Q: Despite having spent my entire career in tech, I have always been a slow adopter (aka cheapskate, privacy freak and cynic) in my personal tech habits. Whenever I get a new computer, I do so to some lower-priced model that is being phased out. I bought my first Mac laptop in January 2007, and then replaced it with a late-2010 MacBook Air in 2014. I only use my computer for accessing the internet, sifting through photos (before storing offline), and some light spreadsheet work or word processing (no music, movies, calendars, or games).
My late-2010 MacBook Air is reaching its end game if I stick with Mac OS. I cannot upgrade my Mac OS because of the vintage hardware. I am fastidious about online security but, needless to say, I am concerned about not being able to receive security updates because of the vintage of my OS and browsers.
Recently I went into a local PC store (yes, we have one of those family businesses up here still!), and the guy running it brought out a 2013 MacBook Air that he converted to Linux. I was intrigued and did some cursory research online, and it appears I could go with Ubuntu Linux and squeeze a little more life out of my MacBook Air.
Data migration would not be an issue; I recently moved everything offline in 2021 when I had to upgrade my Mac OS (so I only have some incremental files to migrate). I don’t know what I’d have to do with my Word and Excel files in a Linux environment, but I’m sure there are solutions. I am ignorant about Linux security.
Could you tell me the pros and cons of going Linux and keeping my 2010 MacBook Air?
— Mike Joines, Anacortes
A: Yes, you can run Ubuntu Linux on MacBooks, though it will require installing virtual machine software. Fortunately, there is UTM, a free and open-source package that will do the job.
Ubuntu is also free and open source. And from what I can tell it is at least as secure as Apple operating systems.
Finally, you can work with those Word and Excel files in LibreOffice on Ubuntu.
That said, I hesitate recommending moving from a familiar operating system to a new one, especially if you are a slow adopter. Learning the ins and outs of new operating system, as well as different versions of the programs you’re use to working with can be challenging. And while there is an active community of Ubuntu users you can call on for help, you’re not likely to find many neighbors, co-workers or family members who can offer advice if you run into a problem.
For my part, yes, out of curiosity I installed Ubuntu on one of my computers a while ago. And I was impressed with its capabilities.
But if you don’t have that curiosity I’d suggest doing one of two things. My first recommendation is to upgrade to a newer MacBook that continues to receive security updates. Secondly, if that’s not an option you could continue to use your old MacBook but I’d urge you to be extra cautious about clicking on links and visiting websites that may not be trustworthy. And, of course, regularly back up any data you care about in case you get hit with malware.
Q: I have an HP laptop that I bought from HP via its website. My issue is that suddenly I am getting an error message saying the battery is counterfeit. I bought direct so this should not be so. Is there a way that I can stop this warning without going to a computer store?
— Karen Schlemmer
A: This is a known issue that HP acknowledges, and they have provided instructions that should get rid of that error message. Essentially, you need to uninstall and then reinstall drivers that manage the battery. You’ll find detailed instructions here: st.news/battery-help.