Breathing new life into old hardware…

February 5, 2010Jake DiMare

In 2002 I was about to sell my house and hit the road for destinations and duration unknown. I had a little business building web sites that I planned to continue to operate so I needed a machine that was both powerful and portable.  So, I bought myself a fully loaded Dell Latitude 800 and I have really never been happier with a computer. It crossed the country with me twice…changed addresses 5 times and has, until recently, served me without fail.
Because of increasing speed, decreasing costs and ever-changing software requirements it eventually went from my primary business machine to a personal email and web browsing computer. Very recently it started to become unstable and I had begun using it less and less often. This week I decided to back everything up to my home media server and wipe it out. I don’t know why…But I genuinely want to see a computer operate in a useful fashion for ten years.
At first I rummaged through old boxes searching for the original Windows 2000 professional disk that came with it. Having no luck there…and being fairly certain 512 megs of Ram would not be sufficient to run Windows 7…I decided to try out Ubuntu Linux. I have a hunch it will be less of a resource hog.
CIMG0051I had a downloaded copy of Ubuntu 9 at the office so I burned it to a CDROM and used it to boot the computer. Much to my surprise, the initial install went very smooth. Any preconceived notions I had about the difficulties you might encounter installing a Linux based OS were quickly shattered. After answering a few standard questions the system went to work formatting the drive, creating a new partition and then installing the OS with no intervention on my behalf. Within 30 minutes it was complete.
Then I discovered the only snag: Although the wireless card could see my home network it could not connect to it (or my neighbor’s unsecured network). I pulled out my other laptop and started researching.
There were many, many help forum entries on the topic. Most suggestions involved crazy command line changes whose impact and side effects can only be guessed at. I was really relieved when the problem was solved before I got a chance to try any of that. The solution, like the install, turned out to be pretty simple.
First I updated the firmware on the Linksys router. This is done by visiting their site and downloading a binary. Then you log into the admin for the router through a browser and use the firmware update system in their management tools.
Then I plugged the computer in and did the system updates for the computer. Once this was complete the problem was solved! So far the system is operating really fast and without flaws…I would bet it will make it another two years!

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