A Cheap Linux Laptop — Take 2

You may have seen my previous article “A Cheap Linux Laptop“. Well this is a rewrite. I have changed several things since I wrote the original article, and I think it would be better to start over. The major changes are: (a) lessons learnt, (b) I installed a Solid State Drive, and (c) I used the LXDE desktop instead of XFCE. [I am now back with XFCE.]

Back in April, I bought a laptop, a Lenovo B50-45, for £160 brand new. It has a 15.6in screen, and is big enough to include a numeric keypad! Surely it can’t be any good for that money!! I got it from Ebuyer, who don’t stock it any more. Six months down the road, the model is selling at a higher price via other suppliers. There are a number of models in the B50 series, and I imagine that they would prove to be similar. Continue reading →


Facebook, and the White Screen

I don’t know whether this has ever happened to anyone else. This is what happens if I attempt to log into Facebook in my account:

Yep, that’s it a totally white screen.

This is been going on over a day now. Just as a second test, what do you think might happen if I log in again, but using “m.facebook.com” instead of “www” at the start of the address? Well, I do get to see a bit more:

Continue reading →

Libre Office 5.0 Released!

One of the things I can never get my head around, is the love affair computer users have with Microsoft Word and Microsoft Office. It’s as if it is an essential piece of software. Because of its cost, people will risk being caught breaking the law with illegal copies. And yet, it’s nothing special, and there are other wordprocessors and office-suites out there which do the job just as well, and in some cases better, at a fraction of the cost.

One such office suite is LibreOffice, and it has the major advantage of being free! And the recent update to version 5.0 marks a milestone in the development of this excellent piece of software. A question could reasonably be asked, how can software be any good if it’s free? Won’t the best software writers go and work for someone who pays them? Well I’ve written stuff before about this. There are different types of free, and it’s as well to know how the difference between free as in no charge, and free as in Open Source. Free programs like Libre Office, as well as Firefox, Google Chrome, and many others, have versions compiled to run on Windows, Linux and Macs, and could be the right things to try, to see if Linux would be a good operating system for you!

Continue reading →

A cheap Linux laptop

A few weeks ago, I bought a laptop, a Lenovo B50-45, for £160 brand new. It has a 15.6in screen, and is big enough to include a numeric keypad! Surely it can’t be any good for that money!! I got it from Ebuyer, though at the time of writing they are temporarily out of stock, but with the promise of more to come. But still for that same price.

Reviews were surprisingly good, but I tend to look at the worst ones first, and they complained of a lack of speed, that you were often waiting for the computer to catch up. However, it’s running Windows 8. My intention was always to use PCLinuxOS 64-bit XFCE edition. So let’s see how the hardware stacks up.


  • AMD Dual Core E1-6010 1.35GHz processor ought to cope with Linux, comfortably.
  • It has a single chip of 4Gb RAM, but has two SODIMM DDR3 slots, and can take a total of 16Gb RAM. A second 4Gb in the other slot could take it up to 8Gb. But in any case, you’d think that 4Gb would run Linux OK.
  • 5400rpm Hard Drive, 320Gb. Hmmm, could be a problem. The question is how get-at-able is it, could it be changed for a solid state drive?
  • Radeon R2 graphics which I know little about.

Continue reading →

Brother Printer/Scanners, my experience using one with Linux

I have never participated in Black Friday before. I certainly didn’t fancy the the crushes I saw in the news. But when I saw an offer for a Brother MFC-J5320DW printer/scanner (RRP £200, usual on-line price £150) for £110 online, my only thought was: will it work in Linux? Well I checked the Brother site, and it showed downloadable drivers for the scanner. I assumed that the printer would “just work” as they often do in Linux. So I ordered it.

It arrived the following Tuesday morning. It’s a monster, but width-wise, it’s not significantly wider than my HP Deskjet, so its actual footprint on the side table next to my workstation is no bigger. And it prints A3!

Continue reading →

Free Software: Different types of free!

You are going to the home of a very generous couple. Let’s call them Rodney and Cassandra. Now Rodney is famous for brewing his own beer and it’s delicious. Cassandra makes a lovely soup. The flavour is incredible. You can imagine they are very popular. You and your friends have a lovely evening. At the end of the night, you ask Rodney if you can take home some of his beer. He agrees, but imposes some conditions.

  1. You can have the beer free, but for personal use only. You may not pass it on or sell it to anyone.
  2. You may not try to analyse or reverse engineer the beer to discover the formula in any way.
  3. You accept that the recipe for the beer is the property of Rodney.

Continue reading →

Facebook and its Messages on your Smartphone

There has been much speculation about changes to the Messenger program on smartphones. As if it’s some great conspiracy to steal your data, report your activities to the government or its secret services, or worse, advertisers! I can report that such worry is nonsense. I’m sure that there is enough stuff around the internet explaining both sides of this argument. I will say this about it: The Android system, used on a large number of smartphones, expects that permissions (to access parts of your phones hardware/features) are given to programs when you first install them, and that, in explaining what this means, generates a message to you that the hardware can be accessed “at any time”. This is because, as with any computer (essentially what a smart phone is), it’s dependent on its programs to do anything. So, for example, your camera app has to be able to access the camera hardware “at any time” because the message that you have pressed the “button” to take the photo comes from the program – the smartphone doesn’t check that you are actually pressing the “take” button – and how could it? There isn’t one! Just an area on the screen where the camera program has drawn a nice graphic of a button. So, you are completely at the mercy of the camera program, that it only takes photos when you ask it to. And that’s how all apps work.

Continue reading →

Linux – A Free Operating System and gateway to Free Software

… and it’s all perfectly legal!

Yes, that’s right – there’s no catch. So, what is Linux and what can it do for us?

1. It can save you money

Linux is a replacement for Windows. Though you can set up your computer so that, when you start it, you can choose between Linux and Windows. Computers are generally sold with Windows installed. This is an OEM version of Windows which is cut price compared to buying it separately. They make their money through the adverts that get thrown at you, and by having time limited versions of Anti-Virus and Firewall software included – so people pay for Norton or MacAfee, both of which are rather better at slowing your computer down than stopping viruses. If you must have Windows delete this rubbish and download free versions of Avast anti-virus and Zone Alarm firewall. Here, I’m saving you money already! But where it can save you real cash is simple – you might have a computer where Windows is totally messed up, but there’s nothing at all wrong with the hardware. Why buy another when you can install Linux?

Continue reading →

You Cannot Run a Public Service Like a Business, and Here’s Why…

This article is unashamedly stolen from “Scriptonite Daily” and all credit must go to the author at that site.


One of the greatest myths of our time is that public services can be made more efficient if we run them as businesses.  The commercialisation of our public services has been a manifest failure, and the response offered by the mainstream parties is that we simply haven’t commercialised them enough. What they fail to understand is that a public service and a business are inherently different beasts and asking one to behave as the other is like asking a fish to ride a bicycle.

Continue reading →

So farewell, Sweet Warwick …

It’s not every day of the week that you blow a bass amp. So it was a bit of a shock when, towards the end of what had been a great gig at the Britannia in Southend-on-Sea with Collibosher, that there was suddenly no sound from my bass amp half way through the second encore! A later examination from Jeff’s dad, somewhat of an expert in the field, revealed that the speakers had blown and short-circuited everything else, leading to a totally dead amp with a very uneconomic repair.

Continue reading →