Jolicloud desktop
Nerds Nerding Out

Giving Some Old Devices New Life

As my old main work laptop is burning my lap, I’m still happier with it than I have been in a while. It’s a 15″ Toshiba Satellite that I paid only $550 for new at Fry’s in 2008. It was my first new laptop and first decent computer, though I had always managed with my other used or “built from scratch” junkers just fine. This computer was the first one I could really process my photos quickly on, but I still couldn’t run Adobe Premier (video editing).

When Ross got his job at Cheezburger, with it came a new computer, and I got his fairly new Samsung, allowing me to put my radiator of a Toshiba to rest. It was however a shame to put it in a closet somewhere, so for a while it sat connected to my scanner and printers, waiting for a purpose that rarely came. At one point the Samsung needed to be sent in for a couple of issues where the mouse would freeze or it would shut off at random – usually when I tried to stand up to get a drink. For one last time I got to use my Toshiba for a work computer and although its familiarity was nice, the speediness of the Samsung was greatly missed.

When it came time recently to reinstall Windows on the Samsung, I decided since I’d have to spend hours moving files and installing updates and programs, I would also take on the task of cleaning up the Toshiba and trying out Linux for the first time. It was also time that my “kitchen computer”, also a Toshiba but a little netbook, found some appeal of its own; Anything to make me want to use them more it was the idea.

I will in no way claim to know a lot about computers so this won’t be enlightening if you are more of a nerd than me in this department, but I wanted to put to ease some worries for people who have not used Linux in any form or are worried that it won’t be as “good” as windows.

The Satellite

The Satellite’s transformation was fairly easy. I did a search for best Linus installs for “old computers” – and found people trying to install Lunux builds on computers from the 90s. By comparison my Toshiba is not “old” so looking a bit more and finding lots of blog posts of people’s favorites, I chose Xubuntu.

Xubuntu is a community built operating system meant to have pretty much anything you could need from basic applications like word processing and email applications, to web server software and programming tools, and in the package manager (basically an app store) you can get anything else.

Gimp, the Linux Photoshop equivalent has so far been awesome for blogging and basic photo editing. I haven’t fully explored its abilities but it looks promising. I had fun setting up my desktop and settings, adding an application bar at the bottom, similar to Mac’s application dock, (though it can go anywhere on the desktop along with several other bars and tools). Xubuntu has a myriad of animations, styles and downloadable themes to make your computer really customized. All the usual menus and tools you’re used to seeing at the bottom of your screen is by default at the top though you can organize it to look exactly like your PC if you really wanted to.


Some of the programs I use regularly on my Samsung look different in Xubuntu, but it’s just a matter of getting used to where everything is and poking around. If I didn’t use Adobe products so often, I would consider using Xubuntu much more often than I do, but for now my Toshiba is making for a great blogging computer. The lack of access to my work files keeps me from getting too distracted and when I’m doing nothing at all on it, I can play around with the settings and poke around the app store. If you don’t need Windows for any good reason, Xubuntu makes it easy to have everything you’re used to having without buying into the monopoly that is Microsoft.

The Netbook

On my netbook that I never use, or never used to, I installed Jolicloud, a lightweight Linux-based operating system with a really fun, user-friendly layout. I mainly use the computer for recipes, in the cabin we had it on the counter all the time ready to instruct me in the arts of vegan quiche or a spicy Thai soup.

I originally tried a few other operating systems before finding Jolicloud, mainly out of curiosity. I looked into an Android build and found only older versions and none compatible with my netbook, then I looked for Chrome OS and accidentally downloaded Chrome OS Linux – the second being a big fat farce posing as Chrome OS. It worked but was mostly unimpressive and I uninstalled when I felt deceived. THEN I tried the legit Chrome OS, and could only run it from a USB drive. When I went through all the steps to actually install it on my Netbook, it failed. After all that I was happy I found Jolicloud. It’s simple, compact and good-looking, perfect for a netbook.

The netbook always worked fine for its intermittent purposes but it took so long to start and open up a website, that by the time I had a recipe I was already halfway through messing up some dish. I’m too impatient for windows on a netbook basically. Jolicloud takes about 12 seconds to start up, and right on my home screen is a big one click button to a recipe app “all recipes” or the internet. While I’m waiting for things to cook I can mess around on Facebook or YouTube.

Desktop of Netbook with Jolicloud

Everything is one click, easy to find, easy to navigate and fast. The only problem I’ve had so far is sometimes when I have too many apps open at one time, or accidentally open an app twice, the computer can freeze up. At least it only takes a few seconds to restart. I’m still not sure if this is a problem with the computer or Jolicloud but I’ve learned to just keep my task bar clean.

The screen is about the size of most tablets so it’s great for playing arcade style games, watching YouTube or anything else I might want to do on the road or away from my work computer – it may sound a little awkward to have the laptop sideways while I read in bed, but it’s also become a pretty great Kindle reader since I would normally to use my phone for that – by comparison, it’s awesome.

Video GamesGimp on Netbook Jolicloud desktop

The only disadvantage of Linux in general that I’ve noticed is that you can’t play Netflix, but there are plenty of other videos services out there, like Hulu, Youtube and Amazon.  In general Jolicloud is like a smartphone for your computer, minus the touchscreen.

There are so many Linux builds out there, some definitely for programmers, some that look like children’s toys, but I’m pretty happy with Xubuntu and Jolicloud. Their look and features are all super friendly and make for an easy transition from the prison of Windows.

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