Switching laptops finally!

I’m a fan of used laptops, as they are cheap and reliable and provide exactly what I need a laptop to do; write and surf the net. They also provide me with a little project of setting it up, maybe upgrading it a little bit, and finishing it to suit my exact needs.

For a long time now I’ve been using a Compaq Armada M700 (specs):
Compaq Armada M700
The only thing I upgraded was a DVD when I bought it, and an additional 128MB RAM. With a PIII 450MHz CPU and 256MB RAM it runs Windows XP without any glitches, although a bit slow. I’ve been using the live CD, in combination with a pup001 file, those times when I’ve got to write right now.

Thanks to an employee at work who had a laptop with a failing harddrive and consequently bought herself a new Dell laptop, I’ve got myself a new machine for next to nothing. All I had to do was replace the harddrive, run a few tests, and now I’m in the process of installing as primary OS. It’s a Fujitsu-Siemens product of the Amilo D series, namely Amilo-D NO C1100. There’s a pretty quick review here.

Amilo D series

Technical characteristics of the Amilo D (specification)

  • Processor – IntelĀ® Celeron(TM) 1/1.1 GHz 
  • Chipset – VIA PN133 (VT8603 (North), VT686B (South)) 133 MHz FSB 
  • RAM – 256 MBytes PC133 DRAM + 1 x SODIMM (expandable to 384 MBytes) 
  • Display – 14.1" active matrix TFT, XGA 1024×768, 64K colors max 
  • Video system – integrated VIA PN133 (VT8603), 8/16/32 MBytes memory 
  • Audio system – 4299 AC97 Codec, built-in microphone and speakers 
  • PC Cards slot – PCMCIA 2.1 2 x Type I/II or 1 x Type III into PC connector 
  • Hard drive – Hitachi Travelstar 60GB 7200rpm 
  • 3.5" 1.44 MBytes FDD 
  • 8x/20x DVD drive 
  • V.90 built-in modem: MC97Lucent LC97 and 10/100 Mbit network card 
  • Firewire & 2xUSB 1.0 ports 

It’s 32,2cm x 27,7cm x 4cm and weighs about 3.3 kg. Not bad for a free ride.

There are three cons that I’ve discovered so far. First of all the laptop’s trapped somewhere between grey and purple. The Armada is black, and thus looks like a machine a man could settle with. I guess there’s nothing to do with that unless I spray paint it, but I’ve got no plans of doing that. But still.. purple? It’s not gonna get out of the house much.

Amilo D media buttons
Second, those annoying switches on the front. They are, and I quote: mode switch, Stop/Eject/Application1 key, Play/Pause/Application2 key, power indicator, Incoming E-mail indicator, Previous track/Post Client key, Next track/Browser, volume control. As far as I know these will only work under windows. Thankfully you can disable the whole thing with the "mode switch".
It’s also got an LCD status display above the keyboard:
Amilo LCD status display
That’s actually brilliant, since the battery status is kind of buggy in *ubuntu.

Third, back to the cons, there is no built-in ball pointer. I’ve gotten pretty used to it on the Armada and I prefer it above the touchpad. The touchpad works brilliantly in Xubuntu, so I guess I just have to get used to it.

There might be more updates about me setting it up and all. As I said, I’ve landed on Xubuntu as the OS of choice, and trying out the Live CD first was really comforting. It detected my wireless PCMCIA card automatically, and this means you can set it up without resorting to the terminal. I had some problems at work, though, as dhclient didn’t pick up any IP adress. I’ve found a good tutorial though, so I’ll continue to set that up when I’ve installed the system. For now I’ll just use ethernet via LAN.

It’s hard to part with the Armada M700. We go far back, and we’ve spent some good nights together, hacking, typing and surfing pr0n.. Last night I spent three hours just copying and clearing out everything , so I could hand it over to the new owner today. It’s the classic used laptop, and I really recommend it to people who are looking for something that can run OK without all the bells and whistles. You can even watch DVDs on it without much hassle. But when you get a free laptop you’d be a fool to turn it down. So I guess it’s time we both moved on. It was a good run. Cheers.

And the new one? Girl’s got a name. Her name is Leeloo. That was post #1000 for ya.

12 thoughts on “Switching laptops finally!

  1. She’s pretty fast with Xubuntu running. I have a boot time of 1 min and 9 sec, and can probably reduce it even further by removing some unused services (FAX etc.).
    At the moment I’m having some difficulty with the graphics, though. The laptop has an integrated VIA PN133 chip and it doesn’t seem to cope with the opengl load (really sluggish, screensaver fps is around 5). Doing some research on what driver to use now..
    Any tips?

  2. I tried reconfiguring Xorg, but that gave me a blank screen. Thank God Xubuntu automatically backs up Xorg.conf before changes are made. I now have a backup of the backup, just in case.

    But after a lot of searching I found an old Xorg.conf file for the Amilo D series right here. And it works! Thanks Brad!
    I now have 15 fps on the screensaver, moving windows ain’t no trouble, and slow refreshing apps like Firefox and Writer is faster than they ever were in XP:)

    Main changes were simply changing from vesa to savage driver and setting up the h sync according to Brad’s config.

    In addition, the entire 60GB seems to be available. No 30GB limit here…

  3. Cheers with getting it to work properly.

    I’m downloading Xubuntu for PPC(!) at the moment. Wheeahaw. Hopefully the hardware is well supported.

    Also, if it will ever get anywhere, Haiku-OS would probably be very fast.

  4. Well, honestly, it’s a good idea, but I don’t really think it will *work* well enough out of the box. Drivers are one thing. The other part is of course applications and supporting whatever weird protocols.
    (Kind of like Syllable OS, I guess.)

    As for the Live CD, perhaps, who knows.

  5. My cousin tipped me off about ZenWalk. I’m gonna give the LiveCD a try.

    But I need a better text application than Abiword. Or maybe I’ve missed out on Abiword development… Gotto check it out.

  6. I’m definitely drawn towards Zenwalk. Speed has become an issue, testing the Xubuntu system with multi-tasking.
    But although my wifi pcmcia card was detected (LED blinking and all) it wasn’t setup as a network device.
    This _may_ only be the Livecd (ZenLive), but I’m not sure. Gonna have to check it out.

  7. The boot time did not improve. I’m now up at 01:23 using Zenwalk (unconfigured). It takes some time checking the BIOS data which Xubuntu didn’t bother with thouhg.

    Conversely, I’ve got a Damn Small Linux (DSL) installation running on the old Thinkpad 380ED and it boots to full GUI (with Dillo browser loaded) at 1 minute and 26 seconds..

  8. Fixed the boot time issue. Since I’m only booting to Zenwalk I disabled the prompt and the BIOS data check.
    Boot time is 1 minute and 4 seconds from powered off state to a fully running Xfce environment.

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