Saturday 25 July 2020

Upgradeable Laptops... A Thing Of The Past?

Upgradeability seems to be a thing of the past when it comes to modern computers. The obsession with ultra thin ‘everything on the board’ is a problem for technology and the end user. Perhaps that's why I prefer older machines.

Switching from a MacBook Air with zero upgrade options, to a Dell Latitude E5410 laptop recently I was surprised by the upgrade options and the ease of accessibility to do it on this 10 year old laptop.

OK, so the MacBook Air might have been stylish, light and super thin, but that comes at a cost. This Dell Latitude might be chunky, boxy and won't win any beauty awards, but it has bags of upgradeability.

Turn the laptop over and there is an access panel, which is opened via one screw. Open that and you have access to the hard drive, the RAM, the wi-fi PCIe card, the CPU cooling pipe, the CMOS battery and even the system fan. All of which are super easy to take out, clean or replace.

Even on the top of the machine, more complicated repairs are still easier to do than on most hardware. Above the keyboard is a plastic strip where the power button is, it has a small hole which you can easily get a screwdriver or spudger under and pop it off, this gives you access to the screen hinges. While I had it off, I tightened them up, which solved the slight wobble I was seeing.

But the biggest surprise was the keyboard. According to the maintenance manual, undo two screws to release the keyboard and simply pull the tap (which is now visible) above the keyboard and you can just pull it out. I was expecting some kind of ribbon cable attaching it to the motherboard – from my experience these can be tricky to detach and reattach. However, this was different, the keyboard connector is a thick plastic tab that is hidden under the top casing and you just pull out the keyboard. I took mine out and gave it a good clean. Putting the keyboard back was super easy, simple slide it back down, put in the screws and keyboard is replaced.

This is an excellent idea. Imagine spilling something on your keyboard. You can remove that from your machine within seconds, wash it, dry it and put it back. Or worse case, you could just buy another one and put it in.

Add this to the fact the battery is replaceable in seconds by simply pushing a tab and pulling it out, this makes this a fantastic machine for those who like to do things to their computers.

Not only that I like to open up kit and give it a good clean, blow out all that dust and dirt and you can really get in to this machine.

The official service manual has a great strip down guide for most parts – some such as the screen is a bit more complex, but that is to be expected. But everything is far more accessible than anything I have used before and the fact that Dell give you instructions and almost permission to do it is an amazing thing.

I think the only thing that isn't replaceable on this laptop is the CPU.

Companies these days don't want you to be able to upgrade. They want you to replace it with a newer model or send it in to them for an overpriced repair.

But for me, I like the idea of upgradeability and repairability. It's my property, I want to be able to do what I want to it. I want to keep it going for as long as possible.

So hats of to Dell – who I have to admit I haven’t had a good word to say about before I got this laptop – for creating such an easily repairable machine.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Monday 20 July 2020

Nintendo Wii U… The Forgotten Console

Nintendo may not produce top end consoles, but they always bring a unique style to their games machines which gives them an edge, almost excusing their lack of power compared to competitors in that generation of console.

The original GameBoy might have had a rubbish mono screen, but it gave it an 8 hour battery life, something unheard of in its competitors. The Nintendo DS might not have been the most powerful, but the dual screen and touch capabilities as well as amazing battery life made it different.

The Nintendo Wii, was really just a repackaged GameCube and nowhere near as powerful as the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360, but its motion control made it an excellent family console, aimed at even those who didn’t like gaming.

However, after the mass success of the Wii released in 2006, Nintendo released the Wii U in 2012 – a console often forgotten, sandwiched between the Wii and the Switch – both very popular consoles.

While the Wii sold a whopping 101 million units worldwide, the Wii U sold a measly 13 million units.

But from a console point of view it is a great bit of kit. Rumoured as the Wii HD before its release, the Wii U takes the Wii and adds features it was lacking.

Packing a 1.24Ghz Tri-Core PowerPC processor and 2GB RAM (up from the 729Mhz PowerPC processor and 64MB of RAM of the Wii) and the ability to store its games on Blu-Ray discs, the Wii U was a fairly powerful machine.

