A fork in the road

I fell sick the other day and had to spend most of my time recuperating, so I don’t have much to report in the way of progress … progress of any sort, really. The new hard drive is working great, even in a 13-year-old laptop, although half the time X won’t start on that machine because of memory errors. Yes, it’s true, most of the systems I build for that machine don’t really work, and the ones I show here are sometimes the best of three, or maybe four, attempts.

The memory chip still doesn’t appear in the BIOS or in the system, and that is also disheartening. It’s in the only easily accessible memory mount — I say “only” because I don’t know if there’s another one deep inside this machine, in a place more difficult to reach. My fear is that the standing 16Mb in this machine is fused to the motherboard, which would make it impossible to improve upon, if the “external” brace is not happy.

And if that’s the case, then I need to reassess the situation, and plan for the long term with this machine running at 16Mb, no more, no less. In other words, the plan is this:

First, figure out how to bring the sound to life, which is really the only remaining issue with the laptop’s physical performance. I never configured the sound mostly because there wasn’t a need, but it’s starting to grate on me that there’s that one little point I omitted for such a long time. Technically it should be a SoundBlaster Pro compatible card of some sort, if this page is to be believed. There are BIOS options for the audio interrupt and DMA and so forth, but to be honest, I wish there weren’t: It compounds the possible variations when I’m troubleshooting.

After the sound works, or after I get tired of trying to make it work, then it will be time to tear it apart and find out where the memory is. If it’s possible, I want to playtest the thing with the 32Mb stick I have now, and see if it’s possible to get a little more overhead.

If it is, then I can do things like, try Ubuntu on it. As it is now, the Ubuntu kernel won’t even boot because there’s not enough memory. But with just a smidgin more space, I can get quite a bit more out of it. And it would also, probably, alleviate some of the swapping issues I have now with the desktop, and that would improve life considerably. From there the options are much broader.

But if 16Mb is all there is, then it’s time to go console-only. X works, and I’m fine with that, but it has always been my contention that there’s a lot more speed available by omitting X altogether. It’s fun to watch Awesome at work, but the fact is, dropping the graphical context makes it a brand new machine.

At this point you might be wondering why I bother at all, and the reason is the keyboard. I like the feel of the keyboard. It’s a little plasticky, but it’s enjoyable to type on, and I have a tendency to tolerate machines that have a nice “feel” when I type. Both my Inspiron and Thinkpad fall into that category, and it’s one of the reasons I keep them.

But all that aside, I’m not done with this laptop by a long shot. The day will come when I can do all my routine tasks — music, writing, e-mail, etc. — from 100Mhz, and that will be something to show. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ


5 thoughts on “A fork in the road

  1. johnraff

    I’m kind of selfishly hoping you’re forced to stick with 16MB, and eager to see what kind of command-line system you end up putting in it. An old Toshiba laptop wants to escape Win98, and more memory is just too expensive.

    Hope you’re feeling better btw…

  2. Tony

    Good Idea!! I’ve got to admit that I’ve never seen a guitar pick used. What I have seen used is a set of ear plugs (not the wax type) cut in half, strategically placed, then they were compressed and the cover replaced very quickly.

    Both of those kinds of fixes I like because they are Free, Fast, and Ingenuous!


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