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Hacker Public Radio

Your ideas, projects, opinions - podcasted.

New episodes Monday through Friday.


In-Depth Series

Hardware upgrades

Hosts share their experiences when upgrading their equipment.

MX Linux - Tony Hughes AKA TonyH1212 | 2017-05-19

MX Linux OS

Hi To all in HPR land, this is Tony Hughes in the UK back with you. I noticed that the queue has a couple of gaps in the next week or so here goes again.

Apart from my last show I've recently done shows on current Linux distro's that are suitable for older hardware but with a modern look and feel and fully featured with the latest software available.

As you have probably gathered by now if you have listened to my other shows I am a big fan of older Lenovo Laptops. My main Lenovo is an X230i i3 with a 2.5G cpu and 8Gig of Ram and a 120Gig SSD, it did have Mint 17.3 running on it and after running Mint 18 / 18.1 for several months on my desktop PC I decided to upgrade to 18.1 on the X230i.

I completed the install and on first boot after install the boot time had risen from about 40s to over 2 minutes, I suspected a problem with the install so did it again with the same result. I couldn't find any issues reported on the net so resorted to installing Linux Lite which is based on Ubuntu 16.04 as is Mint 18. The problem persisted after this install despite getting near 40s boots on the Lenovo X61s with an SSD and the same Distro.

I did another web search but could not find any other reports of this issue with the X230i so put a post on the Facebook community Distro hoppers. The response I got back from one member was to try MX16.

MX Linux is a joint venture from the antiX and former MEPIS communities and is based on the latest Debian Stable "Jessie" with the XFCE desk top environment.

I duly downloaded it and installed it in a Virtual PC using virtual box to see what it looked and felt like. The install is fairly user friendly although if you've never had experience of Linux and installed other Distributions a new user may be a bit unsure when asked about the MBR and where to put it, other than that a fairly straightforward install.

On install there is a fairly good selection of the software you would need including a full install of LibreOffice, FireFox, Thunderbird, GIMP and synaptic package manager for adding further software from the repositories. MX have also included the ability to simply install codecs and additional drivers and a software installation system for popular Apps from the MX Welcome that comes up at boot or if disabled can be started form the menu. Also I installed it on a virtual 8Gig HDD and GParted reports use of 4.64Gig after install and updates, by default it only installs a 1G swap despite 2Gig allocated Ram in the VM.

I liked the look of MX and decided to give it a go on the X230i, install went smoothly and lo and behold boot was back to around 40s on first boot after install. So I've updated the install, installed my packages I use that are not there by default such as Audacity, Scratch and a couple of other things I use. I've also put it on the X61s I use and again working faultlessly, so I'm happy again. Since I installed MX I found out from a member of my Makerspace/LUG that he had experienced the same problem with Ubuntu 16.04 based distro's and crippled SSD Boot times.

I like MX so much when it come to time to reinstall my Desk Top PC, which is about the only PC I use that is not constantly changing OS, I think I will be putting MX on it. This is a big deal for me as I've been a loyal Mint user for over 5 years but MX is working so well on the Laptops at the moment it would be good to have the same OS on the Desktop PC as well.

Will MX stop my Distro Hopping, NO, I like trying out new things that's why I have several Laptops kicking around so I have spare hardware to try out new Linux stuff, but it is good to have something stable around when you need it, hence sticking with Mint for so long on the Desktop.


Lenovo X61s Part 2 - Tony Hughes AKA TonyH1212 | 2017-04-28

HPR episode on Lenovo X61s part 2

  • Cost £36 including auction fees
  • OS Free (any Linux will work well)
  • Upgrade to 120Gig SSD £40 of ebay
  • Total outlay £76

If you have to buy one then get an OS free one and don't pay more than £80-£100 depending if it has an SSD or not

Hello HPR, a few episodes ago I talked of using the Lenovo X61s with Watt OS and said I would report back after a possible upgrade to the laptop with and SSD replacement for the hard drive.

Well I duly ordered and received a Drevo 120 Gig SSD from ebay. These are about £40 each so make a cheap upgrade to an older laptops spinning disc see review here:

http://www.enostech.com/drevo-x1-240gb-ssd-review/

after installing the PC with WattOS while it did everything you would need of an OS and was absolutely fine on the X61s I was a bit disillusioned with the amount of configuration needed to get all the software I needed working, definitely not New user friendly.

Looking at other lite Linux distributions I came upon Linux Lite

https://www.linuxliteos.com/

and decided that this might be a better choice as it says it is aimed at new users, and being based on Ubuntu was a familiar beast. ISO was downloaded and duly installed on the X61s and as soon as all the updates were completed I looked at the installed software and it was more comprehensive but not at the expense of still being lightweight.

