A Beginner’s Guide to Ubuntu

So, you’re interested in Ubuntu? You have come to the right place! In this article, I will explain the basics you need to know to get started!

So what is Ubuntu?

Well, Ubuntu is an open-source Linux operating system based on Debian. You’re probably thinking what that means right? Well, open-source means that it’s free to use, download and modify. Debian, on the other hand, is another free Linux Operating System. Ubuntu is also one of the most popular Linux Distributions.

What do I mean by free?

Yes! You heard correctly! It’s free. But it’s not only free to use and download, but you can also modify it to suit your needs.

What about security?

Since it’s free you may have security concerns. Ok, yes it’s a free system, which users can modify as they please. But actually, Ubuntu can be considered as a more secure system. How have I worked that one out? Well, the Linux architecture does not allow viruses and malware to penetrate the system easily. This limits the need to run posh anti-virus software. In fact, many users might say you don’t need antivirus software on Ubuntu, I would still recommend a basic virus scanner, especially when you use and share files between other operating systems. Ubuntu also receives regular updates that provide firm security. These updates are not aggressive, meaning that you can choose a suitable time to install them. If you’re a Windows user, you may face the issue with constant and aggressive updates. These updates are a good thing, but since Windows is one of the most popular systems out there, these updates are essential.

So what about the hardware compatibility?

Ubuntu is very well designed, most drivers are included as standard. I have been using it for years and I only ever had 1 driver issue on an old laptop, where the WiFi card was not supported. The fix was easy, all I did was purchase a USB WiFi adapter for under £15 and it solved it.

What if I get stuck and need support?

Ubuntu has a huge community of pro’s who are always ready to help you out with any situation you may have.

What is Linux?

Linux is a kernel, no not the army one. It’s actually the core component of an Operating system and it allows the software to connect with the hardware. It’s important to note that a kernel on its own is just a set of instructions.

It was created by Linus Torvalds in 1991.

Why Ubuntu?

What a great question right? Here are some reasons…

  • You don’t have to be an expert to use it.
  • It’s Free!
  • You can try it out before installing
  • It has a stylish interface, just bear in mind that the true beauty is in the terminal 😉
  • It works well with older and low spec computers
  • You can customise it to suit your needs!
  • It’s fast and most importantly of all stable
  • It’s supported!
  • Say goodbye to the blue screen of death!
  • It has good security
  • Don’t like the style, there are tons of flavours to choose from
  • Tons of free software in the Software Center
  • The Terminal

The Desktop Releases

Ubuntu currently comes as two releases.

LTS

This is the latest version with long-term support. It usually means about five years. It will give you free security and maintenance updates.

Latest version

If you feel experimental, The latest version comes with 9 months worth of support, you later update to the next latest version.

How do I try it out?

Easy! All you need is a USB drive and the Ubuntu Iso file.

  1. Download Rufus, Available here
  2. Download the Ubuntu Desktop, Available here
  3. Run Rufus
  4. Insert your USB drive. Please bear in mind that your USB drive will be wiped!
  5. Select USB drive under Device – Choose carefully as choosing the wrong one may lead to data loss!
  6. Select FreeDOS under boot selection, press Select and browse for the Ubuntu ISO file
  7. Select Start
  8. If the Download required box appears click Yes to continue
  9. Once complete boot from your USB drive.
  10. Select Trial Mode. Please note that if you press install you might wipe your current Operating System causing data loss!

Also Checkout…

A Guide to installing Ubuntu

What is life like using a Chromebook as your main PC?

Chromebooks are those cheap laptops you find online and in stores usually for under £300. You may be thinking; What good will such a cheap laptop do for me? In this article, I will discuss how powerful a Chromebook can actually be and my experience with using a Chromebook as my everyday laptop at University.

To begin with, I don’t like to carry many things around with me that might either be heavy or unnecessary to me, so since I was in the market for a new laptop I decided that this new laptop should be small and lightweight. I looked at many laptops, including netbooks running on Windows 10 and Chromebooks running on Chrome OS, but the netbooks seemed to be slow, whereas the Chromebooks seemed to be up and running in no time.

Before I purchased my Chromebook, I have done some research into what types of web apps there are, I already knew about Google Docs and Microsoft Office Online. There turned out to be thousands of online web apps which work on Chrome OS and that’s not mentioning the browser apps that can be downloaded from the Chrome web store.

I also found that some Chromebooks support Linux, this meant that I could have a fully functioning Linux operating system. The only issue I found was that Chrome OS runs in the background.

