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#1 2015-02-12 17:14:41

bill klee
New Member
Registered: 2015-01-19
Posts: 5

Getting a new laptop, looking for suggestions

I have ordered one of these: Dell Inspiron 13 7347, and should have it in about two weeks.

Specs:
CPU: i7 @ 3.0 GHz
RAM: 8 GB
HD: 500 GB @ 5400 rpm hybrid SATA (which I will be replacing with a 960 GB SSD)
Display: 1920x1080 touch-screen
It's got wifi, bluetooth, etc etc, comes with a stylus and a bluetooth mouse. I have played with a similar machine a couple months ago, and was impressed with how fast it booted Windows.

It's a combo laptop / tablet, in that the screen folds 360 degrees, so you end up with a touch-screen tablet on one side, and the keyboard and touchpad on the other. (The keyboard & etc are disabled if folded back more than 270 degrees.)

And, now, my request for suggestions.

First, it comes with Windows 8.1. Obviously, that's got to go. However, there are still a few things I can't get to work in linux.
A: I haven't had a lot of luck with Heimdall (used for rooting android devices), but Odin works well enough on my wife's laptop.
B: I need SoundTaxi to convert Audible.com audiobooks to mp3.
C: Garmin map updates don't work on linux firefox.

I see three four five ways around this.
1: Since I'm yanking the original HD with the original Windows install, I could just swap it back in when I need to run Windows. I'd need SoundTaxi once a month, Garmin access once a year or so, and Odin when I change phones. For that matter, I have a SATA to USB cable, so I could just plug that in and run what I need

2: Use my wife's laptop, as I do now.

3: Set up a separate partition for Windows.

4: Run Windows in VirtualBox or similar.

5: Just run Windows. (only included for completness.)

Pros:
1: Easy, especially if I use the cable to boot from the original hd without hardware installation.

2: Easy, and I know it works. She doesn't mind me using her laptop for a half-hour every month.

3: This option allows me to use Windows on demand.

4: Like 3, Windows on demand, with the added advantage of better security, if I understand VirtualBox correctly. Also, again if I understand it correctly, I don't need to guess at a usable partition size, since I can use a dynamically-sized setup.

5: ??? Well, it'd be easy, I guess.

Options 2, 3 & 4 let me use the orginal hd for external storage.

Cons:
1: If I do an actual hd swap, there's more chance of losing or breaking pieces. If I use the external cable, I can't move the laptop while I'm using it. Also, if I'm using the hd to boot Windows, no matter how infrequently, I won't be able to use that hd for external storage.

2: No real downside, unless I need / want to use windows for something while I'm out on the road.

3: I don't know how to move windows from its own hd to a partition on a separate hd. (Not really a con, since I then get to learn how to do something new.)

4: I've never used VirtualBox. The closest I've ever come is running VirtualPC on a Mac ten years ago. (LIke 3, not really a con, for the same reasons.)

5: It's Windows. 'nuff said.

So, which route here do you recommend, and why? Any other options I've forgotten? (I'd swear I had another one in mind, but damned if I can remember it now. I'll add it later, if it comes back to me)

Second, I like to check out different distros. In the past, I've handled this by keeping separate / and /home partitions, so I can install different distros in / without touching /home. What I plan on doing now is creating /boot (probably /boot-efi, iirc), /home and several 20 GB partitions I can install different distros into. With a boot partition, I can set up grub to pick which distro I want to use at boot.

Pro: I can try pretty much any distro I want, without screwing up /home.

Con: I've never really messed with grub. (See above about learning opportunities.)

One question, though. Swap. I've traditionally used a swap value of 2.5 x RAM, which would, in this case, be 20 GB. Do I need swap? I've got conky set to show swap usage, and it's almost always at 0 usage.

So, comments, questions, suggestions on my partitioning scheme? How many test partitions should I make? At a minimum, obviously, I need two: one for my main distro, and one for whatever I'm testing at the minute, but I'm thinking something between 3 and 6.

Next question: Suggested distros to try? I plan to start with #!. Instead of asking if it works on a touch-screen, I'm going to dump it on there and see what happens. Honestly, I don't know if the minimalist interface I like so much will work on a touch-screen interface, but I'm going to find out.

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