Two versions were released. A white 'basic' version with 8GB internal memory and a black 'premium' version with 32GB internal memory. This might not sound a lot compared to the 100GB+ of its competitors but games run entirely from disc rather than being installed so the internal memory was for save games and downloads only.

The key selling point was the GamePad controller. This oversized controller featured a 6.2” LCD touchscreen as well as the buttons you would find on a regular controller. It meant you could play a lot of games without having your TV on, but it did mean the controller had to be within a close vicinity of your console.

The name suggested a backtrack on the Wii philosophy of being a family console. It was no longer 'we' as in everyone, but 'you' as in a personal console once again.

A massive bonus – and something many still don’t know – is the Wii U is fully backward compatible with the Wii games and all accessories. The Wii U system interface contains a section for the Wii and this then reboots the Wii U into Wii mode.

With the Wii U supporting HDMI (and the Wii not) this means Wii games can still be played on modern TVs.

Wii U games look stunning, aimed at taking advantage of the extra processing power and HD graphics with some main stream games like Call Of Duty Black Ops 2 looking damn near identical to the Playstation 3 version.

As with all Nintendo consoles it is the first party Mario titles only available on Nintendo hardware that keeps them afloat and why most people buy Nintendo consoles. New Super Mario Bros Wii U, Super Smash Bros U, Mario Kart 8, Super Mario World 3D, The Legend Of Zelda Wind Waker HD, The Legend Of Zelda Breath Of The Wild, Mario Party 10 and Yoshi's Woolly World all make up the best selling titles on the Wii U.

However, the Wii U never really took off. The GamePad was a good idea but the battery life was poor and gamers just didn’t see enough reason to splash a lot of money on an enhanced Wii, when you could pick up Wii consoles for next to nothing.

The lack of sales made a number of companies cut support either entirely or slimmed down such as Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Bethesda – which obviously impacted sales further, making it one of the lowest selling mainstream consoles ever.

In 2015 the basic version was discontinued and early 2017 saw Nintendo stop production altogether.

I own one. It is for my son and he loves it, and I love the fact I can watch TV or play on my console while he is sitting next to me playing on his Wii U via the GamePad. It also means I can have a cheeky bash on Super Mario Bros Wii U while my wife is watching her stuff on TV.

The Switch owes a lot to the Wii and the Wii U. While the GamePad was tied to the Wii U, it was a forerunner to a portable powerful console such as the Switch and the joy-cons from the Switch are redesigned Wii motion controllers.

So, don’t overlook the Wii U. It is a great console. It is really two consoles in one, with the GamePad being an amazing feature.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Wednesday 15 July 2020

Goodbye Apple… And Good Riddance

I have finally done it. I have broken free of the Cupertino giant. After 20 years of being an Apple user I am now totally free.

I switched to Linux, bought a Dell laptop and I just sold my MacBook Air. It was a big step but the time was right.

I have left several Apple related groups, stopped being an admin in others and even written my final article for my LowEndMac column 'Tech Spectrum' after 12 years of being an avid contributor.

Tonight I pulled the plug on them altogether and deleted my Apple ID, taking with it any history I have with them and anything I have in my purchase list.

Some bad experiences with Apple and a falling out of love with them over the past few years has spurred my decision to leave them.

I am free. I feel quite relieved. I didn’t even feel nervous about parting with my MacBook Air, just glad it was gone and I was able to move on.

The only reminder I have of my two decades of devotion is the small black Apple logo tattoo on my right arm.

Now its time for a new era.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Dell Latitude E5410 Review… Ten Years On

It may seem odd to review a ten year old laptop, but I have recently acquired a Dell Latitude E5410 and want to express my thoughts about it and using it.

Any followers of me on Twitter or readers of this blog will know I have switched from using macOS to using Linux, meaning I ditched my 2012 MacBook Air for a 2010/2011 Dell Latitude E5410.

That may sound an odd move but I needed to step away from Apple kit.

