Here's an idea for those of you stuck with a crappy Windows machine. For Christmas, get a new Linux laptop from System76.

I got the 14 inch Lemur with 16GB memory, 4 cores, 512 GB solid state drive and all the set my new employer back $1400 (less than half what a comparable Macbook would cost). A cheaper, but still acceptable machine for this class (remember to get at least 8GB memory!) can be put together for $700.

The advantage of Linux is that it is the absolute easiest OS for installing hacking/programming/scientific-computing software. The latest and greatest stuff is often made first for Linux, then ported to OSX. The downside is that it can be difficult to get all the hardware working correctly (especially on a laptop). That's the reason to buy from a vendor who pre-installs Linux. They guarantee hardware compatibility. Note that some things, like YouTube, will still run into glitches every now and then. The glitches get fixed...but it's not just plug and play like a Macbook.

Here are some other places you can get pre-installed Ubuntu Linux.

  • ZaReason is similar to System76. Their UltraLap 430 almost won me over with its small size and weight.
  • Dell's Project Sputnik campaign has put together a high end, super thin, super light machine.
  • Thinkmate's HPX series workstations are complete overkill and unnecessary for this class, but fun to look at.


After owning the computer for two months, I have this report:

  • I LOVE it
  • For scientific computing, it works better "right out of the box" than my co-worker's Macs
  • The keyboard/trackpad isn't that good...but I use an external keyboard/mouse
  • After installing some extra "32-bit enabling" libraries, Skype works perfectly
  • YouTube works perfectly
  • Amazon's streaming movies don't work

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21 December 2012


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