Have an old Laptop: Trying to find ways of keeping it going


#1

Basically I got a CR48 back when they were handed out by Google. Single core atom, have been told that the board does not use more ram than was installed on it, and I personally think the internal cabling for the mini pci-e slots power (for the wifi card and cellp modem card) re very stiff to the point I’m pretty sure any connectivity blips are due to bumps causing the connector to bounce.

I’m tempted to get a crystal HD card to make video a little nicer. However it’s a single core laptop with only one USB port and a vga out port. It’s good for offline tasks and all but as the web grows more complicated I’m not sure how much longer it can do even ‘basic’ work. I’ve been tempted to try android x86 but until they backport that desktop like interface from the other android on laptop project (and I don’t exactly TRUST that project… I’m afraid I may be slightly racist or something but i see ‘chinese lead project’ and I instantly think 'well shit data mining out the wazoo… tht can’t be a healthy attitude. Especially since given the revelations bout the NSA I’m sure the world has the same thought about the USA.)

Anyway old machine, still in decent shape, but getting obsoleted by the forward motion of the world with few if any at all upgrade paths (Curse you ball grid array! CURSE YOU!)


#2

I think you’ve already identified what is pretty much the only relevant upgrade option.

Even if you had the hardware and heroic rework skillz; BGA-559 Atoms never got any faster than the N2800, which isn’t terribly fast(and that’s only if the CR-48’s N455 was set up to use DDR3 rather than DDR2; the fastest DDR2 BGA-559 is the whole-200MHz-faster N475).

You can get mini-PCIe to PCIe 1x adapter cards; which are fun toys; and(assuming no ugly gotchas exist somewhere in the firmware or something) could theoretically be used to add a hilariously overpowered GPU; SAS HBA, or similarly ludicrous pairing for an anemic Atom; but it won’t be much of a laptop at that point.

If you confine yourself to things that actually fit in min-PCIe slots; there really aren’t many features you can add. You already have wifi and a cellular modem, which covers the vast majority of the world’s mini-PCIe cards; you can get RS-232, GbE, SATA, and TV tuner(albeit often obsolete NTSC gear); but those all require additional cabling hacked into the chassis and aren’t obviously helpful to the cause of an anemic laptop. The h.264 decoder cards, while they only make a difference in that one use case with suitable application support, are more or less the only mini-PCIe devices that can take a ‘system not powerful enough’ and turn it into buttery smooth playback.

As for software; I suspect that Android won’t save you. Aside from being pretty awful as a mouse and keyboard OS; it isn’t really any lighter weight than ChromeOS or your minimalist WM of choice and a standard Linux distribution. Possibly even heavier. It’s not as though Chrome on Linux gets faster when you add a bunch of freaky not-quite-Java stuff to the party; and unlike assorted awful phone SoCs, the GMA3150 has pretty robust(if spartan, and just plain not very fast, since it’s a low-clocked GMA950 descendant of no particular impressiveness) support for X; rather than some Android-only binary video driver with hideous(looking at you, GMA500 and GMA3600, you PowerVR-begotten hellspawn…) or nonexistent support for normal Linux video options. I’d only touch Android if you have a specific desire for some Android application

Aside from cultivating generally retro tastes, the only thing that might make a meaningful difference is getting really brutal about blocking every last scrap of javascript you can. Web designers have expanded to fill the available space, and more; but contemporary JS implementations are far better than the old ones were; and much of the worthwhile internet somehow managed to survive back when “1GHz” was mythical and getting a whole 128MB of RAM was seriously extravagant; so sites that are otherwise unusable might be just fine if convinced to fail gracefully, serve the mobile version, etc.


#3

Mostly I use it for writing/lite forum browsing and such. It’s just as the years go by the hardware just lacks the push to stay relevant (single core. It was underpowered even when it came out.)However yes it does DDR3 so yay?. The BIG worry is the power cabling for the mini pci-e things seems ultra stiff, meaning any bump causes connectivity to go nutso until a reboot (does not matter windows, any flavor of linux. HAS to be a hardware issue.)

I hate giving up on an old workhorse but it might end up stuck as a strictly offline portable workstation using lighter word processing.

I can cheat a little on podcasting/youtube via dedicated programs to pull podcasts and or youtube video (have not found any that accesses the movies I bought/paid for on youtube though, which is annoying. Doubt I will either.)


#4

I have an old Acer netbook from 2009 that has a single-core Atom, 2GB of RAM, and an SSD that replaced the HDD that’s in there. I have Fedora running on the thing, with XFCE4 but with Window Maker (yes, Window Maker) as the desktop shell.

This isn’t a screenshot of my desktop, but this is just reference for what it looks like.

Holy NEXTStep, Batman. As an aside, realizing that it came out in 1997 and that I’d given it a try in the early days, makes me feel old. It’s gotten incremental updates over the years, but it’s still in late-90s land imho. Pure XFCE4 would work just fine; for the time being, I have a GTK Industrial colorscheme, and run the various XFCE daemons from a shell script. Not as trouble-free as just using XFCE but it starts up ridiculously fast.

It won’t be blazing fast, but if you get a decent-sized SSD and set up a swap disk (I’d set VM_SWAPPINESS to around 10 or 20 imho) and change some of your defaults (Midori instead of Chrome as default unless you really NEED Chrome, as an example) it could be useable at the very least.

As far as crystal hd goes…eh, are you planning on using it to play videos? Is there more than one slot on that thing, or are you going to have to swap in a USB wifi dongle? I can tell you from personal experience that the dongles they sell for Raspberry Pi’s work well under Linux. It might not be a bad idea to get an Ethernet adapter, if you don’t have one already.


#5

Right now i run Peppermint 7 (ubuntu base) that tries to strip down pretty low for its defaults (XFCE as its manager and all.) Like I said, actual offline use is fine for right now. It’s when I go online where ‘HURK GOTTA. PUSH. GIANT .ROCK.’ happens.


#6

Have you tried Midori before? It has a lower footprint, and uses WebKit. It can be a little crashy at times but it’s a pretty decent browser imho. IIRC Elementary OS uses it.


#7

I have but for some blazin reason it just never felt right to me and i can’t peg down why.


#8

Old laptop, blah blah blah, blah-blah, blah blah, blah-blahabba. Blah blah.

I wish I knew…misspent youth.


#9

Belatedly I took out the cell modem because I don’t really care for the one in there and I have no plans on having a laptop cell data plan going anyway.


#10

Have an old Laptop: Trying to find ways of keeping it going

Viagra?


#11

Connector tolerance issues are really fiddly, and sometimes not fixable without either wholesale replacement or soldering everything down; but you might want to try stabilizing the troublesome area: the ‘copious hot glue and/or epoxy’ strategy is popular; but not as reversible as you might like. Those rubbery little thermal pad things, though, can be packed between parts without thermal trouble or risk of residue and can help keep them from moving around. Might be worth a shot.


#12

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