The E5410 is a first gen i5 device at 2.5Ghz. It has 4GB DDR3 RAM (upgradeable up to 8GB) and features a 320GB hard drive and DVDRW drive. The 14” screen features a 1280 x  800 resolution.

The E5 range is basically a plastic version of the E6 which has a mag alloy casing instead. Apart from that the are pretty much identical. That being said this is a 10 year old laptop and it has no cracks or damage (apart from some scratches on the lid), so is a pretty sturdy machine – even the screen hinges are still solid.

It is packed with ports. It has 4x USB 2.0 ports, 1394 port, VGA, PCMCIA, SD slot and ethernet. It also has built in N wireless. This particular model doesn't have bluetooth although there is a light on the casing for it. There are volume buttons above the keyboard. Some of the models have a webcam too, but this one doesn’t – but I never use one so it isn’t a problem.

That's the specs out of the way. How does it fair 10 years on?

In short this thing is a powerful workhorse even today. Mine came with Windows 10 64-bit installed, which I quickly wiped and installed Linux Mint Cinnamon which is also 64-bit.

Installation via USB was very quick, recognising all my hardware out-of-the-box, and adding my apps via Synaptic Package Manager was quick and easy. Once it was set up, I started using it and boy was I surprised. Booting was a little slower than my MacBook Air – but that isn’t surprising as it had an SSD in it – and I have a feeling this is the original hard drive, but once it is booted this machine flies along. Apps open quick and nothing seems to stress it out too much.

I have yet to do anything heavy on it, but for general browsing, video streaming, basic image editing, writing and light apps this thing is great. At some point I will need to do heavier work such as video and audio editing and then we will see how it goes, but an i5 processor (even an early one) and enough RAM should cope with most work – even if it isn’t the quickest.

One thing I was impressed with was the sound out of this machine. It is very loud and clear and the speakers are perfectly situated down either side of the keyboard.

On the subject of the keyboard it was one area I needed to be comfortable with. I do a lot of typing and had gotten used to soft touch chiclet keys, however I am loving the older style keyboard. It is extremely comfortable to type on and even at speed there is no bounce in the keys with just a perfect amount of spring.

The trackpad has quite a small surface area, but it does support multi touch. The mouse buttons are quite close to the front of the laptop which has taken a little while to get used to, but that is just a small niggle.

This might sound like a strange thing to be pleased about but I love activity lights. Something found less and less on modern computers. So I like the fact that the hard drive and wifi lights flash in the top left.

It's a chunky, boxey beast and definitely won't win any beauty awards. Coming from an 11” MacBook Air it sure is noticeable, but it does have the added bonus of built in DVD burning drive, a multitude of ports and an easy access panel on the bottom that allows you to upgrade RAM, hard drive, wifi card and give it a good clean inside.

The battery can be easily replaced - something modern design doesn't allow for much these days. But with the slide of a switch the battery pulls out and can be replaced in seconds. Mine has the standard 6 cell battery - but a 9 cell extended battery is also available. Mine is a genuine Dell battery (although it might not be the original one that came with it) and it still offers nearly two hours of battery life which is very impressive (for a laptop of its age).

From a looks point of view, it looks like it is built with durability rather than style in mind. It has a retro square look to it with clean lines all over it.

I am very impressed. It doesn’t feel like a 10 year old machine when using, but it certainly looks like one.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Destroy All Humans!

I am not a huge game player, but I do like a console to play on and I prefer older consoles as they are simpler. I don't often get excited about a game either, but every once in a while a game really takes my catches my attention.

So while collecting games for my original Xbox, I came across Destroy All Humans!

It might be from 2005 and I am sure most people have heard all about it or its many sequels and the fact that a remake is coming, but I hadn’t heard of it before.

I am not normally a fan of third person open world shooters, but this has a difference.

You play an alien who has been sent back to earth to harvest alien DNA from humans because their planet population is dying out. You run around zapping humans, changing yourself in to them to blend in and performing tasks without being detected. You can also climb in to your space craft and blow up vehicles and buildings.

