Technology

With 5 Years of Official Support, Is Ubuntu Mate the last OS an old PC needs?

Official Ubuntu circle with wordmark. Replace ...

Official Ubuntu circle with wordmark. Replace File:Former Ubuntu logo.svg. Español: logo de Ubuntu + marca denominativa Français : Logo officiel d’Ubuntu. Remplace File:Former Ubuntu logo.svg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been more than happy with Ubuntu Mate 15.10 on my eMachines T6528 tower. This was a PC that originally came with Windows XP and was until just recently running the latest version of Ubuntu Mate.

Now that the new Ubuntu Mate 16.04 is out, I decided to take the plunge and proceed with the update from 15.10 via the terminal and the usual commands one invokes to get there:

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get upgrade

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

And last but not least:

sudo update-manager –d

These commands do everything needed to initiate the upgrade process and series of prompts to click “OK” on, to acknowledge some software packages not supported by the latest release as well as include new packages for installation.

From here on out, the update process is automated.

While it may have been nerve-wracking for me on older hardware just a few years ago, the Linux Ubuntu Mate developer community has done such a wonderful job with the latest releases that everything just works. When it comes to the big restart that brings users to the desktop of the latest Linux Ubuntu Mate distribution and all it offers, the word “easy” comes to mind.

Linux Mint

Linux Mint (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For me, personally, what I’m most looking forward to is official support for this operating system for the next five years. That’s right—all security and software updates will be officially provided by the Ubuntu Mate development community so that my 10-year-old PC running it may have everything modern and secure, software-wise, for what could be the final five years of its now lengthy, production life.

Think about it.

While I can still technically run Windows XP, the lack of official support by Microsoft dooms the eMachines tower to a status of not if, but when, it will become infected by malware that renders it useless.

With all the new “ransomeware” available to pounce on unprotected PCs, it just doesn’t make sense to fool with unsupported systems like XP on machines of this vintage any longer.

This tower that refuses to quit sports a 64-bit processor. I could never get any flavor of Windows 7 or 8 to run in 64-bit mode. It made me question whether it was truly a 64-bit capable system.

English: Screen Shot of Installing Ubuntu Server

English: Screen Shot of Installing Ubuntu Server (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once I began experimenting with Linux on this tower, however, I finally was able to have a 64-bit operating system running on it. Since it is 10 years old, I wanted an OS that would place only the slightest of demands on its (relative-to-modern-day machines) grandfatherly state. That is, since resources are not in great supply (3 GB Memory, 2.2 GHz AMD Athlon 64 3500+ processor), I needed a lightweight, yet modern OS with accompanying software that wouldn’t drag performance down to an unusable state.

I had experimented with regular Ubuntu and Linux Mint before settling on Ubuntu Mate. While regular-flavored Ubuntu was alright, I had a lot of difficulty getting anything other than the 800 x 600 or 1024 x 768 monitor resolutions. Linux Mint was equally tricky on that front, but I did finally have better results with Mint regarding the resolutions issue.

However, Mint’s performance was not good enough for me and even seemed to degrade over time. Perhaps it was/is my tendency to download, install and test lots of software. I never considered Linux for one of my production machines; I just liked to torture test it until something happened and I would move on to yet another flavor.

I think the Nvidia 6100 onboard graphics may have greatly contributed to much of my performance and monitor resolution issues prior to installing Mate. I don’t know what the breakdown is regarding the complexity of union of all of the onboard graphics and the rest of the tower’s hardware, but Mate solved everything.

I use a Cisco Wi-Fi USB stick that works great. It’s not super fast, but it’s a more than adequate performer, stable, steady and beyond fine for surfing, email, and overall network connectivity. That is really all we can expect from our wireless connections on older hardware. In my case, though, the Cisco Wi-Fi stick and Linux Mate are a match made in networking heaven. Uploading, downloading and moving files is dependable on a mixed network environment of Macs and PCs running OS X and Windows 10.

So, what was the final outcome of the two-hour upgrade process? It was totally devoid of any stress or drama. The re-start was uneventful. Everything works, none of my work was lost (can’t say that happened on one of my Windows 10 machines) and what else can I say, but Bravo Linux! If the old tower has five years of life in it, I will use it at least until Mate 16.04 loses support or the hardware finally gives out—whichever comes first.

Five years is a long, long time in today’s tech environment. Might Linux be the answer once again at the end of that period? I wouldn’t bet against it.

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