Acer Aspire One 722

This is a small notebook with a 11.6 inch display. It came with 2gb of ram, but I upgraded it to 4gb. It has a 320gb hard drive, and it has a low power dual core amd 1ghz processor. The keyboard works fine, and the display is reasonably clear. It doesn't weight much. No optical drive (which is how these small form factor computers are). The processor is pretty slow, but the notebook works for simple tasks.

Compaq Evo N600c notebook

This is a notebook I purchased for around $1000 in early 2002. It has a Pentium m 1.2ghz processor. It can slow down to 800MHz or so when the load is low. The maximum memory is 2 x 512mb. It has usb 1.1 and 100mbit Ethernet, which was pretty good back in the day. There was an optional module that went in the back of the display for wireless. Of course the battery wore out. I think the hard drive has also been replaced. Of course it is a PATA drive. One of the number keys has fallen off. Other than that, it is still running strong. I have the max memory in the notebook. I am quite impresses by its robustness. I was running it 23x7 for about 8 years. The screen is high resolution for the day, at 1400x1050. The external video looks better than most of its era. I put in a pcmcia card to provide usb2. It has a docking port though I have never used it. Too bad Compaq isn't around anymore, they made a great notebook.

Dell Inspiron 3050 Ultra Small Form Factor Computer

I got a base Dell 3050 with a 32gb SSD, 2gb of ram and a 2 core Intel Celeron J1800 (2.41ghz 2 cores, 2 threads, 10w TDP) processor for $80 (after rebate), including windows 10. This is an ultra small form factor computer, 131mm by 131mm by 52.5mm. I bought it because it was quite inexpensive, expandable and it had good I/O. The ram is expandable to 8gb. The 32gb SSD is a m2 form factor and can be replaced. There is room inside for a 2.5" notebook sata drive and a sata II interface for it. The I/O includes one usb3, three usb2, HDMI, display port, gigabit Ethernet, audio, 802.11ac, Bluetooth and a SDXC card reader.

According to the Energy Star web site, it idles at 6 - 6.7 watts, which is significantly more power than a raspberry pi 3, and has a small fan which is a bit on the noisy side. However, you can run standard windows 10 as well as a wide variety of other operating systems such as linux. The raspberry pi has a funky boot system, and a really crappy I/O system. The micro SDHC card is limited to around 20mb/sec. Other than the wireless, the 4 usb 2.0 ports and the 10/100 ethernet all interface to a single usb 2 port on the chip. The 3050 has a m2 SSD with a measured read speed of 281 mbytes/sec. The 3050 also has a sata III port, gigabit ethernet, and a usb3 port. That is substantially better I/O than the Pi 3.

The Dell 3050 does not come with a cable for the sata drive. Calling tech support was a waste of time. They told me a variety of lies, including a 'desktop' 2.5" drive was different from a 'laptop' 2.5" drive. They also told me no cable was needed, just mechanically mount the 2.5" drive and it will magically work. I would avoid Dell tech support. Dell accessory sales was almost as bad. Even though I knew the Dell part number (0HM06J), the first time they charged me $1.99 for a standard sata cable with a right angle connector. Only after several phone calls, and speaking to a supervision in sales, did they finally ship me the correct cable, which they didn't charge me for. The cable is more like an internal laptop cable, and is about 2 inches long. One end has an unified SATA data and power connectors. The other end is flat and somewhat flexible and attaches to a proprietary connector on the motherboard. It was a bit fussy to screw in the hard drive and connect the cable to the motherboard, but it worked the first time.

I recommend tossing the 32gb SSD, as it is tiny and pretty slow (writes of 90 mbytes/sec). It is enough for a simple linux distro, but pretty marginal for windows. I also recommend getting more than 2gb of ram. It will work for very basic tasks, but memory is pretty cheap, with 8gb being available for around $25-40. I put in a 500gb western digital hard drive which was a pull from a dell laptop. I installed linux on it, and ran all of the updates. It was quite a bit faster than my Raspberry Pi 3. I will make some measurements on it real soon now, bur for now it uses less power than any other x86 computer I have.

The good news is the 3050 works great with Windows 10. The bad news is using Linux, the mean time to failure is roughly 24 hours. It turns out there is a problem with the Intel Bay Trail processors hanging. If you disable most power saving features, it doesn't hang, but it uses lots of power, and will likely reduce the processor life. It is unclear exactly where the blame lies, but I blame Intel for not providing working power management (or at least decent documentation) for their processor. Intel knows about the issue, see Intel Communities for details. At this time, I cannot recommend using the 3050 with Linux.