I found a decent device on Amazon, it was the Lenovo N22. It was perfect for what I wanted it to do, it even had a carrying handle so that I can carry it like a mini suitcase, which I thought was useless. I did manage to install a run down version of Ubuntu which I used for basic programming tasks and local usage using the pre-installed Libre Office. In terms of performance, I didn’t expect much, especially when considering the price I paid but actually, I was in for a surprise as I didn’t get any lag or performance issues. This particular Chromebook also came with free cloud storage space for Google Drive.

Differences worth considering

If your like me and used to systems like Windows or Mac it can take time to get used to it, it didn’t take me long to get used to it, but hey we’re all different! In fact, from using it every day, I didn’t find it much different from the other systems. Obviously, you don’t need to purchase software for it, unless you are wanting to subscribe to Office 365, which on a Chromebook is only good if you want the 1TB cloud storage or if you are an organisation, but that’s a different story. The other major difference is the fact that it’s technically a web browser unless you purchase one with Android app support, but once again, that’s a different story! The fact that it’s only a web browser means that there is no reason for users to have performance issues unless you are carrying out heavy tasks like photo editing using one of many wonderful online tools.

So are Chromebooks suitable for everyday use?

The short answer is YES! however, there is a but! and that’s the fact that I would not recommend them if you are a heavy user. It’s a simple as that! They are perfect for basic tasks but tend to get complicated when it comes to the more demanding tasks. The only trouble is that they rely on an internet connection, although it is possible to use them offline, it depends on whether the Chrome plugin can be used offline. On the other hand, if you are using Linux then they are fine!

Want to try Chrome OS before you buy? Try it with Cloud Ready!

 

 

Test: is it worth purchasing a second-hand laptop?

Laptops can be expensive right? The question is, is it worth purchasing a second hand one? Well, I decided to purchase one and put it to the test. This article will cover my recommendations, what you need to know and most importantly of all the test.

Before making a purchase

It is important to research into what you are purchasing, for example, Many second-hand laptops don’t come with hard drives. This is a perfectly normal thing for a seller to do, it’s usually done to protect the seller’s data. If the laptop doesn’t come with a hard drive, it’s very likely that the laptop won’t come with an operating system unless the laptop comes with an installation disk. On the other hand, if the laptop does come with a hard drive and an operating system it is important to know which one you are purchasing. If you are purchasing a laptop with Windows XP or Vista, you need to know that Microsoft has discontinued support for these systems. This means that they will no longer get any essential security updates. Many software vendors have also stopped support for these systems meaning that the latest versions of the programs can’t be installed.

 

My Purchase

The internet is full of interesting websites that sell second-hand laptops, I decided to look on eBay. There were loads to choose from my and my budget for the entire project was £250, that’s for the laptop itself and any parts. Below is the laptop that I decided to purchase:

Specs:

  • CPU: Intel Core i3 2310M 2.10GHz x2
  • RAM: No Ram included
  • Storage: No Storage device included
  • OS: No OS included

Price: £90 – sold as spares and repair

Please Note!

If you do not feel confident opening up a laptop or computer, please take it to a PC repair shop! The software (Operating System) and components purchased for this laptop may not work on yours! It is important to research compatibility. Purchasing laptops that are labelled as faulty or spares and repairs can be very risky if you don’t have enough information about the product.

As you can tell, the above laptop was sold as spares and repair. Like I mentioned above, it can be risky buying laptops for spares and repairs, However, the auction did state that the laptop was in full working order with the exception of the RAM and hard drive being removed by the seller. The seller has also included a 3-month warranty. So having spent £90 on the laptop, I needed to acquire a storage device, RAM and an operating system. I decided to purchase a hard drive. Normally in these situations, I would recommend an SSD since they can improve speeds. However, the laptop will be used for tasks which require a lot of storage space. Since the laptop is second hand, I did consider to purchase the required components second-hand too, however, hard drives are so cheap these days that I decided to purchase a new 1TB hard drive instead. However the RAM was purchased second-hand, it was an 8GB stick. Last, of all, I purchased Windows 10 Home for £74.

Money Spent on making the laptop work:

  • Hard drive: (Toshiba 1TB): £42
  • RAM (Kingston 8GB): £34.99
  • OS (Windows 10 Home): £74

Total spent: £240.99

I spent £240.99 all together on this laptop. Which is a lot cheaper compared to new laptops of similar spec. There were laptops available at a cheaper price with a hard drive and RAM included, but they had a small amount of storage space and a low amount of RAM.

