Notes from the family IT department

Switching to a barebone mini PC (Intel NUC)

I have always wanted to build my own PC and join the cool kids on /r/pcmasterrace, but I have never really had a need for a custom setup (+ I am not a gamer & have a strong dislike for RGB lights). Yet when our family laptop’s screen would no longer turn on I couldn’t stop myself browsing YouTube for PC building tutorials. My wife tried to convince me to give fixing the laptop a shot (in my defense I did open it up and re-plugged some wires), but my mind was already made-up: we must-have a new family PC

I started making a shortlist of criteria that quickly dismissed many options:

  1. No local keyboard layout – we bought our family laptop when we moved to Spain and I stupidly didn’t consider the keyboard layout. I learned typing on a standard QWERTY layout and never got used to the differences, especially the locations for symbols. There is a great Dutch proverb: “even a donkey doesn’t bump into the same stone twice” – I will now always consider the keyboard layout before making a new purchase.
  2. Easy to transport – we are moving to the United States and our stuff will be in a shipping container for months. We need a portable PC that can travel with us in our luggage. I know what you (& my wife) are thinking: “a laptop sounds perfect”. We, however, hardly ever used the family laptop outside our home office, where it is hooked up to a monitor, and to meet criteria 1: lead-times for importing a laptop are too long (or I am too impatient).
  3. No Operating System installed – I have an incredible dislike for bloatware on any of my devices and always try to do a clean install and tinker in the settings to remove unnecessary applications. The PC ideally has no OS so from the start I can perform a clean install with minimal software preinstalled. I have also wanted to give Linux a try so in my mind there was the nice perk of being able to avoid Windows altogether.

These criteria significantly cut the potential options, but there was an interesting segment I had never looked at before: the mini PC. Mini PC’s basically consist of laptop hardware in an extremely small form factor. They have many ports allowing the user to hookup all the peripherals one needs. What really sparked my interest was the option to buy one barebone. A barebone mini PC requires the user to separately install memory and storage. The lack of a preinstalled hard drive also means there is no OS installed. I watched many YouTube tutorials about mini PC’s & bought our family a barebone Intel NUC 11, RAM, and a SSD. Although this does not exactly qualify as building your own PC, opening up the device and installing the RAM + SSD did feel very satisfying.

Next I installed Ubuntu and our family officially joined the Linux gang. In the future I might write more about our experience with Linux, but for now I will avoid the stereotype:

A vegan, a crossfitter, and a linux user walked into a bar.
I only know because they told everyone within 2 minutes.