There’s still life in the old laptop

So I've been thinking about getting a Netbook (or cloud terminal as I like to call them). Mainly because of weight and portability. The Acer Inspire really grabs me with its cheap price and solid state memory drive. But I started thinking I should invest in something a little more solid like the Dell Mini 9. But after some time I've come around to the fact my Dell XPS M1210, although one of the most heavy 12 inch laptops you can get, still has a lot of life inside of it.

Currently the 9 Cell battery is 2 years old and lasts 2.25 hours on usual operation. If I turn off Bluetooth and Wifi it can go up to 3 hours. But looking on ebay, replacement 9 cell batteries are about 50 pounds. Which means I can go back to enjoying 6-7 hour battery times again.

I choose the 120gig SATA harddrive and to be honest, only fill it up when I'm going somewhere and I pile on podcasts and films. Generally I gave 20gigs left at anytime. I also use to use my laptop for transfering stuff, but now I got the pacemaker with also 120gig of space and I'm only using 15% of that. So I usually have mass storage on me and don't need to use the laptop. But whats also weird is the way Dell partitioned the drive. The first partition is a FAT drive of less that a gig with Dell utils on it. Second partition use to be my data drive for Windows which I recently converted from NTFS to EXT3 and is about 100gigs big. Third partition is EXT3 and is where the root ubuntu install exists, its also about 10gig big. The last partition is 4.5gig and is currently where my swap file sits. Yes thats crazy, I hear your saying. I've only got 2gig of memory and to be fair the swap never gets used even with all the applications I have open at once. The problem with the last partition is it was where Dell MediaDirect use to be. Media direct is a media player which will start if you press the correct button on startup. Its useful if you want to just play a dvd or listen to music without booting up the operating system. Well as you can imagine I've used this option all of twice over 2 years. So what I need really is somehting like partition magic to shift everything around a little. Gpart and a couple other open source utils don't seem to be able to shift around stuff so easily. If anyone knows of something different which will please shout.

I've also been thinking it would be a good idea to replace the dell utils with xbmc, so I could boot into something actually useful even if my ubuntu was broken. I'm not totally sure how to do this yet but I'll have a try.

The last thing I think I need to do to my machine is give it 4gig of memory. Its fine with 2gig but I do sometimes wonder if ubuntu is living within that tight limit. 4gig means things like RSSOwl & Snackr which currently loads 400+ RSS feeds each can be stored in memory rather that cache surely? Eitherway, 4gig is now as low as 40 pounds for the 667mhz type, I opted for the 533mhz version when i was in the states last. Hopefully the extra bandwidth will also help with speed, although I got to say the dual core 2 processors are fast enough for most things I do on it. Even High-def encoding isn't out of the question. I was thinking also if I did get a acer ainspire one I could stick the old memory from the dell into the ainspire to boost its standard 512meg of memory.

Someone was saying to me, I should also clean install Ubuntu on the machine because I've upgrade it since Ubuntu 7.04 and although ubuntu and linux generally is good at cleaning up after its self. I could make all the changes I want and get rid of legacy config files, etc.

So in total the upgrades will be less that 100 pounds and quite a bit of my time. Seems worth it to me.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.