Back in November I purchased a Pinebook from Pine64 and I waited. I waited and waited until finally after over a month it arrived at my door; a glorious DHL driver gently placing it in my hands. Within 5 minutes I had the packaging torn away and the lid of the little laptop open and ready to go.
When the computer first booted up, the KDE Neon logo shined brightly and the desktop loaded rather quickly. The touchpad was a little jittery, but all things can be excused for a $99 laptop. First thing's first, begin loading programs to see where the choke-point is. After installing a few programs, I tried loading LibreOffice and Firefox sumultaneously. It took a while for both programs to load, but once loaded, they both operated without too many stutters. I could surf the web and write up an essay without much ado.
I purchased this pretty little laptop for a specific purpose, though. To grind out words on the screen and push them to my blog. My favorite tool for writing has long been Wordgrinder. So I searched for it in the repositories and came up empty. I had to be doing something wrong. It is a pretty little program that doesn't really require much, so what gives?
A few minutes of internet searches left me feeling a little put off, but I finally compiled the program from source (which took a very long time) and had it up and running. Of course the RAM footprint of Wordgrinder is negligible, so it ran perfectly well. However, I still had an itch to really get this new little laptop in ship shape, which means that I needed the appropriate OS running. Neon is great, don't get me wrong, but it is too flashy and RAM intensive for my needs. What I really wanted was a minimal Debian install with just enough GUI to use a web browser. So my search began.
To my disappointment, there was no real Debian distribution that I could find. I found a few variants of Debian, but nothing that wasn't heavily modified and flashy like Neon. I just wanted to find something plain and simple, without the glamour of the heavier distros. Heck, I would even go for a GUI-less install of Debian and just use Lynx for my web browsing if I had to. But alas, therein lay the problem.
I am not exactly sure how the computer chose which drive to boot from, but there are specific requirements. There is no BIOS or UEFI menu to choose your bootable drive, so you can't just go download Debian ARM or Slackware ARM and expect it to boot, and I am not experienced enough to know what is needed to get one of those images to boot. So I was left with the short list of distributions on the Pine64 website, all of which are probably perfectly fine for most people, but of course I have that little niggling in the back of my brain that reminds me how much RAM I'm wasting everytime I turn my computer on.
So I continued to use the little Pinebook and tweak it as I went. I wrote many an article on the little machine. Eventually a friend of mine convinced me to try Manjaro Linux. Manjaro for the Pinebook was my first introduction to the LXQt project and it was relatively fantastic as experiences go. Everything worked and it worked very quickly. I still had to compile Wordgrinder from source, but I was feeling optimistic. Manjaro + LXQt was a very nice break from the flashy, bloat-filled distros that were out there for the Pinebook. There was no real work requred to get the system up and running. The only modifications that I made were purely aesthetic. In fact, dear reader, if you have or are thinking about purchasing a Pinebook, I would strongly recommend installing Manjaro Linux on your machine right away.
Eventually, however, I still longed for the familiar embrace of GTK+ and Debian and everything that went with it. After some consideration I decided that perhaps the Pinebook simply wasn't for me. My friend who suggested Manjaro was in need of another Pinebook (he already had one, but his wife wanted one), so I decided to let mine go and continue my search for the perfect little writer's laptop.