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Installing Linux on an old laptop


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#1 RickR

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Posted 12 October 2017 - 12:19 PM

This all started when MaximumRD found a really nice old netbook at the recycling bin.  He started looking into replacing Windows XP with something different.  I was curious about why.  I have a really old laptop myself with XP that works ok.  A few other nice folks pointed out how unsafe XP is since it's no longer patched or supported.  Let's Do This!  Linux Mint, here I come. 

 

My laptop specs:

  • Dell Latitude D410 - 12" laptop (early 2000's vintage)
  • Intel Pentium M "Centrino" single core CPU at 2.0 GHz
  • 2 GB DDR2 memory
  • 40 GB physical hard drive

Dell D410 laptop 001.JPG

 

I got this laptop for $3 from Goodwill.  I found a power adapter for $0.87 (sold by weight) at the same Goodwill.  It came with a cracked battery (that still worked) and no hard drive.  I had an extra IDE drive in my junk box.  The battery got fixed with some black duct tape.  I also found an external optical drive on ebay for $5. 

 

What I use it for:  I love it because it's so small.  I use it a lot in the kitchen.  To look up recipes and surf the web while I cook.  And sometimes to do Atari.io chats when they were during dinner time!

 

What I upgraded to:  Linux Mint, xfce version (which has low system requirements...perfect for an old PC).  I chose the 32 bit version.

 

How I upgraded:

  • I first backed up the hard drive so I could revert to XP if this didn't work out.  I used Clonezilla.  But there are many other options.
  • I installed the Linux live disk on a USB stick using Rufus.
  • I booted to the Linux live disk.  It gives you the opportunity to try out the OS without actually installing it.  With no hard drive, it's a little slow, but you get a good idea of compatibility.  In my case, the wifi worked, the touchpad and display worked.  Everything looked good.
  • A full install took about 30 minutes. 

What do I think:

  • It works well!  I didn't have to fuss with any driver installs.  Everything worked fine right out the box.  I probably will have some trouble installing a printer driver though.
  • Speed is hugely improved.  Youtube videos play without any glitching (not true on XP).  Firefox worked very quickly....even with Facebook (not true with XP).  Speed wise, it gave new life to this old computer.
  • A lot of great software comes pre-installed.  Firefox, a movie viewer, LibreOffice, music software, image viewer/editor.  I can't think of anything I need to add.
  • On the downside, there is a learning curve.  Installing programs is not so easy on Linux.  Typing in terminal prompts?  Oh brother. 
  • My wife said it looked like a Mac.  That's true.  It does. 
  • I was able to access my Windows share (where I store recipes) pretty easily. 
  • I'm keeping it!

Dell D410 laptop 003.JPG

 

WIN_20171011_20_22_02_Pro.jpg

 


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#2 MaximumRD

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Posted 12 October 2017 - 03:20 PM

Excellent Rick! As you know I installed the same version of Linux Mint on the tiny AcerOne Aspire, though I had a minor issue installing the WiFi I figured it out and now it is all set up and running well. There IS a learning curve yes despite what some might say but overall it definitely is lighter on the resources allow for some thing a Windows OS would really drag with. I LOVE REPURPOSING old tech and using lighter OS alternatives is a great way as well it expands our knowledge. NOTE : I am not a fan of typing into terminal prompts and lost my love for that after years of modern Windows usage (if that makes me lazy so be it but I skipped the DOS age of PC's using the AMIGA workbench GUI then straight to Win98 lol) but there ARE good alternatives for installing more software you might be interested in using Linux Mints own in built Software Manager. I plan on giving it a good look over for anything else I might want to add. On that note you may find THIS of interest :

 

https://sites.google...ct/applications

 

Good stuff Rick, thanks for sharing and have fun! 

 

- Rob. 


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Bah-weep-Graaaaagnah wheep ni ni bong.

I am Rob aka MaximumRD aka OldSchoolRetroGamer
and THIS is my world http://about.me/maximumrd
ON the FACEBOOK? Well have I got the Classic Gaming / Computing group for you!

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#3 RickR

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Posted 12 October 2017 - 03:34 PM

I will check that out.  It is great fun to try new things and LEARN.  Thanks!


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#4 RickR

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Posted 13 October 2017 - 09:31 PM

This evening, I'm watching Netflix on this old laptop.  It works.  Well.  Unbelievable.  That's something I definitely could not do in Windows XP. 

 

I've restarted watching Star Trek: Voyager from the beginning.  Should be pretty fun, I watched this show when it was on originally but have avoided the reruns since. 


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#5 kamakazi20012

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Posted 15 October 2017 - 02:52 AM

I use to have a Dell Latitude that looked almost like that one.  It was a well-made machine but XP kept it from doing the things that it should have been able to do.  And really slow response times when on the internet.  I didn't know of Linux then other than Red Hat and was not a fan of that OS.  Awesome rescue attempt!  And you breathed new life in an otherwise obsolete computer.  Sounds about like what I tried to do with my Armada that is still running Windows 98.  


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#6 MaximumRD

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Posted 16 October 2017 - 02:48 PM

Minor Update: The Acer AspireOne is an Intel Atom based device so my assesment is it is always going to be somewhat slow in use but that said it still manages to do what I need it to. What I like about it is it is so tiny yet solid with it's 10.1 inch display. 

