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Resurrecting an old laptop

Yesterday I dug out my old Gateway E-475M laptop and fixed the touchpad which hadn’t worked since I replaced the USB and Ethernet ports about eight years ago. It turned out that all I needed to do was remove the keyboard and reattach the ribbon cables. I don’t know why I didn’t do that years ago.


The last time I’d installed Linux Mint on it, I’d gotten a kernel panic error and I put it away. I’d been reading about MX Linux recently and everything I read about it was very positive so I figured the Gateway would be a good machine to put it on. I’d also been wanting to create a new Multi-system boot drive on a larger USB stick so I put MX Linux 17.1 along with Mint 18.3 (Cinnamon, KDE, MATE, and XFCE) on a 16GB flash drive.

Then I booted the Gateway to MX Linux live environment and installed it. The installation was very straight forward, intended for new Linux user, and went without a hitch. I liked that it had several apps preinstalled that I would have installed anyway such as Conky and VLC. I liked that it had several Conky scripts to choose from and I found one that nicely displayed most of the information as my own script. I will have to take a close look at that script and see if I can incorporate some of it.

I’ve been using Mint’s Cinnamon desktop almost exclusively since I started using Mint many years ago and before that Gnome on Ubuntu so it may take me a while to get used to the XFCE desktop. I do have Mint 18.1 XFCE running on an old laptop but I don’t use it much.

I’ll play around with it some more and see if it grows on me. I’ll likely put it on a virtual machine once I become more knowledgeable on how to configure and use them.

It feels good to bring new life to an old computer. I guess I have a soft spot in my heart for older hardware and I’m reluctant to put it out to pasture while is still has some functionality.




This evening I wrote a short bash script to pull the necessary information for the battery, CPU, and network interfaces and writes the information to a text file. It combines the commands listed on my Conky Configuration page into a single script and provides the user with a text file from which to copy the device names and paste where necessary.

I had initially planned to include it at the beginning of the script to install my conky configuration but I’m thinking it might work better as a stand alone script. I’ll pretty up conkyinfo.sh and make it available from my Dropbox. I may still incorporate it into myconky.sh. That’s still a work in progress.

Upgrades in the works

HP-8300-usdtI recently acquired a slightly used HP Elite 8300 Ultra-Slim Desktop with an i5-3470S processor. I put a 750GB 7400RPM SATA drive into it and I’m waiting on 16GB of memory for it. My plan for it is to replace my Dell Optiplex 780 as my Windows PC. It will still be an outdated machine but for my purposes, it will do quite nicely. I haven’t yet decided the fate of the 780. I guess I’ll keep it for a while.

I’ve been on the lookout for a newer laptop to replace my Dell Latitude E6500 but I haven’t found anything at a price that appeals to me. I’ve wanted to upgrade it for a while but the DDR2 RAM for it is quite expensive. But very recently I found 8GB of PC2-6400 memory for about $120 Data Memory Systems which is the best price I’ve seen in years. Crucial wants $239 for 8GB. I’ve also ordered a new battery for it.

dell_e6500The plan for the E6500 is to increase the memory from 4GB to 8GB and replace the 160GB hard drive with a 320GB drive then install Linux Mint 18.3 Sylvia. I’m currently running Linux Mint 17.3 Rosa on it and I feel it’s about time I brought the OS up to the same level as my other Linux machines. After the upgrades it should serve me well for at least a couple more years.

Another Conky update

While using the All-in-One System Rescue Toolkit to wipe a hard drive on an old laptop, I noticed its display of system information on the desktop which included the OS version. I wondered if I could do that in Conky. Well, it can be done.

I found what I needed in the Kubuntu Forums .  The pre_exec command did not work on my Mint 18.1 system but I found that by replacing it with execi 60 did the trick. It refreshes the release information every 60 seconds but I can live with that.

This worked in Mint 17.x:
${pre_exec lsb_release -d | cut -f 2| tr “[:upper:]” “[:lower:]”}

I had change the pre_exec command to execi xx in Mint 18:
${execi 60 lsb_release -d | cut -f 2| tr “[:upper:]” “[:lower:]”}

I added the lines in the SYSTEM section of my script just below the line that displays the kernel information. I commented out the line with the pre_exec command since I’m using Mint 18.x (Ubuntu 16.04). I didn’t test the execi 60 line in 17.x but it should work but both are available.

My downloadable script is available through my Conky Configuration page.

cpmvpic script

Last April I created cpmvpic.sh (copy move picture), a bash script that copies files from a temporary folder to my Dropbox so I can access them on my other systems. It also moves the file out of the temporary folder into a particular folder on my main system. At the time I used the images in html documents so later I added functionality to copy the document containing the image to my Dropbox. Then several months later I began creating the documents in LibreOffice (odt) format so I disabled that feature.

Today I made some changes to the directory structure for the Dropbox copies of the files so I modified the script to reflect those changes. I also renamed some of the variables to give them more meaningful names and re-enabled the copying of the target document.

