A year without X

My calculations tell me that it’s been almost exactly a year since the siliconmotion driver went so far gone as to be unusable, and as a result I ditched X altogether. By extension I could argue that it’s been almost exactly a year since I used a graphical arrangement on this machine, and that wouldn’t be far from the mark.

I sometimes used a live CD of Slitaz or another ultra-lightweight distro if something required a graphical approach. Occasionally there is a tool which is simply easier and quicker to run (EasyTAG springs to mind) than its command-line analog.

But I’ve realized that those instances are rare, and outside of specific tasks and applications that some people find irreplaceable, I — and maybe you too — can comfortably live without X and all its trappings, for nine-tenths of the things I do from day-to-day.

It’s something I have discussed many times before, so I won’t waste too much more space going into details. I try to rehash it on occasion, because the ramifications of moving away from a heavy desktop environment to a lightweight console arrangement go beyond the aesthetic. I type to you from a museum-quality 120Mhz Pentium that I bought for a measly US$10 a few months ago in a secondhand shop, and it has wireless capability, completely silent operation, low power use and low heat output, stereo audio, international keyboard, etc., etc.

I’ll be direct this time, so as not to miss the point: You can save a lot of money if you stop buying new computers to keep up with graphical “advances,” and stick with lighter applications that don’t require exotic, overpowered components.

Maybe that’s not appealing to you, and maybe you have gobs of money to throw around. But it doesn’t make it any less true. 🙂

11 thoughts on “A year without X

  1. Sertse

    Yea, but you use “museum quality” product that are probably going to go *up* in a few more years =P Most of us aren’t deliberately going backwards in time 😉 I’m typing from a 512 ram Pentinum 4 bought 7/8 years ago – it isn’t exactly new…

    For many of us, lightness stops where you were a year ago, a WM like a *box, a mix of small gui and some cli apps. Personally, that is a good mix of light and the familiar.

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      True, I suppose. “Light” is relative in that sense. I do push to the extreme to illustrate the point though, so if your 8-year-old Pentium 4 is running light and fast, you have my vote. 🙂

  2. aperson

    All that money you save from buying older hardware is nothing compared to your electricity bill at the end of the month. Older electronics are not power efficient. You’re likely going to lose money in the long run.

    1. mulenmar

      The (processing power)/watt ratio may be higher, but considering the old electronics are in a laptop designed for low-power-consumption (relative to the time of manufacture), that there’s far less processing power to begin with, and that it’s running software that doesn’t task it at all, it more than makes up for it.

      Not to mention how the Linux kernel becomes more power-efficient all the time.

      Besides, K. Mandla has been doing this for YEARS. I think he/she knows what he/she is doing and paying by this point. 😉

    2. K.Mandla Post author

      I might have to disagree. I have heard the power argument before, and a lot depends on the specific cost of power, the specific equipment you’re using and the specific way you run it.

      As a generalized overview of power requirements and how hardware age is related to power consumption, I always refer to this page. Unless you’re running an old machine with an oversized power supply, and taxing the machine to beyond its intended capacity, I have a hard time believing that the power demands of a 120Mhz machine are somehow higher than some of the mid-grade desktop machines I see for sale these days.

      Of course, I am no expert though. 😐

  3. John Bohlke

    The power argument really depends on how much you pay for electricity. Where I live we only pay about 10 cents/KwH. To pay off the cost of new computer hardware to upgrade from my 933 Mhz system it would take at least three years in power savings. That’s best case. Worst case is five years or more.

  4. steve

    I have a 500MHz p3 lappy and the power supply transfers 40W max, it runs as a server so it runs 24/7. It has the screen down 99% of the time and I ssh into it rarely so I’d say it would use less than 30W.

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  7. andreas

    Nice peak in your life how you can ‘cope’ without X. I use a 3 year old laptop now, with Crunchbang Linux (based on Debian Squeeze) and it’s really light, so I know turned off 1 core from the bios and it still works great, even with a bit of GIMP. It’s wonderful how people are amazed when you tell them you run fine with a single core instead of a quad core with Windows.


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