Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

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I wonder what the oldest laptops in current use are, and for what kinds
of daily use.


I've been mulling getting a new laptop for 2-3 years, yet I am still
using my 1999 one. I changed many parts w/ spares (thanks, Impact!) and
it's *acceptably* stable and usable.

1999 Tosh Satellite 2540 CDS
K6-ii @ 333 MHz
Xircom pcmcia Ethernet

Win 98 FE + MSOffice 2K + Opera + Skype (barely! net2phone used to work
better but they fucked up my acct, tough!) + IrfanView for pics + AVG +
Spybot S&D + an old but goodie ZonAlarm Pro I got as a present from the
ZoneLabs CEO for some particularly insightful (wow!) user feedback
(thanks Gregor!) + MemTrax for memory management + Process Explorer for
figuring out what the heck goes on in the guts of this machine (now
even Microsoft recommended, genuflecting to Mark!)

+ lightweight FLOSS from PDF reading to system task scheduler, Psi for
multi-network IM, spamfilter, ssh, PGP, VLC and Zinf for multimedia,
the GIMP (old vers!) etc.

Gave up on Clamwin, Open Office, Firefox as way too slow though.
Maybe on the next comp!

I also have Zenwalk Linux 2.8 for general fun & windows maintenance
(multiboot with XOSL) but little used as this is my main work comp, and
even on a lightweight Linux OO, VMs,  etc. either don't run fast enough
or not at all. + I'd have to recompile the too-up-to-date kernel to
drive the Jurassic era audio chip.

Clients (mgmt consulting) look puzzled at me when I do general office
productivity, lots of Excel and PowerPoint presentations with tons of
pics in them, & discover that my lappie does more than theirs with 10x
the memory and 6x clock speeds, incl. giving them user level password
restricted access to my folders (they mostly use XP Home :-), and
getting NO vx, spyware, etc EVER since '99.

Not to mention opening any strange file thrown at it, incl. semibroken
Office ones (thanks, Open Office!) while of course clients struggle
with "unknown" formats  :-0

If Win 98 goes nuts, as it does, Linux lets me step back to a pristine
system, which I upgrade & tune up before putting a new copy on ice on a
nonwindows partition.

I even have Unix-like separate partitions for OS + apps, data (incl.
all the application data, put in very visible folders), temp, swap, &
one just for registry backups and critical antivirus files & other odd
things like housing the bootselector.

Among other things, partitions have their wildly different file-change
dynamics segregated unto themselves, and this turns defrag into a 30
min. job from a 5 hour one.

One bizarre thing I do, I keep an external air extractor ready to aid
the internal fan, as this old machine now spends more time with the CPU
gunned to 100% than at buy time.


- Do you have an OLD laptop as your main PC?

- What OS and apps do you use on it?

- Any longevity/efficiency suggestions?

- And what kind of practical work do you use it for?


This could be a fun thread!



(I'd love to read from incompetent speling chalengged ungramatical
monkyes berating me no end for using such a desperately obsolete OS,
I'm sure there could be quite a few. Bill & Steve love their sweet a**,
I'm sure.   OTOH, some of their money is now saving lives all over the
world. :-)

Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

SpamHog wrote:
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Your not alone thats for sure. though i would say your pretty far over
on the spectrum of older machines still in use (and that being p2 class
k6-2 333mhz, but if it still access's the internet, heh) i still use a
dell latitude cpx p3 650mhz with an updated bios for upgrades. 256mb
ram, 20gb HD, ati rage pro w/8mb video ram running windows XP w/service
pack 2. and a xircom pc card for ethernet, hot swappable 24x cd-rom and
floppy drive. and its fast, so fast i cant warrant a purchase of a new
laptop to replace it. i dont consider any laptop a replacement for a
desktop (no matter how loaded they supposidly are) so if you game
heavily and like to upgrade often for it, then thats desktop territory.
but if you need something mobile for work, and for light entertainment
(or just basicly a new toy to fiddle with) staying behind the
technology curve with even a used laptop can be a wise decision, and
save you easily over 5-600+ dollars with purchase (just check out e-bay
and craigslist) i feel i probably paid to much for mine new, compared
to the deals dell gives out now (this was from the first gen mega
powered laps) so until something happens to this one ill still be using
it, then ill consider more of a used one maybe next time, or one of the
great advertised deals dell has out at the time, and probaby nothing
(today) over $600 for what i use it for. so congratulations! that can
be considered one hell of a "hack" you have there (using it for very
functional needs to this day)  -Have fun :)

Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

On Sun, 10 Sep 2006 04:44:46 -0700, SpamHog wrote:

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Until recently, I used an old IBM TP600 (P2 300, 4gb hdd etc.) as my main
home office / net machine.  Running Knoppix.
However, it died recently, and sue to it's age, and the opportunity of
upgrading to a Thinkpad T23 (P3 800-1.1, 40gb hdd!), I decided to allow
the 600 a dignified death, and didn't resurrect it.
The T23 runs debian, and Mozilla / run much faster on it :)

I also have a pretty old acer travelmate 212tx (I think), running as a
mail / file server, 24x7.  Dead battery, keyboard *rearranged* by a 2 yr
old, pcmcia card slots failed, but it keeps on going using a usb/ethernet
adaptor and an external usb hdd for storage.  It does amuse that
downloading off the internet is actually faster than the usb 1.1 connected

Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

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An old laptop can make a decent full-function firewall and webserver
accessable from both the public internet and the home LAN.   This
is a machine which, once set up, is managed remotely.  

A laptop gives you a full kbd and monitor when you *do* need hands on
the console and the battery gives you a goodly amount of UPS capacity.
It draws less power than even a small PC, which can add $10-20
bucks/month to the house electricity bill.

a d y k e s @ p a n i x . c o m
Harrison for Congress in NY 13CD  
Don't blame me. I voted for Gore. A Proud signature since 2001

Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

SpamHog wrote:
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Compaq Armada M300, PII-333MHz, 128MB RAM, running Win2K - operating as
the bittorrent machine, webcam engine and print server in my office
(shares three printers and some HDD sharepoints to eight computers).

It still works perfectly well, but I keep the lid closed and operate it
over VNC.

Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

Cool guys!  Know what, years ago my laptop was already once slated for
turning into a server, as a client gave me a nice ( at the time) Tosh
for the duration of a bunch of projects. As they begged me to have it
back I resurrected this old machine which was already running Debian
Woody headless (ssh) with two network cards, but not serving files yet.

That's where it'll end up when the time comes.

I've ben thinking of staying behind the curve in laptop upgrades, the
probl is I live in Italy and I much prefer non-italian kb's (US, French
Canadian, or Swiss, which is wonderful for working in several European
languages),  those are hard to come by used, and int'l shipping is
rather expensive %wise on cheapo hardware.

In desktops I've reached the point where throwaways are more powerful
than my bought-new main comp.  I have almost merged 3 desktops into one
much better than my P3/866 with 4 OSs (3 mutiboot + one on VM).
Leftovers may still turn into a Beowulf cluster (I need to teach a
protein-modeling friend, who'll use much better HW).  The switch, of
course, is leftover from a co., an office tenant of mine, that went
belly up. Missed rent cost me n times my computing budget.

The triumph of good-enough computing!

Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

  Jeanette wrote

I am still daily using my Sager Celeron 400mhz 128 mb of ram with 10 gig
IBM hard drive.

I use this laptop daily.  It runs Windows 98se patched as far as it can
be.  A software firewall.  Netgear wireless card.  Office 2k.  AVG,
spybot, adaware.

It dual boots with Damn Small Linux which runs extremely fast but I have
to use the 3com nic card with it since I can't get the wireless to work
with Damn Small Linux.

I have recently started considering getting a new laptop so I can have
wireless under Linux  and an xp partition.


Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

Jeanette wrote:

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Small Linuxes got  better over the last few years, both from-CD &
installable,  several having both personas, sometime in just one CD.

Try a somewhat less minimal distro.  400MHz & 128MB is plenty but you
should have a few 100MB devoted to a swap partition, though, esp. for
CD.  On HD all smallish distros install in well under 2GB.

Yes, DSL is EXTREMELY responsive when run "all from RAM", but you won't
be able to do the same with a a 300-400MB distro and 128MB.

Consider Vector, Zenwalk, Peanut, Feather, Puppy, grml (lots of light
desktops, but geeky, & full install is 2GB+), Mepis Lite (not sure they
keep it up to date though), and Xubuntu / Ubuntu Lite (whichever is
still alive), Wolwix or KateOS. If you feel anticapitalistic, whatever
that means, consider Blag. Yes there is one explicitly anticapitalist
distro, Bill, now sit.

Yesterday I installed Zenwalk 3.0 on my Toshiba K6-II 333MHz 96MB 20GB.
Seems quite solid, actively developed, community growing.  Yet I know
I'll use Linux more on this comp only after it's retired from business
and freed from the MS-Office / OpenOffice yoke.

Also, seriously consider Opera as a full service browser. IMO beats
anything Microsoft _and_ open source both in horsepower per tonne and
in features.

Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

Jeanette wrote:
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I tried Puppy Linux last night.

I hadn't looked at the distro in a long time. Cool, fast, many
interesting tricks, many options for saving sessions, installable,
extensible, modern kernel - so it might have appropriate WiFi support.
Give it a try.

If your laptop has a burner, consider burning the .iso image on CD-R
(maybe not CDRW) as multisession, and booting with the "puppy 5"

It will store all your sessions sequentially.

As the OS is <80MB, a 700MB CDR should last a while.

When it's full, you can move OS and data to a new one.

[ Also while you're on it, search for Puppy Linux and a thing called
smtg like "open source time travel". I laughed my heart out for half an
hour. A little bit of scientific awareness is required. Then I decided
to drop everything and become a programmer, specializing in the ASQ
language. ]

Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for? wrote:

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I quote myself because I did something not too dissimilar,
also involving FOSS:

          The CRM-SDCP research project.

Combining Open Source Time Travel and CRM-SDCP
would lick the terrorist problem in no time, literally.

Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

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    An ex-girlfriend of mine still uses the IBM 701C I gave her as a
birthday present just before the turn of the century. It's a 486-75Mhz
model with the original 700-something MB hard drive and 40MB of RAM.
She's never upgraded it because she says it does everything she wants
- running Windows 95, Office 95, and a 16-bit wifi card. I think she
also likes the attention the expanding keyboard garners in Starbucks.
    She does eye my 701 with envy - it's got the 133Mhz upgrade and
64MB of RAM. I loaned it to her once while I worked on hers, swapping
her hard drive into it. The woman insists my X31 with 1.4GHz, 1GB RAM,
and 7200-rpm drive doesn't seem any faster than her laptop, while the
133Mhz 701 seems like greased lightning to her - and she may be right,
considering how bloated the software on my modern machine is compared
to hers.
    I use my 701 only in emergencies, though. My true back-up machine
in a Sony VAIO C1XS Picturebook - running at 400Mhz, it's an
electronic miracle of compact functionality. It's been my travel
machine for years.
"Everybody wants a normal life and a cool car;
most people will settle for the car." Chris Titus
2003 BMW 325i Black/Black, 2003 BMW Z4 Black/Black

Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

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There is really something to be said for owing cheap
laptops huh?

Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

On Tue, 12 Sep 2006 12:58:15 -0500, wrote:

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    I dunno about cheap. The Sony was $3000 when it was new, the 701
was $4500 new, though I got it later that year (1995) for $1800. :)
    But it's like most forms of expertise - the better you are, the
less power you need to get the job done.
"Everybody wants a normal life and a cool car;
most people will settle for the car." Chris Titus
2003 BMW 325i Black/Black, 2003 BMW Z4 Black/Black

Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

SpamHog wrote:
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Yeah U r not the only one that use old machine.
I have Hitachi VisionBook Pro 7000 (Pentium Mobile MMX-200 + 64MB RAM +
12.1" TFT).
Unfortunately it does not recognize the all 64MB, the BIOS see only 49MB
which is strange. In general the laptop is very reliable and works nice
(I replaced HDD into new Fujitsu 40GB). I use it as controller for
optical switch (it has COM port which is not so common in new laptops).
It has DSL Linux (very fast, designed for laptops) and Mandriva 2006 Pro
+ IceWM).

I like this laptop. I do not thik that new laptops would work such long
time as this one. It's not a Chinese crap! It was assembled in Korea.


Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

Gomez Adams wrote:
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I have a friend that has an old compaq 386sx laptop but its not in
daily use anymore. more of a conversation/novelty piece now. i think he
said he stopped using it when his carrier dropped support for 2400
baud, a modem of witch he connected externaly from one of the serial
ports i believe. and if im not mistaking (and i may be since he has a
lot of small hand held devices) but i could have swore i seen a whole
array of "AA" batteries powering this thing sitting in the compartment
underneath, now would'nt that be nice today? i have a weak latitude
battery that will cost me anywhere form $150-200 to replace. about
older laptops lasting longer than new, they say heat is the enemy of
electronics and the newer systems run much, much hotter than the older
ones (due in part to more powerfull cpu's/ram/HD's ect) and the funny
thing i have noticed is that they seem to have less and less
ventilation vents, my latitdue only has an upper right corner vent on
the side that cools the cpu's heat pipe and exit's directly out the
same back corner's fan exhaust. there's nothing underneath for battery
or ram ventilation! (due in part for dust protection probably) but
still this thing will cook your lap if you try to use it for it in it's
namesake design! instead of purchasing an expensive fan powered laptop
cooling pad, or the lesser expensive tubular designed one (at compusa)
i bought a little hack for it instead, a $4.99 pastry cooling tray
(mesh chrome)  that sits about 3/4"-1" high at a craft store so i can
use the laptop on my bed and it now stays much cooler even on a desk.
and now with all this linux talk floating around i may just do me a
little install..

Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

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Although I did get a Thinkpad T23 (1.2Ghz 40Gb 384Mb) a couple years
back to help with some intensive tasks and have access to USB, I
couldn't bring myself to lose two of the previous laptops that shared
various tasks in different locations in the home.

My Thinkpad 760ED (133Mz 104Mb 6Gb 2Mb Video ram sxga) has all the
extras available to it including 2nd HDD caddy which is very handy. I
run (using separate disks accordingly) DOS 6.22, W95C W98SE W2k and
its battery still lasts 80mins. I am currently looking to Midi it up
and move on from my Atari 1040Stf (4Mb) to run my old midi systems. It
cost me about 40 but I have bought sold/upated several 760's keeping
the best bits for me and getting the best model out o this process
over 6 years or so, so has really cost nothing.

I also have a Toshiba Tecra 740 CDT (166mmx 144Mb 5.1Gb sxga 2Mb Vram)
and until last week a working screen! But the inverters' just gone.
This also runs W98SE and a separate disk with W2k and I can access
DVDs via my external DVD drive through a pcmcia-firewire card of all
things under w2k. Has a great 13.3" screen, so will look to get it
repaired. I did pay 230 for this used but later got extra max memory
for free and a new screen under warranty in 1999. Also got a spare
Lion battery fro free and both batts last about 2hours each, so a
useful lump to have about.

The only thing that lets the older models down is the inability to
deal with the increasing bloatware from MS - either MS refuses to
allow an install on them or they require specific video circuits...

The trick is to get the max ram for the older models and as many
optional items you can find such as spare batteries, HDD caddies,
spare HDDs and if they accommodate secondary devices in any bays, them
too. I have bailed out the more modern machines many times by being
able to ghost partitions etc using the older units...


Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

MG wrote:
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WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP!!! I've been using computers since '74 and bloatware
has nothing to do with Microsoft whatsoever! It's the DAMN PROGRAMMERS
PERIOD!!! I don't care if they work for somebody or not. And Microsoft
is better than most of them.

Take my Toshiba 2595XDVD for example. Has Windows 2000 installed and
Office 2000. It runs well with these MS products and other MS products.
Although this is a '99 era machine as well with a Celeron 400MHZ with
192MB of RAM. But throw something like the freeware version of Trillian
v3.1 on the machine and you have to wait for keypresses to finally show
up like 5 to 60 seconds later. You are completely typing blind. And the
install is far smaller than MS Office.

The worst bloatware in the world is f**ked up third party software.
Trust me! And don't get me started on Yahoo IM either.


Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

BillW50 & MG,

I see you guys have experience with Win2k on memory restricted comps

My laptop can't go any higher that 96MB RAM. Toshiba said it would max
out at 160 but they were joking, and they never sold a real 128MB
module, although they tried to sell fake ones for several years :-)

I am considering W2k mostly as USB support on W98FE is estremely poor,
USB keys are almost indispensible nowadays, and a USB key would be a
handy way of doing WiFi.

Also, the original M$ propaganda for W2k contained claims that it would
be faster than W9x and better at memory management.

Spake M$ true?

Would you recommend switching from W98FE to W2k?

Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for? wrote:
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Wow! Yes Windows 2000 is indeed very good about USB devices. And you
don't need drivers for the common things like cameras, flash drives,
external HD, etc. Some things like VoIP phones and such may still need a
driver. Windows98SE also works well, except you need drivers for

But I don't know about running Windows 2000 on a 96MB machine. What is
the speed of this processor? I ran Windows on a 128MB with a 400MHZ
Celeron. And it sure swaps to the HD a lot (even 192MB does). If you
don't do much other than things like using pre-2000 (year) software and
mostly do just email and light web browsing, it should be okay if the
CPU isn't too slow.


Re: Do you use an OLD laptop as main PC? What do you use it for?

BillW50 wrote:

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CPU is a 333MHz K6-II, not exactly da bomb.

An explanation of my choice of apps etc. is in order.  Some are open
source, others are not, most if not all are available in somewhat
limited, good-enuf free versions.

