Got An Old Laptop?

Screenshot at 2016-05-22 17:35:26

I’m on the patio. My favorite spot.

This blog post is being composed on my ‘patio laptop,’ an older HP model that came with Windows Vista installed. Stef used this in college. It’s large by today’s standards — thick. Throws off lots of heat too.

A few months ago I bought the cheapest small SSD (Solid State Drive) I could, threw it inside (two minute job) and installed Mint Linux. I bought an aftermarket battery too. Total investment around $60.

For home users Mint is the current Linux flavor of the month. It is based on Ubuntu, which is based on Debian. In the open source world everything’s a derivative of something else. It’s hobbyist perferred, meaning there’s community support.

Mint Linux has a few subversions available, including one for machines with older and less beefy video cards, like this one.

Anyway, I’m here to recommend what I did for anyone with a little technical curiosity and an old laptop you’d like to revitalize! This thing has become a speedster.

This is not Microsoft Windows. You can’t run store bought Windows programs, but anything that loads in your browser works on this machine. Today, that’s most everything.

There are free programs to replace Word, Excel and Photoshop. Some are nearly as good. Some are not. Once you get used to the differences most are just fine.

Installing Mint required finding a program to burn the Mint files onto a USB drive. A few easy button presses got this machine to boot directly from the USB stick. There are lots of steps, but each is easy.

Linux is much more mature than it was years ago, but still not as sophisticated as Windows. Functionality isn’t missing. There’s just less polish.

Screenshot at 2016-05-22 17:33:03

Part of why Linux is fun for me is it allows you to play under the hood. That also means you can prang things. There’s less and less on an individual computer I care about and more things stored on my server or in the cloud.

My sound and video worked right off the bat. I did see some screen tearing and ended up loading an older video driver which seems more suited to my system. The video is now stable.

This machine is pretty much impervious to viruses, if only because there are too few Linux desktop/laptop machines to make malware pay! Most Linux machines run ‘headless’ 24/7 as servers or in other utility roles– think slot machines or the video displays that have replaced menu boards in coffee shops and fast food joints.

Like I said, it will help if you’re technically curious. Nearly every question I’ve ever had had an online answer available.

There is satisfaction in technical accomplishment. I won’t lie.

One Response to “Got An Old Laptop?”

  1. NancyB says:

    I have an old laptop – my son’s during college 2008-2012 – that I use for Internet use when I’m too lazy to walk the 10 feet to the desktop or too impatient to deal with the Ipad2.
    Perpetually plugged in because the battery is no longer charging and yes it gets HOT!
    Don’t know anything about 3/4 of what you wrote but hey, I’ve been known to tinker successfully with computers. I’ll keep it in mind.

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