Saturday, 2 February 2008

XP on old hardware

Regular readers may remember the "fun" I had trying to get my el-cheapo wireless cards running under Linux. The USB adapter as it turns out is broken (it only runs for ten minutes at a time before crapping out), the WalkLAN PCMCIA card doesn't run properly under Linux although it is supposed to be supported (it locks the system solid).

To test the card out I decided to re-install Windows 98SE and test the card with that - but wouldn't you know it, I can't find where the install CDs have gone. Fortunately I'd a spare XP Pro license so for an experiment I've installed that instead.

The actual install was straight-forward, if a bit slow. I've got to admit I wasn't expecting too much performance-wise from this once it was installed. After all, a Celeron 433 with 160meg of memory is hardly an XP powerhouse.

How wrong I was.

It runs like a charm. It is fast to boot, all the hardware appears to be supported (mind you, I'd have been surprised if it wasn't) and after tracking down the driver for the WalkLAN card the wireless support is spot-on.

At the moment to stress-test the card I'm installing all the required updates to Windows XP (nearly 100 of them!) which should take over an hour to do. And while I'm doing that I'm also browsing the web, and writing this in Blogger. Internet Explorer, while it isn't my favourite web browser by a long chalk, is actually performing well, and is certainly keeping up with my typing.

The battery life seems OK too. I'll test this a bit more over the weekend and update this with my thoughts on it, but looking good so far!

Update 04/02/2008

I've been pleasantly surprised with how well this runs. OK, so it's a bit iffy for YouTube, but that's more down to the display than the Laptop (lots of moving stuff tends to blur quite a bit). But beyond that small gripe the rest of it is fine and dandy.

Hibernate works well - it shuts down quickly and restarts from cold in well under 40 seconds. This is probably down to the fact that it only has 160 meg of memory to restore.

Browsing works well, both in FireFox and Internet Explorer. The wireless card has worked flawlessly - even during the kids mammoth CBeebies browsing session lasting a couple of hours.

Before anyone asks, no, I'm not becoming a Windows convert. If the wireless card had been supported properly in Linux I'd have still been using that, but until I get the chance to swap the card for something better then I'm pretty much stuck - especially as I'd need to prise the wife away from the laptop with a crowbar to get her off Ebay. . . .

A couple of things that are pretty good to install to get that good freeware feeling back:

Rocket Dock - A pretty good MacOS style dock copy. Although officially it needs a 500 processor (or higher) it works really well on a 433.

The Gimp - Needs no introduction really. My image editor of choice.

Open Office - The Microsoft beating free software office package (well nearly anyway).

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