The Old Workhorse

Courtesy Dell

I’m typing this entry from a computer that’s nearly ten years old.

It’s been through several moves, more than its share of crises, and quite a few attempts on my part to “fix” it. The 6 key is practically falling off of it, I’ve had to replace its power supply twice, and I occasionally need to ‘reset’ the power button by lifting the entire panel in which the button rests with a small flathead screwdriver.

And I love it.

I’m not in a position where I can afford multiple copies of Windows, which makes the prospect of reformatting my main PC a bit daunting (I’m still using XP on it), but since the laptop isn’t exactly state of the art and won’t be running things like World of Warcraft or Mass Effect 3 I don’t have to put the latest drivers and most compatible OS on it. Instead for the last couple of years it’s been my Linux box. Specifically, I’ve been running Ubuntu for the most part, lately giving its somewhat stripped-down Xubuntu variant a try.

It can be a bit of a struggle to get certain things working. I’ve been trying since Friday to get Kindle for PC running on this thing through the Windows emulator Wine, but the damn thing keeps looking at me funny and giving me a ‘fixme’ DPI error. Others on the Interwebs have run into this issue as well, but so far a general fix has not been forthcoming. Very frustrating. I may have to take my issue over to the general Ubuntu forums and see if anything shakes out there.

That’s one of the nice things about running the system this way. Windows’ customer service and knowledge base can become a bit tangled. Getting help from the Linux community is usually a bit more of a straightforward process, provided you post a thread in the right place and provide adequate information. More than one issue I’ve had with either the OS itself or trying to get something to run on it has been resolved through helpful back-and-forth across the forums. It hasn’t always been prompt, but it’s always been useful and a worthwhile endeavor.

And did I mention all of this stuff is free? The software, the support, all of it. This laptop might have been replaced in another household long ago, but thanks to free software that runs like a champ on its aged hardware, it’s still working for me. I can take it on the train to write, and if I can get Kindle running on it it’ll be useful for reading new books and stories as well.

It’s a bit of a pain in the ass at times, but it beats the alternative of shelling out for a new-fangled machine.

It’d still be nice to run World of Warcraft on a laptop though.


  1. I used to be able to run World of Warcraft on a three-year old Netbook. It would crash if you played for more than an hour or so, but if you timed itvright, you could get a few hours a day on it.

  2. Drake, we used to be able to play WoW off that laptop when it had XP on it. The only problem is that XP would frequently refuse to load, requiring that partition to be scrubbed and started over.

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