Laptop Usage - Summer 2018

I’m still happily dragging my 2014 Thinkpad Edge E440 around, and since I’ve had it nigh on four years, and coincidentally have re-installed the OS over the last couple of weeks, I thought I’d put together a long term review the machine, and the changes which have come (and gone) on the software side and why.


Most of what I do on the laptop now is still in a text editor of one description or another, the odd venture into LibreOffice Calc for some spreadsheet work, or RedNoteBook for journalling, and still now and then Scrivener for longer form prose, but as I’ll note later, this is now the Windows version in WINE, not the ‘native’ version I used to use.

I do a little audio editing now and then, using Audacity still, but it’s essentially text, text and more text, either in MarkDown or straight text in an editor, and even some Python. The former for some web projects I’ve ducked in and out of, and the latter as I’m finally trying to learn a development language instead of mark-up. I also have some nice utils and tools installed such as PanDoc for moving the aforementioned text around between formats, ExifTool which is for messing with photo metadata, which allows me to fix the metadata almost randomly created by the LEGO camera my kids use now and then and a few issues I’m trying to correct. I also went through a phase of trying static site generators like Pelican, but decided I just didn’t have time for it, and stuck with Grav as an online system. Whichever, moving all my old content, and keeping new content in MarkDown format has proven to be a good move.


The laptop itself is essentially the same and I’ve had absolutely no hardware problems. I did have to buy a new power supply after I dropped it from the sofa, bending the power plug, but that was largely me being a buffoon. Also about 5 pixels have died in different parts of the screen and maybe the battery is aging a little (good for about 3 hours, which is still fine for me and isn’t too different from new - this isn’t an ultrabook grade machine). The keyboard is excellent still, and makes the chunkiness worth it for the generation, though the trackpad ‘press’ feels a little cheap and likely should have been left out.


When I first got the machine - and after I replaced the HDD which had Windows on it, and replaced it with an SSD, I was running Mint Linux Cinnamon 17.x on it, and happily ran that for 18 months until April 2016, when I cut over to Ubuntu GNOME Shell as part of the 16.04 LTS rollout. Mint Cinnamon is a great distro, and my decision to move was really because I wanted to move to Ubuntu rather than anything amiss over at Mint.

With the recent 18.04 LTS cycle, I’ve moved to Ubuntu Budgie to have a look around, and since GNOME has become the window manager on the base Ubuntu and thus adopted some of their Unity apps and style, it seemed like a good time to try a different desktop manager. Budgie is still Gnome as in codebase, but trimmed and given a different UX focus. It originated with the Solus project I believe. Deep down maybe I’d like to go back to the now sadly discontinued Crunchbang distro which I ran on many a VM for sheer speed, and a fun community. Maybe sometime I should take a look at BunsenLabs Linux, the spiritual successor.

As it was, the two Linux boxes in my house (my archive server which lives on a shelf in a cupboard) runs Xubuntu.

Applications & Tools

I’ve added and removed quite a lot of apps and tools from my laptop over the years, mostly reflecting whatever I was doing at the time, so here’s a quick, non exhaustive round-up:

OUT: Bluefish - I used to use this as a HTML editor, but it was always clunky, and I don’t think it’s been under active development for years (2011?). Much of this type of work I now do in Vim/GEdit/Atom, especially as I mainly do MarkDown and Python these days. (Long past due)

OUT: DarkTable - This was massive overkill given I didn’t do so much photo work on the laptop except when travelling, so I use Shotwell now. It is an amazing application, but like LightRoom, it’s just more app than I need.

OUT: Pidgin - This reflects that most of my messaging I do on my phone. I barely IM on my desktop, but with LINE and Signal having Electron based apps, maybe this functionality comes back. Good app though.

OUT: Deluge - I still torrent Linux distros even though that’s less of a thing now, and I don’t know why I used Deluge, perhaps it was when Transmission had some files hijacked (?). I do use this on the desktop I torrent from.

OUT: Crashplan - The company essentially got out of the consumer backup space, so now I use SpiderOak for backup and sync.

OUT: Terminator - I’m a sucker for tiling terminal systems, but I’ve recently moved to Tilix, just as it’s a little easier to play with and it’s not Java based.

OUT: Banshee - I don’t use a music player too much on the laptop, but I used to like Banshee, but by ways of Clementine and Rhythmbox I’ve lazily started using VLC for music, or a WINE/snap of Foobar2000.

OUT: I now use WINE for Scrivener to use my Windows license since the Linux version was discontinued (I also have Notepad++ set up through WINE too, just for the sake of it).