I’m something of a gadget guy who likes to experiment with computers, mobile phones, tablets and operating systems.
Every Christmas my kids get to experience the “Great Gorey Gadget Giveaway” when I voluntarily dispose of superseded pre-loved items.
They’ve been known to pick up a one-year-old flagship phone, GoPro-clone, secondhand notebook and so forth. Not that they’re as interested as I am in the technology.
I’ve tried to scale back this year because it can be an expensive hobby but I still have a multitude of devices.
I like to run Linux on my laptops but sometimes need Windows for work. This has resulted in me using VirtualBox and dual-boot to try out various operating systems.
I currently have two main laptops, two tablets and five working phones, although three of the phones are used only on WiFi to keep them up to date. I’ll get to them shortly.
The newest and main device is a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7, which I bought with this year’s tax refund. It has multiple ports and 16GB of memory, and converts to a touchscreen tablet on the road.
The laptop is running Windows 11 for work purposes. Inside VirtualBox there are current Linux versions of:
I like the mental challenge of installing Arch and Void from a terminal. Fedora is easier to install and it’s a good, stable, cutting-edge distribution.
My second, older and smaller laptop is an Asus Zenbook, also with 16GB RAM. It runs in dual-boot mode with Kubuntu and Windows 11. If Linux distros were women, Ubuntu (or Kubuntu) is the one a gadget guy should marry. She’s attractive, stable and low-maintenance.
By contrast, Arch and Void are exciting but risky.
My Kubuntu distro also has VirtualBox with running versions of Windows 10, Arch and Puppy Void.
When I started experimenting with Linux about 20 years ago, my first introductions were to Mandrake (now Mandriva) and Suse, with Puppy coming along shortly afterwards.
Puppy is a unique Australian-developed distro, taking up a small computer footprint and running out of memory from a USB. It can also be installed to a section of a hard drive. It looks daggy and retro at first, but can be polished into a sleek machine.
Package management varies across different distro families, which again is good mental exercise for a gadget guy to remember and execute. I increasingly use Flatpak, which is universal and up to date.
For anyone who wants to install multiple operating systems, I recommend doing your homework and use Ventoy to manage ISO images. It enables you to keep several on the same memory stick.
My current daily driver is a Google Pixel 6 Pro running Android 13. I also have a Surface Duo 2 with Android 12.
Most people are familiar with Android and the Pixel Pro is Google’s own flagship. The Surface Duo by Microsoft is unique for having two screens which fold into a single unit. It can run separate apps on each screen or a single app can use the entire screen space.
I like it, but the phone is actually awkward to use as a phone. It’s better as a secondary device for extra productivity.
My older phones are mainly for experimentation:
- Xiaomi Poco (Ubuntu Touch)
- Nokia Lumia (Windows 10)
- Apple iPhone (iOS 15).
The Pocophone is several years old and originally ran Android. Through some magic which I don’t really understand, I managed to flash Linux onto it.
Ubuntu Touch works perfectly well for basic tasks (eg phone, SMS and calendar) but I had issues with syncing contacts and the app store is limited. Email works best with web apps.
The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL is an interesting beast, released in 2015 as a Windows flagship. I bought one new and cheap on eBay in 2018 and loved it. Its camera was still among the best a few years ago.
It’s disappointing that Windows discontinued its mobile operating system because Google and Apple could do with more competition, and the hardware was very good.
Unfortunately, app developers didn’t really embrace it and market share never took off.
Now seven years old, it still functions as a phone but the Windows operating system no longer receives updates and a lot of things don’t work as they should. The web browser is now sadly out of date and probably a security risk. The email app no longer works with Gmail.
I still dust it off occasionally to see what does work and wonder what might have been.
Everyone knows about iPhones. Mine is a cute but dated iPhone 7 which no longer receives iOS updates but works perfectly fine. I use it occasionally to keep my iTunes account active.
Gadget guy tablets
Not counting the Surface Duo, I currently use a Surface Go and an iPad Mini, having recently disposed of a Xiaomi Android device and a Huawei Matebook.
Unfortunately for this gadget guy, Android just doesn’t cut it as a tablet operating system. It’s okay to watch video in bed or on a plane but it’s not as good as an iPad or Surface for productivity.
My Surface Go is a few years old but I managed to unofficially install Windows 11, which I think makes it better for using in touchscreen mode.
The iPad Mini is my favorite tablet for daily use. It’s just the right size and weight for reading books, newspapers and documents, and streaming video. Unfortunately it has a cracked screen, so I might have to get a new one when the range is updated!
What’s the point of keeping multiple devices and operating systems? There’s none really, but I like to experiment, it’s an interesting hobby and keeps my mind busy on dull days.
If I was starting out on a career now I’d probably consider IT. I certainly wouldn’t recommend journalism to anybody today but that’s another post.