Linux on the Laptop

There’s an excellent article by Glyn Moody in Thursday’s Guardian. It’s about the ASUS Eee PC (which I want still, by the way), its likely effect on Microsoft, and lots of good points between.

The size of a paperback, weighing less than a kilogram, with built-in Wi-Fi and using Flash memory instead of a hard drive for storage, the Eee PC has been winning positive comments… it’s so small, the build quality is high, it boots up quickly, it just works… One thing that is almost never mentioned as a problem is the fact that the Eee PC is running not Windows, but a variant of GNU/Linux…

One of the signal achievements of the Asus Eee PC is that it has come up with a front end that hides the richness of the underlying GNU/Linux.

GNU/Linux has always been less successful on the desktop than on the server side. Now we see that it can work on the laptop, and not just for geeks. It requires less memory and storage than Windows, and much less than Vista. This is particularly important for the Eee PC, which uses flash memory.

More generally, solid state drives are a better fit for battery-powered devices than are disk drives, with their fragile and power-hungry moving parts. And solid state prices are falling quickly…

In fact, the article bears the rather lame title “Why falling Flash prices threaten Microsoft.” In my unbiased opinion, any of the following would have been a better title.

  • Hasta la Vista, Windows: Linux Eats Your Laptop Lunch
  • Linux Leaps to Laptop, Deferring Desktop Dominance
  • Linux on the Laptop

Some Zombie Laptop Plans

I have this laptop: a Dell Inspiron 2200. It has no power. By that, I don’t mean that its processor struggles with the tasks I give it.

I mean that it has no electricity. It no longer works off the mains, probably because of the damage done to its power cord. Its battery has run down to the point that, when I try to boot it, it goes right into hibernate mode.

There are some files on the hard drive that I… need is probably too strong a word, that I’m reluctant to abandon. So, what to do? Let’s review.

  1. The best possible fate for an old internal drive is to become a super-handy external drive, advised Alpha Geek Rick at Lifehacker. His post, and the comments on it, make it sound easy and inexpensive.
  2. Buy a new power cord. The advantage is that it would give me back the laptop. But I’m not sure I want a slow, heavy, Windows laptop with a broken DVD/CD drive. And this would be more expensive than (1).
  3. As (2), but install Linux after getting the files off. The laptop would still be heavy, and the DVD drive still broken, but it wouldn’t be Windows and it wouldn’t be as slow.
  4. Borrow a power cord or battery for long enough to get the files off. I’ve already tried this at work, but they don’t have stuff that old.
  5. Forget about it unless and until I really need some of the files. But my home, office, and life are quite cluttered enough without a dormant laptop lying around.

I’m leaning toward (1). I note that Rick recommends NewEgg as a source for the enclosure I’d need. I also note that Rick’s post carries contextual ads, that the first of them points to a handy-looking page at xPCgear, but that recent PriceGrabber ratings of xPCgear tend to include words like worst, suck, and avoid.

I’d be grateful for any advice or other thoughts. I’d be impressed if you recognized the post title’s reference to the Kelly Link story “Some Zombie Contingency Plans,” which is available in the excellent Magic for Beginners collection.