Dell Latitude 15 7558 2-on-1

This is a 15.6 inch 2-in-1 laptop. That means that it works like a normal laptop, but it will convert to a tablet. Of course, this requires a touch screen. I bought it because it was on sale for $310 after rebate and it was reasonably well equipped. The screen resolution is 1920x1080, it has a low power 2 core 4 thread Intel pentium 3825U processor (broadwell), 2x2 AC wifi, 4gb of ram, 500gb hard drive, 2 USB 3.0 ports, a user replaceable 3 cell battery, and a backlit keyboard. I replaced the hard drive with a 240gb SSD which speed it up quite a bit. I used the windows 10 'usb recovery' feature where you make a usb key with the recovery partition and restore onto a new hard drive. Creating the usb key took a few hours, but the recovery process was quick and painless. I was quite impressed when I opened up the computer to swap out the hard drive. The entire back comes off with 10 or so screws. Everything is quite easy to access. Specifically the hard drive, battery, wifi adapter, ram, and even the CPU cooler are easy to access. I have taken apart a few laptops and one of the least reliable part is the CPU fan and it is usually quite difficult to replace. The battery isn't as easy to replace as a notebook with an external battery, but decent batteries last several years, so it should not be a problem.

Dell Inspiron 17 5758 (5000 series)

This is a 17.3 inch notebook from Nov 2015. The Dell web site has some specs, but many are missing such as the dimensions of the laptop (really large), and the wired network speed (really slow). Before I purchased it, I called Dell to find out the speed of the wired Ethernet. They told me it was gigabit Ethernet. They lied to me. I ordered it based on that information. The wired Ethernet is a Realtek pci-e FE. FE means fast Ethernet, i.e. 10/100. I verified that, using speedtest. The fastest speed I could achieve was around 70 mbits per second. Using a computer with gigabit ethernet, I can achieve speeds of around 213 mbits per second. Also if you read their reference guide it states 10/100 mbit ethernet. It does have 802.11ac wireless, and I was able to get a speed of about 120 mbits/second using it. The problem is if you want to back up the hard drive using ethernet or wifi, you are limited to roughly 12 mbytes/sec, though the hard rive is likely capable of over 100 mbits/sec. There are usb3 to gigabit ethernet adapters, but I have heard they can be flakey. usb4 is limited to about 500 mbytes/sec, which is faster than any spinning hard drive. Gigabit ethernet became popular on decent notebooks around the time that usb2 came out. My IBM T-40p notebook from around 2002 has gigabit ethernet, so it is pretty basic stuff in 2015.

I got the notebook for about $250 after rebate, which is a great deal. The keyboard is ok, though it is not backlit. I don't expect backlit at this price point. There is only one usb3 port, though more would be lice, it isn't common at this price point. The screen is likely TN and the color quality is quite dependent on the viewing, which is also quite common at this price point. The resolution is 1600x900 which isn't great, but quite common on low end 17 inch notebooks. The notebook is quite thin, at about 0.75 inches, but is quite large in the width and the depth. The display bezel is about 15mm on each side which is ok, but it is roughly 24mm on the top and 34mm from the flat body of the notebook on the bottom. Dell says the dimensions are 416.9mm wide and 283.2mm depth. The 2011 macbook pro 17 inch are 393mm wide, and 267mm deep. This means the dell is 23.9mm wider, and 16.2mm deeper. In inches, that is almost an inch wider and 5/8 inches deeper.

The notebook comes with one 4gb stick of ram, and an empty slot. You can put in up to 16gb total memory in the notebook, which is pretty standard. It has a 500gb hard drive, and an Intel i3-4005U 4th generation ultra low voltage 1.7ghz processor with 2 cores and hyperthreading. The battery pack is small, but it is supposed to have about a 5 hour life, and it is removable. Overall it is a decent cheap notebook. I am quite upset that Dell lied to me about the ethernet speed. It would be nice to support a small form factor SSD, such as a M-2 SSD, but that isn't common on low end notebooks.

