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Introduction to Linux - A Hands on Guide
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And pretty much any latop sold with W7, Vista, XP can run Linux just fine. It was W8 laptop the one that where made so they couldnt boot any Linux distribution, so to avoid headaches dont buy a laptop currently with Windows 8.
ASUS, Lenovo, Toshiba. Are brands that support Linux pretty well if you find an Ultrabook of these brands running Windows 7 chances are it will run Ubuntu or Linux Mint perfectly.
It doesnt hurt to look but if you find one with Intel technology will probably be better, Broadcom wireless dont play too good with Linux so keep that in mind.
As long as it has Win 7 or earlier, Intel graphics, and Intel wireless, you should have absolutely no problems. If you deviate from this you may or may not run into issues, usually correctable, but they can be a pain nonetheless.
Also need to write on something like Microsoft word and use something like excel.
most distros have openoffice / libreoffice installed by default.
i run fedora-19 live-usb on an hp elitebook 8460p and it runs well.
a friend of mine bought a win-8 laptop from hp and he hated it... the customer representitive transferred him to the business site and he ordered the same laptop with ubuntu pre-installed on it and he loves it.
If the OP is planning on wiping Windows, and not dual booting, wouldn't that negate any concerns about WinD'ohs8 interference?
To the OP: Stay away from Ubuntu. It USED to be good....I used to use it myself- but the current incarnation of it has become a lot like Windows- i.e. bloated; crash-prone and slow- and it contains tons of spyware! I don't know about you, but for me, those were the very reasons I dumped WinD'ohs.....so I see no point to having a Linux distro which duplicates those very things, eh?
Also, bear in mind, that many of the lighter Linux distros, like Crunchbang, will make even an old computer work as good as a new one, and are more than capable of doing all the things you mentioned with ease- so remember, that you don't need the latest/greatest laptop. If you're so inclined, an older used laptop would work fine for your needs.
And....welcome to the world of Linux! I've been using Linux for 3 years now, and am WinD'ohs-free.....and I have tyo say that switching to Linux was one of the best decisions I ever made! It takes all the frustration out of computing, and gives you control, while unleashing the power of your computer; and allows you to maintain your privacy [Well...not if you go with Ubuntu...]. You're about to embark on a fantastic voyage! Enjoy!
And the beauty is: Since Linux is free...you can download and experiment with many different distros, till you find the one that is perfect for YOU!! There are also many reviews of tons of distros on Youtube...
One thing to look out for and avoid is the use of the Nvidia Optimus graphics system which is not properly supported in Linux (Nvidia's fault, not Linux's): it uses up the battery charge. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nvidia_Optimus