Sunday, April 22, 2012

Installing Linux on an old laptop for a Friend - Update

As I said in the previous post it is possible to put Linux on some quite old hardware. At the same time as asking if I would install Linux on his laptop my friend gave me an old IBM T20 not quite as shiny as the one in this picture.

I had a spare 128mb PC100 Ram module, so I was able to upgrade to 256mb Ram, having booted up the PC into the installed Windows ME to check all was working, which it was, I decided to install Mint 9 and check out if they were telling the truth. 

Well I can report they were. While it was a little slow with the live disc I have successfully installed Mint and as I write this the PC is ticking away installing 2 years worth of updates. Boot up time is nothing to write home about taking 3-4 minutes and once up and running the CPU (a P3 700) runs at about 45% capacity, and at idle the system is using between 110-120mb Ram which is about 40 - 47% of the available system Ram. Changing to a Linux distro based on one of the less resource hungry Desktop Environments such as LXDE would definitely give some improvement, as would an upgrade to the Max 512mb Ram the PC supports.     

However for a free laptop despite it not being in good physical order as the case is cracked, there's a key missing off the key board, and the memory module bay cover is missing (it is 12 years old) I feel I got a bit of a bargain. The keyboard is not a problem as I have some spare keys which I can fit, and the actual key mechanism is working. I can pick up a memory cover off e-bay for £2-3 and I have a larger hard drive in the spares box if I decide to install it. I'm not sure if it's worth the cost of buying a couple of 256mb Ram modules of e-bay as it could cost me £30 with the postage and the PC's not worth much more than that. 

I'll probably leave it how it is, and use it to demo the fact that you can still use older hardware with Linux and have an up to date OS at the same time. 


Friday, April 20, 2012

Installing Linux on an old laptop for a Friend

I'm sat here with a friends laptop which he asked me to put Linux Mint onto as I have previously rescued another laptop for him and he has found it very easy to use.

Given the transition to Gnome 3 and the controversy over the new interface I was in a quandary about what version of mint to install for him. The other laptop has Mint 9 installed and as he gets on with this I have decided to install this on the other laptop, Why?

Given that Mint 12 is based on Ubuntu 11.10 and security update support runs out in April 2013 it is not worth the hassle of having to teach him a new desktop interface at this time when he is comfortable with Gnome 2.30.

Mint 9 being based on Ubuntu 10.04 is a LTS (long term support) so will also get security updates until April 2013 so no problems there, he is familiar with the layout and how it works. It is as stable as the proverbial Rock. The hardware is quite low spec by modern standards (1.6Gig CPU with 512mb Ram, 64mb used for graphics) so an older less resource hungry OS fits the bill nicely. OK some of the software is not the latest (it still runs Open Office) but as his main use is for e-mail and internet browsing this is not a major issue.

Given that over 40% of Microsoft Windows users are still running XP (much to the annoyance of Microsoft) and older software on it, it proves (to me anyway) that those wanting to sell us the latest and greatest are not always selling (or giving, in the case of FLOSS) something we necessary need or want, and we could quite happily continue to use the software and as a result, the hardware we bought only a couple of years ago. 

In my case I haven’t bought any NEW computer equipment for over 7 years, quite happily using second hand PC's and laptops either given to me or bought off those people/organisations, who always see the need for the latest and greatest they can afford. It's perfectly possible to get Linux running on old pentium 3 hardware with a CPU running at 700mhz and 512mb of ram, OK it will not be lightning fast but it will run and enable you to do the basics. If you look at the specification for Mint 9 on the web then it is possible to run it with:
  • x86 processor
  • 192 MB of system memory (RAM)
  • 3 GB of disk space for installation
  • Graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution
  • CD-ROM drive or USB port
While this might be the minimum (and I have run old pentium 2 systems back in the *buntu 7.04 days using Xubuntu with the XFCE desktop) with similar specs and it has worked. These days I don’t think I would look at anything less than a P3 preferably with a 600+ CPU and 512mb Ram, just to make it a viable system for regular use. Saying that if you were to use one of the very low resource systems such as Puppy, Tiny Core or Slitaz and you are only using the system for web browsing and e-mail, then using lower hardware specifications is possible.     

So if you have some older PC hardware that is not able to run the latest Windows OS, (and given that Windows 8 will move to secure boot shortly, so unless you upgrade your hardware to support this you'll not be running Windows 8) you might like to consider putting the Linux distribution of your choice on it and extending its life by a few more years. Even if the hard ware died after a few months you've lost nothing as the OS will not have cost you a penny.