The whole thing is set in the world of 50’s B-movie science fiction and it is utterly hilarious. For someone who is a fan of these cheesy movies with bad special effects and aliens made out of rubber suits such as classics The Blob, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Attack Of The 50ft Woman and The Creature From The Black Lagoon - this is an excellent hark back to those days. In fact its silliness reminds of the Mars Attacks. which also draws from these classic B-movies.

For the age of the game its graphics still stand up well and once immersed in it you can overlook these anyway. It is truly one of the most fun and unique games I have played in a long time.

It was available on the original XBox and Playstation 2 as was the sequel. There was a Wii exclusive Destroy All Humans! Big Willy Unleashed and a third instalment for the XBox 360 and Playstation 3 was called Destroy All Humans! Path Of Furon. A remake of the original with updated graphics and a few new features is coming soon for the XBox One and Playstation 4.

I am loving playing through the original and cant wait to find the sequel too for my original XBox.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Review: Qac Qoc USB C Hub & RJ45, HDMI, Card Reader Adaptor

Unboxing and first impressions

The Qac hub comes packed tightly in it's little box, once I popped it out it feels like quite a premium bit of kit. The main body feels like nice cold aluminium, kind of like Apple's Space Grey I suppose, top and bottom, sandwiching the white plastic RJ45, USB C out at one end and USB C lead input at the other end. The USB lead itself is quite thick, short, and looks reasonably durable.

One side of the hub has 3x USB 3 ports and 1x HDMI. The other side has a full size SDHC slot and a MicroSD slot. All these are labelled underneath.   

I tested it on a Lenovo S340-14 Chromebook, which only has two USB C ports and only has 2 USB A ports, and out through a big 55 inch screen TV. It extended the desktop to the TV straight away, no issues there. The Qac hub is a useful bit of kit to keep in your laptop bag for any laptop that has USB C and is short on ports.

Monday 13 July 2020

Mac To Mint… A Refreshing Change

Well, I have done it. I have ditched my Mac – after over 20 years of being a devoted Apple user – and grabbed a rather chunky Dell Latitude E5410. It has modest specs by today's standards - an i5 2.5Ghz processor, 4GB of RAM and 320GB hard drive - but I am not a heavy user.

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It might seem an odd choice, coming from a wafer thin 11” slick looking MacBook Air, to a thick black 14” beast but funds were tight and I just needed something else to use rather than a Mac.

I have grown so displeased with Apple over the last 12 months, which has been ramped up by recent bad experiences with them lately. I had been running Linux Mint on my Mac for a while and today was the day to make the switch more permanent by switching hardware too.

So I am now in the Linux camp. Mint 20 Cinnamon is a dream to use and it was the easiest OS to install, update and setup my apps on. All hardware was detected out of the box and no additional drivers were needed. For a laptop of some age performance is amazing. I have grown very attached to this Dell laptop already. It's a proper laptop with easy upgradeability.

Expect further articles to follow this as I step in to my new world of non Apple hardware and software.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Wednesday 8 July 2020

You Can't Do That In Linux! Oh Yes You Can.

I’ve been a Mac user for over 20 years and outside of the professional world using one at home would be met constantly with ‘you can’t do that on a Mac’.

I got used to it. While it wasn’t as true as people made out, the computing world was more geared towards Windows, especially when it came to small software and shareware. I remember trying to find Mac tools that could flash items to Nokia phones in the 90s and it was impossible.

Fast forward to now and Apple is huge and popular and there are far more macOS counterparts of Windows tools.

But with a recent move to Linux I was waiting for the ‘you cant do that in Linux’ to start, but it seems Apple aren’t the only ones who have become more popular over recent years, displacing Windows as your only option for a desktop operating system.

I found that most of the software I was using on my Mac - Blender, GIMP, LibreOffice, HandBrake, Reaper, Audacity, VLC- was also available for Linux and in some of the cases were available on Linux before a Mac port was created.

The move from Mac to Linux was painless. I haven’t found anything I haven’t been able to perform and even the Mac only Apple apps have great alternatives that often perform better and offer extra features.

