In the interests of transparency and allowing people to assess my own bias in these blog posts I've listed here the boxes I use (and have used since I started this blog in 2007) at home.

The more interesting part for me however is seeing how hardware has changed (or in some cases, hasn't!) over the last 10 years. For example clock speeds and storage space haven't changed very much at all, but we have all benefited from more cores, faster storage devices and cheaper RAM. The other big shift is from 15.4" laptops with disc drives to 13" ultrabooks with longer battery life.

Other themes you'll notice is that Ubuntu features heavily. I have experimented with using other distros full time (eg. Fedora, Arch, Debian, OpenSUSE, Mint, etc) but I always seem to fall back to Ubuntu when I want to actually get some work done. These days I tend stick to the long term support (LTS) versions and upgrade every couple of years for native installs and do all my experimenting in virtual machines.

Last updated: September 2017

DescriptionTypeOriginal Operating SystemOperating System(s) natively installedHardware SpecsWhat I use it forAcquired
HP Spectre 13 Laptop Windows 10 Home Windows 10 Pro 2.4GHz quad core Intel Core i5-6200U, 8GB RAM, 250GB SSD Everyday tasks, Portability November 2016
Self-built Gaming rig Desktop None Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, Windows 10 Pro 4GHz eight core AMD FX8350, 16GB RAM, AMD RX 480 graphics, 500GB SSD, 2 x 1TB SSHD PC gaming, Virtualization, Software development March 2016 (upgraded April 2017)*
Dell Optiplex 945 Desktop Windows XP Professional Ubuntu 16.04 LTS 2.13GHz dual core Intel Core 2 Duo E6400, 4GB RAM, 160GB HDD, DVD-RW drive, 3.5" floppy drive Distaction-free writing, Training courses, Software development June 2017**

*Started out with an MSI-branded AMD R9 380 graphics card. This is the most powerful computer I've ever owned or used, but I think it's fair to say it was built on a shoestring budget! While it might be on the lower-powered end of the PC gaming spectrum it was my first proper self-built gaming rig and is still modern enough to perform its primary function well, so I'm quite proud of it.

**This will be getting some upgrades over the next year or two, and may change OS as a result. It's not a bad setup though given the workstation is at least 10 years old and was bought cheap from a recycler.

Past laptops

As I was a student (and moved around a lot as a result) my laptop was my primary workhorse for everything. I don't own any of those listed anymore, but I guess it's a testament to how important these machines were to me that I still remember their obscure model numbers!

For the laptop I used 2014-2016 see the Macbook Air entry in "A brief history of Macs". I haven't included the Netbook fad that struck the industry around 2008-2011, but for those interested I went through an Asus Eee PC 900 and two Acer Aspire One ZG5s.

DescriptionOriginal Operating SystemUsual dual-booted Operating SystemsHardware SpecsTenure
15.5" jet black custom-built Sony VAIO VPC-EB Windows 7 Home Premium Ubuntu Linux, Windows 7 Professional 2.53GHz dual core Intel Core i5-540M, 6GB RAM, 500GB HDD, BD-RW drive 2010-2013
16.4" Sony VAIO VGN-FW21L Windows Vista Home Premium Ubuntu/Fedora Linux, Windows Vista Home Premium 2GHz dual core Intel Core 2 Duo T5800, 3GB RAM, 250GB HDD, Blu-ray drive 2008-2010*
15.4" Toshiba Satellite L20 Windows Vista Home Basic Ubuntu Linux, Windows XP Professional 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M 730, 2GB RAM, 80GB HDD, DVD-RW drive 2007-2008**

*See this article for some triple-boot action with Windows 7 beta!

**This originally started out with 512MB RAM, which rendered Vista practically unusable. I ranted about it in several different places and suspect it was a big motivator for me to finally start dual-booting Linux. The rest, of course, is history.

Research machines

These aren't PCs I use for day-to-day tasks. Often they're for specialised purposes like retro gaming, networking or specific tasks. (I have a number of old Raspberry Pis, but I've omitted them from this list)

DescriptionTypeOriginal Operating SystemOperating System(s) natively installedHardware SpecsAcquired
Dell Latitude X200 Laptop Windows 2000 Professional Windows XP Professional 800MHz Intel Pentium III, 640MB RAM, 120GB HDD April 2017*
Asus Eee PC 900 Netbook Windows XP Home Edition Debian 6 "Squeeze" 900MHz Intel Celeron M 353, 1GB RAM, 20GB SSD August 2016

*This started out with a 40GB PATA HDD and just 128MB of in-built RAM. When I figure out how to do it safely I'll also replace the dead CMOS battery. You can read this blog post to find out more about my initial tinkering with this machine.

I'm looking forward to working on the blog content these will generate in coming months.

A brief history of Macs

As things stand I use Macs at work but I don't use them at home. Although credit to the machines listed below they were still in fantastic condition by the time I was done with them and they were very easy to sell on to others.

DescriptionHardware SpecsTenure
13" Macbook Air (mid-2013) 1.7GHz dual core Intel Core i7, 8GB RAM, 256GB flash storage 2014-2016*
Mac Mini (mid-2010) 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD 2011-2016**

*I decided to "kill two birds with one stone" when the laptop that had served me well through university was finally on its last legs. The Air was a good machine overall, but in the end I found its insistence on having OSX natively-installed (messing with bootcamp or natively-installing Linux almost always broke things) and limited hardware support restrictive. I also suspect I would have been better off with a MacBook Pro given the Air struggled at times to be my main workhorse.

**I picked this up while I was at university with the intention of learning how to develop mobile applications, but within a year XCode wouldn't run on the box because Apple likes to arbitrarily force-deprecate things. As a result it partially helped me learn how to use Macs, but actually spent most of its time being my "distraction-free writing" box and a network media server.

I felt quite sad about getting rid of it because it was a good little machine, but the Mini was starting to struggle with running modern versions of OSX and thanks to Apple's annoying restrictions it's tricky to install much else on it.

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