Meet the Little Laptop That Could

Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.

Part of my incentive in buying a new hard drive was knowing that I could put the old spare into the Sotec I “borrowed” from work, and give it a run under Linux.

So here are before photos (Yes! I remembered the before photos!) of the Little Laptop That Could.

Hideous, isn’t it? Just as a reminder, this is strictly 1998-era hardware I’m working with.

  • AMD K6-2 450Mhz CPU
  • 256Mb PC100 (?) memory;
  • SM712 LynxEM+ video;
  • 1024×768 screen;

and the requisite extras, like a CDROM, sound card, etc. The hard drive will be a 40Gb 5400rpm Hitachi Travelstar 5K80 (HTS548040M9AT00). It’s a good drive, and one that I have used in emergencies (like my recent crash) without too many issues. It’s not the fastest drive on the block, but it gets the job done.

Note the Windows 98SE sticker. Well, I wonder where XP came from. … :roll:

Performance under XP is absolutely abysmal. Booting from BIOS to the end of hard drive access is close to five minutes (don’t give me that crap about how Windows is ready when the desktop appears. That’s a trick, and you know it. It’s still loading garbage, and only does that so you don’t complain about how long it takes to start). Any desktop action — tooltips, single-clicking, you name it — incurs another wrathful session of drive-paging. Getting anything done on this machine is an absolute miracle.

The dirty paper taped to the front left says the floppy drive is out of order, but to be honest, I think it works. At least, it grunts when the machine is turned on. Of course, that’s not proof, but it’s at least a sign of life.

So here’s the plan, for now.

  1. First, give it a bath. It’s disgusting dirty. To that end I have acquired a nice bottle of dish soap and a scrubby pad. For persistent gunk, I have a bottle of ethanol (I prefer isopropyl alcohol, but that doesn’t seem to be an option here), and some cotton swabs. There will not be a repainting, since it’s really not an option under my current living conditions (I’m in a fourth-floor apartment in a Japanese metropolis!), and I’m not 100 percent owner.
  2. Second, pull the hard drive. This lets me avoid reinstalling Windows, reconfiguring the office network, etc. If someone asks where the ugly laptop is, I’ll confess to having it, pop the old drive back in, and bring it back the next day.
  3. Install Gnome Ubuntu, as a sort of benchmark. Then try Xubuntu, then a lean Openbox installation. After that, maybe try Lowarch on it (Arch won’t work with the K6 line unless I recompile the kernel and about twelve other things … all on another machine) or something else that’s exceedingly svelte.

After that, who knows? I can always use a spare laptop for diagnosing and experimenting. And like I said, if there’s no claim against it, I can probably keep it indefinitely. The boss offered to let me use it at home when I first got here, and I see this as me taking him up on the offer. Even if my intentions are different than what he had in mind. :twisted:

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54 thoughts on “Meet the Little Laptop That Could

  1. Pingback: Ubuntu 7.04 on a 450Mhz K6-2, 256Mb « Motho ke motho ka botho

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  26. Josh Miller

    I have a PC like this. It’s lower specs though. I want to say it’s a Pentium 2 with 355mhz processor and maybe 64 meg of ram (after I added a spare chip). It’s only got a tiny 2 gig drive I salvaged out of a dead laptop from work. I’ve paid nothing for this PC though. Part of the benefit of being the IT guy in a business extremely dependent on reliable technology (television) is that when something fails, it gets replaced. This leaves a fair amount of older “broken yet salvageable” computer equipment and parts for me to cannibalize.

    Anyway, I couldn’t get Ubuntu or gOS to install on it. The bios is too old even with an update. I ended up putting Puppy Linux on it. Once I get Wifi going it’ll become a bedside word processing machine and occasional music player.

    My current project PC is putting Ubuntu on a 1ghz desktop to use as an emulation/game station/media player for the television. My ultimate goal is to not need a mouse and keyboard but be able to navigate using the game controller and some splash screen style interface. Not sure it it’s something I can accomplish.

    Reply
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  33. harii

    give antix-mepis a try.
    Works well with older hardware and is fast.
    I use it on my old gateway solo 2500 laptop.
    233 mhz and 128 ram runs fast and wireless was a snap.
    when i installed antix– i only had 64 ram.

    Reply
  34. Pingback: Panic mode « Motho ke motho ka botho

  35. George Thomas

    Howdy from Oklahoma!

    I just worked with a slightly newer SOTEC that belongs to the Lee County (AL) Humane Society. Specs were 1.2 GHz Celeron, 192MB RAM, 1024×768 display. I ran Puppy 4.0 on it pretty well, but it really cruised with the latest SliTaz cooking running from the Live CD. It’s a really small machine but is in decent shape despite having seen some action (used to be a mobile machine for the sherrif’s department).

    Unfortunately, I am only doing light IT work on a volunteer basis for the organization and couldn’t do an install. After playing around with some live distros I had to go back to the task of rehabbing the intensely slow Windows XP Home that was installed. Uninstall of about 90% of the software on the box helped some, but never got clost to touching the boot or response speed of SliTaz (even with the slow CDROM).

    Sigh… Maybe if I get more involved with my friendly local non-profit animal shelter I can help them effectively manage and use their computer resources on FOSS. It’s a hard sell to give them the best solution and leave them holding the bag if there’s a problem and I’m in another state at my job.

    Great site… always something interesting and entertaining.

    Reply
  36. Pingback: Believe it or not, up-to-date Arch on an i586 « Motho ke motho ka botho

  37. Pingback: By the way … Crux 2.5 on a K6-2+, 256Mb « Motho ke motho ka botho

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    1. K.Mandla Post author

      :D I meant, I wonder who installed it, since the machine predates XP and really isn’t capable of handling the workload. Intuition tells me it came from a less-than-licit source. … :shock:

      Reply
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  45. Ikem

    I know you build some systems from scratch. And you have a faible for small distros. Maybe you check out “Voyage Linux”? :)

    Reply
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