The ongoing role of my old Toshiba laptop

Bet you guys thought I forgot about this blog, huh?

Well, as I mentioned in my last post (ugh, all the way back in November already?), I’m gainfully employed again, and busier than a one-legged man in an…. well, you get the idea.

I get home from work and the LAST thing on my mind is writing any kind of intelligible technology articles.

That said, I DO need to start contributing some content to my own Linux blog again, so here goes.

My old Toshiba laptop

I have currently only one laptop after my newer Dell XPS 1330 died on me a year ago. It’s my several-years-old Toshiba Satellite A75-S2112.

It’s got an antiquated P4 3.06 GHz Hyperthreading CPU, 1.5 GB of RAM (upgraded from 512 MB by Yours Truly), a 60 GB hard drive, and a tendency to run too hot.

It’s old enough that I replaced it with a newer, sleeker, faster Dell a couple of years ago, but when the Dell died (literally a week or two after the warranty expired), I pulled the old Toshiba out and started using it again.

While it’s slow and showing its age, I can’t really complain THAT much about it. It still works (and has been a lot more reliable than the only Dell laptop I’ve ever owned), and since I’m not a super-heavy laptop user (it’s 7.5 pounds, not something I really enjoy lugging around with me everywhere), it fills the gap well enough for the time being, at least until I figure out what I’m going to get for a new notebook.

It has a nice, full-size keyboard, a pretty good LCD (though it’s starting to fade around the edges the way they tend to when they get up there in age… just like us humans), and a rugged construction that’s held up for me since at least 2005.

The Operating System Carousel!

Round and round it goes!

Since last spring, since laptopping isn’t a massive priority for me, and since I don’t keep a huge amount of data on it, I’ve been inclined to wipe my old Toshiba with a lot more frequency than is “normal” for me so that I can give various other Linux distros a try.

When I blew the dust off of the old boy last year after my Dell died, it still had Slackware 12.0 on it, with Fluxbox as its main window manager. I had decided to give Ubuntu a real try, so I wiped Slackware off of it and installed Ubuntu 9.04 on it to give that a spin.

That was fun; it taught me a lot about the Ubuntu world, and it gave me some ideas for other things to do with this laptop while I was working on coming up with things to write about on this very blog.

In the end, I decided I liked Ubuntu, and since I was moving away from Slackware anyway, this merited some deeper study.

I then decided I’d test the “upgrade” feature when Ubuntu 9.10 came out, and let it upgrade itself via APT. That was interesting, but a few things didn’t work quite right. I’ve never been one to upgrade an OS because of this. I’m a clean install kind of guy. So when things didn’t work quite right, I wiped it and installed my next project. Linux Mint 8.

Mmmm, Mint

Now, back in September-ish, I rebuilt my main desktop machine at home. I had initial plans to install Slackware 13, but since Slackware now doesn’t fit my needs, I decided to go with something else entirely, so I ended up installing Linux Mint 7 on it.

My desktop is still running happily on Mint 7, and while that process came with its own issues (the default kernel didn’t like my DVD-ROM drive, plus I discovered massive problems trying to set up Mint 7 on a machine that uses both IDE and SATA drives together), once I got everything set up, it’s been really great.

As odd as it might sound, Mint 7 with Fluxbox on this hardware actually runs faster than Slackware 12.1 with Fluxbox, and it’s been just as stable. It was because of that that I ended up deciding to go with Mint 8 on my laptop when it was released back in November.

And while I have some complaints about Mint 8 as compared to 7 (the removal of functionality from GDM, for one example), most of these things are issues I have with GNOME; the Mint guys themselves have done a bang-up job with what they are using as a starting point!

What’s next for the old Toshiba?

So Mint 8 has been running well on my old laptop, am I going to leave it there?

Of course not. I just read the other day that the first release candidate for the Linux Mint 8 Fluxbox Community Edition is out. When the final release is ready, I’m going to blow away regular Mint 8 and install the Fluxbox Community Edition and give that a whirl.

Being a hardcore Fluxbox user, I have my own way of configuring things, but I’m really curious to see what they have in mind for this, and the best way to find out is to try it.

I figure if I don’t like it, I can always just put regular Linux Mint 9 on it, which will be out in a few months.

I think I will keep this laptop in this role for the foreseeable future. It’s been reliable, so it makes a good test bed for distros I might not be inclined to put on my primary productive desktop machines, and it’s already been a very educational experience.

