My $25 laptop

xubuntu-laptopA few years ago, an elementary school, having made the awful decision to switch to Windows machines, was selling off their fleet of Mac iBooks but only to employees and their relatives. They originally tried to get a couple hundred dollars for each iBook but the cheap machines had a huge caveat — they were running OS 9 and would probably need a memory upgrade to run OS X. Also, the batteries sucked. Since upgrades to make it run like a decent laptop would cost me as much as a new machine, I passed.

They sold most of the iBooks but not all. A year or so later, they knocked the price down to $25 to get rid of them. I was lucky enough to grab one then. I figured I’d use it as my internet-only coffeeshop machine. (This was before the term “netbook” had entered the language.)

However, the machine was now too slow and had too little memory to run the current version of OS X. Its version of OS 9 had a version of Internet Explorer that was obviously not supported anymore. Current versions of Safari and Firefox wouldn’t install on the old version of OS 9 that I had. So I made my first leap into the world of Ubuntu1, specifically Xubuntu — a distro of Ubuntu with a smaller footprint for which there was PowerPC version. (PowerPC being the architecture of the iBook I have.)

So when I started this experiment, Ubuntu was on version 7 but for whatever reason, Xubuntu only had version 6 available for PowerPC. I had to use the alternative install to get around my low memory problems. (The alternative install is the version without the flashy graphic user interface. It looks like DOS during the install — just blue screens and console fonts.)

So I got Xubuntu 6 on the machine but it wouldn’t update automatically to the new version which meant all my applications were also frozen in time a year behind Ubuntu releases. When version 8 was rolling out, I went on a hunt for an alternative install version of Xubuntu 7. I found one somewhere on the internet (possibly a university site), installed it and my updates started rolling out perfectly. I moved up to version 8.04 and then 8.10 and everything’s rocking along.

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten fed up with Windows and Mac. I’ve made the comment before that Apple is just Microsoft with better UI. With either company there’s a shitload of political baggage that I just don’t want to take on. I’m happy Linux provides an alternative to the bullshit and an alternative to junking old computers.

1 If you’re not familiar (and I sure wasn’t before I decided to do this to my iBook), Ubuntu is a desktop version of Linux — the open-source operating system. It’s free. And anyone who wants to can peek at the code and modify it. So, in case you weren’t aware, there isn’t just Mac and Windows. Linux is available in many different desktop flavors. And Ubuntu itself is available in many different flavors, each with a different focus. And you can install Linux on a Windows or Mac machine to breathe new life into it.