Ubuntu v. Chromebook - Desktop/Laptop Setup options?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous' started by ElfinPineapple, Mar 20, 2015.

  1. Ok, for the computer wizards out there I wanted to get your opinion.

    I've basically reached the point where I've had it up to *reaches high* here with Windows and Mac. I've experimented with Linux - particularly Ubuntu - off and on for the last few years. While I'm a bit miffed that Google Drive isn't doable on Ubuntu at this time, it is still of use for me on my desktop and is likely more efficient. I likely will not have as much money to work with in the coming months as I'm used to, so it would be awesome if there was a way to make computing more cost effective. In addition there is always a chance I won't get into a PhD program in the next couple years so I need to have something which can transfer well to the workforce (nonprofit/public administration).

    Yet I see the advantages with Google Chromebook. It's light, compact and gets the job done pretty effectively from what I can see. It's not built to do data analysis, but can do everything else.

    So here's one option I'm considering: Set my desktop (the work horse) up with Ubuntu and have it run the heavy duty stuff while using a Google Chromebook to deal with the non-data analysis stuff at school. Clearly the cheaper option and the synchronicity is amazing, but there's a clear issue with flexibility as Google doesn't play nice with much of anything and everything is stored in the cloud.

    Another option I'm considering is picking up a decent, yet relatively cheap (less than 370 is very ideal) Windows-based desktop and then promptly throwing Windows out in favor of Ubuntu. This would enable me to do everything I want but at a larger price tag. That could become a problem down the road in the short term and there's a legitimate question of whether statistical analysis even needs to be done on a laptop.

    I've been thinking it over for a while and wanted to get community input, particularly from those who are familiar with the Chromebook and Ubuntu. It's 1250 in the morning so I'm sure I've left relevant details out of this post. If you need clarification on anything I said or lack thereof, ask away.
  2. For Ubuntu Vs. Chromebook, I would definitely go with Ubuntu. You shouldn't go with Chromebooks, they're wastes of money. Not even kidding. Unless, of course, you like a computer that's literally $200 to access Google Chrome. Seriously, try running any other programs on that. You just can't. Sure, Ubuntu isn't too friendly with Google Drive, but at least you can do more with that than a Chromebook. Honestly, if I were you, I'd even stick with Windows over a Chromebook, and you said you're fed up with Windows, so that's saying something. I know what I'm talking about, I have my reasons, please don't go for a Chromebook. Think of it as a "saving your money" thing. It's more worth it to buy a cheap laptop for about the same price of a Chromebook that can do so much more than a Chromebook does.

    Also, I think desktops are great, you should get one (<--That part is purely opinion). Use the desktop for work at home, because they're generally more powerful than laptops for the same price, and a laptop for when you need to work somewhere else. Again, would not recommend a Chromebook.
  3. I'd say it depends on how much personal time you want to put into this and how "mission critical" the computers are.

    Linux has matured a lot since I first picked up a copy (don't ask ;)) but there are still a few areas which can be a little 'rough around the edges' from time to time. One of those areas is the updating process. In general things work pretty easy, and updates can even be done using an X application. But on the other hand it's also very well possible for an update to go haywire, and then you're looking at some (usually) serious manual intervention.

    Of course I'm not saying that this doesn't happen on other platforms, when looking at Windows for example it also wouldn't be the first time where it simply stopped working after an update. Still, in general, recovering from such an issue is often relatively easy. Worst case scenario is to boot using a rescue CD and simply use the automatically generated restore point.

    Which is in my opinion the real thing to look out for: although Linux can be considered "cheap" where expenses are concerned you should also keep the possible required time in mind which you'd spend on maintenance. I'd also carefully pick the version you're using, depending on your personal preference of course. I mean; if you like tinkering with this stuff then it becomes a different issue. But otherwise I'd definitely recommend to look at the "LTS" versions ("Long Term Support"). These allow you to use the version for 2 - 3 years before it requires an upgrade.

    And upgrades can sometimes be quite nasty on Linux. Especially when someone suddenly decides to change something which you've grown accustomed to (like when they introduced the Unity GUI to the world).

    Keep in mind: this isn't always something due to Linux. Even the software vendors / programmers can have something to do with this. I noticed that a while back when I had updated my laptop (dated model), running on FreeBSD. All of a sudden I was no longer capable to switch from the X environment to one of the virtual consoles (control-alt-f1 for example). If I did that then my screen would become a huge blur, and switching back to the GUI also didn't work.