The script uses the name of the image file, the 2-digit month, and the 4-digit year to build the necessary paths and document file names from base path names. It checks for the correct number of arguments and the validity of the paths and file names. If an error is detected, it displays an appropriate error message and the correct syntax, then exits.

I use this script for a specific series of documents which use the same naming convention in a particular set of folders. Although it’s a specialized script, it could be easily adapted for similar file copy operations.

Penultimate Day – 2017

This past year was full of changes.

In January I dropped AT&T U-verse as my Internet provider and went back to cable. Because my wife wanted to keep our landline number, I had to go with my new provider’s gateway device and router. I wasn’t able to configure the house telephone wiring to accommodate the change so were using cordless phones which is working out alright. I had already gotten an Obihai device and set up a Google Voice number. I still have it connected but it doesn’t get much use.

In April, I reevaluated my need for a hosting provider. I’d been having some issues with my POP3 email accounts, particularly when using them with Thunderbird. I’d also had a few DNS issues when they retired some of their DNS servers which causes me some problems connecting with my blogs and web pages. Other than a few WordPress blogs on the site, the only really active Web pages were my genealogy pages.

I had been tossing the idea of dropping the host for a couple of months but when the bill for another year’s service showed up in my bank account at a time when I could not afford it, I decided to end it. I backed up everything down to my PC, updated email addresses, moved the blogs to my WordPress.com account, and ended my relationship with them. and let the domain names expire.

The other big change was upgrading my main PC. My HP 6005 had always been a little temperamental with Linux Mint but by November it began getting a lot more temperamental. I found a good deal at Micro-Center in Cincinnati on a refurbished Lenovo M91p. It was advertised with an i7 processor, 8 GB of memory, a 500 GB hard drive, and Windows 10.

After I got it home, I found that it had a 2 TB drive so I decided to keep the Windows 10 and dual boot it with Mint 18.1. (I still haven’t booted to the Windows partition and activated it. Since I’d previously set up an M91p for my wife with 24 GB of memory, I swapped some memory around to bring hers down to 16 GB and mine up to 16 GB. Once I was finished with the HP, I added its 16 GB to the M91. It’s been working well. I’m quite happy with it.

Throughout the year I’ve continued to improve my BASH scripting skills, developing a few new scripts and making some older scripts more robust. Most of my scripts are for routine tasks. I continued to tweak my conky script.

Recently I found HomeBank to manage and keep track of my financial accounts. It’s capable of downloading QIF files from financial institutions but I haven’t tried it yet. Quicken (on my Windows PC) has been prompting me to upgrade for a while now but once it’s no longer capable of downloading my transactions, I may not up upgrade and just use HomeBank exclusively, keeping my current version of Quicken to access past transactions. When that occurs, I’ll probably move my spreadsheets from the Windows PC to my Linux PC.

Tech goals for 2018? I plan to continue to reduce my dependence on Windows although, realistically, I’ll probably still need it for some tasks. I’ll probably look into running it on a VM but there are some things about VM I still need to figure out. I’ll continue to improve my scripting skills.

Time for an Upgrade

Linux Mint has always been a little temperamental on my HP 6005. It may been that some minor compatibility issues between the OS and the AMD architecture, I don’t know. But over the last few days, it had gotten flakier, locking up more often, and I’d see one or two of my CPU cores hitting 100 percent quite regularly. It was getting very frustrating to say the least and I’d already been flirting with the idea of upgrading my system.

Len-M91pI found a good deal at Micro Center for a refurbished Lenovo M91p with a 3.4GHz i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive with Windows 10 pre-installed. I reserved one the other day and today I drove down and picked it up.

I’d begun a back up of the HP this morning and it was still going when I returned so started getting the new PC set up. My wife’s PC is the same model and I’d already installed 24GB of RAM in it so I took her 8GB modules and put in the 4GB modules from the new computer taking her down to 16GB and raising mine to 16GB.

My original intention had been to wipe the drive clean and install Mint 18.1 Serena but while getting the system data I knew I’d need later, I discovered that I had a 2TB drive in it. With that knowledge, I figured that I had enough room for a dual boot system. I gave 1.5 terabytes to Linux and left the rest for Windows.

I installed Mint as well as some my must have applications and utilities. There are still a few that still need to be installed and the usual tweaking. I don’t know how much use I’ll get out of the Windows 10 partition since I’ve never really liked it much. But maybe I can learn to live with it and eventually eliminate having a separate Windows PC.

After my backup was completed, I decided to go ahead and take the 8GB modules out of the HP and put them into the Lenovo, bringing it to 32GB . Lenovo’s documentation says it will only support 16GB but I’d been running 24GB in my wife’s system for over a year without any problems.

A more powerful laptop would be nice but my Dell Latitude (with its Core 2 Duo, 4GB of RAM, and 160GB drive) still works well for what I do with it — a little web surfing, email, and some writing.


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