At first Boot it takes about 300mb of ram and even with the word processor and Firefox in use Ram usage was only about 700mb.

Audacity after install worked out of the box, and I've already recorded and uploaded another show for HPR using the X61s and all went flawlessly. With the new SSD I am getting close to 5 hours of use from the 8 cell 63W battery installed on the PC and while I recognize the X61s being over 10 years old is not going to meet the needs of a power user, its fully capable of being an everyday laptop for basic office tasks, some light audio editing, and even photo editing in GIMP. I was able to edit and process a 10mb .jpg image without any issues and exporting the final image took seconds.

I was fairly happy with the X61s performance with the 80Gig spinner it came with, but the addition of an SSD has both improved performance and battery life to the extent that I would happily take it on the road as my only PC. Actually for the porpoise of writing this review I've lived with it as my main PC for almost 2 weeks and have not really missed its big brother the X230i i3 laptop I also have. In fact I was going to record a show using that and found that as it has a composite Audio jack, and my head set requires separate mic and headphone sockets I wasn't able to, so one up to the X61s there.

Conclusion, if you have a couple of kids and you're looking for a laptop for them to do homework, watch Utube, and surf the web (parental controls enabled) then I would look no further. And if they get broken by said kids you've not lost a bundle of dosh.


Raspberry Pi Zero W - Tony Hughes AKA TonyH1212 | 2017-04-17

In this episode I talk about the new Raspberry Pi Zero W single board computer released on 28th February 2017 to coincide with the 5th Birthday of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

This tiny 65x30mm single board PC has the following specs

  • 1GHz, single-core CPU
  • 512MB RAM
  • Mini HDMI and USB On-The-Go ports
  • Micro USB power
  • HAT-compatible 40-pin header
  • Composite video and reset headers
  • CSI camera connector
  • 802.11 b/g/n wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

Here are a couple of links to the foundation and a fuller review

https://www.raspberrypi.org/

https://www.engadget.com/2017/02/28/raspberry-pi-zero-w-is-a-10-computer-with-wifi-and-bluetooth/


Watt OS - Tony Hughes AKA TonyH1212 | 2017-03-28

In this short episode I tell you about installing Watt OS onto an Acer Aspire One Netbook from 2008.

This net book came with a 8Gig SSD installed and a 32bit 1.6G atom processor and many modern Linux spins are just too big for the hardware.

However Watt OS came to the rescue and installed on the Netbook without issue.

I plan to give it a go on a Lenovo x61 shortly and will let you know how that works out, my thought is it will fly on that hardware.

http://wiki.planetwatt.com


Alpha32's new machine - Alpha32 | 2016-09-20

I built a new desktop computer with AMD components.


New Toys - Tony Hughes AKA TonyH1212 | 2016-08-16

Hi HPR listeners this is Tony Hughes talking from Blackpool UK

I did a show a few weeks ago about my Geek Bags but didn’t talk about the Desktop PC I use and as I’ve just upgraded to a new (used) PC I thought I would tell the story of my Desktop PC’s over the years.

I was a latecomer to the world of personal computing having been at school in the Late 60’s and early 70’s when we hadn’t even got calculators, if you were lucky to be able to work out the intricacy of it you may have had use of a slide rule. Even after calculators started to be more widely used I had a lecturer at college while studying marine engineering, that was so good with his slide rule and mental calculation, he could, and would often work out equations far faster than those of us using a calculator.

I first came across my first IBM clone PC back at college in 1987 while studying a control systems course this was a Intel 286 PC which the college ran CAD/CAM software on and we used it to learn how to create engineering drawings electronically. This would be the last time I used a computer until the early 1990’s when by then I had changed career and become a Registered Nurse. I was working in a residential nursing home and we had access to a Windows 3.xx PC which I would use to create templates of the clinical paperwork we used for record keeping.

Around this time I met my then wife to be and she needed a PC for the University Course she was on so we obtained a used Intel 386 PC from a Friend and upgraded the Ram from 1Mb to 4Mb which cost nearly half the price we paid for the PC £120, which in 1993 was a good chunk of cash. It was a time when there was a world shortage of Ram and offices were getting burgled just for the memory in the office PC’s.

While we had this PC in the house it didn’t much interest me at the time, this was pre internet days for the average user, we weren’t on line at work and the Word processing software was Dos based and I hated using it, so would do the odd things I needed to at work during my break.

Move forward 5 years and Windows 95 had taken over the world and there was this wonderful new OS called Windows 98 starting to appear in the shops. In September 1998 I went back to do a Nursing Degree in my specialist area of practice and found that we were required to submit all our course work in word processed format, no long hand written assignments this time around. So I decided that I would invest in a new home PC.