Tips for purchasing a second-hand laptop

  • If purchasing a spares and repairs laptop, make sure you are confident enough to purchase it and that the seller accepts returns.
  • Make sure that a power adapter is included
  • Make sure that the operating system is still supported
  • It’s always good if the seller has a good feedback rating
  • If unsure, ask the seller or forums
  • If you don’t feel confident rebuilding a laptop or computer buy one in working order!

After 1 Week of usage

In order to make the test fair, I used this laptop as my main PC for a week. In fact, I’m writing this very article on this laptop. While conducting basic tasks such as browsing the internet, playing basic games and basic PhotoShop I had no performance issues. In fact, considering the fact that it has an old processor I was quite surprised at the speed of the laptop. I was able to use Photoshop and conduct more demanding tasks too.

So I have any issues?

Some might say that buying a second-hand laptop can give you more problems then it’s worth and that can be true! That is the exact reason that you need to be careful when purchasing second-hand goods. A good thing to look out for is whether the laptop or computer comes with a warranty. This can be a lifesaver when something goes wrong. If you don’t feel confident rebuilding a laptop or computer buy one in working order! I have been building and re-building computers for years if you are new to this, please be aware that you may face a lot more issues, which might lead to spending more money.

So to answer this question, No I did not have any issues with this laptop. However, that’s not to say that I won’t face issues if I decide to buy another second-hand PC.

The outcome of the test

I am very happy with the purchase. The laptop will be used as a test PC for testing various operating systems. However since it doesn’t have a new processor, it will struggle with the more demanding tasks. The Core i3 wasn’t intended for the heavier tasks in the first place and comparing it to other processors that were on the market during it’s time you can see that similar processors have a better overall benchmark.

CPU Benchmark:

Available here: http://cpuboss.com/cpu/Intel-Core-i3-2310M

When purchasing a PC, it is very important to consider what you will be using it for. Heavier tasks such as photo editing, programming or even gaming require more resources. You can find my test results below:

 

 

 

 

Project: Raspberry Pi NAS Server

Do you have more than one PC at home? A NAS server is your solution for storing and accessing your files in one place. This article will cover my mini project…

NAS servers can be expensive right? so why overpay? It’s more fun building your own! I decided to do just that, using a Raspberry Pi.

Why Raspberry Pi?

What a good question! When I was planning to build a new NAS, I had two factors that I needed to consider, energy usage and space. My previous NAS Server was built using an old desktop PC which was slowly starting to show it’s age. Not only was it using up a lot of power, but it was also loud and it used up a lot of space. A Raspberry Pi was, therefore, the perfect solution.

The project…

For this project I used:

  • Raspberry Pi 3B+
  • Power Supply
  • Case
  • 16GB Micro SD card
  • Open Media Vault image (Available here)
  • Portable Hard drive

The total price I paid for the above is <strong>£80</strong>, which is a lot cheaper comparing it to off the shelf NAS Servers.

If you are interested in building a server yourself, here are the instructions I used.

Was it worth it?

I have used many NAS Servers in the past and I can definitely confirm that this one is by far the best one for basic file storage. It’s not designed for heavy use but all I wanted it for was to store files so that I can access them on many PCs at once.

Have you ever done a project using a Raspberry Pi? Comment below!

 

Is your laptop running low on storage space? Try this life hack!

Storage space is precious, especially when you don’t have much of it. When it comes to desktop PC’s the solution is easy, all you do is add a second hard drive. But what if it’s a laptop?

Many new laptops come with SSD’s, some of which have less than 240GB of storage space. 15 years ago that amount was amazing, but most computers were running on Windows XP and the system requirements weren’t that heavy. I mean last year I purchased a Lenovo IdeaPad, which had a built-in 120GB SSD which got filled up extremely fast. Most laptops at that price range had them. Luckily this laptop was well designed and had a slot to put a second hard drive in. But not all laptops do.

So, the question is how often do you use your CD drive? Not many people use CD drives these days, would you be willing to give yours up? The reason I’m asking is that you can actually swap out your CD drive with a hard drive enclosure. I have done this with two laptops, both of which are working without issue. The last one I did was for my mid-2012 MacBook Pro. I purchased the hard drive enclosure and a 2.5″ hard drive pictured below….

 

Check out…

Yes, I know CDs are slowly becoming extinct, but can I survive with my new rig not having a CD drive?

 

So where do I start?

Warning!

If you do not feel confident in carrying out such tasks, take your laptop to a computer repair shop and please remember to back up your data before carrying out any maintenance tasks!

