Grandma’s Gettin’ a New PC

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Grandma is getting a new PC for Christmas. Her current PC is a 10 yr old Mac… 10yrs old and still working is why I have long been a Mac guy. But the new Macs? They can’t be upgraded in the future. They largely can’t be repaired. They have become less expensive but they still don’t have the power button SD card slot and a USB port or two in the front where they are easily accessible for Grandma. I could go PC, we just got a deal on some Lenovo desktop PC’s here at MePush… they have a 4th generation Intel Core i3, 4GB memory, 500GB of storage and Windows 7 and are selling them for $450. They are however half size towers and Grandma doesn’t have much room. Also because she is family I’m comfortable supporting Linux for her so I don’t need the Windows license. Actually I would prefer having her using Linux. Despite the recent announcements of malware on Linux, the fact remains that it is a more secure OS (auditability, recoverability, authentication privilege escalation) So what’s a geek to do?

Well on Black Friday I joined the hoards of shoppers in downtown Lewisburg; got some delicious Thai food for lunch, some wonderful cards by a local artist and some stocking stuffers. Then home for some online research. After perusing the deals and reading more than a few spec sheets I bought a barebones PC, the Gigabyte BRIX GB-BXi3-4010 and a Mushkin Atlas mSATA solid-state storage device (SSD). I thought I’d pair these with some used memory but the 4th generation Core i3 wants faster memory than anything in the recycling bin so I broke down and ordered in a 4GB SODIMM. I also picked up a 3ft HDMI to DVI cable allowing me to use a DVI display my wife and I picked up at a yard sale.

Here is the Gigabyte PC just out of the box…


Yes, the PC has a smaller foot print that the CD next to it and as a bonus, the plate to the left is a VESA mount adapter. I’m mounting Grandma’s new PC to the back of her display. The convenience of an iMac with the upgradability of a traditional PC and at a fraction of the price. The PC has a locking slot for a laptop type security cable, USB 3.0, and WiFI. When I bought this unit I had read the specs and was thinking about library card catalog PCs, digital signage and any other use where I just have to tuck the PC away but I was still blown away by how small it is.

I installed my SSD and memory, plugged in a keyboard, mouse, HDMI display (actually my living room TV as the adapter cable was slow shipping) and a USB Flash memory drive loaded with the Ubuntu 14.10 Desktop installer.

Linux install screen…

Installing Ubuntu

Rebooted, my wife Jamie came in the room so I tuned to say “Hi” and when I turned back the PC was sitting at the login screen what? 14.5secs from cold boot to login screen that’s fast. I remember BeOS 15yrs ago booting on a 200MHz Mac in 20 seconds but a modern bloated with all kinds of extras OS? Windows 7 on the Lenovos we have in stock, boots in a respectable 50sec before any additional software is installed. Let’s give this box a bit of a test… Plays Hulu full screen in high def flawlessly… oh boy. Loaded some photos into Shotwell the photo manager software installed by default on Ubuntu. Wow I really like Shotwell. It is like Picasa or iPhoto but without all the Google/Apple tie-ins cluttering everything up. Thunderbird for email and Libre Office already installed. This is actually a pretty nice PC for light office work.

I’m going to stop gushing. Much of this performance is due to using Ubuntu with an SSD. However I think we have a great new option for clients needing the power of a low end PC in the compact form of an embedded device. We have some pricing work to do but I’m off to present this as a solution to a client…