More commercial packages are becoming available on Linux, with big names realising the potential of supporting it – although it seems Adobe aren’t doing so yet.

Even gaming on Linux has an edge over macOS, with more Linux ports of popular Windows games available than there are for macOS.

So the ‘you cant do that’ no longer hold water not only for macOS, but also extends to the world of Linux.

If you have the tech knowledge, want more freedom or fancy a challenge, you could break away from Microsoft Windows and macOS and use an open source operating system.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Saturday 4 July 2020

First Day With Linux On My Mac

After a lot of thought and talk of switching from macOS to Linux, today was the day I decided to go for it. I wasn’t brave enough to completely wipe macOS from my MacBook Air, so I decided to slim it down, remove my files and remove any apps I was going to reuse in Linux.

Once done, I resized the macOS partition from 250GB down to 70GB. Once done, I then made two USB drives, one was the bootable Linux Mint installer, which I used Etcher to create and the other I used to put the rEFInd files on.

Because it is an Apple laptop designed for an Apple OS, it isn’t as straightforward to install a different OS on, made even more awkward with the introduction of SIP – System Integrity Protection – brought in with macOS 10.11.

So first I needed to boot to the Apple system recovery (command+R) on boot and use the terminal to install rEFInd, a custom EFI boot manager which picks up multiple operating systems, similar to GRUB for regular PCs. It is easier to do it from Apple system recovery partition because this bypasses SIP.

Then it was time to install Linux Mint. Linux Mint boots in to a live installer and you can then choose to run the installer. This was where I came to my first issue. When I tried Ubuntu a few years back, it detected that Mac OSX was installed and asked if you wanted to install alongside it. Linux Mint is a bit different, it has to be done manually.

I had to wipe the free space, create a swap area and then the rest as an ext4 file format. I could see the Mac recovery partition and my macOS installation and just hoped it would leave them alone. Then I just left the installer to do its thing. I did ask my Linux guru friend and he said everything looked fine and he was correct.

Once done, it rebooted and rEFInd had gone, it just booted straight back into LinuxMint. So I rebooted in to the Apple system recovery partition and ran rEFInd again and it detected all four partitions (recovery, macOS, swap and Mint).

A quick wipe of my brow as it worked and I could pick which OS I wanted to be boot in to, with Mint being picked by default.

Happy with that, I began my mission to get updates and apps installed in Mint. Updates were detected by the system and done automatically. Most apps were in the Synaptic Package Manager, a handy place that you can search, select all the apps you want and then let it install them all at once.

There were a few apps I had to look for on their own sites, but everything worked and installed.

It was the simplest method of getting apps sorted and installed on any OS I have had.

After that it was just a case of tweaking a few things, as everyone likes thing certain ways.

I had three issues. One, I updated the wireless driver and for some reason it knocked out the wireless chip, but I couldn’t put it back without internet connection. This could have been a major issue as my MacBook Air doesn't have ethernet, but luckily I had an old wireless USB stick which I had used with Ubuntu before and knew it worked out of the box.

Secondly, being a Mac user you get used to a giant mouse pad with one button. But with Linux and Windows they use two buttons, with the right one being used for contextual menus. This used to be an issue with running Linux on a Mac, with some bizarre workarounds. However, the Mouse and Trackpad options now allow for splitting the mouse button in to two, but it only works for clicking not tapping. So clicking the right side of the pad gives you the small menus pop up. Getting used to having two buttons again has been a bit tricky, but something that will come with time and use.

The third – and I not sure this is directly Linux related – but Google Chrome will not stay synced with my account. Everytime I close Chrome and open it again, it needs signing in again.

Being quite up to speed with Linux and drive partitions helped a lot. It is not for the novice or someone who is used to just turning on their Windows machine and just using it. The nerdy side of my came out today.

I’m not a gamer and I don’t use commercial packages. So apart from the odd new piece of software – mainly replacements for Apple only iApps – I was already using most of the software I was used to.

The main issue I have had today is keyboard shortcuts. 20 years of using a Mac and your fingers automatically know where to go, I had to keep reminding myself today to use the Alt key in place of the Command key.

