USING LINUX AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO WINDOWS.
With the current problems surrounding the end of Windows 7, and the increasing use of Linux both at home and in the workplace, it has become time to carry out a proper study into the viability of Linux as an alternative to Windows.
To this end, as an experiment, I have installed a copy of ‘Pop! OS’ (a supposedly easy to use alternative to Windows 7) on one of my older laptops. The objective is not just to prove that an earlier laptop can run easily without going to Windows 10, but also to ensure that it is as user friendly as Windows 7 and has the same or equivalent software available.
I hit problems almost straight away; these were probably due to the age of the laptop, as well as the fact that much hardware in Dell laptops is Dell Specific as opposed to being generic, i.e. drivers are less available for some equipment. In my case the Wifi Card in the Dell machine wasn’t supported by any of the Linux distributions I tried.
Adding drivers to Linux can be quite involved: it is a lot less intuitive than adding drivers to Windows. Luckily enough, there was an alternative way of dealing with the problem; change the Wifi Card itself to another one.
The new card was recognised by Pop! OS as soon as I booted the laptop back up, and I was quickly able to connect it to the Internet.
Once the networking was working properly, I was also able to find and install my Epson SX425w printer (drivers were built in for that).
This raises another point when choosing which version of Linux to use…
Try and pick one which has the applications (or at least versions of them) that you want to use installed at the start. Pop! OS comes complete with a full version of Libreoffice, for example. If the apps you want aren’t there to start with, but you have to use a particular version of Linux, make sure that the system has an easy way of adding apps to it.
Next problem was how to access my work files.
I mainly work with OneDrive (Microsoft) from my Windows heritage; I suspect most people who have come up the Windows route will have done the same. The same tool, however can be used to access other cloud storage, including Google Drive.
(Note: if you have never used cloud storage, copying any needed files to an external hard drive or memory stick will also work.)
The tool I used in the end was Rclone, discovered by a Google Search for Onedrive support in Linux. I found a good ‘step-by-step’ guide available here: https://www.linuxuprising.com/2018/07/how-to-mount-onedrive-in-linux-using.html
Once Rclone was installed and set up, a ‘test run’ showed that my work files were available in the OneDrive folder, just like in Windows.
The main point of the exercise proved that machines not capable of running Windows 10 (mainly older machines with a lack of RAM or slow hardware in general) could quite reliably run Linux.
If you pick the right version of Linux it can be quite easily made to look like Windows 7, so you can end up with your existing machine running like new!