There were a couple of Big Box PC retailers in the UK at the time that advertised heavily in the press and on TV and I chose to go to one of these and bought a PC with the following specs:   

Pentium 2 350 CPU, 128Mb Ram, 6Gig HDD, 56k modem and a DVD Rom. It also came bundled with a Scanner, Inkjet printer and software including MS Office for small Business. All for the grand total of £1400 which at the time was about a month’s take home pay so I had to pay for it with the flexible friend (my Credit Card for those of you too young to remember the ad’s)

I also signed up for an AOL account to access the internet over the 56k modem, dog slow now but at the time was the only affordable way us mere mortals could afford home internet access. I remember it could take a minute or 2 to render my Bank’s web site when I started online banking in 2001 and that was using compression software to reduce the bandwidth.

I used that PC to write all my college work and with the help of a couple of friends started to tinker with the PC, getting a 120 ZIP drive for it, and later adding a CD RW drive for storing documents and Photos that I’d scanned and later taken with my first digital Camera.

By 2002 the PC was starting to get a bit long in the tooth and I decided it was time for an upgrade and I had a PC built for me by a local shop with P4 2.5Ghz CPU 40Gig HDD and 512Mb Ram (later upgraded to 2Gig) and a CD RW drive again later upgraded to DVD RW drive. This PC cost me half of what I paid for the P2 four years previously and was to be the last PC I bought new, all the PC’s including laptops I’ve owned since this PC have been second hand. Some given by family or friends, some built from parts of Freecycle/Freegle, and lately PC’s I’ve bought at a local computer auction in the north west of the UK.

The title of this podcast is “New Toys” and so to the juicy bit, my Desktop for the last 6 years has been a Lenovo ThinkCentre 7373 Core 2 Duo PC with a 2.6Ghz CPU, 250Gig SSD, an upgrade from the 160Gig HDD it came with and 12Gig Ram also upgraded from the 4Gig it came with and requiring a bios flash to get the MB to support 16Gig. This rig has served me well but lately I have found it starting to feel its age and taking a long time to do things I now do regularly such as video and photo editing, Audio editing and virtual PC’s in virtualBox. So I decided it was time I looked around for an upgrade. As usual I was not in the market for a new PC, I could afford one but I don’t like splashing the cash unnecessarily. As luck would have it the monthly Auction catalog included a HP Compaq Elite 8300 i7 Micro Tower. I checked out the specs and liked what I read. So Monday 1st of August I took a trip to the auction and as luck would have it I became the proud owner of said PC for the princely sum of £212.80, hammer price of £190 plus commission.

The full spec of the PC is: i7 3.4Ghz CPU (22nm architecture) 4 cores and 8 threads, 8Gig Ram Supports 32Gig 500Gig HDD, DVD RW drive and a card reader. Also came with a Win7 pro CoA but no installed OS.

So it took me 10 minutes to install Linux Mint 18 and another 30 to complete the updates and install my software over and above the base install. It boots in just over a minute, which is only slightly slower than the old PC with an SSD, so I guess it will boot mega fast with an SSD upgrade, which is on the cards after I return from Holiday as may an upgrade to the Ram. I’ve already used some Ram from the old PC to increase to 12Gig but I need some matching 8Gig Ram to go to 16 or higher.

Well that charts my PC hardware journey over the last 20 odd years it’s amazing to think that one of the Raspberry Pi 3’s I own has more processing power than most of the hardware I’ve had up to the Core 2 Duo in 2010.


Put an SSD in your Linux Box - 2BFrank | 2015-08-18

Some commands I mentioned that you should check out:

Check SSD disk specs:

sudo hdparm -I /dev/sdb

Check for TRIM support:

sudo fstrim -v /

Perform TRIM support

sudo hdparm -I /dev/sdb | grep -i TRIM

Detailed SSD Info


How I Upgraded My PC - Motherboard - Claudio Miranda | 2011-05-09

In this episode, Claudio recaps episode 1 and covers the what, why, and how of his motherboard purchase.

AnandTech: http://www.anandtech.com/show/4025/holiday-2010-system-builders-guide

AnandTech: http://www.anandtech.com/show/3877/asrock-890fx-deluxe-full-review-and-an-investigation-of-thuban-performance-scaling

Phoronix: http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=asrock_880_mobos&num=1

Hardware Secrets: http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/ASRock-890FX-Deluxe4-Motherboard/1094/1


How I Upgraded My PC - CPU - Claudio Miranda | 2011-03-01

In this episode, Claudio talks about his current desktop PC and covers the what, why, and how of his new CPU purchase.