1. Woof
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    Woof Contributing Member

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    Buying a new computer: what and which OS?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Woof, Oct 31, 2015.

    I'm stuck on my sofa with a chest infection and a broken laptop (CPU burnout, I think), reliant now upon my ancient netbook and XP. Time for a new machine, I reckon. Trouble is, there's nothing I really want. I have/had a Samsung 15" NP350 something-or-other running Windows 7, still using Office 2007 and it still meets all my needs, though it was/is due a RAM upgrade. I get this feeling though that it's time to get my brain out of hibernation and take more control of my computing needs... but I need a bit of help deciding which direction to take from people with experience. I know I could take this to computing forums, but it helps to know what other writers think/use

    So...

    • Macs are out, financially and ethically. The last one I had was a Mac Classic! I've borrowed macbooks and ipads from people since and I find the navigation really counter-intuitive and frustrating. I also dislike the way they operate: how despite paying over the odds for everything, you never truly buy it, only rent. So, truly, no Macs please.
    • I word process, edit and surf. That's it. I like to be able to run a thousand windows at once though.
    • Laptop (15/17") or Desktop? Laptops look like better value at the moment, to me (UK)? I've not had a desk top machine for ten years, but I'm wondering if a larger screen would be better for my eyes these days... but separates or all-in-one? What are the drawbacks of all-in-ones, and do they matter to someone whose technical ability only extends as far as being able to change e.g. my RAM or CD drive.
    • OS: I don't like the look of Windows 8 or the sound of 10. I don't want to pay a subscription for MS Office either. I was happiest with 98SE, 2000 was okay, Windows 7 I've learnt to live with, but it micro-manages so much. I think, maybe, I need to be looking at making the switch to Linux. I understand it's easier for the amateur these days? Which distribution is best for a new user? I think I would need to keep Windows as well, for a few programmes, which would presumably impact on what hardware I need? I've never run two OS on the same machine before.
    Basically, what I'm suffering from is knowing enough to know that I know nothing and being very very rusty. If I don't do this now I can see myself getting more and more frustrated as the years pass and Microsoft become more Apple, Samsung become even more Apple, everyone becomes Apple and having to be highly educated to be able to control your end-user experience becomes the norm. Or I may just be grumpy because I'm 80% mucas. Ugh. All help appreciated.
     
  2. Bookster
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    Bookster Banned

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    Unfortunately, your question is like, "What car should I buy?". Even if you provide all the criteria you can think of, it's still a pretty personal decision. I don't know what you mean by the 'sound of 10', but there's no perfect OS. I agree about your financial objection to Apple and the subscription model of Office, but I use LibreOffice anyway. If all you do is word process, edit and surf (and I presume, email) pretty much any modern laptop or desktop, even a netbook, should do the job, especially if you don't mind all your work residing on remote severs, using MS Office Online or Google's offering.

    I have a desktop (Dell, ten years old, Windows XP) with an aftermarket video card which lets me use two large-ish monitors, which I use for Web stuff. On a separate desk behind me I have a laptop (Dell, eight years old, Windows 10) I use for writing. Works for me.
     
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  3. DueNorth
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    DueNorth Active Member

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    I am no expert (far, far from it), but have desktop (Dell) that I use in home office and MacBook Air for travel--because it is light (the lightest laptop for it's size), longest battery life on market, and reliable. I have Word installed on the Mac and use Dropbox to go between machines with my WIPs. If you buy a new computer you will be getting Windows 10-- they abandoned 8, and skipped over 9. 10, for a user like it sounds like you are, is going to look pretty much like 7. The decision of laptop vs desktop, in my mind, would have more to do with where you plan to do your writing, not just screen size. You can write in larger font, then reduce later, or buy a good HD wide-screen moniter relatively cheap and hook up to your laptop when at home, using your laptop as the keyboard and hard drive, but having a larger moniter. Figure out how you want to use it--like I said I have both laptop and desktop--depends on how much $$ you have and want to throw at computers.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2015
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  4. Woof
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    Woof Contributing Member

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    Thanks!

    @Bookster. I take your point re: personal preferences. I guess it's the way my mind works. If I have more information about what other consumers like and why it will enable me to narrow down what I need/want, without any other motivating factors driving me. I know I could use a faster processer, more RAM and a decent size HDD (because I don't like using online storage etc.), but it wouldn't have been enough for me to upgrade for another 6-8 months if I didn't have to.

    @DueNorth. I hadn't thought of that. The price difference between a tower and a laptop seems to be negligible, so that means buying a monitor on top would incur the same cost. I may as well keep the versatility of a laptop. If Windows 10 is closer to 7, that does make a difference. I was considering buying a machine with 8 simply because they're a little cheaper right now, and if I want to try Linux anyway... but I'll still have to use Windows for a few things and I don't have a lot of mental elasticity right now.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    From what you've said, get a Windows 10 laptop with a large hard drive. You can get them relatively cheap. Windows 10 is a lot better than Windows 8, and also superior to Windows 7. For either 8 or 10 you'll get a UEFI system with GPT. I can tell you how to dual boot certain Linux distros on it (Ubuntu is easiest with those systems it seems but not my favorite distro, and whether I'd recommend it depends on you specs). You may have to run a few terminal commands to get Windows to boot with it but that's not hard to do.
     
