A brief product endorsement

I’ll take a second to shamelessly plug this laptop I’m using. I know the market for 300Mhz Pentium II machines has more or less hit the low end of the curve, but thus far I’ve been very pleased with this box — a Dell Latitude CPi A300XT, serial number WMRB9, according to the BIOS.

I pulled this one out of the trash heap at the local recycling center, put memory, a hard drive, a spare optical drive, a battery, a hard drive caddy and a memory access panel on it, and probably spent less than $40 on all that (yes, including a new Samsung 20Gb 5400rpm hard drive). If I had it in me, I could bump it up to 256Mb on a single stick. … Come to think of it, I think I will!

It uses the same standard swappable drive bays as the old 8000-series Inspirons, which means you could, if you wanted, drop in a new dual-layer DVD+-RW, or a second hard drive, or just about anything else. I don’t think there’s a Mini-PCI bay, but there is the PCMCIA option for wireless. (I use a WPC11 v3, which is fantastic, by the way.)

Linux runs like a champ on this, and Arch is a dream on it. Ubuntu is good, but 300Mhz is about where Ubuntu falls off and performance starts to fall, in my experience.

I swapped out the 800×600 screen for a 1024×768 model, taken from another carcass. The video card is a bit of a lightweight (it’s a NeoMagic MagicGraph 256AV, according to lspci), so that’s a downside. But it works, so I can’t complain.

The only other feature I would change is the way the memory braces are aligned: They point toward each other, which means if you need a matching pair of low-profile memory chips to use both braces. For now I’m just using one 128Mb stick and a second won’t fit because the tops bang against each other. Classic design flaw.

It predates the power-sucking monsters that are the norm these days; battery life is two hours, and that’s on a leftover cell from a machine sold in 2001. And that’s only ’til the display light turns orange. I can usually run it down for another 45 minutes before it just shuts off completely.

The best part is, they’re only worth about $100 on ebay. You can easily pick one of these up for the price of a fancy dinner with your date, or a new mid-grade video card for gaming. And I can guarantee you’ll come away much more satisfied than you would with heartburn, or running WoW at 800×600 and middle-of-the-road detail.

Trust me on this one. If you’re in the market, pick one up. If you’ve got $100 left over and you want to tinker, pick one up. They’re worth it.

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2 Responses to “A brief product endorsement”

  1. 1 unixshell 2007/01/27 at 4:17 PM

    Hmm, I’ve not played with Arch for a good while. Thanks for giving me an idea of what to do with the rest of the evening; I’ll drop it on my 128Mb 433MHz Celeron and have a play around!

  2. 2 unixshell 2007/01/28 at 4:59 PM

    Nice, as I remembered it. I’d forgotten the BSD/Slack-like rc stuff, which caught me out for a moment (I’ll have to get speedtouchconf (http://speedtouchconf.sourceforge.net/) working properly with the init script, as Arch would make for a very nice firewall).

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Visit the Wiki!

Some recent desktops

May 6, 2011
Musca 0.9.24 on Crux Linux
150Mhz Pentium 96Mb 8Gb CF

May 14, 2011
IceWM 1.2.37 and Arch Linux
L2300 core duo 3Gb 320Gb

Some recent games

Apr. 21, 2011
Oolite on Xubuntu 11.04
L2300 core duo 3Gb 320Gb

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