Doesn't Not Compute

My log of experiences with GNU/Linux and computers in general.

Hardware

Most of my computers and hardware are other people’s castoffs, either because the computer was “old” or “didn’t work right,” or because some business had thrown a bunch out and I’d managed to have them rescued. A couple were gifts, for which I’m very grateful. A couple of the ones considered old, well, they are indeed old. 🙂

Generally, I’ll only list the main computers I have and use, and will not specify what operating system they are running; they often change from one week (or less) to the next. One clue: it won’t be from Microsoft, except for testing and comparison purposes.  😉 .

Several machines may not be listed, and several components in these are not listed either. Why? On the former, because I plan to get rid of those eventually; the latter, because I’m not sure at the moment what they are.

Acer Aspire One AO751h: “Netty”Acer Aspire One 751h

  • CPU: 1.33GHz Atom Z520
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Video: Intel GMA500 Poulsbo chipset
  • Hard drive: 250GB SATA
  • Optical drive: None
  • 3 USB-2.0 ports
  • 1 SD card reader

Yes, it has the infamous Poulsbo chipset, but it also has a full-size keyboard and an 11.6 inch (29.5 cm) screen with 1366×768 maximum resolution. I’ve been able to get the maximum resolution under Arch Linux with a bit of work, but haven’t been able to get the brightness control working without using the Pouslbo driver.

I have a really bad habit of treating this netbook like an ordinary laptop.

HP Pavilion a6200n:    “Silent Giant”

  • CPU: AMD Athlon 64×2 Dual Core 5000+ 2.60Ghz
  • RAM: 2GB PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM
  • Video: GeForce 6150SE nForce 430 integrated video (disabled)
  • Video: ATI Radeon 4350 HD PCI-E card I lucked into on sale on newegg.com
  • Hard drive: 360 GB SATA 3G 7200 rpm
  • Optical drive: 16X DVD(+/-)R/RW 12X RAM (+/-)R DL LightScribe SATA drive

**  According to HP’s website, some a6200n’s LightScribe drives can scratch discs ** That said, I’ve never had a problem with mine that I can blame with certainty on the drive.

My family chipped in together to surprise me with this back in 2007, and I added the ATI card later so I could play Halo at a decent framerate and resolution. It came with Windows Vista, unfortunately. I didn’t have all the problems that some people had, but it was frustrating at times. It was on this computer I first began experimenting with Ubuntu 7.1 in about May 2008, and completely converted around November of the same year. Everything worked that I’ve tried to use, but I have nothing that uses Firewire or the media card ports, so I haven’t bothered with those. I also removed the dialup modem to save a few watts of power.

I highly recommend this model computer to anyone seeking to try out Linux. Even if it wasn’t dual-core, the processor is insanely fast at stock speeds, and can be slowed to 1 GHz (and a few intermediate speeds) to reduce power use and heat production. What I’ve tested and tried, in the hardware department, is more compatible with GNU/Linux and *BSD than Windows XP(!).  Not surprising, this computer was basically designed for Vista compatibility. The memory, very decent for Vista, is truely overkill in most Linux distros — the only time this computer has needed to dip into swap was under Kubuntu 8.04, with Firefox, Gimp, and Rhythmbox open for some time. Or just OpenSUSE. I don’t think I need to say more on that.

Really, other than for compiling things, this computer is truely overkill for every use I have for it at this point. Things like Gecko-based web browsers…even this titan takes a while to compile those, though.

Dell Inspiron 2200

  • CPU: Pentium M 1.6GHz, with minimum speed of 600MHz
  • RAM: 512MB PC2700 DDR, shares with video chipset
  • Video: Integrated Intel Mobile  915GM/GMS/910GML Express  Graphics Controller (rev 03)
  • Hard Drive: 60GB 7200RPM something-or-other
  • Optical drive: NEC DVD+-RW ND-6650A revision 102c 24x24x24  drive
  • 3 x USB 2.0 ports

If you find one of these with a working battery, GET IT. The wireless card requires Broadcom firmware, but works perfectly with it with no speed/range issues. Suspend works just fine in Ubuntu 10.04.

Maximum possible installed memory is 1280MB, and with a good battery has a long, long useful life  before needing to be charged.

Compaq Deskpro EN

  • CPU: Pentium 3 1GHz
  • RAM: 512MB PC-133
  • Video: Integrated Intel of some kind, disabled
  • Video: ATI Rage 128 Pro Ultra
  • Hard drive: 20GB something-or-other
  • Optical drive: 52x32x52x LG CD-R/RW drive
  • Standard 1.44Mb floppy drive

This one is definitely NOT stock appearance. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of it, but imagine the front panel being gold, the front of the CD tray and the tray itself being gold, and the lid-release latches being gold, with everything else blue. Then, violate the laws of chemistry by putting a couple coats of clear lacquer over that blue-and-gold enamel paintjob and not having bubbling. 😈 That’s what it looks like. 🙂

This machines runs the Arch flavor of GNU/Linux, Xorg 1.6, IceWM, and a few other programs together quite nicely.

Dell Latitude C600:  “Delli”

  • CPU: 850/700 MHz Pentium III Coppermine
  • RAM:  256 MB PC-100
  • Video: ATI Rage Mobility 128 AGP 2x
  • Hard drive: 4GB IBM Travelstar or 20GB Hitachi Travelstar
  • Removable Drive: 24x CDROM module or 1.44MB floppy drive module.

I’ve had to replace parts in this twice — once because the CPU fan didn’t work when I got it used, and once because the DC jack broke (my fault, really.) And then there’re the infamous trackpoint vs. touchpad and drifting mouse cursor issues, although since the trackpointer broke it isn’t an issue. Other than that, I don’t really have anything bad to say about it. It serves me well. Everything works, besides the WinModem and the IR, the former because it’s crippled by design and the latter because I haven’t tried to make it work. The battery needs replaced, unfortunately — I’m lucky to get 40 minutes of usage, even without the wireless adapter plugged in.

Oddly enough, according to powertop, this laptop uses the same amount of power that the netbook does, without the wireless adapter. 😕

This model, as I understand, cost over a thousand US dollars when new — I’ve seen reviews online from the time of its release that quote as high as $2600 — as it’s a corporate model. In 2006, it went for US$350, and in May 2009 I saw an identical one on eBay for ~US$230. The CPU can be upgraded to a 1GHz Pentium 3, so I recommend this laptop. Main headache is the ATA/33 interface, which limits the speed more than anything else in the machine.

Supposedly the video card, an ATI Rage Mobility M3, can drive a screen at up to 1400×1050 resolution, but I haven’t tested this. Also supposedly, some C600s have an SXGA LCD screen capable of real 1280×1024 resolution — but mine only has a XGA 1024×768 screen. That said, it can simulate a larger screen by panning (viewing the larger area through a 1024×768 porthole) if configured right.

Image Attribution

The image of a blue Acer Aspire One 751h was from a website with absolutely no indication of usage policies, so they don’t get to have attribution. Not that I remember who they were. 😦

The image of an HP Pavilion a6200n desktop is from HP’s website, but there doesn’t appear to be any information on usage policies.

The image of a Dell Latitude C600 is in fact of a C500 and is from here on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Latitude_C500.JPG). I had to heavily modify the huge image in GIMP however, to cut out the laptop itself, airbrush out the orange reflection and the Windows sticker, reduce the size, and paint out the screen image (which showed the Wikipedia frontpage in Firefox on a Windows XP desktop).

Creative Commons License
This work by Mulenmar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

5 responses to “Hardware

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