Dell Latitude D820

This is a 15.4 inch notebook from around 2005. It has an Intel core-2 duo processor. The screen resolution is 1680x1050. It has some usb2 ports (the notebook predates usb3), a docking port, gigabit Ethernet, and 802.11a/b/g. It has 2gb of ram. I tried upgrading one ram, but it doesn't work. Perhaps it needs both rams to be upgraded at the same time. After about 5 or 6 years the hard drive failed. Every 3 years or so, the battery fails (if it is left always plugged in). The notebook is still in use, and refuses to die. The CPU cooling fan is beginning to make a bit of noise, despite being clean. Considering it is 10 years old, that is pretty good. If it fails, I will replace the fan. Dell sure knows how to build reliable computers, for their business class notebooks.

Dell Customer Service

Dell's web site did not document the speed of the wired Ethernet for the Inspiron 17 5000 notebook. This is a bad sign. I called the Dell people, and they told me it was gigabit Ethernet. They were wrong.

I ended up calling tech support, customer service, and the returns people at dell. They have crappy support. There are several issues. Their tech support people are generally clueless. One kept on telling me where the RJ-45 connector was, even after I told them I had measured the wired network speed. I am not sure how I could measure it, without knowing where the port was.

What is worse, there were several very annoying features of dell support. There were really long wait times to speak to someone. I am pretty familiar with that. They hung up on me many times. Generally while I was on hold, or being transferred around. Once or twice I could consider happenstance, but it was a common pattern. It happened several times each day I called them. A new trick they used is to transfer me to a department that was closed, without telling me they were closed. That also happened several times a day. I don't trust the technical accuracy, or the honesty of Dell support, and I cannot recommend them.

Gateway 2000 p120

My computer started its life as a Gateway 2000 Pentium 120 computer. Gateways prices are not the very best, but their service is top-notch. I have had two keyboards and a floppy drive fail, and Gateway replaced them under their 3 year parts warranty. I have called their tech support many times, and they have been very helpful. I would strongly recommend them, as I value their support.

They are not perfect however. I have a tower case, and I bought 2 Seagate Barracuda 2 gig SCSI drives. These drives run pretty hot. I installed them in my case, and noticed the drives surface temperature was about 100F. I called Gateway, and they told me their tower case could support many hard drives, and not to worry. I installed an additional 2 case fans, as well as a Pentium heatsink/fan on each drive. This kept things from melting. I ended up buying a real case (see below).

My updated Gateway 2000 p120

The Pentium 120 seems pretty fast when it was new, but times change, and so does software. I decided to splurge on a dual Pentium pro system. (As an aside, the way the gateway/Intel motherboard finally died. When it was powered up a chip literally smoked, leaving a crater on top of the chip, exposing the die. The cpu still works fine.)

My computer started its life as a Gateway 2000 Pentium 120 computer. I have since changed the case, the motherboard, the processor, and most other parts. I now have The Intel PR-440FX (Providence) Motherboard , with two Pentium Pro's (rated at 166MHz with 512k cache) running reliably at 200MHz. This motherboard has on-board Adaptec UW SCSI, Ethernet and 16bit FM synthesis sound. The UW SCSI isn't very useful because there is only one 68 pin connector. Since most of my devices are narrow SCSI, I would need an adapter for each one. I have 320 mbytes of ECC EDO memory, which has been plenty so far. I finally got my first parity errors, after about 2 years.

Parts

Video
I have a Number 9 Revolution 3D 4mb WRAM video card.

Drives
I have a 40 gig Maxtor diamond max plus UDMA-66 drive, which I am running at 16mbytes/sec as that is all the providence motherboard supports.
I have a 60 gig Western Digital 7200 RPM drive, which I am running at 16mbytes/sec as that is all the providence motherboard supports.
I have a 80 gig Maxtor diamond max plus UDMA-66 drive, which I am running at 16mbytes/sec as that is all the providence motherboard supports.
a 9 gig quantum atlas IV ultra 160 SCSI drive,
and a 4 gig UW barracuda drive,
I have a 2 gig Seagate hawk drive (from my Gateway),
a old 411 mb Seagate drive,
and a 2 gig Seagate barracuda 1" W drive.
I also have a Plextor px-4220 cd rom rewriter drive (SCSI) and a
Pioneer x10 DVD drive
and a HP DAT-8 drive (which replaced the broken Sony SDT-5000 drive.

