Linux on an Old Laptop

Where Penguins and Daemons chill together in the warmth of the Sun.

Moderators: SecretSquirrel, notfred

Linux on an Old Laptop

Postposted on Fri Jan 02, 2009 1:33 pm

Greetings!

I have an old Inspiron C640 that I'd like to put Linux on. No major purpose for this box; just a place to test and learn. Although I think everything (keyboard, ports, graphics and screen, sound chip, etc) works, this laptop is probably 7 years old and has been subjected to all sorts of bumps and a few hot-car-trunk barbecues, so I realise that it could die at any time.

It's got a 1.8 ghz Pentium 4 "m" (single core) cpu and 512 MB of RAM. It has a 40 GB hard drive and a CD-RW/DVD drive. I think the DVD may be read-only.

The main (removable) battery was dead, but it's charging now. When I booted it, the motherboard had forgotten the date and time. Is there a motherboard battery that might need to be replaced?

What version of Linux would you folks recommend? Ultimately, I want to build a 64Studio distro for my main quad-core rig, but for now, I'd like to see what I can do with this old laptop.

64 Studio is Debian based, so should I look for a Debian distro? Could I consider putting the 32-bit version of 64 Studio on this laptop just to see what works and what doesn't, or would that be a waste of my time?

Even if I just end up with a little light-task browser and Open Office machine, it would not be an exercise in futility, so thanks in advance for any advice you may have!
BIF
Gerbil Jedi
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 1544
Joined: Tue May 25, 2004 7:41 pm

Re: Linux on an Old Laptop

Postposted on Fri Jan 02, 2009 2:10 pm

As a Linux noob myself that's still trying to work out half of what I am doing, I would suggest the Ubuntu approach, as it is fairly simple and the installation is a snap.

I am liking Fedora again, but without the Yum extender (the package manager), it's just not as easy as uUbuntu. . . . . .sorry Fedora fans.

If you are adventurous, and have a spare copy of Windows somewhere, VirtualBox is a nice Virtual Machine and quite easy to use as well.

The wireless networking utility has com a long way, and should pick up whatever networking hardware you have in the laptop (if it's not fried from the backtrunk sessions you mentioned.)

Mkae sure turn on all the repositories as well. . . . .and add the medibuntu repository when you get it all setup. Download the LiveCD, as everything is pretty much a snap once you're in the GUI.

Hope that helps and I look forward to reading the stories from this little adventure. You can read some of my stuff here, here, here, and here.
. . . this is the digital projection of your mental self. . . .

Darth Lex-idius vs. Obi Lex kanobi
lex-ington
Minister of Gerbil Affairs
 
Posts: 2920
Joined: Fri Apr 25, 2003 10:59 pm
Location: Toronto, ON

Re: Linux on an Old Laptop

Postposted on Fri Jan 02, 2009 3:07 pm

For a Linux distro, I recommend that you go with Ubuntu. It's easy to set up, and Debian-based.

Regarding your lost settings issue... yes, there is typically a CMOS battery in laptops, just like for desktops. Unfortunately, getting at it may involve completely disassembling the laptop. I would not recommend attempting this unless you can find a copy of the service manual; HP is pretty good about making service manuals available for download, don't know about Dell. The battery itself may or may not be a standard "coin cell" type; if it is non-standard, you may need to order a replacement from Dell, or get a little creative.
(this space intentionally left blank)
just brew it!
Administrator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 37506
Joined: Tue Aug 20, 2002 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere, having a beer

Re: Linux on an Old Laptop

Postposted on Fri Jan 02, 2009 3:14 pm

Lex, thanks!

The laptop does not have wireless, but I still have an old Wireless "G" (I think) dongle. I do have the docking port, which comes with USB and serial ports only; no firewire or anything.

I did think about setting up an XP partition on it, just so that I can test the website that I maintain, so I may be able to consider setting up the virtual environment that you mentioned.

JBI, thanks for the advice on the battery. Do you know if the CMOS will keep it's date and time if the unit is off but remains plugged in to AC power or if the main battery is charged and installed? I think the former is true, but don't know about the latter, and I'm still charging the battery. If the main battery will keep the settings, then I can live within that limitation for this old system.
BIF
Gerbil Jedi
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 1544
Joined: Tue May 25, 2004 7:41 pm

Re: Linux on an Old Laptop

Postposted on Fri Jan 02, 2009 3:48 pm

Every kaptop is different, but in my experience, as long as there's some constant source of power (not-totally-dead battery or AC), the CMOS battery being dead won't become a problem.

Worst case you'll just have to set the date and BIOS options any time power is completely removed.
I've been here long enough that I think I can forgo a signature.
Forge
Darth Gerbil
 
Posts: 7959
Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2001 7:00 pm
Location: SouthEast PA

Re: Linux on an Old Laptop

Postposted on Fri Jan 02, 2009 6:58 pm

Confirmed; this particular laptop appears to keep its settings with either the AC disconnected or with the battery disconnected. Good enough for my needs. Let the learning begin!
BIF
Gerbil Jedi
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 1544
Joined: Tue May 25, 2004 7:41 pm

Re: Linux on an Old Laptop

Postposted on Fri Jan 02, 2009 7:12 pm

If you just wanted WinXP for testing a website, you can choose to install IEs4Linux instead, which will install some different versions of IE such that Linux can run them.

http://www.tatanka.com.br/ies4linux/page/Main_Page

Can't vouch that this will do for trickier stuff like ActiveX controls and various IE addons, but it seems to do a reasonable job for basic needs.

edit: the Ubuntu installation instructions are a bit outdated. No need to edit the /etc/apt/sources.list file with newer distributions b/c Universe and Multiverse are included by default.
Think for yourself, schmuck!
i5-2500K@4.3|Asus P8P67-LE|8GB DDR3-1600|Powercolor R7850 2G|1.5TB 7200.11|1988 Model M|Saitek X-45 & P880|Logitech MX 518|Dell 2209WA|Sennheiser PC151|Asus Xonar DX
bthylafh
Grand Gerbil Poohbah
 
Posts: 3130
Joined: Mon Dec 29, 2003 11:55 pm
Location: Southwest Missouri, USA

Re: Linux on an Old Laptop

Postposted on Tue Jan 06, 2009 8:13 pm

Thanks for that. I think I'm going to go with Ubuntu on the laptop; but it's good to know about IEs4Linux for future reference.

Additionally, I'm going to try to build a 64 Studio distro on my old WD740 Raptor for my quad-core workstation. If needed, I'll start another thread.
BIF
Gerbil Jedi
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 1544
Joined: Tue May 25, 2004 7:41 pm

Re: Linux on an Old Laptop

Postposted on Wed Jan 07, 2009 9:14 am

Xubuntu is a slightly more lightweight derivative that uses xfce for the front-end as opposed to ubuntu's gnome or kubuntu's KDE. You might want to try that if ubuntu is slightly sluggish. That made a big difference on a p2-500 my dad was using.
Usacomp2k3
Gerbil God
 
Posts: 21281
Joined: Thu Apr 01, 2004 4:53 pm
Location: Orlando, FL


Return to Linux, Unix, and Assorted Madness

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests