Posted by: duskfire | March 2, 2011

Linux – it brings old laptops back to life

My mother-in-law uses a Gateway laptop that is now nearly 6 years old. I used to use it to play World of Warcraft, and even 2 years ago it showed its age. The last Windows system it used was XP, and there’s just no way it can run Vista or Windows 7.  I had installed PCLinuxOS on it and she was able to use it for what she needed, but we ran in to a problem recently:  The version of PCLinuxOS I put on was 3 years old and would no longer let me update it (because too many software files would break in the process) – I was going to have to put a new version of Linux on.

The challenge was, this particular laptop has a mediocre CD drive that is very finicky. No CD that I burned was even seen by it. I tried using a DVD of Ubuntu 10.04 and even after resorting to a text-based install, the system froze up right after booting. I couldn’t figure out why, but obviously Ubuntu wasn’t helping.

Last night, I was able to install Mandriva Linux 2010 on it, using a DVD from a recent library book. Mandriva is a French distribution with a fairly good reputation. The install took less than 20 minutes, and it helpfully told me what to do when the wireless network wasn’t working. Fixing that was easy and only took 5 minutes, downloading a couple of b43 firmware items on my laptop and installing them to hers.

I’ll do a full review in a week or so, after bringing the system up to the most current level and seeing what is offered, but I’ll just mention up front that I was mildly surprised to find very few games available I had to add in a solitaire game and a mah jongg solitaire game. Aside from that, though, I’m very impressed.

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