Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
After years of authorized and -- I admit -- the occasional unauthorized but non-tampering snooping, I'm overdue to offer reciprocity. I'm not naive enough to throw open my machine for everyone to examine online, but, over the years, I have developed several pages of hard-earned notes that I follow and revise whenever I buy and set up a new computer.
Since I'm currently mulling buying another computer in the spring, I'm sharing them now. I figure that many other people share my insatiable curiosity, and, like me, can find a benefit or two by seeing how someone else approaches the task of preparing a computer to run with their favorite free operating system.
Selecting hardware and general setup
If I were doing nothing more than writing and web work, I wouldn't buy a new computer. Instead, I'd get a refurbished two or three year old computer from Free Geek Vancouver, saving me cash and making me environmentally responsible while giving me all the computing power I need.
However, I occasionally do graphics work or review software that strains system resources, so I try to have at least one reasonably up to date computer. I always buy a customized workstation from a small specialty store (every major urban center should have a couple) after researching GNU/Linux hardware compatibility. Then, when it's assembled, I take a live CD -- preferably from my distribution of choice -- and test the assembled computer at the store before I take it home. These days, hardware compatibility is less and less of an issue, but, by making this effort, I sidestep any problems that might lessen the joy of a new machine.
Annoyingly, I don't have the same option for a customized machine if I buy a laptop.