Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ubuntu Saves an Old Toshiba Dynabook A1/465CMC Laptop

While surfing on the net this morning, I came across this article about running Ubuntu on older hardware: 

The article reminded me of how I was able to put a very old laptop to good use.

Two months ago, while I was in China, my sister asked me to have a look at her laptop. The laptop was a six year-old Toshiba Dynabook A1/465CMC Satellite 2801 series, has a 650MHz Intel Celeron processor and a 64MB RAM. It was designed to run on Windows Millennium Edition, according to one of its sticker logos and the certificate of authenticity label at the bottom. A nasty virus infected her laptop and corrupted most of her files. She told me that she took the laptop to one of the Chinese computer service shops near her place for repair. The technician said that he couldn't remove the virus so has no choice but to reformat the hard drive and re-install its operating system. Unfortunately, the guy and Windows ME couldn't find the appropriate drivers for the darn laptop. After several frustrated attempts to search for drivers on the net, he decided to install Windows XP, but to do that, the memory had to be upgraded first. He put in an extra 128MB of RAM and installed Windows XP on it which took about three hours.

My sister was very disappointed on her laptop's performance after the repair that she never used it again and bought a desktop computer instead. It took three to five minutes for Windows to startup,  basic file management such as opening, copying, saving, and closing rendered the system unmanageable. The computer literally went into a crawl! Overall, the computer was close to useless under windows XP despite the added RAM.

Anyway, I always carry with me Ubuntu Feisty and Gutsy LiveCDs everywhere I travel in case I run into an opportunity of installing Linux. I first tried Ubuntu Feisty Fawn, which booted smoothly and completed the startup in about fifteen seconds! I continued the install procedure from the LiveCD and encountered no problem at all. The installation took two hours to complete including downloading the language packs and other installer updates. After installation, I set the login manager to automatic and restarted the system.

This time, the startup process took less than fifteen seconds. I played around with Nautilus (Ubuntu's file manager) a bit with very good results. copying and moving files from the hard drive to the USB flashdisk and vice versa was better than expected. Opening, saving and closing several MS Office documents using OpenOffice turned out alright without slowdowns. In fact, the file access on the old laptop turned out to be much faster than my Intel PIII laptop running Windows XP SP3.

After a month of satisfied use of my sister's laptop, I wanted to see if it could handle Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 Beta. Firstly, I upgraded to Gutsy, it tested okay, then finally upgraded to Hardy. The Hardy experience was sweet...

So sweet, in fact, that I was able to coerce my sister into giving her laptop to me as a "gift." :-)

Using it now to write articles for this blog, running Mozilla Firefox 3 Beta 4 under Ubuntu Hardy Heron!

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