Our first venture into laptop purchasing took place about six years ago when we bought an Acer Aspire 5315, closely followed by an Acer Aspire 5920 — or perhaps the other way around. When I bought them both machines were running Windows Vista. The plan was to use them in place of our ageing desktop machine, which had just broken again, but it soon became clear that wasn’t practical, and we ended up getting another desktop PC, and then a third, in addition to these. One of them then lost all its data plus the operating system in a disk crash. After discovering there was apparently no way to restore the operating system I had bought and paid for, I eventually installed Windows 7 on it, and it has now become a server for our printers and backup hard disk.
The other was a Mandriva machine for a little while before having Ubuntu installed and becoming my son’s university computer. It was retired when we bought him a new one, but he somehow managed to destroy that, so recently I brought the 5315 out of retirement so he could use it again. He needed Windows, so I installed Windows XP and quickly found myself in Driver Hell — the ethernet, wifi and sound systems all required their own special driver software, sometimes amounting to hundreds of megabytes. Downloading these from the web didn’t take too long, but the problem then was, which of them to install out of the five or so choices for each? Fiddling around didn’t seem to help.
Then I had a brainwave. I cleared off the disk and installed Mint XFCE, which was relatively quick and easy. It takes care of all the hardware issues. On top of that I added VirtualBox, and in VirtualBox I installed Windows XP for the Windows things he has to do. It also runs smoothly and rapidly — and all this on a six-year-old laptop which was never scorchingly fast in the first place. Mint XFCE is essentially there as a driver set, but the other facilities it offers make it ideal. Mint has saved our bacon with grace and style once again.