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Horning in on a pair of laptops

June 5, 2014 6 comments

This is a tale of two laptops, the two that often accompany me — individually or occasionally together — when I leave the house.

I like them both. But now I sit on the horns of a dilemma because I don’t know which should be my Number One.

One is a behemoth: The Toshiba Satellite L455 is nearly big enough for me to live in, should I become homeless. It’s got a nice screen, 4GB of RAM, and a lot of other things going for it. Despite its anchor-heavy weight, it is a spotless machine, and over the past several weeks it has served as my daily road warrior.

The other has been at my side for as long as I’ve ever owned hardware: An IBM ThinkPad T60. This laptop has only 2GB of RAM — only, he says — in the standard-issue workhorse in years past of the Linux set. The years and conferences have left its mark on this one, with stickers on the cover that would put any NASCAR racer to shame. The wireless card in this machine deserves special remark — I can pick up wifi from rural Canada with this ThinkPad (OK, a slight exaggeration), and the square screen allows a larger workspace than the Satellite.

The Satellite weighs about a ton and a half and I schlep it around with a Targus backpack. The ThinkPad is a lot lighter and goes in a Dell laptop bag ($2.50 at the Abbot’s Thrift Store on half-price day).

The Satellite has a slightly larger hard drive — not the original equipment, since I saved this laptop from recycling doom when my former employer was about to throw it out, sans hard drive and memory (“Hey, do you have any use for this laptop?” “Um, yeah.”). The ThinkPad, though with a smaller drive and less memory, never fails to get the work done that I expect from it.

Therein lies probably the tipping point: I can depend on the ThinkPad to handle everything, where the Toshiba, with its bigger drive and more memory sometimes falls short of expectations. Not wanting to get into the “inside baseball” of distro nuances on particular hardware, generally speaking the Toshiba has sometimes found ways to be — how can I put this tactfully? — uncooperative with some distros.

So I’m thinking about going back to the ThinkPad as the primary outside-the-home hardware, and I wanted to see what others thought either way, pro or con, left or right, good or bad.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy, Fosstafarian, Larry the Korora Guy, and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Back to the future

October 29, 2012 5 comments

[This item, slightly edited, is copied from an earlier submission to the Larry the CrunchBang Guy blog.]

Unbeknown to my daughter Mimi — and, sadly, I don’t think she reads what her Dad writes in this blog often enough (and if she does, well, consider the surprise spoiled) — she’s about to inherit yet another of Dad’s hand-me-down computers.

First things first: I currently use a ZaReason Alto 3880 laptop running CrunchBang 10 Statler, which is a remarkable machine that, sadly, ZaReason doesn’t make anymore — time and improvements march on, and ZaReason has advanced this laptop series to the current Alto 4330.

My daughter, conversely, has been using for the past few years my old ThinkPad R40, a very sturdy, utilitaran and well-traveled laptop judging by all the stickers on the cover.

Enter a new development: Steam and Valve are ramping up gaming in Linux, and the old R40 — great for her artwork and creating 8-bit music, which takes up most of her digital life — has, well, performance issues when it comes to the higher horsepower needed for games. Her interest in games goes beyond playing them, and with this in mind, I’d like for her to have the better hardware when pitching in on the projects she wants to explore.

Personally, I blame Gabe Newell for Mimi wanting newer hardware, but never mind. Also, for those of you keeping score at home, shelling out for a new ZaReason laptop is out of the question until, at least, Christmas (especially after last week’s $600 car repair which we will not discuss. Ever).

So after saving a ThinkPad T42 from recycling doom recently, I’ve put Waldorf on it — the CrunchBang-11-20121015-i686 version, which works flawlessly (with one caveat, mentioned below) — and I’ll hand down the ZaReason to Mimi.

Now, you go girl.

In the past in other blogs, I’ve said that I am a ThinkPad guy and I have always loved the form factor. That hasn’t changed, and though I’m turning over the keys to the sports car to my daughter and relegating myself to the station wagon, I feel at home with almost any model of ThinkPad.

So back to the hardware I love while looking to the future.

One more thing: There have been installation issues in the past with Waldorf — and, for some reason, it seems to be happening mostly (if not solely) on ThinkPads — where the installation will hang at the “detect disks” point. It came up again yesterday with this current install, and while there’s an extensive discussion involving solutions here, my solution was more simple and straightforward: Disable floppy in the BIOS.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

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