Don’t dump your old laptop! Try something new

Jane Chakravorty

I had an older, much-used laptop. Nice size, nice screen – but Windows 11 was never going to happen and it was getting frustratingly slow and clunky. A rebuild or replacement was inevitable.

The choice, I was told, is Windows 10, or Linux. Now, I use Linux Mint at work and like it, but the idea that my favourite games and installed apps (Photoshop, Office) would be gone forever was daunting. But I opted for Linux, with the stipulation that I had to have my very favourite arcade game, 3D Blocks, installed.

And so it was that I was presented with quite possibly the best laptop I have ever had the joy to work on. Over the top? Maybe, but true.

So, why do I love it so much?

The first thing was the login. No need to log into any account. Easy and consistently painless. And regardless of where the mouse is, I can just type the password straight in without repositioning my mouse in the password field. A small point but small things matter.

Close behind is the ease of updates. I get a little symbol when the system needs updating. I click on the icon, enter the password and it updates happily without me having to stop working for an unpredictable length of time. It lets me know if it requires rebooting, but there’s no need to do it there and then. In fact I never do it there and then and it hasn’t exploded on me yet, or decided unilaterally to reboot regardless of what I’m doing.

It’s fast. Oh so fast. Again no interminable wait while it opens my vast collection of photos, or countless emails. And this is an ageing laptop, remember?

And I have almost everything that I thought I’d pine for. Instead of Photoshop, I use GIMP (opens my .psd files, too), and instead of Office, I use LibreOffice (opens .doc and .docxs – as well as Powerpoint/Excel files). OBS for live-streaming and so, so much more. I prefer Jitsi for video calls, but Zoom works perfectly happily, too. And I’ve discovered digiKam – an advanced open-source digital photo management application that provides a comprehensive set of tools for importing, managing, editing, and sharing photos and raw files so I can organise my numerous photos.

For browsing I use Brave and Chrome – also Firefox – can’t have too many choices!

And I can play 3DBlocks without the laptop complaining. So far, there’s not one application that I haven’t been able to either load or substitute.

Most of all though, I feel a sense of joy that I have saved the laptop from Room 101 and I think it’s going to last me for a few years to come.

By the way, I’m not a developer, a coder or a computer nerd. I’m just your average user and if I can use Linux, then so can you.

So, don’t replace your laptop with a more powerful model. Try Linux and discover the wonderful world that is open source. After all, Linux and open source powers the United Nations sustainability goals. It can power you, too.

I felt the ‘Linux effect’ recently as my older laptop did not have the stamina to upgrade to Windows 11. It wasn’t that old and had a nice screen, nice keyboard and is a nice weight. Long story short, Linux Mint was installed and the laptop works better than ever. It’s quicker, I don’t have to log in to an account and the updates are applied when I decide they should be – and I can keep on working There is absolutely nothing I miss about Windows.

And of course, it’s a truth universally acknowledged that Linux is indisputably more secure than Windows – or macOS for that matter. This is because, no matter how many talented developers Microsoft hires, fixing exploits will never be as fast as in Linux since there is such a big, global community behind it.

Some innovative organisations have made it their core mission to bridge the digital divide and are repurposing older computers and therefore keeping them safe from the landfill. This cannot happen without Linux.

Indeed, open source powers the United Nations’ sustainability goals.