Modem
I sold my old US Robotics Sportster 33.6 modem (like a fool), and I now have a US Robotics V.90 Sportster Voice modem, which doesn't work reliably with v.90 Livingston Portmasters, using the latest USR BIOS as of Dec-30-1998). Sound
I got rid of my soundblaster 16 ISA card, since I only had one ISA slot on my new motherboard and it was for my modem, and bought a Creative Ensonic AudioPCI, for cheap.

CPUS
The Pentium Pro 166 MHz has a significant advantage over most other Pentium Pros. All of the 166's have 512k of cache. Most 200 MHz PPro's have only 256k of cache. While running at 200 MHz, lots of heat (up to 38 watts per CPU) is generated. I have found a effective way to cool these CPU's.

CPU COOLING
PPro coolers are getting hard to come by. I bought heatsinks from All Electronics which happen to be designed for the PPro, made by Aavid, for $1.25 each. These heatsinks are 1 inch high, and completely cover the PPro. I actually bought 4 of them, because each one comes with a clip for the CPU, and I wanted to use two clips per CPU for extra security. I also bought temperature sensing cooling fans from ComputerNerd. These fans are 60mm*60mm*23mm, and flow up to about 20cfm. This heatsink and fan cool my PPro 6 to 10F lower than the coolers that came with my system. When it is 70F ambient, the hotter CMU is around 90F (measured on the hot part of the heatsink).
I also have the heatsinks that my CPU's came with, which suck, as well as some lesser 60mm fans, as well as some monster 1.5" high PPro heatsinks, that I have decided I don't need for now.

Gateway 2000 6400

Well, the dual Pentium pro 200 was great in its day, but its day also has come and gone. I got a screaming deal on a ASUS CUR-DLS motherboard which came inside a Gateway 2000 6400 server. This is a real business class server which is designed for 24x7 operation. First, you get first rate Gateway support, where I have found quick and good support (except for the BIOS losing its memory every so often). Second you get a real server case. It can be adapted to be a 4U chassis if you buy some adapter plates. It has a 120mm intake fan which blows directly on the hard drive bays (which are mounted sideways, so no cables get in the way of airflow). It has a 120mm exhaust fan which is mounted near the cpu(s). This alone makes the case much better than the usual cases. What makes it really stand apart is the substantial air intakes in the front, which allow a serious amount of air into the case. It is second to none in air intake. In addition, the front panel has the usual lights and buttons. What is unusual is that there is a single multi-pin connector that connects to the motherboard. This makes it trivial to connect the motherboard, though putting a new one in would require a bit of hacking. All the wires are well laid out and don't get in the way of air flow.

HP Pavilion DV 9000 notebook

I was in need of a new notebook, and I wanted a 64 bit processor (so I could run a 64 bit version of linux and optimize my code for 64 bit operations) so I decided on the amd turion 64 x2. HP made a 17 inch widescreen notebook, so I ordered it. It was roughly $1350 after rebate. It arrived a day earlier than they had scheduled, which was impressive because it shipped from China. It has a very glossy finish, which looks great, but collects fingerprints. The screen is also very glossy, which makes it reflect light well. You can often see yourself in the screen. The notebook comes with a 'media card reader' which only reads secure digital sized media.

The first problem I had with the notebook was the battery was not charging. I contacted HP support online, and they had me download a battery diagnostic program, which said the battery was defective. I remember a similar problem I had with a Compaq notebook, and I suggested reseating the battery. That fixed the problem. I consider it a bug if you can insert the battery in a way that seems to be ok, but is really not fully seated electronic.

A recovery dvd cost an extra $10 or so, but I could make my own. As soon as I had access to some blank media, I started up the make a recovery dvd (Needed for all of the shovelware that HP includes with the notebook). It ejected the dvd disc tray. I put in a blank disc, and closed the tray. It bounced open. I closed it again. It bounced open again. I exited the program, but I still couldn't close the tray. I rebooted. Still no close. After trying about 60 times, the tray closed. I ran the program again, and there was a click, but they tray wouldn't open. It was jammed.

