Gwnewch y pethau bychain

Shameless self-interest

So now I have this perfectly functioning laptop with wireless capability, thanks to baiku, who thinks I was doing HIM a favour by declutterling his house during move-time. One of the reasons I’ve avoided just outright buying a laptop is that frankly, they’re too expensive for what you get out of them, for as little as I actually *need* one for travel. It’s not as if my job is frequently sending me hither and yon to the point that I need a portable computer at all times. It’s a luxury, and as luxuries go, there’s only so much I’m willing to pay for one. As it is, I’ve put about as much actual money into this unit as I’d like.

But frugality aside, I’m still a gearhead, and that means I want to trick out my gadgets with as much mojo as I can muster. And there are a variety of upgrades I could perform on this unit that would make it even more spiffy. And people are always saying “So, what would you like for your birthday/Christmas/etc.”, and I always say “Oh, I dunno.”, because usually, I don’t.

So here’s, for my own reference and the reference of anyone interested, a list of what I’d like to upgrade on my Dell Inspiron 4000, should anyone want to contribute towards it. (I don’t expect anyone will, but just in case people who are prone to giving me presents (or who happen to have spare parts lying around that would suit — I don’t require new, just good working order) are reading this.

  • A couple of new batteries
    The battery in the unit will hold a charge for about an hour to 90 minutes, which is OK but not stellar. There’s room in the unit for two batteries at once, with a theoretical run-time of about 8 hours, give or take.

  • A larger hard drive
    The drive thats in there now is a 5GB drive, which will hold the OS with enough room left over for some minor file storage. But if I want to, say, offload con photos on it, it’d be nice to have a bit more room on it.

  • More RAM
    128 MB once seemed like so much RAM, but it’s hardly that much these days. The unit will take up to 512MB (2×256 PC100), and I’d love to max it out some day.

  • A portable optical mouse
    I have an old fashioned USB ball mouse plugged into it right now, and that lets me work easily. (Both the touchpad and the eraserstub pointers are somewhat annoying to use.) But an optical mouse would work better on odd surfaces, so I’d like one eventually.

I’m sure there’s other nifty stuff I’d like to have for it eventually, but those are the main things. Mostly, I’m just happy that I have a working machine. Thanks to everyone who donated old parts (especially baiku, tarkrai, and katyhh) in my quest for computer mobility. 🙂


Random conversations about computer products


Protected: Bleh


  1. I like trackballs; not only are they easier on my arthritic old hands, but they take up a lot less desk space than a mouse.

    I always dual-boot my laptops; there’s nothing like a lean Linux install to make an old clunker run like greased lightning. Debian or Gentoo, by preference.

    • I didn’t even bother to dual-boot this one. I have ubutnu 5.10 installed on it and it works just fine and does everything I need it to do at this point. (And with a 5GB drive, there’s not much room for 2 OSes, anyway.

      I do appear to have a license for Win2000 Pro, which came with the laptop, but I don’t have install media even if I wanted to use it.

      • You too with a donated Inspiron 4k! And Breezy Badger, too…

        Optical mini-mice are much with the cheap. The rest, not so much, but can definitely be had… I need to check with and get you the website she ordered her battery from, ’cause they have them for ours too for reasonable… ($80 as opposed to $105 on the street)…

        I find I’m running just fine under KDE with 384mb. But 512 won’t hurt a bit. I have a 40GB Hitachi HDD in here…. you might want even more if you’re doing portable music or something. 80’s can be had for reasonable.

        Oh, something else you might want. A USB mini-hub. So you can have a flash memory docked at the same time as the optical mouse, which will invariably be USB.

        I’ll be happy to trade more notes with you… I wish ol’ Nimitz weren’t quite so heavy, but (once I had the screen ribbon cable fixed, which will be a semi-ongoing sore point, I understand) it works like a charm…

        Hey, are you getting cpufreq errors on console? If so, any idea what to do about them?

        • I’ve seen new batteries from some of the ebay vendors for as little as $45-50. As for RAM, 128 is pretty much the minimum, and I can see times where it’s sluggish, so any upgrade will be good, but if I’m going for optimum, I’ll max it out. A 40GB hard drive would be more than enough room. Even a 20GB for what I plan to use it for.

          My main thing is that at this point, I don’t want to spend a copious amount of money on it, having gotten the basic functionality I required. At this point, everything else is just gravy.

          Yeah, I’m getting the cpufreq errors, and I’m led to understand that’s (part of) what’s causing the touchpad to be erratic. The actual culprit is powernowd, which tries to ramp down the CPU when it’s not being used, which helps extend battery performance. You can stop powernowd, and the errors shoudl go away, but if you do, your CPU will run at full power at all times, and this will have some influence on the battery life.

          That’s all I’ve managed to learn so far from random investigation.

          • Aaaaah. “sudo /etc/init.d/powernowd stop && sudo /etc/update-rc.d -f powernowd remove” There. Much better, thanks.

            (And the limit on battery doesn’t bother me; if I’m going to light for more than half an hour I’m gonna find a plug…)

            Hmm. Have you got a good surplus PC store out there? That’s where I’d go look for the drive…

            What are you running for a window manager? I’ve got a Vaio I’m running XFCE on with no problems, and it’s only got 64mb…. ‘course, running a full-house Firefox can get fun, but about anything else is fair game…. and Dillo is quite nice for casual LJ’ing….

          • We’ve got a few. And that’s a good point. Laptop hard drives are much more standard than a lot of the other bits and pieces.

          • Tell me about it…. I’m gonna have six kinds of fun finding that screwy memory module for the Vaio… if I decide it’s worth it… although having a lightweight something for when you’re not doing heavy duty snarfing is a goodness…

          • BTW, I just ran the upgrade to Dapper last night, and it looks like the cpufreq error has disappeared after the upgrade.

          • Woot! Thanks! Now to get to the library where there’s a fat pipe… 🙂

      • Ubuntu works if you have the disk and RAM for it. I’ve been known to have Win98 and Linux on a 2GB drive, which works if you stay away from the big-name desktops and only install what you really need.

        The main reason for dual-booting a laptop is that there are sometimes some features that only have drivers in Windows. Not as true as it used to be, but…

        • I chose Ubuntu through a very scientify method of selection: it was the install disk I had handy when I needed to put a new OS on the unit. 🙂

          I’m sure there ARE things that wont work under Linux, but since my actual need for the unit are very slim (Portable Internet Appliance), as long as the browser, SSH client, and network interfaces work, I’m good to go. Anything after that is gravy.

          • Always a good selection method. I can’t use it, though — I have too many install disks sitting around. (Though the Ubuntu disk is more likely to have been given away to somebody.)

  2. I picked up an optical mouse for my Inspiron a couple of weeks ago- the low-end Logitech for $15 at CompUSA. Works fine for me.. (I just love it that tech has gotten so cheap!) (I don’t usually shop at CompUSA, but there’s one about six blocks from my house and I wanted it *now*…)

    The big constraint for me was finding one small enough to fit in the case I’m using for the computer.

    • The really hard part seems to be finding a non-wireless one these days. (It might work fine, can’t be sure, but I don’t want to count on it since I’m running a non-windows OS. *grin*)

  3. 1. You’re quite welcome!

    2. Mad props for your choice of tunes!

  4. Mine isn’t wireless- it has a USB connector on the end of its tail. It seemed like asking for trouble to get a wireless one, since the USB connectors are on the left side of the computer and I’m right-handed. Anyway, wireless cost 3 times as much. (Yes, I’m also cheap! I couldn’t have justified the new laptop except that I use it as my primary computer- and I am on the road a lot.)

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