back to article DEATH-PROOF your old XP netbook: 5 OSes to bring it back to life

My son's school has decreed that next year he'll need a computer of some sort. Mr 12 wants an iPad. I want him to use the 2009-vintage Lenovo S10e Netbook gathering dust in the study, because it's already been paid for. The netbook is also fit for purpose: it was the very model handed out in Australian schools circa 2009. It' …

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MJI
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Re: Have you tried...

Well my boys have got a 10 year old or so Pentium 4 to use, XP Pro dual boot with Linux Mint, if they need to take a computer to school one can carry the base unit and the other the monitor and keyboard, On their bikes.

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Re: Have you tried...

Welcome to the 21st century, where students use computers. I know it's a bit of a shock to those of you who had your knuckles rapped with a ruler if you were found using a calculator, but the times, they are a-changin'

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Re: Have you tried...

"One can carry the base unit and the other the monitor and keyboard. On their bikes."

Shurely you meant to end this with "uphill both ways"?

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Put 2GB RAM in it and run Windows 7. Add a USB flash drive for ReadyBoost and install Chrome as your browser. I run a netbook with that spec and use it every day (as a secondary machine), it's just about quick enough.

Windows 7 runs faster than XP if you switch off Aero/transparenct and the other interface stuff you don't need.

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And an SSD really helps if you can get one to fit, also makes the unit more shock-proof.

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Anonymous Coward

My dad makes me use this Linux computer

Way to get teased at school.

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Broadcom HD accelerator

stick one of these in it - they are about 15 quid. either needs a spare PCIE socket or take summit else out.

I still run an old acer one A150 1.6 atom glued (literally) to the back of the 42" LCD in the conservatory.

With the broadcom it can play all 720p and 1080p movies you throw at it.

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Hackintosh would be cool surely

I did one (and still have it) on an acer A150 (I have another one still running windoze - see other post).

I even made the LCD back apple light up thing...he could help with the painting, etc.

hell, I even internally crammed in a tv card, GPS, bluetooth and HD acceleration into mine.

http://powerlord.smugmug.com/Gadgets/Making-a-Macbook-Nano/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqEillW2zRY

stu

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Re: Hackintosh would be cool surely

I've Hackintosh-ed mine, I've got a spare HD with it on somewhere. Works okayish. 60% of the time it'll boot into a wrong-aspect ratio square screen and there's absolutely nothing I can do to get it back. Brilliant when it works, but incredibly annoying when it doesn't.

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Old Netbooks

I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that I'll have to just replace my old NB100 Toshiba Netbook if I need something more up to date now.

But I have found that they still work great as a mobile backup device for digital photos when you are away from home. Every evening create a new directory and backup all you photos from the day to the machine whilst deleting the crap. That way if you lose your camera whilst out you still have a full copy of all your pics.

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Anonymous Coward

sony vaio

I just bought the mrs a Sony Vaio E with Windows 8 (which I swiftly updated to 8.1 before she noticed the missing start button). It's not great specs but it's fairly sturdy and cost me 300 quid. Runs nicely for web browsing, word processing and so on, boots quick, has Windows Store if you want that and decent screen size (15" I think).

An ipad surely isn't going to work as a computer for work? Surely need something with a proper keyboard unless schoolwork these days is just answering multiple choice questions.

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Surface Pro?

I'll probably be downvoted for sugesting it, but the Surface Pro (or Pro 2) might be a nice (if expensive choice). The keyboard and kickstand will work well for work on a school desk, but it can still be a tablet for the playground at lunchtime.

Even the RT might do the job, if it wasn't for the Minecraft requirement - he'll want the pro version for that (I'm confused how he thinks he'll play it on an iPad).

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Re: Surface Pro?

"(I'm confused how he thinks he'll play it on an iPad)."

He will probably download it from the app store and just play it.. theres been a version of minecraft for IOS for ages, wife had to take it off her phone because the kids kept nicking it for toilet visits!

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Re: Surface Pro?

Oh, Minecraft PE? I assumed that the requirement was to run the full version. Only Mr 12 can clarify that part.

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Holmes

Rather strange

That some point out Schools/Colleges would no longer allow XP to access its server yet no mention of weather older Linux distros would be barred too.Are they not just as much of a security hazard?

As to the original topic the main problem may be down to which software students may be required to use and what file types teachers need to supply to and get from students,not an easy task over differing OSs

Personally ignoring the cost for a moment, one has to remember you are aiming to provide your child with the best education and the best knowledge for the future that your money can afford.Its not about ones got Nikes and ones got Speedos its about doing the right thing to kit them out as best you can so they can learn and take on board what is in essence their future personal cache of knowledge.

So as the old saying goes you need to spend to accumulate........

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Re: Rather strange

Linux is not a security hazard compared to windows, no matter what the age, as long as the updates are available and current.

The sharing of files and file types is easier through Linux, because Linux was built on the Internet, using standards and knowing it needed to share to be usable. Either use the older MSOffice formats or pdf to share to most other OS'.

With Linux being used more and more in the scientific, server, military, 96% of the top 500 supercomputers, and of course on the majority of mobile systems, it is the OS to know going into the future.

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You can buy new batteries cheap!

Just saying.

A "Cloud" OS is isn't an option, that's just a Terminal that relies on the Internet, thus much slower and less reliable than a wired terminal to a server in your own building.

"Clouds" only make sense for people with loads of separate offices all on redundant fibre broadband and probably with their own cluster or (several co-located servers in different data centres)

You can configure Debian or Ubuntu to run sensibly on netbook with "Classic" desktop. Or Mint.

If XP or Linux is too slow it's not configured properly. Uninstall parts never needed and disable any thing that can't be uninstalled that isn't need. On XP "Disable" services, not "Manual".

Learn how to not install malware and up to date Browser with No Script or equivalent. Never add Toolbars, disable all PDF and external Media Playing and Skype plug-ins in Browser.

Then don't run AV. It needs too much RAM & CPU. False positives and false sense of security and not as much protection as "using" the computer properly.

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Re: You can buy new batteries cheap!

It's a Lenovo!

Yes you can buy cheap batteries, but with Lenovo they have to be recognised by the Bios (and if using Win7 or later have the data fields populated how Windows expects them to be...). So whilst with some shopping around you can avoid paying full RRP, expect the really cheap models to be of questionable quality.

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Back in the spring I needed a cheap 'disposable' computer to take to Africa, and acquired a 7 year old Philips/Twinhead H12Y 12" laptop with 1.6GHz core 2 duo and 1Gb ram. Performance on the original Vista was laughable (10min to a ready desktop) but both Pear Linux and LinuxLiteOS gave entirely acceptable performance, LLOS being similarly responsive to my unibody Macbook with 4Gb and SSD running OSX 10.8. And LLOS is Steam ready.

Since the lad likes the idea of a Mac, something like Pear might have quite appealed - shame the battery died.

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If the current crop of 12 year olds around here are anything to go by, if it doesn't sport an Apple logo, it won't cut it. The coolness factor on anything other than Apple branded kit is so low, you need to use quantum mathamatics to work out how dorky you are to even suggest it.

Apple laptops are actually useful. Even though you're not likely (going on odds) to see them on your job, there's enough transferrable skills there to still be useful. Coolness factor is low, but viable.

Apple tablets outstrip anything else in their coolness factor by a million times, but the odds on seeing ANY tablet in a corporate setting is near nill, as well as the minor issue of zero transferrable skills.

So, their obvious choice is an Apple tablet. I can't understand why you suggest Windows and *nix. What? Were you hoping they would learn something? They're 12.

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MJI
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Other than Apple

Well my daughter set her mind on a Vaio this seems OK.

Boys want something Minecraft and Terrerria compatible, but are happy on their old XP thing for now.

I now prefer build it yourself.

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Perhaps my choice in "the current crop of 12 year olds" wasn't complete.