I contacted HP support online, and explained the problem. I expected that they would ship me a new drive. But no, they told me to call a toll free HP support number. I called them, and explained the problem to them. I expected they would ship me a new drive. But no, they told me they had to transfer me to sales. I said ok. I heard elevator music. After about 10 minutes, the tech came on and said there would be more delay. I was getting frustrated. After about 15 or 20 more minutes on hold (while I looked up a core 2 duo notebook from Dell) I got HP sales. I told them there were two defective things with my notebook, and their service was unacceptable. I said I was returning the notebook (and the free after rebate inkjet printer). Looks like I will be getting an Intel Core 2 Duo based notebook, which seems like a higher performance cpu.

HP Pavilion DV 8305 notebook

Well I still needed a notebook. I looked around at some with the Intel Core 2 Duo (a great processor). They were very expensive. I decided I really needed the 17 inch screen, and not much else. I ended up getting a HP dv 8305 from a local store for $800 (after the stupid $50 rebate). It came with Windows XP Media Center Edition. I had never used Media Center Edition, but I thought it was basically the same as XP.

Well the version that came with HP has lots of shovelware. There is about 2gb of 'media' files in c:\documents and settings\all users. That went quickly. HP also sees fit to have some odd directory on the C drive that seems to have a copy of all software that one might install (including trial software). I accidental deleted this odd directory before realizing that there was lots of 'useful' stuff in it. I had to reload the OS to get it back. It also had a copy of the 2gb of media files. That also went. Then there is the recovery partition which has a copy of everything (which takes up about 9gb). To make backup dvds requires 4 dvds for some reason.

In addition to windows update, there is also HP update. The problem is that windows update might be running (perhaps in the background as it sometimes does), and if it is, the HP update seems to corrupt the ability of the update to work. Manually downloading the update again, just produces error messages like contact HP. I did contact HP via their internet messaging. They said to uninstall the update, and then run a Microsoft install cleanup program. I got disconnected from the messaging session before I could find the specific thing to cleanup with the Microsoft program. I connected again to the messaging system, and before finding out what I needed, I got disconnected again. These were the only two times I got disconnected. I did get a log of my chat session, but I was never contacted by HP to see why I got disconnected, or to resolve my problem. I decided it would be faster to reload the OS than to try to clean up HP's stupidity.

In all, I think I reloaded the OS 4 times. There is an advanced option to reformat the hard drive. Do it. Otherwise the corruption that I experienced would not go away.

After I got the system configured and updated, I removed the 'recovery' partition. I then downsized the OS partition by deleting as much junk, shovelware, and trialware as possible. I then installed linux and a user partition. The notebook works pretty well. I used RightMark CPU Clock Utility a program that can monitor the cpu voltages, temperature, and battery condition. I was able to lower the idle voltage by 0.05 volts (not a big deal, but it should reduce cpu power consumption by 10%). I was also able to lower the full power voltage by 0.25 volts, which should reduce the cpu power consumption by 34%, as well as reduce the cpu temperature quite a bit.

IBM t40p notebook

This is a notebook that was made around 2002. It is a bit newer than my Compaq evo 600. It has a Pentium m 1.6ghz processor that has EIST and can run from 600mhz up to 1.6ghz. The processor has 1mb of cache, which is twice as much as my Compaq. It uses pc2700 ddr memory rather than pc133 memory the maximum amount of memory is 2 x 1gb, which is twice as much as the Compaq. It also has usb2, gigabit Ethernet, and wireless unlike the Compaq. The screen resolution is 1400x1050 which is a bit less then the Compaq and the external video isn't as nice. At 1920x1090 is is pretty blurry. Not that there were any monitors that ran at that resolution in 2002. The battery isn't dead, but is almost dead. I am not sure if it is the original one. The hard drive makes a bit of noise when seeking, but still works. Other than that, it is still running strong. I have the max memory in the notebook. I am quite impresses by its robustness, and it has been running 24x7 for at least a year. It has a docking port, and I bought a dock for it on ebay for around $10. When I added more memory to the notebook, I read the hardware maintenance manual. One memory was accessible from under the notebook. The other one was under the keyboard. I switched the one on the bottom. When It came time to switch the one under the keyboard, I was a bit concerned. I have taken keyboards off of notebooks and it is never pleasant. I was quite surprised by the IBM. I removed 4 screws from the bottom. I pushed the keyboard down then up. I removed the connector which was really easy to remove. I reversed the process. It is much easier to take apart than any other notebook I have worked on. I was quite impressed. Too bad IBM sold its notebook stuff to Lenovo.

If you have comments or suggestions, Email me at turbo-www@weasel.com

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