Maybe if I have time, I’ll continue to write about it!

Until then, keep checking back. Sooner or later I’ll get back into regular content here again. 🙂

– Trent

15 thoughts on “The ongoing role of my old Toshiba laptop

  1. 3Ghz is “slow”?

    My head is bloody from hitting the desk.

    Still waiting on those ARM-based $100 netbooks. Or how about some desktop/nettop ARM systems…16 cores, anyone? No Windows isn’t a bug, it’s a feature 🙂

    • 3Ghz is “slow”?

      My head is bloody from hitting the desk.

      You do know that CPU speeds are calculated in vastly different ways, right? This is why the Intel Pentium 4 3.06 GHz Ht CPU is actually much slower than the single core AMD Athlon 3500+ CPU I have in a different machine, even though the AMD processor’s CPU speed is only rated at 2.2 GHz.

      It’s apples and oranges. That ‘3Ghz is “slow”?’ comment’s answer in this case is “Yes, extremely!”. But you’re just looking at the number. That’s not always an accurate indicator of actual performance when compared to other chips. In fact, particularly in this case, it’s apples and oranges.

      Here is a pretty good article that talks about the differences between AMD and Intel P4 processors. That might help clear things up. Particularly telling is this quote:

      Realistically though as nice as the round numbers are, these are empty goals. An Athlon64 may be clocked a whole gigahertz slower than a Pentium 4, but it still performs much better in benchmarks; the correlation between frequency and performance is pretty much dead.

  2. I also have a modest Toshiba notebook (A135-S2386) which came with a modest 80GB hard drive. Then, I bought a 320GB Seagate FreeAgent on sale for $70 and swapped drives. The FreeAgent case was assembled using a gummy adhesive.

    And, I learned that the FreeAgent case could not connect to all SATA drives (pcb / drive physical conflict). So, now I have a 320GB Toshiba and a 80GB portable drive.

    A larger hard drive is probably just a luxury in a Linux machine. Still, larger is rarely a bad thing.

      • Hi Trent,

        Sorry about the reply latency.

        Yes, I was referring to my dual-boot machine. It is still my primary notebook machine.

        Remember that Mediawiki project we worked on? (Thanks again, for the help.) Well,I have a new project.

        I am writing this on a vintage Gateway notebook that my neighbor received from the estate of another veteran. This Gateway has been through the wringer. What I dislike about it the most is the broken down key.

        We have Mint 10 Gnome running on it and I am very close to finishing an osCommerce install. All that remains is finishing the openSSL install. We did openSSL on the Mediawiki project, so I feel pretty comfortable.

        Our web store will be — where veterans can offer items. We know plenty of other vets that make products — diamond willow walking sticks, leather goods, custom knives, handicrafts, etc. It will be great to help vets be appreciated.

        osCommerce is pretty slick. It is a perfect fit for a Linux web server. If you want, I will keep you posted.

        • Cool, I’m really glad you’ve continued to delve into the Linux world, Dave; I always thought it had you written all over it. 😉

          Do keep me posted, I’m definitely interested in hearing about what you’re working on!

    • (Oracle) Virtualbox is good for testing and trying out desktops I’ve found.

      I actually use VirtualBox extensively, but sometimes to truly get a feel for an OS, you have to run it on native hardware. Virtualization isn’t always the best way to evaluate something.

      That said, where I currently work, I’m running Linux Mint 7 natively on my workstation, and I virtualize Windows XP using VirtualBox so I can run Outlook and a couple of other Windows-only apps I need there.

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  5. I’ve been running Ubuntu 9.10 on an A75 for a month or more. While I’ve worked through most issues like lockups fixed with noapic and installing rt kernel, the video driver is still not working properly with the built in radeon driver.

    Since finding your page and the fact you have this “wonderful” laptop (USB quirky, overheat issue needing compressed air every 6 months), due you have a xorg.conf that works well and allows flash acceleration? When first messing with Ubuntu on it, I had acceleration working with a xaa setting in xorg.conf, though the machine crashed and the xorg.conf went with it after a reinstall. Can’t figure out what I did to get everything working.

    Thanx in advance, I’ve been attempting to fix the video issues for a month and keep ending up with the default no xorg.conf when problems happen. Compiz will not run properly at the 1080p I need, background turns black when enabled.

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