I asked my two 12-13 year old neices (no idea why I didn't ask them first..) two things: If the choice was yours, would you pick a laptop or tablet, and on brands, Apple or anything else?

Both picked laptop over tablet, citing a laptop can do many more things than a tablet, which is quite limited.

On brands, One picked Apple, the other picked Samsung.

So there you go, either they're sensible, or there's something wrong with them. Or my survey techniques are slightly flawed...

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Nice article.

Very entertaining to read.

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or... you know...

Buy a new battery for £30 and save the cost of a ChromeBook?

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SJG

Mint and Minecraft

Minecraft works fine on Mint 13, including all the mods I've tried so far. You'll need a reasonable video card and a reasonable CPU though, my 256Mb integrated intel video is certainly not enough. Build in a few popular mods in minecraft and the Java process can easily grow beyond 1Gb - e.g. the popular Tekkit set of mods really needs 2Gb just to get started.

I suspect that whatever OS you put on there, it's not going to be fast enough in Minecraft to keep a 12 year old happy.

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Gold badge

Re: Mint and Minecraft

"You'll need a reasonable video card and a reasonable CPU though, my 256Mb integrated intel video is certainly not enough."

That may be more of an issue than the OS. There was a minecraft update a few months ago that mean it no longer runs on one of our older laptops.

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Silver badge

Also, I don't think that you can complain about windows 8 not working properly - it did warn you!

Windows 7 is much better suited to old netbooks compared with 8.

Also, lets face it, if this is going to be used at school you can be sure that the teacher will whip out some windows only software that will be required at some point... Not saying its right, but its going to happen!

Im fairly sure you could get an OEM windows7 starter on eBay fairly cheap - might not strictly meet terms of the OEM licence but its close enough to keep me happy!

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Anonymous Coward

Surface?

Nice to see an article about computing in the real world, where people have budgets and PR doesn't count for squat.

Not sure what the IT landscape is like chez Mr 12 but you mustn't forget the longstanding Windows bias of schools. My Mr 12 dual boots Ubuntu and Win 7: we've got nearly everything playing nicely on the former but every so often the school system will do something like mandate an online textbook with plugins that work only on Windows. It's becoming less of an issue as the years go by, because (personal theory) most content is now web based, and the publishers know they must deal with asizable and vocal minority of Mac users, but it still happens.

One option I did not see mentioned in the event that you need to but something new might be (draws a deep breath) a Surface2? In my part of the world they are heavily discounted, but they actually work pretty well. They might not be as price competitive as a lappy though.

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Full ubuntu runs slow on some older graphics chips, xubuntu is a much better bet and has a more traditional Gnome-based UI.

Buy a replacement battery for the laptop if necessary. Fill its memory slots. Slap a new hard drive in there if you have to.

Should run well for the forseeable.

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Anonymous Coward

To be encouraged.

I've just put debian on my old msi netbook. It was only five years old and still working well so there was no way I was going to landfill it. Seems to run a treat so far. It isn't being pushed too hard but the iplayer works ok, and it works a treat with the the arduino IDE.

Next step is to see if there is any way I can make an old CRT imac more usable.

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Re: To be encouraged.

Are you me...?

I recently got an old iMac, too. Ran like a dog. I put Tiger on it, updated it, stuck another 256mb of PC133 RAM in it and it runs like new. New in 2005, but still new.

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Anonymous Coward

Minecraft

Not really sure why Minecraft wouldn't work for you.

It's written in JAVA and runs OK for my son on our Linux Mint/Ubuntu machine.

Download it, make sure you have JAVA installed and off you go.

There aren't really an issues unless the machine is just too pedestrian on the graphical front to cope.

What were the particular issues that you had?

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Re: Minecraft

Oolite runs well, Half Life runs perfectly in Wine but you scan forget Minecraft. It just doesn't have the power.

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What about chromium os?

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ebay and thinkpads

Got 3 T420 thinkpads i5 2520 for £250 each from ebay with 1600 x 900 resolution and while the videos look horrible the text and 2d performance blows everything else away.. even the sd card slot supports sdxc!!

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You really should

Check out archbang linux. Its the best distro I've tried by far for my ageing netbook.

Fast and bang up to date.

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Angel

Try a polished but lightweight linux

Check Distrowatch for SolydXK, a form of the Mint "Debian" edition. SolydXK is Debian-based, in a 'rolling' format with monthly update packs to keep apps and OS on track with current upgrades. For the kids, Steam and Wine (with PlayOnLinux) are pre-installed. Choose the KDE version, or the lighter Xfce for even older machines. The Distrowatch page for SolydXK lists all of the pre-installed apps, with access to the Debian repositories. BTW, it runs brilliantly on a PIII Dell 5000 laptop with 512mb ram ... not many that old still kicking around!

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Anonymous Coward

Netbooks

My own netbook experience is thus:

- Bought Acer Aspire One, ran Linpus. I actually liked it, a small, fast, appliance-like distro. Of course I found the terminal quickly, enabled the right click menus etc. - biggest problem now is that it is a few years out of date, upgrading the likes of Firefox is a little cumbersome.

- Installed XP on the netbook. Runs ok. Support is going to end though I'll not use this for anything secure / banking etc.

- OSX. Bit cheeky, but this runs brilliantly. Biggest problem is that it does seem to make the machine run warm. For a little hackbook it is quite nice.

- Toshiba netbook with Windows 7 starter, bought as a gift for my other half. Despite being newer than the AAO, runs very slowly. Even Ubuntu put on it runs slow. Was gathering dust when she got an iPad.

Combined though, I use the AAO to run on the TV to stream videos from my external drive, the Toshiba is used on the other side of the living room, with synergy, to drive the mouse on the AAO.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Netbooks

Well, it all depends.

I have my old AAO, put a 1GB DIMM in it so that it now has 1.5GB and replaced the slow 8GB SSD by a slightly less slow 32GB CFCard with an IDE to ZIF adapter. Added a 6 cell battery. Installed kubuntu, enabled the plasma netbook interface, and my daughter is now using it for her school work without complaints apart from the crappy low res screen. Still have XP in a partition (7 won't install in a "removable" drive) and it is slow as molasses. Kubuntu is not fast, but usable.

Toshiba NB550 - replaced the 2GB DIMM with a 8GB one, "upgraded" windows 7 to 8 (now 8.1) to take advantage of the low launch price to get the pro edition, since 7 starter edition is unusable. Still a lot slower than Arch Linux on the second partition, but almost usable with classic shell. Tried the fisher price interface for some time, but it is even less usable than on windows phone, and still fugly.

I've also replaced the original LCD with a 1366x768 one, and it does make a difference. Unfortunately, windows 8 is still atrociously slow. Gets to the desktop quickly, but then... Having the same number of tabs open in firefox as I usually do in arch (20+ tabs) almost kills the machine in w8.

The Toshiba has been my work laptop for the last year and half, on the train or connected to a screen in the office, and is now being replaced by a Nook HD+ with a bluetooth keyboard. Half the weight, and MobiSystems OfficeSuite Pro is now good enough on Android to replace LibreOffice, with the free QuickOffice also a good alternative. And all these three are ribbon free and can write MS Office compatible formats, so it is a win-win situation.

I also had an asus 1101ha, which convinced me never to buy intel again after the way the handled the whole poulsbo debacle, but it now no longer charges (and I don't have surface mount soldering tools and skills to replace the power socket on the MB). Too bad, the screen is better than the AAO.

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Anonymous Coward

AVLinux?

Don't be confused by the name, it has all the stuff you need for a general-purpose computer as standard.

It's optimised for slow 32-bit computers and I've been running it on an ancient Dell X1 which my wife uses (without too many complaints). Boot-up time is slow but we mostly leave it suspended to ram.

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Minecraft

I have the full minecraft working on Ubuntu, in fact it runs smoother on older laptop in linux than it does in windows.

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XP FTW

The bottom line seems to be that XP is a reasonable fit for the hardware you have and, though Ubuntu is a good alternative, there can be issues with apps one would like or want.