 

On the upside Linux Mint is still very nice, I am fully updated and I think I can say I am taking full advantage of the device as a bonus I had a spare SSD lying about, a 40GB Kingston so I used that to replace the 160GB HDD, sure it is much smaller obviously but considering I have pretty much everything I want on it and I still have 30GB FREE of 38.2GB total, so only 21% of the space is being used it is well worth it for the increase in speed. On top of that I really lucked out as looking through all the spare parts I kept over the years I found a laptop SoDimm so I swapped the memory it already had, 1GB with a 2GB spare one I found, this brings it to the 2GB total that it is capable of. This is awesome as the 1GB was already reaching max with a few tabs open in Firefox, now I have plenty of memory space to spare in this OS. So turns out this little find is even better with the upgrades, seems it was meant to be. Lastly I have installed several new programs including Chromium Browser just now and all done using the Software Manager built into Linux Mint. Fun stuff. I will definitely keep this device and keep Linux Mint installed on it.  :)


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Bah-weep-Graaaaagnah wheep ni ni bong.

I am Rob aka MaximumRD aka OldSchoolRetroGamer
and THIS is my world http://about.me/maximumrd
ON the FACEBOOK? Well have I got the Classic Gaming / Computing group for you!

;) https://www.facebook...ximumrdclassic/


#7 RickR

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Posted 16 November 2017 - 05:36 PM

Not Linux, but...

 

I thought I'd share this little laptop I mentioned before.  It runs Windows 10.  I bought this one a few years ago at retail, and it's super nice.  It has no mechanical parts at all...no fans, no hard drive, so it's very light and quiet.  It runs a 4-core Intel Atom, has 2 GB of memory, and 32 GB flash memory (as a hard drive).  I got a really nice bluetooth  mouse from a thrift store today, and it works great with this PC. 

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  • IMG_08241.JPG

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#8 TrekMD

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Posted 16 November 2017 - 09:56 PM

I'm about to do this on a core I3 HP I have that the Windows 10 got all messed up.  It's a nice machine but I don't need another Windows laptop.  I want a nice Linux laptop.  I'm trying to decide which version to install.  I don't like Ubuntu but I have tried Zorin OS, which is pretty cool, and I have seen Mint but I've not tried it. I guess I'll try to run it on a memory stick and see what it is like. 


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Going to the final frontier, gaming...


#9 RickR

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Posted 16 November 2017 - 11:28 PM

Mint seems pretty solid.  It's been going strong on my old machine now for a while with no complaints. 


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#10 TrekMD

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 09:39 AM

I think I'm going to try it to see.  Zorin is pretty good as well. 


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Going to the final frontier, gaming...


#11 dgrubb

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Posted 19 November 2017 - 12:17 PM

Good attitude, glad you got something useful out of that machine. I usually buy Chromebooks because they're extremely cheap (~$200), the battery life is amazing and the hardware is well-supported on Linux (naturally). Then I remove the firmware protection screw and install https://galliumos.org/ or Debian.

 

 

 

  • On the downside, there is a learning curve.  Installing programs is not so easy on Linux.  Typing in terminal prompts?  Oh brother. 

 

I'm going to gently push back on this point. You're on Mint so installing multiple large suites of software (simultaneously!) becomes a simple one-liner:

$ sudo apt-get install <prog1> <prog2> <prog3>

especially when contrasted to Windows with its ad-hoc installers, reboots and registry-rot if you remove/reinstall software?

 

I'll grant there's a learning curve attached to the terminal, but its one which allows for far easier interaction in the long term.


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#12 RickR

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Posted 19 November 2017 - 01:22 PM

I agree with your point on Chromebooks.  It's really nice to get a brand new computer sometimes -- everything is new and works, and the battery is fresh.  $200 is a great price to pay.  I had no  idea they could be hacked, so that's good to know for future reference.  At the same time, it's just really cool to re-purpose something old and useless.  A computer for $3???  Why not.  Makes a fun project.

 

The little tiny laptop a few posts above was $150 from Staples.  They (and office depot) usually have something similar still for $200-$250.  I'd say they are totally worth it, but only if it comes with a good CPU.  Avoid the AMD E1, or any single-core processor.  Heck, the Windows 10 license alone is $125 or so by itself! 

 

Your push back on installing on linux is fine by me...it's just different.  Once you get the hang of it, no big deal at all.  And as MaximumRD mentioned, most of the stuff you need is available via the Software Manager app, and that's super easy to use. 


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#13 RickR

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 01:42 PM

OK, I've come across something I can't do from Mint Linux.  You can't "cast" (to a Chromecast) from the Chromium browser from the comcast web site.  I know...pretty obscure thing to do.  But that's how I've gotten out of paying their extra monthly fee for extra cable boxes.  Just watch TV in a browser and cast to a large TV.  The Xfinity app requires Windows 7+ or MaxOS X +. 



#14 TrekMD

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 02:01 PM

Interesting.  I wonder why that is the case. You'd figure it would work.  Now, Chromium is based on Chrome.  Have you tried installing the actual Chrome browser to see if it works?


Going to the final frontier, gaming...


#15 RickR

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 04:12 PM

Interesting.  I wonder why that is the case. You'd figure it would work.  Now, Chromium is based on Chrome.  Have you tried installing the actual Chrome browser to see if it works?

I couldn't figure out if actual Chrome was available.  It isn't in the "software center".  Going to the Chrome web page brings up a Debian version that won't install.  And also running a bunch of command line options to get it didn't work either.  Herein lies the problem with Linux -- the one I've experienced before.  Some things are just not possible due to all the different flavors of the OS.  Stick to the script and everything is ok, but try to do something a little different, and it feels like you are out in the wilderness on your own. 



#16 RickR

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 04:14 PM

Oh and just to be clear....casting from Chromium does work from most pages.  It's just that xfinity/comcast page that won't.  I blame them.  They just don't seem open to letting people use the service they paid for with a little freedom. 






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