I’ve always been a fool for a bargain…

My last blog post, I was pretty incensed with Microsoft and Windows 10. I just don’t understand some of their decisions as it pertains to professional developers who use their tools and have to struggle with how they force upgrades and perform reboots. I’m still upset so I’ve decided to try a little experiment.

I recently came across a five or six-year-old Dell laptop that was priced (I thought anyway) on eBay at an incredible price. This laptop is a Dell E6420 with an Intel I7 CPU and 4GB of RAM laptop for sale at $150 or best offer. Doing a quick perusal online, this laptop has a screen resolution of 1600×900, an NVidia graphics card and with a 9-cell battery which can get (supposedly) up to 10 hours of battery life. Hoping I was not making a rash decision, I decided to give it a try and make it part of my collection.

This little machine was missing a power adapter and a hard drive. It did power up on battery power so I know it works. I found a power adapter on eBay for $20 and I have an older 500GB HDD sitting in a file drawer. I think I might have a couple of 4GB SODIMM’s somewhere that I tore out of a Mac Mini. If I can’t find those SODIMM’s, then I will buy some RAM online. I may also discard the DVD drive and replace it with a small SSD down the road. I can’t remember the last time I used a DVD in a computer so it’s easy to let that go.

If you are like me, you probably have hundreds of cables, plugs and other accessories laying around and at least 20% of it you have no idea what it belongs to. Yet, you’re afraid to get rid of it because it might be something you need down the road. I guess that is one of the few advantages of being a hoarder. i.e. being able to talk yourself into almost any purchase!

So, being the Froogle individual consciousness consumer I am, I ended up winning this machine at best price of $80. It sounds so counter-intuitive to spend money on five-year-old piece of technology but it does give me the opportunity to try an experiment that I’ve wanted to do for the last year. Now motivated by Microsoft, I decided to just do it.

I’m sure many of you have seen the Dell XPS 13 laptop running Linux. It’s fairly pricey bit of kit but it does get rave reviews. It’s obvious that the XPS 13 is also more powerful. I’m also intrigued by the thought of trying to setup an environment where I’m not using OS X or a Windows environment at all. So right now, I’m not concerned with getting a machine with the ultimate in performance. I’m also a bit concerned with working on such a small screen for long periods.

I’m not at all confident that all the programs exist that I want (or need) to use are available on Linux. But, this is an interesting experiment non-the-less.

The idea behind this concept is to see if I can set up an everyday working environment for writing, programming and performing desktop analytics. I want to be able to plug this into a large monitor and use it as a typical workstation when I’m not lugging it around.

Also, I am not adverse paying money for software. I’m not a believer that everything I put on a PC or laptop with Ubuntu must be free or open source. I do expect to purchase a fair amount of software including UltraEdit.

Initial Software

I’m jumping ahead here because I’m going to have to solve some issues with the Ubuntu Install. I want to make sure the trackpad and power options work. Probably be wrestling with the webcam as well. These seem to be issues I found when Googling the internet. Update: the only thing I can’t get to work properly is the sound from the laptops speakers. I can get sound via Bluetooth, HDMI and the headphone jack. I am not sure how much time I want to spend on the sound issue since I typically use a Logitech USB headset or Bluetooth headset from SoundPEATS. Specifically, the model QY7 if you want some quality sound out of a set of ear buds.

I will post back on how this works out. In the meantime, if you have not yet downloaded WPS v3.3, I strongly suggest you grab that release and step up your game!

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.