To start with, you will need a 2.5″ hard drive. I purchased a 1TB Seagate Baracuda drive and a specifically designed enclosure. Most laptops are SATA, It’s worthwhile to double check what you have before you make the purchase. It’s also good to check the dimensions of the hard drive.

Steps:

  1. Connect and secure the hard drive in the enclosure
  2. Remove the old CD drive from the laptop
  3. Carefully remove the front cover from the old CD drive
  4. Attach the front cover to the enclosure
  5. Connect the enclosure and hard drive into the laptop.

Costs:

  • 1TB Hard Drive: £49.99
  • Enclosure: £9.99
  • Total: £59.98

Check out…

My previous patient was an HP ProBook. I have just upgraded it to an SSD to improve performance. Unfortunately, that came at a cost and that’s the amount of storage space I had.

 

Was it worth it?

Definitely! These hard drive enclosures can be life savers!

Yes, I know CDs are slowly becoming extinct, but can I survive with my new rig not having a CD drive?

Well…

To start with, my previous rig was getting old so I decided to build a new one. When planning out the components I was going to be purchasing, I looked at what I actually need and the first thing that came to mind was whether I actually use the CD drive. To be honest, I don’t think I even used it once this year so I made the decision to buy a case without a shelf for one.

Looking at the way things are going at the moment, CDs don’t seem to be used as often as they used to be. I mean I can’t remember the last time I have seen either Office or Internet Security being sold on CD’s, they usually come on scratch cards. People seem to be using streaming services a lot more compared to buying CDs. If you think about it for that £10 per month it’s like buying all the CD’s out there for the price of 1. But unfortunately, this is where artists miss out.

Do I regret this decision?

No, I don’t regret this decision. I have actually purchased an external DVD drive for £20, so when I need it I just grab it out of my draw. The thing is that in everyday life I don’t find a CD drive useful. There is no point of burning data cd’s as we have other storage devices for that and I don’t tend to listen to CDs any more. I mean, in my opinion, nowadays CD drives are something one would use once in a while but then forget that it even exists. <strong>Most new PC’s don’t even come with a CD drive!

Is a 10-year-old PC still suitable for use?

In this article, I will discuss whether a 10-year-old computer is still suitable for use and how it can be used. To start with…

What a good question right? It’s important to remember that every PC is different and it totally depends on the condition of the computer. However, the truth of the matter is that any computer can be restored to a working order and there are many cool things that old computers can do!

Is a 10-year-old PC suitable to be used as a normal PC?

So what do I mean by a normal PC? I mean a PC that is used for browsing the internet, playing games on and generally being productive on. To answer this question you need to consider the following:

  • The hardware specification
  • The Operating System (OS)
  • The overall condition of the PC

As the years go on software becomes more powerful, which means that it needs more resources from the hardware. Older machines might just not be able to cope with the demands. A great example of this is when I tried to install Windows 10 Insider preview on my old Dell Optiplex GX280. Without upgrading the Processor (CPU) I would not be able to install the system. Check out the video:

The second issue is the OS itself. Using outdated operating systems, means less or no support from the manufacturer, like the case of Windows XP and Vista. Outdated Operating systems are generally more vulnerable to attack. In fact, in his blog article Available here, “Mr Doom” stated that Windows XP is “The Ultimate Hackers Playground”. I totally agree with it! It’s also important to remember that many software companies have dropped support for the older systems, which means that you might not be able to install certain programs!

Remember to evaluate the overall condition of the PC, some PC’s might just not be worth it. For example, if you will be spending a lot of money on getting it going. In such cases, it might be cheaper to buy a second-hand PC on eBay.

So what can I do with an old PC?

Give it a new life with Linux!

If you want to use it as your everyday PC, upgrading the operating system to Linux, which requires less resources will give your computer a new lease of life. If you are used to the Windows Look I recommend installing either Linux Mint or Sparky Linux. Both systems have a Windows-like feel and most importantly of all are light-weight! But wait! You haven’t heard the best part; THEY ARE FREE TO DOWNLOAD AND USE!

Turn it into a server!

Nowadays, we have many devices that connect to the internet in our households. I mean we have laptops, tablets, smartphones even smart TV’s. A Server can stop us from having to manually transfer files from one device to another! We can also use it as a media server, which enables us to stream content onto our smart devices!

 

Use it as a learning or Test PC!

If nothing that I mentioned above is useful to you, why don’t you use it to learn about computers? I can remember my College days when the teacher brought out a trolley full of extremely old computers, that were designed to run on Windows 95! We got to take them apart and rebuild them. It was great fun! On the other hand, you can use it to test things such as operating systems like Linux. All this can be done without worrying about ruining your new computer!