Let me introduce you to the family

I suddenly feel like I haven’t done a good enough job describing the machines I work with on a daily basis. Additionally, I had been looking over some past posts and realized that some older machines have been thinned from the pack, and as a result they’re no longer with us. So in that case, I’ll give a better run-down on the hardware situation, as of the date on this post.

First, the primary machine and fallback machine is a Dell Inspiron 8000. I just mentioned this one in a previous post — one that seemed to draw some attention … for reasons I’ll never know. Perhaps it was the mysterious title.

Whatever the case, this machine started out its life as a 900Mhz Pentium 3 laden with WindowsMe and only 256Mb of PC100 and a 9Gb 4200rpm hard drive to cope. This one originally had a 4X DVD-ROM and a 16X CDRW, as well as a 16Mb Nvidia Geforce2 video card and a 15″ 1600×1200 screen (with a slight flaw).

However, the 8000-series laptops have a side bay for a “fixed” optical drive and two front modular bays. I’ve bumped it up to 512Mb of PC133, a pair of 60Gb 7200rpm hard drives, an 8x dual-layer DVD+/-RW, a 64Mb Nvidia Geforce 4 440 MX and a new screen (also with a slight flaw, but a less noticeable slight flaw than the previous slight flaw. 🙄 ). Wireless is courtesy of a Linksys WPC11 11Mbps PCMCIA card, although I am eyeballing a 54g MiniPCI card as a replacement for that.

I’ve put most of my energy and funding into this machine, with the express purpose of making it something worth keeping for a long time (it used to belong to a relative, so it has a history in the family). It now runs an ultralight Ubuntu 6.10 Openbox desktop and is a marvel of modern science. Or at least the science of six years ago.

Grub to desktop: 31 seconds.

Next is one of my first charity cases, a rehabilitated Dell Latitude CPx-J750GT. This is a 750Mhz Pentium III machine, also with 512Mb (albeit PC100), a 20Gb 5400rpm and a 40Gb 5400rpm hard drive, a spare 8x dual-layer DVD+/-RW drive (which unfortunately, has to sit in a plastic bag most of the time, since the CPx series doesn’t have the side bay design — it’s two front bays only, and the spare hard drive is in there).

When I got it, it was laboring under Windows 2000 SP4, scuffed and banged, with a broken screen hinge, a missing key or two and a real knocked-around look about it. A friend was using it as a SETI client in his basement.

I took pity on it, replaced the failed parts with used (but otherwise pristine) ones and gave the entire chassis a silver paint job. It turned out quite nice, although it was my first attempt at repainting a case, and like most first attempts, I know now what I could have done to make it better.

This one also runs an ultralight Ubuntu 6.10 Openbox setup, but functions as a music machine. Uses idesk, runs RealPlayer for the BBC World Service and XMMS for streaming audio and old Police albums. On an exceptionally rare occasion, I might use it for cruising the Internet or watching a movie. Wireless also courtesy of a Linksys WPC11. Speakers by Harman/Kardon.

Grub to desktop: 35 seconds.

Next is the break-it machine, a Dell Optiplex GX260 (the mini-tower) — a 2.26Ghz Pentium 4 I found at the recycling center. It was missing a hard drive, but had 512Mb of DDR266 in it. It’s not a hyperthreading machine, but it’s twice-again as fast as anything else I own, so it seems mighty speedy by comparison.

There’s a 40Gb 7200rpm Western Digital drive in there, and I jump back and forth between a 256Mb PCI Geforce 6200 card and an old half-height 64Mb Nvidia Geforce4 440 card. Wireless is a Linksys WMP54G. I’ve mentioned these things elsewhere, so I won’t bore you with them. It runs anything from Arch to XP to Feisty; it depends on the day of the week.

Grub to desktop (when it’s set up at its fastest): 27 seconds.

Last, but not least, is the redheaded stepchild, an ancient Dell Latitude CPi-A — a 300Mhz Pentium II on loan to my mother as a spare for when my father is using their new laptop (an Inspiron 600m).

It takes every trick in the book to keep this thing from just collapsing under its own weight. A 16X DVD-ROM, 128Mb PC100, 20Gb 5400rpm Samsung hard drive, 2Mb NeoMagic integrated video … and a kewl 1024×768 screen I found in the recycling center to replace the old 800×600 one.

Again, wireless via Linksys WPC11 (it’s easy to set up, in case you’re wondering). It’s also sporting an ultralight Ubuntu 6.10 Openbox desktop, but the start times aren’t so hot. 300Mhz is a long way back, and I’m running the bottom edge of functionality for Ubuntu with that one.

Grub to desktop: 51 seconds. It does have the record for lowest system profile, though: 19Mb on a cold boot to desktop.

That’s about it. I have a few oddball accessories like a printer and a scanner, but that stuff is dull and not worth mentioning.

P.S.: Just for the record, I’m not a Dell fanboy. It’s sheer luck that I’ve got this much outdated Dell stuff.


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