Linux Mint is a great user friendly and intuitive distro, which worked straight out of the box with all my hardware – no configuring or issues at all. Even the shortcut OS keys for screen brightness, keyboard backlights, music and volume controls work.

My journey has started. It has been far more painless and stressful than I thought it was going to be and I feel far more at home and comfortable than I would on day one.

I say day one, but I have dipped in and out of Linux and played with many distros for years, however this is the first serious trip I made, the first real effort to leave Apple behind.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

From Mac To Linux... I Think I Am Ready

I have really given the move from macOS to Linux Mint serious consideration over the past few weeks. I had a previous blog entry and even an article on LowEndMac expressing my loss of interest in Apple recently. This has been a gradual thing, that has been ramped up lately.

I’ve dipped in and out Linux for years, but now I am eager more than ever to play with the penguin.

First step is familiarising yourself with the linux environment, something I am quite OK with but further time will increase my knowledge. Using Mac operating systems for over 20 years you get very comfy, so switching is going to be a little weird. Just the little things like keyboard shortcuts that have come natural for years will be different.

Luckily Linux isn’t too dissimilar to Mac, in the keyboard shortcut area and many others it is a hybrid between Windows and MacOS.

The second step - and a very important one - is to ensure whatever you use your computer for can also be achieved in Linux. So I made a list of the apps installed on my Mac and started checking them through.

Here is a list of my apps:

Android File Transfer, Audacity, BBEdit, Bean, Blender, Burn, Chrome, Cyberduck, DropBox, Etcher, GIMP, Handbrake, iMovie, iTunes, Photoshop, Reaper, VideoPad, VirtualBox, VLC, XnConvert, YouTube To MP3.

Here is a list of apps that have exact versions for Linux:

Audacity, Blender, Chrome, DropBox, Etcher, GIMP, Handbrake, VirtualBox, VLC, XnConvert, YouTube To MP3.

So I just needed to sort the rest of them out.

Android File Transfer is a Mac only app for copying from Mac to Android. This isn’t needed in Linux as most of the time it is just drop and drag.

BBEdit is just for code writing and editing, which can be accomplished by using Sublime.
Bean is just a simple word processor which can be achieved with anything, such as 
OpenOffice or LibreOffice. Burn is a CD/DVD burning software which I haven’t found a direct alternative for but won’t be difficult. (Editor's note: K3B is probably the best DVD writing app on Linux). Cyberduck is an FTP client which I can use FileZilla for.

Reaper is a music production suite, which has a Linux version but it is an experimental version.

VideoPad is a video editing tool for combining various videos and addition effects and transitions, this looks like OpenShot will cover this.

The three main stumbling blocks are iMovie, iTunes and Photoshop.

iMovie looks like it will also be covered by OpenShot too, iTunes can be substituted for Clementine.
So the final one is Photoshop. This is a big no no, there is no Photoshop for Linux and nothing really matches the Adobe behemoth. The closest you get is GIMP, which is a fantastic image editing program, but not an exact match. You could possibly install a version of Photoshop using WINE, but that is a complicated and very straight forward process.

So it looks like from a software point of view I am all sorted. The move from Mac to Linux should be a painless process and I can do everything I do now.

The final step is picking the correct hardware. As much as I have fallen out of favour with Apple, I do love my MacBook Air. It is a tiny, thin, lightweight, 11” workhorse and the thought of using a huge chunky black plastic machine again does not thrill me. Also, my Mac might be 8 years old but the hardware in it is still decent - and more powerful than some of the budget new laptops on offer now.

So I would be sensible to either dual boot Linux Mint alongside macOS on my Air or go for broke and wipe off macOS altogether. The latest Mint should swing along very nicely on an i5 with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD. Alternatively I could try and find a non-Apple device that looks like my MacBook Air, but that would require spending money and why do so when I already have a decent laptop sitting here.

The next few weeks will be a great experience and a huge change in direction for me. I am sure there will be a few bumps in the road along the way, but nothing that cant be sorted out without too much stress.