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Is there someplace you could go, once you feel better, to try out the latest models? (Like an Apple store ...:twisted: ...just kidding, kinda....) I think places like Curry's (or whatever the equivalent wherever you live) should be willing to let you have a go at Dells and whatever. You'd get a better idea of what screen size suits you, etc. Also if you were to buy a couple of up-to-date computer magazines they often carry really good reviews of products, etc. It's a huge outlay of money and something you'll be using a lot, so I'd say take your time and make sure it's going to suit you.

    I'm a Mac person (always have been) who, interestingly, complains about newer Macs because they're getting to be more and more Windows-y and far less intuitive, so I had a chuckle at your opposite view—although a bit puzzled about the renting idea. I certainly own mine and always have. However, even being a Mac person, I always try before I buy. Fortunately I live near an Apple store, where there is always somebody who can answer questions, and encourage me to try stuff out. I would assume Microsoft sellers offer the same kind of service.
     
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  7. Woof
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    Woof Contributing Member

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    Thanks @Steerpike. That would be useful once I'm up and running on a new machine (may be a couple of weeks). In the meantime I'll start trying to get the hang of it. Any recommendations for beginner tutorials? I keep telling myself it's just another filing system, designed by humans for humans, but it still all looks as comprehensible as that binary rain in the Matrix sometimes!

    @jannert :D I guess it does work both ways! I will definitely go and have a look around to see what I like the feel of as well, once I'm on my feet, though it won't be Currys. Last time I went in there I was looking for a new washing machine and I needed one with a drum large enough to fit my duvet in. I explained this to the assistant, and she showed me the capacity chart for all their stock that told you the weight capacity. I said thanks, but explained the difference between volume and weight and she just looked at me blankly and showed me the chart again. I gave it one last try with her colleague and he did the same thing so I walked out. Argh!

    Using my old machine is rapidly making me downgrade my requirements. I can only keep one window open at a time, some sites just won't load, and it's constantly trying to update because I restored it back to day one. The only thing stopping me from express ordering a rebound machine is that I can't get on any websites to find one!
     
  8. Robert_S
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    There are two free WPs out there as part of a suite: OpenOffice and LibreOffice.

    Pick one.

    You could get scrivener: $40.

    Since you don't like Win8 or Win10, you're going back to Win7, unless you want the work of setting up a linux OS. Ubuntu Linux gets the most favorable reviews, but your software becomes more limited. You'll still have OpenOffice and LibreOffice, but I don't think they make Scivener for Linux.

    Other than that, you'll probably want a dual core and a minimum of 4gig ram. Look at something with a 17" screen, if you can find it, but you can get a docking station or such to turn your laptop into a desktop when at home.
     
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  9. DueNorth
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    DueNorth Active Member

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    Do not get a Windows 8 OS--it is a bust and Microsoft will not be supporting it for very long. If you are going to pop for a new computer, get a 10 if you are going with a Microsoft machine. They are staking their future on it, and most folks seem to like it--whereas most folks hated 8. There really is no "good" or "excellent" laptop that uses Microsoft OS--they are all rather average in terms of durability, battery life, weight, etc. Don't buy without trying out because feel of keyboard and weight for carrying, etc. are different--like trying on a jacket. Once you have it you are stuck with it. Don't get alot of bells and whistles for what you say you are going to use it for--and disagree that you need a lot of memory. Text does not take up alot of memory, plus you can store on thumb drives, external drives, in the Cloud, etc. You need good RAM for speed and a fast processor, which most have now. Once you start reading reviews you will get confused and most reviews will get into stuff you don't need if you are mostly going to use for word processing and web browsing, maybe downloading some movies. Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2015
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  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    For linux, elementary OS is nice and easy to use. It can be trickier to install on new UEFI systems, whereas Ubuntu installs fairly easily. You could always try Elementary though. I'm running it with Windows 10 now. Also, you can make a bootable USB of whatever Linux you want to try and boot it and play around with it before you ever install.

    Also, you could install a lightweight linux on and older machine, like one that runs XP. Lubuntu is a good one to play with. Layout is similar to something like XP. It's ubuntu, but with the LXDE desktop environment, which is resource light.
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    But, Google Elementary OS and seE what you think. It is somewhat Mac-like in appearance.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    As for Scrivener, there is a free beta for Linux. You want a Linux distro that uses .deb packages, like ubuntu, elementary, etc because otherwise you'll have to compile and install the Scrivener tarball from the command line and that can be a pain for newbies.
     
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  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Note: for free WP, there is also Kingsoft, Abiword, writing-oriented text editors like FocusWriter. Online solutions like Google Docs. Lots out there.
     
  14. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I held the same stance against Macs until I bought a MacBook Air, installed Parallels, and installed Xubuntu (a very user friendly Linux distro) in Parallels. It is the best of both worlds: the battery life and beautiful, robust hardware of Apple; and the open source, Unix environment of Linux.
     