    As it turned out there had been a small change with some video drives within X, which made it perform so poorly all of a sudden. Had nothing to do with FreeBSD, would have had nothing to do with Linux but purely the X software itself.

    My laptop may be dated, and I can work around this issue, but I still think it's a bit annoying.

    SO yeah... In my opinion both environments have very strong things in favor and against them.

    Still.. in my opinion Linux is best enjoyed if you also try to become a little familiar with the command line. Even though a lot of stuff can change in the GUI or programs you're working with, the underlying command line tools hardly do. And can sometimes be a lot faster too.

    Last time I was over at a friends place he had a really hard time finding the option to change his password. I still have no idea how he was supposed to do that in the GUI, neither does he. I simply showed him how to open the terminal and told him to use "passwd". Problem solved ;)

    Hope this can give you some ideas 8)

    PS: you might want to talk to doublecakes9001, he has not so long ago fully converted to Ubuntu as well; even plays Minecraft on it.
  4. If you go with a chrome book, you should definitely try getting Ubuntu on it. While chrome is powerful, you will be severely limited as to what you can do offline. Unless Google does a really good job of caching pages, you may be stuck with nothing if there is no internet connection. The hardware is cheap and that is certainly a plus, so if performance doesn't matter, Chromebook plus Linux is your best bet.
  5. If your hardware resources are limited, you always get better performance with a correctly set up Linux distribution.
    IMHO a Linux system, like Ubuntu and the other big desktop distributions, are better than Windows. For example a Linux desktop with a good amount of software takes about 2-4 GB on the hard disk. A Windows 7 installation without software easily takes up 20 GB. Updates are also much less painful than under Windows, that constantly requires you to restart your computer or it does restart your computer on its own, tss.
    The problems come with the user software: MS Office is so superior to LibreOffice. Especially Ecxel outruns Calc by far. Photoshop and Illustrator are better than Gimp and Inkscape and so on...
    But...I have been doing my PhD on a Linux system and it worked out :) Luckily, for the proprietary analysis software that I use/need Linux packages that install smoothly exist.

    The points about frustration with this or that system have been made before in this thread. But it is certainly not limited to Windows OS.

    For number crunching, as I interpret your post you will do this, I would recommend a desktop PC. They have better cooling and if a component breaks down you can easily exchange it. It is also going to be easier to extend, e.g. you can setup a RAID array for relatively little money later on to ensure data integrity. If you are going to do a lot of visualizations you will want a graphics card and the proprietary driver. I usually stick to NVIDIA as they have a fairly good support for their Linux products.
  6. I've got no problem with a learning curve - I'd have to use the terminal to install R and Scrivener anyway so I might as well start picking it up while I'm at it. The main issues with LibreOffice being inferior to MS Office is predominantly found in

    1) the lack of an integrated e-mail client - a non-issue with everything going through G-Mail and Thunderbird on the loose.
    2) The inferior nature of Calc and Impress v. Excel and PowerPoint. Valid points here but I hardly use PowerPoint anyway and any issues with calculation issues in Calc on the statistical analysis end is bypassed by R once it's installed.

    So now that I'm not sleepy I'll fill in on specifics. I've already got a desktop in place - a model in the Gateway DX series. I can't find the specific desktop (no surprise as it is a little over 2 years old), but it's built for data entry and analysis with an i7, 8 GB RAM, a 1 TB HDD and an Intel graphics card that's not even worth the . It's definitely not designed for MC but it's perfect for what I want to do.

    To supplement that desktop I'm looking at this particular laptop. Ignore the 3 star overall review as that mainly comes from two reviews that prove the writers can't read and don't have a clue how to adjust track pads. :p

    It's Windows 8.1 (yuck!), but for the price I'm having a difficult time beating the specs elsewhere. In addition, I've been able to establish that several components in that laptop are compatible with Ubuntu. Mind you this thing isn't the beast I would have at home but if data analysis needs to be done on the fly or I have a small set to work with, I can get around just fine.

    Any thoughts from the Ubuntu/Linux experts floating around?
  7. The link sends me to a page with lots of laptops. But try to get a SSD. You will love it :D. If you have one don't use btrfs as file system. It does too many read/write cycles on the disc.
  8. Odd - it took me to the laptop I was looking at when I clicked it. Try this link.
  9. At least make sure there is another slot for a SSD card, so you can upgrade later.