A few weeks ago, I decided to purchase another laptop computer. Now, I did not go to a “Big Box” electronics store, nor did I visit their websites online to make a purchase. Instead, I went to my local computer store that sells used laptops. This store had a selection of fairly new (5 to 7 years old) computers available from different manufacturers, but I immediately gravitated towards the Lenovo ThinkPads. In the past, I have had great success using this brand to convert to a Linux operating system. Moreover, they are generally more robust and reliable, as they are designed for business use. Of course, I am not saying that other manufacturers cannot be transformed into Linux machines; however, I have been using them since my first used 2005 ThinkPad.
My intention for this new purchase, was to offer a “dual boot” computer being available to presenters attending the 2023 “Rural Routes Through The Holy” event coming this June on PEI. The newer machine would offer more choice over my usual laptop that is a 2014 computer which has Linux only. It is a “given” that most people are more familiar with Windows 10, so it would still be available on the newer laptop. This characteristic is called “dual boot” whereby the opening screen on the computer gives you a choice of operating systems. You just select the one you desire and press “enter” and away you go.
I have been asked many times how to set up a laptop to do this function, and so I shall attempt to describe it as briefly as possible in this article, but I trust that you will view the attached links to “see” it done.
Firstly, I must digress and explain “Linux” to you. It is an operating system that has been around for decades. There are many types or “distributions” of Linux systems today (probably over 400). It is also called “Open Source”, which allows anyone to use it free of charge.
Developers add their own “envelope” (Graphic User Interface) upon it and choose “Open Source” programs that best suit their specific needs. Therefore, “Ubuntu” will look a certain way on your desktop screen, while “Linux Mint” will look completely different. However, they both have the basic common system behind the scene. You should also be aware that your smartphone (Android) is based on Linux, as is Google Chrome and the Google operating system found on Chromebooks at your child’s school. I find that Linux Mint looks very similar to Windows; therefore, the switchover is much easier for most new users.
Secondly, Linux is very secure, as it usually does not need antivirus software, and it is easily upgraded to newer versions as they become available with a press of a button. Each version generally is supported for 5 years, and then you upgrade to be good for another 5 years, etc. Yes, and it is at no cost unless you wish to donate to them. Moreover, other distributions enable the use of extremely old or under-powered laptops to function. Presently, Windows 10 by Microsoft will no longer be supported after October 2025, making many laptops obsolete due to lack of security updates or outdated hardware for Windows 11. Linux allows you to use these laptops well into the future. You will be doing the planet a favour!
Now to the installation:
1) You will need to download a version of Linux to your present computer. Here are two choices, but there are others. Use the newest LTS version (Long Term Support).
2) Prepare a bootable memory device, namely a DVD or a bootable USB.
You can burn the download “iso” image to the DVD and use it. If your computer does not have a DVD player, you will need to make a bootable USB. Here is a video to help explain the steps, as well as the installation. In this video they are not making it a dual boot computer. He will mention that a screen will come up in the installation process that will allow you to dual boot if you want.
When you restart the computer, depending on your choice to have Linux alone or to dual boot, the laptop will default to Linux Mint. For dual boot machines, there will be a choice on the opening screen.
In Linux Mint you will have an office program called Libreoffice that is similar to Microsoft Office. It is capable of saving documents in Microsoft format and you can also get Microsoft fonts.
The Linux Mint software manager has a large selection of free programs for you to use. (e.g. Audacity, OBS, Simplescreenrecorder, etc.) Of course, Zoom will work on Linux as well. The web browser is Firefox, but you can use Chromium (an Open Source version of Chrome), or you can go to the Google Chrome website and download a version of it that will work for Linux.
Enjoy the new world of Linux!
Rev. Martin Dawson (retired and computing in Cornwall PEI)