Office 2000 isn't too bad on memory (better that Open Office, for

For WP I also use the ".doc"-conversant open source AbiWord - although
I've sometime had stability issues.  I associate AbiWord to light
formats, such as .rtf, that don't justify starting a larger word
processor. Likewise, I associate all the text formats (.txt, .log,
.ini, and a few others) to an advanced but light pure-text processor.
There's several, I use MetaPad. You'll see how bad NotePad is in
comparison. /

For browsing, current Opera seems to beat current IE (which is
obligatory), even as the Opera installer grows. Beating a
default-configured Firefox at memory use is easy as shooting fish in a
barrel, and Opera has a much more ergonomic GUI. Much of the growth in
Opera is in dll's for new features, such as bittorrent servent, which
aren't normally loaded. /

For bit torrent I recently opted for uTorrent. Lighter than the latest
"official" BitTorrent servent. /

I just swapped Psi, the open-source multinetwork IM client, for
Miranda.  Psi is cool in its being multiplatform, so I used to move
some config files between Win & Lin.
Miranda is also open source, Windows only, but lighter (~1MB
download!), it's even so modulat it lets you choose deliberately which
dll's can be activated. /

I use a Jabber via a Czech server ( that also hosts
interfaces to Yahoo, MSN, ICQ, and a lot of other networks.  It's one
of the most plugged in servers I found so far. In practice, I only run
Jabber & IRC locally, all the rest is hosted and delivered over Jabber.
I could also do IRC-over-Jabber, but what the heck...  :-)

For REALLY LIGHT browsing, nothing beats Off-by-One on Windows (OK,
there's the text browsers, but U get the jist). It has limitations, but
you've got to try it!

For handling Zip files (& a ton of other formats) I use 7-zip. On more
recent Windows platforms I deactivate the built in compressed forder
support and use 7-zip instead, which has a quite decent "file manager"
interface that lets you navigate inside nested compressed files.
Forget WinZip.
http://www.7-zip .

For .pdf viewing, there's a number of alternatives to the elephantine
Adobe Reader. None is perfect, as Adobe has a ton of cool new features
others lack.  But it's also a memory hog and can be very slow. (FYI,
there's an unofficial trick somewhere to cut Reader's start time &
memory hoggage, and it works rather well). I always start with  FoxIT
Software PDF Reader (proprietary), then try GSview (see site for
licensing, there's at least some three different licenses involved, I
am utterly confused, but I am satisfied it's OK to use freely), and
only as last resort use Adobe Reader. / /

I delegate all image viewing, trans-formating, light massaging etc. to
IrfanView. It even contains an interface for playing multimedia files.
Forget the MS viewers! /

For multimedia I do something similar to what I do for pdf's.  First
Zinf, then VLC, then an OLD version of Windows Media Player (version
6.4), and only as last resort I use the current WMP monstruosity. / /


On the system management side, I use a number of tools that make it
easier to regiment Win9x

Process Explorer lets you know what's running, and also search for info
if some item is mysterious.  It's even recommended by MS itself as a
better alternative to its own task manager. Sysinternals is a great
source of other nfty utilities.
Another jewel is Autorun, which dissects and manages what starts
automatically on a system. /

For memory management (& perhaps as a remedy to memory leaks, I am not
sure) I use the lightweight MemTrax III.  The source (
is no more.

There are several good tools for getting rid of most Windows-generated
junk, but they can't help you with innocent-looking big stupid files
you or some gremlin may have left around.  To free disk space, a good
measure is to go for the bigger items and question their utility.  To
that end, I suggest the Very Cool application called Sequoia View. It
gives you a treetop, color coded view of the space used by every single
file on your system. The Unix KDE desktop environment now incorporates
a similar view.  I wonder if Vista does.  If it does not, it's another
proof that idiots lurk in the wings at MS, their role being to waste
the work of the army of excellent people who work there.  (Please let
me know!!!) /

Instead of the built in task scheduler, which I saw fail miserably on
several occasions, I use a Windows port of cron (I think) + GUI, called
System Scheduler. It's easy to turn the Windows task scheduler entries
into System Scheduler tasks. Sometime you find entries generated by
programs that need autoupdating (e.g. some antiviruses), and have to
manually move them to System Scheduler. /

To keep the system time in synch with the orb, which is useful in
synching directories, I use a tiny NIST-issued NTP client called
NISTime.  Notice that since W9x uses ONE (local) time instead of
tracking local as an offset from UTC, which engenders a lot of
confusion with regard to timestamps, I put my W9x comps on UTC and
that's pretty much f***ing it.

This is pretty much all the tricks I know.

Any extra hints anyone?

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