Featured in The Linux Setup

Late last year I answered some questions by Steven Ovadia of Linux Rig to get my Linux setup featured on The Linux Setup.

Having a long queue scheduled, it took some time to get my interview out, but it’s up now: The Linux Setup: Pasi Lallinaho, Xubuntu. The article has one outdated bit of information; since April 2018, I’m no longer a Xubuntu council member.

If you are interested more in my hardware, read My major hardware upgrade for some details and the reasoning why I decided to go with the NUC.

My major hardware upgrade

I confess: I hate hardware purchases with a passion.

But as all good (or not so good things), all hardware needs to be replaced at some point; either because you need a new feature, your use case changes and the hardware isn’t (as) suitable any more or the hardware simply reaches its end of life.

This time my upgrade is a combination of the latter two.

Let’s start with a little story…

One shiny summer day in 2017 I noticed my old Dell monitors were having serious problems waking up after being unplugged from power and plugged back in. The problems were actually so severe that one of the monitors failed to start after this power cycle completely.

After assessing the situation, I quickly came to the conclusion that it was time for more than just a monitor replacement or upgrade. My desktop computer back then was honestly very old and slow and most annoyingly, very noisy.

My preferences, needs and values had all changed also after the birth of my son in 2015. My office was already as paperless as possible (I haven’t ever owned a printer in my adult life). Now I wanted to make the office less like an office – like an officeless office. How would that be possible?

Main unit: Intel NUC7I5BNH

I had been looking for the Intel NUC’s before but had never had the guts to pull the trigger. One of the major questions for me was whether the new system would be powerful enough for my purposes.

After some considering between the options available I ended up with a NUC7I5BNH, a latest generation NUC with an i5 processor and enough space for a 2.5″ disk drive inside in addition to the M.2 slot. Graphics processing was going to take a relatively serious hit. I would also have to reconsider my needs regarding audio. On the top of it all, the latest generation wasn’t officially supporting Linux…

Regardless of all the potential issues I was ready to try something new – at least this NUC would be quiet, power efficient and have a form factor that begged to be stored on the desk, not the floor. Additionally it was small enough to serve potential use cases around and outside the house for the vastly improved mobility.

Input: Logitech K810 and M590

As the main unit moved onto the desk, it was also a good time to consider other devices that would be sharing the space. Until this setup, I had always preferred corded keyboard and mice to the wireless alternatives for various reasons (security, battery life, design options).

With my newly launched officeless office idea, I wanted the accessories to be very mobile as well. Being able to clean up most of the desktop space for other activities would be very handy.

For the keyboard, I ended up with a Logitech K810, a multi-device Bluetooth keyboard. I tested it once and was sold – the typing feel was close enough to the old flat keyboards I had used and the look was appealing too.

While I was slightly disappointed with the Bluetooth mouse offerings, I ended up with a Logitech M590, which is a silent mouse that supports connecting with two devices at the same time.

Both the keyboard and the mouse turned out to be very good choices for my use. If there was one thing I’d change, it was to make the keyboard slightly quieter and softer to type. If this keyboard acts like any other I’ve used in the past, I’m pretty sure the typing feel will slightly change toward what I’m most comfortable with.

As an additional bonus I can now control other devices, including my Android phone, a lot easier. This has essentially ended up offering me completely new use cases that I hadn’t explicitly anticipated; an IRC session with the phone is now actually a pleasure, not something I actively try to avoid.

Monitor: Eizo FlexScan EV2736W

While a broken monitor was the part that made me start the hardware upgrade, figuring out a replacement is such a complex and delicate process that it was also the last part to be replaced. The monitor is what you look at practically the whole time while computing after all!

It was clear to me that I wanted slightly larger screen size than the old 24″ as I was essentially replacing two monitors with one. With that, I also wanted a larger resolution for the screen. After some heavy thinking I decided 27″ would be the right monitor size and 2K felt like the right resolution to go with it.

All the above figured out I finally settled with Eizo FlexScan EV2736W. The main reasons why I decided to pick this one over the similar monitors were the power saving features as well as the generally complimented quality from Eizo. Ultimately the price point was very close to the alternatives and with a 5-year warranty over the usual 3-year warranty the decision felt fairly simple.

While the 2K resolution (2560×1440) is less than two monitors with WUXGA resolution (1920×1200), it’s close enough for me and it does remove the annoying gap in the middle which you get with a dual monitor setup.

Conclusion

After having used this setup for months now I’m really happy how it all came together.

While I must confess there are times when I miss a dedicated graphics card to get that extra oomph, this doesn’t happen too frequently to really bother me. After all, I get all this power-effectiveness and small size in return…

I would heartily recommend a NUC (or a similar alternative) for anybody who is looking for a new desktop machine but doesn’t need heavy lifting required by video editing, gaming or such.

There are some options for heavy lifting usecases too, but to be honest, if you prefer performance, you probably don’t mind using some extra space, the money you save by not requiring your PC to be tiny and ultimately, the flexibility with component selection.

Migrating Google Play application install data

Today I realized that after I had removed one of my old Google accounts from my phone and replaced it with a new one, I no longer received automatic updates for most of my installed apps. Oops!

While you can get a download of your data, including the app installs, Google doesn’t offer any kind of migration tool for this data.

I found a few ways to tackle this situation, none of them perfect:

  • If an installed app had an update available, and I went to the Play Store and manually updated it, it would appear in the list of installed apps. Not all of the apps had updates available though so it would have required frequent attention until all of the apps were updated.
  • Uninstalling and installing an app would do the same trick, but it would essentially lose all information stored with the app so it would have been a lot of work to resetup all accounts, configuration and stored data (and impossible in some cases, like game progress).
  • Linking the old Google account to my phone allowed automatic updates to work, but even after the updates the apps weren’t registered with the new account.

However, I was ultimately able to figure out a semi-manual way to get the apps appear under My Apps in the Play Store:

  • Log in to the new Google account on a computer
  • Go to the Play Store
  • Find the application that is missing from “My Apps”
  • Click “Install” and select the device where the application is missing

After doing this, the Play Store told me the app would be soon installed on the device. Instead of doing any kind of installation, it simply made the app appear on the app list again. Hooray!

I’ve yet to confirm that this enables automatic updates for the apps, but I have no reasons to think it wouldn’t…
Edit: This definitely re-enabled automatic updates. Hooray!