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  15. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Xubuntu is also a good choice for older hardware, though Lubuntu is even lighter. Both are good. @daemon you might like Elementary. Also light weight and quite lovely.
     
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  16. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Make sure you've got plenty of RAM and hard drive space, and then use VirtualBox or some other virtual operating system container. You can then have several operating systems running on the same computer.

    EDIT: @daemon beat me to it.
     
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  17. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I've tried running linux in vmware but I prefer dual boot. Just runs better. But I've only got 6gb ram.
     
  18. Woof
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    Woof Contributing Member

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    Thanks so much folks!

    @Steerpike I'll have a look. I had seen that beta version of Scrivener, but not fully understood it, I have to say. I like it though. I will have a better look at Elementary. Once I can get out and about and get a case for my laptop HDD -- check it's all okay -- hopefully I can wipe my backup and use that to trial a linux OS then.

    Scrivener was what finally tipped my machine over the edge I think. I was trialling it because I tend to run Acrobat or PDF Xchange, Chrome and Word with c.6-10 windows open all at once in each and I was beginning to get a lot of WTF are you doing blue screens. Figured it must be the RAM, so meant to update it but thought Scrivener might be a good workaround in the interim because it can hold all those different document types for you in projects... only I ran it at the same time. Oops. It was overheating a lot anyway.

    @daemon The wild card. Excellent! :supercool: Although it would still stick in my throat to spend money with Apple. They would have to be the only company in the world who sold anything that would work for me before I could even think about it... which is what I think they're aiming for!

    @DefinitelyMaybe I didn't know what a virtual machine was or that, if I understand correctly, Parallel is one? So it's helpful you broke that down. I think I get it now. I've been reading about WINE for running old versions of MSOffice, so I'm guessing that's the same type of thing? Looks great. I'm learning so much already.

    FWIW, this is what I'm replacing:
    http://www.laptopsdirect.co.uk/samsung_15.6led_i5-3210m_6-750gb_w7hp_dvdrw_np350v5c-a02uk/version.asp 2012.
     
  19. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    A virtual machine is a program that pretends to be a computer. When you run an operating system inside a VM, the OS "thinks" it is communicating with actual hardware, but it is in fact communicating with the VM.

    VirtualBox, VMWare, and Parallels are examples of VMs.

    Wine is not a VM. When you run a Windows application in Wine, you are not actually running Windows, and Wine is not pretending to be a computer. The reason why Windows applications do not work in Linux is because their code refers to code that exists in Windows but not in Linux. Wine contains code that plays the same role as Windows code.
     
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  20. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    A virtual machine is more advanced than wine. Wine runs on, e.g. linux and allows you to run individual Windows programs inside linux. The results are mixed, some programs run well, some don't run at all.

    A virtual machine allows you to run an entire foreign operating system. As you're running the whole operating system, programs run pretty much as well as they do on a proper machine running that operating system. However, you have to buy the operating system, which can cost a fair bit of money for (e.g.) windows.

    Hence, VirtualBox and (I presume) Parallels are quite different from Wine.

    If you're buying a new machine, please get loads of RAM. Or at least a machine that can be expanded to loads of RAM in the future. It really is important for future-proofing your machine. HD space isn't such a problem, as you can expand disk space more easily in the future.
     
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  21. Woof
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    Woof Contributing Member

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    Brilliant! Thanks so much @daemon, @DefinitelyMaybe. I see the distinction. So the VM is a much more powerful and dynamic tool, but it requires the OS to be there in the first place. Which, if I'm buying a machine rather than building one, it will be. If I like a Linux distribution, then I can partition my HDD, install it and VM will allow me to use software in both without having to switch between OS and without scrambling it and/or losing features. This is all really helpful, and interesting.

    DefintelyMaybe: Yes! I am starting to understand the importance of RAM. And, by the looks of it, I'll have plenty of hard disc space whatever I buy anyway, as it seems to be the thing at the moment to chuck tonnes of it in everywhere... a more skeptical person might suppose someone's using up stock!
     
  22. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Woof for an inexpensive, functional device, you could also look at a Chromebook. I have one in addition to my normal laptop, and I quite like it for writing, browsing the web, watching video etc. And, you can run Linux natively right alongside Chrome OS. I press a key combination and it takes me into Linux.
     
  23. Woof
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    Woof Contributing Member

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    Tempting, but they're all too itty bitty for me. I looked at them last time and I liked the feel and weight, but I need the bigger screen. I like to use a split screen a lot and it just becomes daft on a small machine.
     
  24. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, 13.3 inch is the largest I've seen.
     
  25. Woof
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    Woof Contributing Member

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    The targeted ads on here are killing me. I usually have a bunch of stuff limiting it, but on this machine... nothing. Every ad is showing me a shiny new computer, and not the cheap ones I looked at, oh no. Only the most expensive, unaffordable ones... the ones that are achievable in dollars but never in pounds, dagnammit. :bigfrown:
     

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