My Writing Laptop is 15 Years Old

I've done some writing before on sustainability as it pertains to technology, and some of my efforts to keep my own tech (and some salvaged tech) alive and useful for as long as possible. The amount of e-waste we generate is staggering, and as technology becomes obsolete, the throwing-away of old and out-of-date electronics is almost inevitable, so finding ways to use what most people consider to no longer be useful gives me a good sense of satisfaction.

While you can always donate your old junk electronics to thrift stores, that just moves the waste somewhere else, and many of them are starting to refuse to take on some things like CRT monitors and televisions, which puts people in the position of having to pay for e-recycling (Best Buy can handle that for you), or simply chucking them out. I don't believe that people are lazy, but I think the hassle of loading a heavy-ass metal and glass box into your car, driving it to the nearest Best Buy (or wherever), and then having to give someone some money just to take it off your hands is a high enough speed bump that I suspect most people barely even consider it when there's a perfectly good (although not environmentally good) garbage can right in their garage.

One of the things that I have been thinking about lately is how I get value out of some of my older laptops. To a degree, nostalgia has been a motivator (who doesn't like tinkering around in obsolete versions of Windows?), but I actually want these things to do more for me than just tickle my early-aughts memory recall.

So, a few weeks ago I pulled out the old HP Pavilion dv2710us I picked up back in college (refurbished... from Walmart... because college students are poor) to see if I could turn it into a dedicated writing machine. If you've read anything of mine, it should probably come as no surprise to you that I write a lot. Be it on a computer, or a typewriter, or as a freelancer, I enjoy the act of getting my thoughts out of my head and onto a screen or on paper, so having something solely dedicated to that purpose felt like a good place to start.

HP Pavilion dv2710us laptop, running Linux

Thankfully, writing doesn't exactly require a lot of computing resources, so an older machine fits the bill just fine (and one that I can't do any software development or anything on is a good way to stay focused, single-purpose technology and all).

Unfortunately, after sitting in a box for so long, my old college laptop needed a little love. The first thing that clearly wasn't working was the battery (not that that was unexpected). Ordering a replacement is cheap and easy, since this particular laptop series has an abundance of parts available on eBay and other online stores. Next, I needed to replace the DVD drive, and then decided to double the memory (because RAM for a 15-year-old laptop is cheap, and 2 GB is just a little too anemic for me). I also still have to replace the CMOS battery, but that can wait for the time being.

With my budding laptop of Theseus, I downloaded Lubuntu and went about installing it. You may have noticed that I chose not to replace the hard drive on this thing, and that's honestly because I just got impatient. All of my writing gets backed up to a git repository, so I'm not particularly concerned about data loss, and when the HDD does eventually die, I can deal with replacing it with a proper SSD then. Waste not, want not, right?

So, how exactly has writing been going on a machine that's almost old enough to drive?

Desktop screenshot, showing an open terminal and this article in progress

Surprisingly well, actually! Obsidian (my current notes and writing app of choice) works just fine, and I'm still relatively brushed up on my VIM-fu, so I can publish these posts to my webbed site whenever I need to. It's definitely had a forcing function to it, since my bad habit of distracting myself with the World Wide Web is still technically possible, but the modern web (and the browsers built for it) wasn't designed for such a profound lack of power. I can still do research if I need to, but it's slow and requires patience (the kind of patience I don't have when I want to just waste some time).

As for non-writing things, Spotify is too resource intensive, so I've gotten back to listening to music that I own (and to really keep things focused, I'm physically ripping my old CDs to this baby instead of making yet another copy of my entire Plex music library), and forget about streaming anything (even if I wanted to do that, the fan is so damn loud I couldn't hear the video anyway). I've even revived my old digital camera, so I can take my own photos to accompany my posts instead of wasting precious cycles waiting for a stock image site to load. The laptop even has a handy-dandy SD-card reader to make transferring the photos over a snap. It's like living in the future!

All-in-all, this has been a positive experiment, and one that I hope will last. I'm sure as things continue I'll adjust my workflow and make some more modifications, but for the time being I'm enjoying the solution.


This is post 023 of #100DaysToOffload


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