Saturday 26 April 2008

The 30 Quid Laptop

Bargain Budget Hardware.

About a year ago, I was in need of a laptop, and with a meagre budget, I bought two ancient Toshiba Tecra 8000 laptops for £30. Both have 233MHz Pentium 2 CPUs and one came with 64MB of ram, the other had 32MB. I decided to use one and keep the other for spares as they had only one 4GB hard drive, battery and cdrom between them. I transferred the ram, battery, HDD and cdrom into the best one, as one had broken lid-catch. Despite not working, I had to keep the battery as it forms part of the underside and front of the machine, so it's just dead-weight really!

A Suitable OS.

The hard drive had Windows 98 installed which I used, until I was fed up with it's poor USB support and buggy nature. It did boot quickly, but was also let down by lack of security - pressing escape at the login bypassed it! Perhaps this was rectified at some point but I wanted something better. I then dabbled with Damn Small Linux, Puppy Linux and other small distros, but I could not get the Yamaha on-board sound or wireless working with my Ralink USB adapter. So I installed Windows 2000, which was an improvement over 98 but took up a lot of space without additional programs, and i really wanted Linux on it.

'Linux for human beings'

Ubuntu 7.10 arrived in late 2007 with is much improved over previous versions great wireless support. I installed Kubuntu on my desktop machine on November 5th (my birthday!) and I am writing this on it now, having since been a Gnome convert, 8.04 has just come out and I will update it soon. Anyway, I installed Xubuntu on my laptop in dual boot with Windows, sharing half the hard drive. XFCE is a great desktop environment, just enough Gnome features without being so heavy on resources. I've been adding programs, being careful to choose lightweight programs. For a media player I have chosen Audacious which is like an updated XMMS (like a linux version of Winamp), it has a nice on-screen display plugin and plays so smoothly on such a low spec machine. I use Firefox with Flashblock installed as Flash tends to cripple old machines. I recently deleted Windows off the hard drive using Gparted and moved /home onto the fresh partition using a tutorial I found here. After all, i can do everything i want/need with Linux now so I hardly need Windows at all!

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