I would say that is pretty much the conclusion most XP users have come to and why they are sticking with it, and most likely will even when Microsoft drop support for it.

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XP vs. Win8 on older hardware

Someone did a test on a 2007-vintage IBM/Lenovo laptop a while back, reinstalling XP on it and then Win8 and running benchmarks on both. The Win8 install ran the same apps a little faster than XP did with the same physical resources (memory, hard disc etc.)

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Anonymous Coward

The answer is Windows. Now what's the question?

Well no actually the answer isn't Windows, not always anyway.

One alternative answer is just a few days old and a few column inches away from here and yet appears not to have been mentioned in the three pages of replies:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/11/27/opensuse_13_1/

For a low power laptop, something other than KDE or Gnome may be good, which is fine, Suse can easily do that.

Given that the original netbook has departed, how about a 2nd hand business class laptop with a legitimate Windows install (for those occasions where the school misguidedly insists on Powerpoint or whatever, add Office Addicter for Students or whatever it's called)?

I've been using refurb business class HPQ since the last days of Armada, my most recent purchase was an HP eLitebook 6930 with decent 1440x900 screen, decent disk and CPU, plus docking station and legit Windows 7, all for £200 (vs maybe four+ times that when new). Battery life not brill, so this may not be a good choice for mobile usage. YMMV.

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Linux

My children...

Use what I use at home, Linux on the Laptop, Linux on the workstation (Xubuntu), and Linux on the Server. (Debian)

My daughter one day came with some nonsense about having to use power-point and word and that it was the end of the world if she did not use it.

I told her to politely ask her teacher to give me the money for Office and a Windows license, obviously she did not understand what I meant, so I explained her how to use LibreOffice & Inkscape, then I told her how to export to PDF and how to export to .doc, .ppt, etc.

She's quite happy and she says she prefers the desktop at home than the one at school. This could just be familiarity though, or that she likes my clutter-free approach to desktop configuration using xfce.

We never have any problem with any hardware in the house, because I'm one of those people that never buys anything that doesn't work with Linux, or at the very least have read that works with Linux. I also tend to stick to open standards for everything. I prefer not to buy if whatever I'm interested in doesn't play along.

I'm teaching my children in the same way, and my daughter 10, understands that it is the person who creates the artwork and types the text, the software is just a tool, and word is not going to improve your writing and photoshop will not make her paint skills better.

She understands what an operating system is, what a program is, what a file is in that a file contents and its name doesn't necessarily need to be related. She knows a file is data for the program to interpret.

I'm just introducing one concept at the time for her as she needs stuff done, so far she is doing quite well, she can do all her homework without messing up anything on the computer (as opposed to her mum)

Me and her share a Minecraft world we're building together on the local server, Minecraft runs on Linux perfectly.

I'm of the belief that when she earns her own money she can have whatever she wants though, but on the mean time she's going to learn some computing as she ages.

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If you want dual boot

Install Win8 first then Linux. Grub will start Windows. Windows has always done a poor job of living cooperatively with other OS's.

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Anonymous Coward

Hackingtosh

My old hackingtoshed Dell Mini 9 with runcore SSD still raises kids eyebrows because they actually think its a new Apple device. Nephew is older than 12 and thinks its way cooler than his Blackberry tablet.

Dirt cheap but no good for minecraft. Buy him raspberry Pi for that and let him work out how to run it.

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Joke

Minecraft Aids?

As a Bitcoin Miner I am always on the look-out for new skills.

Not sure why so many parents are aiding their children in

the pursuit of such underground work.

The country has fought hard and long to prevent the exploitation

of children in such barbaric and outdated occupations.

Let the children concentrate on their homework and class activities.

The wasteful time spent learning such awareness of mines is futile.

Free the child from Minecraft and buy an old Amstrad to while away

the freetime.

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Boffin

Minecraft on Ubuntu

An obsure website called Google gave me this link about how to set up the real Minecraft on Ubuntu...

http://www.wikihow.com/Play-Minecraft-in-Ubuntu

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