Before it suffered a stupendous hard drive crash, the Pentium laptop I keep as part conversation spur, part thumbing-my-nose-at-the-wastefulness-of-modern-consumerism was doing quite well in its role as mobile communication point.
Or as well as can be expected for a machine that has survived long enough to see two different centuries. In the short six or seven days I had it at my disposal, I jotted down a few notes to myself, if I ever decided to bring it along again.
Probably the biggest consideration was that it is quite heavy, and unfortunately there’s not a lot to be done about that. It’s simply the nature of the beast that the machine has a core weight of around 8 or 9 pounds, give or take.
I could remove the battery and the floppy drive, but the difference is negligible — and then I would have two unsightly gaping holes in the machine when I’m trying to pitch it to people as a working antique. No, the bulk of the bulk is in the central frame and display, so I’m afraid that’s just the way it is.
The battery is another consideration. I contacted a laptop battery company, and in spite of its age it seems that it’s possible to have the battery rebuilt — to the tune of US$65 or so.
I am debating whether or not I want to go that route; most of the time the machine is deskbound, so running without the power cable is never a need. Of course the reason it’s deskbound is because the machine has no battery, so I might have trapped myself in a mental loop there.
And on the other hand, it would be nice to have a small measure of portability from time to time. It’s just a little difficult, personally, to justify rebuilding the battery at a cost six and a half times what I paid for the entire computer.
Soundwise, I still haven’t figured out how to configure ISA hardware in newer kernels, and my efforts to use precompiled distros to give me a boost isn’t bearing fruit. So I had no music, but I brought along my music player, and the problem was solved.
Outside of those physical considerations, most of the issues I had with the machine were my own to solve. I had little or no experience working with WPA encryption, so when I visited a relative with an encrypted wireless network, I had some head-scratching to do. In the future I should impose upon a friend with a WPA network, before wandering around the planet and waiting for my ignorance to become a problem.
Furthermore I didn’t bring along a wired network connection, which in retrospect was a rather important thing to leave behind. In the case where WPA was an issue it would have been a convenient fallback to yank the wireless card and plug into the router, at least for an hour or two.
And for a machine of this age and speed, Crux is simply the best solution, although the option of adding more software was almost nonexistent. I did a good job keeping myself armed with the programs I would need, but if anything outside of the ordinary were to suddenly crop up, I daresay I would have been in trouble. By the time I would have it compiled, I would have been back in Japan.
But after that, there wasn’t much I felt was lacking. I could browse the Web with relative comfort, hook up to area wireless networks, check weather reports and flight times without too much trouble. In my downtime I had vitetris, freecell and a long-running game of Nethack to keep me occupied, which was more than enough. I got a couple of stares from people toting the latest and greatest netbooks, but I can’t say for sure if those were looks of shock, jealousy or disgust. Maybe all three.