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Old Laptops

Whilst poking around in a closet recently I found a couple of old laptops – a vintage Toshiba Satellite Pro 4260 DVD from around the turn of the century and a somewhat newer Panasonic Toughbook CF-T8.

The Toshiba only had a single RJ-6 connection but I happened to have a 3Com Ethernet adapter card which I put in the card bus slot. I booted it up and saw that it had Windows 98 on it. I wonder how long ago I installed that. I had been thinking about seeing if I could successfully install Linux on it but I couldn’t bring myself to wipe out the Windows. Instead I burned ISOs of Tiny Core and Puppy Linux to CDs and ran each from a Live CD. After playing around with each, I decided that installing either of them wouldn’t be worth the trouble. I guess I’ll put it on a shelf and show it to the grandchildren when I talk about “the good old days.”

It turns out I had already installed Linux Mint 17 Qiana on the Toughbook. I must have installed it a while ago since it was based on Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty. But it’s still supported for a couple more months. I didn’t have any files on it so I installed MX Linux 18 over it. Will I find a use for it? Maybe.


DIL Laptop

Today I set up a laptop for my daughter-in-law and I installed Windows 7 on it. The installation itself went rather smoothly. It was installing drivers that caused me a bit of frustration.

I already had the drivers downloaded (or so I thought) because I’d set up the same model laptop for my son a few months ago. Apparently this particular laptop had a few more devices include. After installing the drivers, I looked at Device Manger and saw four devices that sitll needed drivers — two unknown devices, a Broadcom driver, and something listed as “base system device.”

One of the unknown devices was the sensor for the fingerprint reader which I found by letting Windows redicover it. I found the device ID for the second one and figured out that it was for the HP 3D DriveGuard driver which I downloaded and installed.

The missing Broadcom driver turned out to be Bluetooth. I downloaded that driver from HP and installed it.

That left me with the base system device. Reinstalling the chipset drivers didn’t fix it. I was able to narrow it down to a driver for the smart card reader. I downloaded and installed HP’s driver but no go. Then I saw there was a JMicron SmartCard driver and so I downloaded and installed that. Finally, all the yellow exclamation marks were gone from Device Manager.

The drivers installed, I downloaded and installed LibreOffice, Gimp, VLC, Firefox, and Google Chrome. Then it was time to installed the 165 updates that were waiting.

In essence, this is one of the reasons I use Linux. Setting up a Linux system is generally much quicker and easier and with fewer headaches.

I had considered installing Linux Mint on it because she said the operating system didn’t matter and she was mostly going to use it for web browsing. Then she said something about possibly playing some games on it so I figured I’d better install Windows on it. I’ve noticed that her desktop PC is Windows 7 as are the kids’ laptops.

Transferring data to a new laptop

Probook6570bYesterday afternoon I decided to move my data from one HP Probook 6570 to a different one. I used Joe Collins‘ XBT backup script to back up my home directory to an external drive. After installing Linux Mint 18.3 on the “new” laptop, I used rsync to copy my home directory to the new installation. Then I did some post-installation tweaks and ran a script to install software and do a few other system tweaks. That done, it was time for me to go to work so I shut the system down.

This morning I fired it up and logged in. To my delight my conky script ran and Firefox popped up to the Dropbox site, asking me to sign in to my account. Then I connected to my main PC via SSH and was glad to see that my SSH key and other settings had carried over. I then installed the Chromium browser and the installation was complete.

The script to install the software I like to have on my Mint installations worked rather well, but I saw the need to add additional checks to see if certain packages had been installed or if certain directories already been created. I also added Chromium to the install script.

Encouraged by the success of that install and data transfer, I’m looking forward to reinstalling Linux on my Dell E6500. I’m changing my partitioning on that laptop so the process may be a little different or maybe not.

These installs are practice for when I reinstall Mint on my Lenovo M91p. I plan to change the partitioning and get rid of the unused 500GB Windows 10 partition since I no longer have any intention to dual boot this PC. Working daily with Windows 10 at work has convinced me that I really want no part of it on my own network.

Linux Experiments

E-475mEarlier this week I did an OEM installation of Linux Mint 18.3 on my Gateway laptop. I’d seen an EzeeLinux video on how to do it and I wanted to give a try. I had a friend who’d seen me using Mint on my laptop and expressed interest in it and an OEM installation would enable to him to go through the process of setting up his user name, password, and all that

I did the set up much like my own systems, setting up Timeshift, adding the Chromium browser and the Htop utility. I added scripts to the cron.weekly and cron.monthly folders to run get updates and do a little system cleanup.

HP-110-miniIn another experiment, I found my wife’s old HP 110-Mini Netbook and installed Mint 18.3 XFCE on it With an Intel Atom processor and only 1GB of RAM, I wasn’t expecting much. It runs but it’s incredibly slow. I don’t know if bringing it up to 2GB will help much. The netbook originally ran Windows 7 Starter edition. I pulled that hard drive out and replaced it with a different drive just in case the experiment didn’t work out. I’m considering a more lightweight distribution for this device. Maybe Puppy Linux.


Last month I mentioned that I was working on conkyinfo.sh, a script to gather the device information I needed to use in my conky scripts. Now that I’ve found that my old scripts don’t work so well anymore, I’ve adapted a simpler script that shows less information.

But that doesn’t mean that I’ve tossed that script completely aside. Yesterday, I got to thinking about expanding on that script and gathering some basic system information into a text file stored in the home directory. It turned out that I really didn’t use much from the conkyinfo.sh script.

I set up variables to hold the results of dmidecode commands for general information about the system such as manufacturer, product name and version, and system serial number. I started out using dmidecode to get the CPU model and it worked well with the HP laptop I was using when I originally wrote the script.

While testing it on my desktop PC and my other Linux laptops, I noticed that on my Dell laptops, dmidecode returned ‘Not Specified” for the CPU information so I turned to using grep with the lscpu command to give me the information that I needed. I used grep and awk with /proc/meminfo to give me the amount of physical memory in gigabytes.  All this information was redirected into a file.

For information network interfaces and power (batteries), I redirected the output of the ls command on /sys/class/net and /sys/class/power_supply. For hard drive information I redirected the  lsblk output to the file. At the end of the script I ran the cat command on the file to display everything.


The only problem I’m having is when I run it on my Lenovo ThinkCentre M91p. The variables containing the output of the dmidecode commands all contain an error message: “Invalid entry length (16). Fixed up to 11.” I’m not sure what’s causing it but from what I’ve read about the error, it may have something to do with using sudo with dmidecode. Some articles talked about the host name being too long but even after shortening the host name, I still got the error. Some of the other computers have longer host names. but the error doesn’t occur. I’ve only seen the error when using sudo with dmidecode on the M91p.

Testing on the various machines using ssh and rsync made the process so much easier. With each changed to the script, I had to upload it to each machine and using a script makes that process so much easier when I can upload to all machines with one command.

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.


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.

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