Wish me luck.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Wednesday 1 July 2020

Mint Cinnamon 20 on my old Sony VAIO

I finally got round to replacing the DVD drive on my old Sony VAIO VGN-N31S/W. Just a case of removing two screws and swapping the adaptor plates over, and the bezel. Well it would be easier if the bezel fitted every drive.

The VAIO still had Mint 17 KDE on it, which cannot be upgraded to version 19 or 20 because it's such a major version change that it is just not possible. Unfortunately Mint do not have a KDE version anymore so I decided to do a fresh install of Mint 20 Cinnamon. It's been ages since I tried Cinnamon so I quickly tested it live on one of my desktop machines beforehand and found that it is much more polished than it used to be, very smooth even running from a live DVD. I kept my original Home partition from the old install, and haven't had any issues so far.

Mint's welcome screen has improved since the last time I tried it, which was ages ago,  it now suggests various operations you might want to do, which is great for newbies.

I applied the updates that were waiting, including a kernel update and then set about installing some apps I like, such as Filezilla and Clementine using the software manager and installed Chrome from the deb package. Also System Reports showed that i needed to install some language packs so i installed those.

I'm  not completely keen on the default theme, although I do like the switch that sets it to a dark Mint theme, but the icons are quite plain. You can change the colour of them but to change them completely you need to install an icon theme pack. My preferred icon theme is Papirus, which I use on all my installs. 

I also removed the desktop icons in Desktop Settings. And there we have it, a nice clean Mint Cinnamon desktop. It runs fine, only a little sluggish on this machine, but I put that down to a very well used 320GB hard drive. I can hear it churning, could do with replacing either with a new faster HDD or with an SSD.

Overall I am impressed with how much better Mint with Cinnamon has got since the last time I tried it. Much smoother, much less buggy. And even more ideal for Linux newbies. Although Mint 20 is quite nice, it isn't enough to tear me away from KDE Neon since I still prefer Dolphin for file management over Mint's Nemo and KDE in general just suits my requirements better. It runs pretty well considering the VAIO only has a 1.6ghz Core 2 Duo CPU, whereas my Thinkpad W500 and Dell Latitude E6500 both have 2.5ghz Core 2 Duo CPUs.  

You can read more about this old VAIO in my previous posts - here, here and here.

Resurrecting My Lenovo ThinkPad W500

Just the other day, Google Photos reminded me that I have a ThinkPad that a friend of mine gave to me. At the time, it was lacking its original SSD so I put in an old HDD, installed KDE Neon, played with it a bit then put it to one side. So having been reminded of it, I thought I'd dig it out and have another play.

It's a ThinkPad W500, has a P9500 2.53Ghz Core 2 Duo CPU with 8GB of RAM and I put an 80GB hard drive in it. It has one hardware issue. It has Intel onboard graphics and a discrete ATI card, which seems to be dead. For some reason, after being sat for a few years, it then tried to use that as the default, but on boot, a black screen is all you get.

It's a known issue with these ThinkPads and to fix it, unplug from the mains, remove the battery, undo some screws underneath to get access to the top. Then disconnect the BIOS battery and leave for 20 minutes, and then reverse the process. Plug in, then press F1 at the boot logo to enter the BIOS. Go to Config > Display then set the primary video device to Internal.

I then updated KDE Neon and everything is working nicely. After logging in, KDE only uses about a Gig of RAM which is good for a full fat desktop system.

KDE Neon (User Edition) is my distro of choice these days, I have had it installed on my main desktop for a few years. It is based on K/Ubuntu LTS releases but with the latest KDE installed. 

I really like the amount of ports it has, quick release DVD drive, onboard Ethernet, PCMCIA, etc and the classic Thinkpad keyboard. 

That classic Thinkpad keyboard:

Easily removable DVD combo drive:

I am not sure how often I will use it, as my main laptop is a lightweight Chromebook, but it's nice to have a full Linux laptop handy occasionally. I do also have a Dell Latitude E6500 that's in better shape but my next job will be updating my old Sony VAIO to the latest Mint Linux.