one I’ll keep playing with but there is one not-so-tiny problem that hopefully they will grow out of.
Continue reading Solus Is Solid One Week In (Minus One Thing)
As much as I’ve never been a fan of Unity I’ve learned not to hate it as much as my host OS (and even in some of my VMs). Sure, my go-to desktops of late are mostly MATE distros or Cinnamon, but Unity hasn’t been completely unacceptable. With Ubuntu’s recent announcement of the demise of Unity and people openly pontificating on if this means Ubuntu is abandoning the desktop or looking to sell to someone like Microsoft who will then kill it on the desktop I started to analyze what this meant to me as a Linux desktop user. Is this the end of the road for that journey and therefore back to Mac or, god forbid, Windows?
Continue reading Existential Angst From Ubuntu Desktop Demise
I’m being impatient, and it’s my own fault. I started that Linux Craptop experiment to see how much mileage I could get out of a decade old laptop running a lean(ish) Linux. That actually became my only home laptop while my 6+ year old (I think) MacBook Air was getting its battery replaced. I was going to “suffer” through it for just the few days and then the MacBook would hold me over for at least another couple of years. At this point however I’m really chomping at the bit to retire that Mac and go Linux full bore.
Continue reading I Want My Linux Laptop Now! (A Voluntary Simplicity Exercise)
At the beginning of January I decided to try my hand at using a ten year old laptop running Linux Mint MATE as my daily at home machine. While there is certainly some cruft associated with using such an old machine for the most part the experience was perfectly fine. In fact I’m using it right now to write out this article. I wouldn’t recommend running out and buying one solely for the purpose, but the fact remains that Linux Mint MATE, and probably Ubuntu MATE as well, provide a great average user load experience on underpowered hardware.
Continue reading Yes, you can survive with a ten year old laptop running Mint MATE
I was away for a week so couldn’t do my Linux craptop experiment. Sorry, but I refuse to be beholden to a ten year old laptop while on travel. So now, today, is the second day that I’m using this as my primary machine for when I’m browsing the Internet and doing things while I’m watching TV on the couch. Yes that seems like a limited subset, but I spend a good amount of time vegging in that state so it’s not as insignificant as it seems. I’ll have a thorough breakdown of my experiment at some point but by far the biggest nuisance I have that is driving me crazy is the lack of trackpad gestures.
When gestures first came out for laptops I thought they were mostly gimmicky, but once I had my first laptop that really had them I was hooked and didn’t know it. Now that I’m trying to use a laptop without them I’m finding it very cumbersome. It’s not a total loss however because this trackpad has the beginning of gestures in the form of scroll bars on the right and bottom sides. I can simulate the scrolling to some extent which is a big part of my gestures, but it really isn’t the same thing. How did we live without gestures all this time? At least Linux Mint Mate 18 supported these limited gestures out of the box for this ancient laptop.
Sometime in 2016 the Linux Action Show podcast on a yarn decided to run both a modern and then a contemporary version of Linux on ten year old equipment. As luck would have it along with my other eccentric hobbies I also have a classic computer collection. One of the computers in my collection that I ran across recently is a Dell XPS M1530 from late-2007 (specs). I bought it as not too crappy but not so great home laptop suitable for browsing the internet, doing my home finances, et cetera. Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I guess, I have decided to try to use this laptop as a modern browsing computer for a little while. With a 2.6 GHz Intel Core2 Duo and 4 GB of RAM it shouldn’t do too bad, especially with the 4 GB of RAM. I’m going to run Linux Mint MATE18.1 to give it a fighting chance. Ubuntu and Cinnamon require a bit more graphics and CPU horsepower and while the 4GB of memory should allow it to hold its own to some extent, the ten year old processors and graphics cards will suffer. MATE on the other hand is far lighter weight and more streamlined.
Probably the biggest hiccup is going to be the battery. This is the original battery from ten years ago. I doubt that it is going to hold up well to being unplugged. That’s okay though, I’ll be able to leave it plugged in while I’m using it without much inconvenience. I’m not going to make this my primary laptop or anything so if I can only use it while tethered to the couch then so be it.
I’m currently finishing up patching the system, getting printers setup, and doing software installs for things like Chrome. I look forward to playing around with this in the coming weeks and reporting on it. In fact I’m writing this very blog post in FireFox on it right now while the OS patches continue to progress…