Changing things up …

It’s funny how things go around and come around.  

On Saturday, Tim King’s BIT conference presentation about his DIY computer lab was inspiration for my post DIY.  I really liked his approach to having students create their own computers from wherever they could get them.  If you haven’t looked through his Prezi, it’s worth the time.

Below, you’ll find a screen capture of what it partially looked like.

I’ll admit to a certain level of surprise when I saw that Windows was part of his ultimate solution.  As he notes, and I think that most people will confirm, Windows 10 is a significant improvement over previous versions.

I didn’t see that coming.  I thought that his answer would have been some variation of Linux which can breathe life into older equipment.  It can make them just scream.  I’ve done that to this computer which runs two operating systems – Windows 10 and Ubuntu.  

Well, at least it ran Ubuntu.

I think it probably was being at the conference and talking to so many inspirational people doing exciting things.  It dawned on me that I hadn’t done anything exciting myself for a while.  What better time than the present?  I’m pretty good about keeping things backed up so I was up to a new adventure.  I’d been doing a great deal of reading about Linux Mint as an operating system, so what the hey?

I’m always amazed at how easy it is to install the Linux distributions that I’ve toyed with.  The new technique is to download the operating system in an ISO file, burn it to a DVD, boot your computer from the DVD and play around with it.  So I did.

It didn’t take me long to realize that this was a very good thing.  The nice thing about a Linux distribution like Linux Mint is that you really get a starter pack of applications which, quite frankly, are probably enough for most people.  There’s an office suite, image editor, music/video player, … Try doing that with another operating system.  I decided to overwrite Ubuntu on this computer.  I still had it on another so I wouldn’t be Ubuntu-less.  

There’s always that moment when you’re doing some heavy duty lifting that gives you moment to pause.  For me, since I was overwriting a partition, it wasn’t one of the major installation options.  Once I found “Do Something Else”, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  I wanted to format the Ubuntu partition, leave Windows and its backup in place, and install Mint.  And, it was quick.  I did the installation and the final boot in under 45 minutes.

Everything just worked.  Where have we heard that before?  I did some changes to the look and feel in the Preferences area.  I’m always impressed with how much you can tweak a computer when you’re in the driver’s seat instead of some locked down configuration.  I have to give acknowledgement to the distribution package.  There are so many high quality background images included.  

And, of course, me being me, I wanted some more applications.  This has always been the biggest complaint about Linux – there’s no software.  

Hah!  The Software Manager is a nice launchpad to the good stuff.

The default web browser is Firefox but I immediately added Chromium and Opera.  It’s nice to have options.  And, I love my extensions (like ScribeFire which I’m using to write this)  It was a piece of cake to log into my browser account and watch the browsers synch and populate everything while I watched.

And I was off.  One of the annoying things about this computer and every version of Windows that I’ve used is how intensive Windows seems to be when it’s running.  The fan is constantly on, blowing out the heat.  After the initial Mint boot, the fan noise goes away although my hand over the vent opening reveals a gentle flow of heat coming out.  

Back to Tim’s scenario, the whole thing is something that teachers and students alike can do as their own project.  Call it a maker thing if you want.  There’s always something new to be learned about configuration or software but I maintain that’s good learning and helps the user grow.  I would encourage anyone to give it a shot; find an old computer that’s about to be retired and see what you can do.  Or even better, take your existing computer and make it dual boot.  (Back up things first)

I’ll bet that you’ll be pleasantly pleased and there’s always something exciting about changing things up – especially if you learn something new.

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