Sunday, May 14, 2017

MX Linux

MX Linux OS

These are the show notes about MX Linux that I did along side a podcast I have posted on the HPR (Hacker Public Radio) http://hackerpublicradio.org/calendar.php to be released on Friday 19th May 2017. 
 
I’ve recently done shows on current Linux distro’s that are suitable for older hardware but with a modern look and feel and fully featured with the latest software available.

As you have probably gathered by now if you have listened to my other shows I am a big fan of older Lenovo Laptops. My main Lenovo is an X230i i3 with a 2.5G cpu and 8Gig of Ram and a 120Gig SSD, it did have Mint 17.3 running on it and after running Mint 18 / 18.1 for several months on my desktop PC I decided to upgrade to 18.1 on the X230i.

I completed the install and on first boot after install the boot time had risen from about 40s to over 2 minutes, I suspected a problem with the install so did it again with the same result. I couldn’t find any issues reported on the net so resorted to installing Linux Lite which is based on Ubuntu 16.04 as is Mint 18. The problem persisted after this install despite getting near 40s boots on the Lenovo X61s with an SSD and the same Distro.

I did another web search but could not find any other reports of this issue with the X230i so put a post on the Facebook community Distro hoppers. The response I got back from one member was to try MX16.

MX Linux is a joint venture from the antiX and former MEPIS communities and is based on the latest Debian Stable “Jessie” with the XFCE desk top environment.

I duly downloaded it and installed it in a Virtual PC using virtual box to see what it looked and felt like. The install is fairly user friendly although if you’ve never had experience of Linux and installed other Distributions a new user may be a bit unsure when asked about the MBR and where to put it, other than that a fairly straightforward install.

On install there is a fairly good selection of the software you would need including a full install of LibreOffice, FireFox, Thunderbird, GIMP and synaptic package manager for adding further software from the repositories. MX have also included the ability to simply install codecs and additional drivers and a software installation system for popular Apps from the MX Welcome that comes up at boot or if disabled can be started form the menu.
Also I installed it on a virtual 8Gig HDD and GParted reports use of 4.64Gig after install and updates, by default it only installs a 1G swap despite 2Gig allocated Ram in the VM.

I liked the look of MX and decided to give it a go on the X230i, install went smoothly and lo and behold boot was back to around 40s on first boot after install. So I’ve updated the install, installed my packages I use that are not there by default such as Audacity, Scratch and a couple of other things I use. I’ve also put it on the X61s I use and again working faultlessly, so I’m happy again. Since I installed MX I found out from a member of my Makerspace/LUG that he had experience the same problem with Ubuntu 16.04 based distroes and crippled SSD Boot times.

I like MX so much when it come to time to reinstall my Desk Top PC, which is about the only PC I use that is not constantly changing OS, I think I will be putting MX on it. This is a big deal for me as I’ve been a loyal Mint user for over 5 years but MX is working so well on the Laptops at the moment it would be good to have the same OS on the Desktop PC as well.

Will MX stop my Distro Hopping, NO, I like trying out new things thats why I have several Laptops kicking around so I have spare hardware to try out new Linux stuff, but it is good to have something stable around when you need it, hence sticking with Mint for so long on the Desktop.





Saturday, March 11, 2017

Used Laptop Lenovo X61s

I currently record podcasts for Hacker Public Radio a daily community podcast. I recently did a show to be released in the RSS feed on 28th April Ep2280 about using the Lenovo X61s Laptop as a cheap second laptop or child's homework PC.



This is an edited version of the show notes from that episode.

Laptop was bought at auction and cost:
  • Cost £36 including auction fees
  • OS Free (any Linux will work well) finally used Linux lite
  • Upgrade to 120Gig SSD £40 of ebay
  • New 77wh Battery £16 
  • Total outlay £92
If you have to buy one then get an OS free one and don't pay more than £40-100 depending if it has an SSD and state of the battery.

Hello HPR, a few episodes ago I talked of using the Lenovo X61s with Watt OS and said I would report back after a possible upgrade to the laptop with and SSD replacement for the hard drive.

Well I duly ordered and received a Drevo 120 Gig SSD from eBay. These are about £40 each so make a cheap upgrade to an older laptops spinning disc and you can get a 60Gig one for less than £30 if you don't need the storage see review here:


After installing the PC with WattOS while it did everything you would need of an OS and was absolutely fine on the X61s I was a bit disillusioned with the amount of configuration needed to get all the software I needed working, definitely not New user friendly.

Looking at other lite Linux distributions I came upon Linux Lite:


I decided that this might be a better choice as it says it is aimed at new users, and being based on Ubuntu was a familiar beast. ISO was downloaded and duly installed on the X61s and as soon as all the updates were completed I looked at the installed software and it was more comprehensive but not at the expense of still being lightweight. 

At first Boot which takes about 40 seconds, it takes about 300mb of ram and even with the word processor and Firefox in use Ram usage was only about 700mb. Audacity after install worked out of the box, which it hadn't with WattOS and I've already recorded and uploaded another show for HPR using the X61s and all went flawlessly. With the new SSD I am getting close to 5 hours of use from the 8 cell 63W battery installed on the PC.

While I recognize the X61s being over 10 years old is not going to meet the needs of a power user, its fully capable of being an everyday laptop for basic office tasks, some light audio editing, and even photo editing in GIMP. I was able to edit and process a 10mb .jpg image without any issues and exporting the final 12Mb image took seconds. 

I was fairly happy with the X61s performance with the 80Gig spinner it came with, but the addition of an SSD has both improved performance and battery life to the extent that I would happily take it on the road as my only PC. Actually for the porpoise of writing this review I've lived with it as my main PC for almost 2 weeks and have not really missed its big brother the X230i i3 laptop I also have. In fact I was going to record a show using that and found that as it has a composite Audio jack, and as my head set requires separate mic and headphone sockets I wasn't able to, so one up to the X61s there.

Conclusion, if you have a couple of kids and you're looking for a laptop for them to do homework, watch Utube, and surf the web (parental controls enabled) then I would look no further. And if they get broken by said kids you've not lost a bundle of dosh.

After writing this I realized I needed a replacement NON OEM battery for one of the X61s I have with a totally dead battery (that is something you have to factor in to buying stuff from auction) Cost me £16 inc delivery on eBay and its a 77Wh one. 

This adds about an Hour to the battery life compared with the 63Wh So don't be afraid to pick up one with a duff battery if cheaper as a replacement is not expensive and with the SSD give a working days life to the PC, and even with New SSD and Battery the X61s only set me back £92.

If your lucky you may find one really cheap on eBay, Happy shopping!!!