Rethinking Linux Hardware: Upgrade or Buy New?: Page 2

Using Linux gives users a wider array of hardware options.
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If so, then it's probably not a good option for CPU intensive tasks. That particular computer is likely best suited for jobs that are going to offer a lower impact on the existing hardware.

In my view, what you need to consider when deciding between re-purposing existing computers or opting to buy a new one are the tasks the PC is to perform.

For example, if you were opting to buy a new low-impact nettop PC, you might be doing so for casual workstation type tasks. On the flip side, a larger, older desktop computer with a dedicated graphics card may be better suited for working with more intensive tasks.

Even though it's older, you can feel confident that, with additional RAM added, it has enough power to handle tasks that the nettop can't. This is where really mapping out the tasks for each PC can come in handy.

Unfortunately, some PCs simply aren't worthwhile to re-use. Not because they don't work any longer, rather because using an old Pentium II tower as a router isn't nearly as efficient as buying a typical consumer quality routing appliance.

If buying new, don't buy 'big box'

I know that most people buying new computers will buy based on factors somewhere between performance and price. That’s understandable, except that those who buy in this way are supporting those who aren't supporting Linux users.

One of the dumbest things I've ever seen are those people who buy brand new computers, only to remove Windows and then install their favorite Linux distribution. I understand and applaud the value in doing this with existing hardware, but why support Microsoft only to install Ubuntu? It's kind of stupid, if you stop to think about it.

The underlying problem is that it's often these same people who then go on to complain about how this very same computer worked with one release of a popular distro, only to flake out on the following one. See, the sellers of this Made For Windows PC, don't offer Linux tech support. So this buyer is left to their own devices.

As an alternative, I ask people to consider buying from PC vendors who will be there to support you, year after year as you are using the Linux desktop. There are lots of great vendors to choose from. My favorites include System76 and EmperorLinux.

There are, of course, many other great vendors as well. But these are the two I feel best about recommending. Both companies offer Linux pre-installed. And both work hard through their own R&D departments to verify that everything is going to work out of the box.

The biggest differences between them is target market. System76 most certainly has solid computers for those in the enterprise space, but they also make sure to cater to the casual user as well. EmperorLinux, by contrast, offers computers aimed mostly at enterprise users.

To offer some middle ground, some options such as certain ThinkPads have a fantastic history with Linux support. Dell, despite their horrid long-term commitment to offering Ubuntu systems off and on again, is back in the game with an ultrabook. These are certainly valid options, as they will work just fine. These are not options I choose for myself, but they're available nonetheless.

Closing thoughts

Rethinking the way we see Linux hardware starts in our hearts. Intention, throughout the life of our PC hardware, means something. It says a lot about how we interact with our world and our surroundings, as well as who we choose to support and how we handle the equipment that we're no longer going to use.

Additional considerations include using the PC hardware that not only provides us with adequate specs, but also supports the ideals of the Open Source ecosystem. Be mindful of what you're buying and from whom.

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Tags: Linux, PC hardware

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