how it feels to use a laptop from 2007


A few months ago, my main PC broke down for no apparent reason (i think it’s the power supply). The good news is that I had a spare old laptop so that i could at least use an actual computer instead of a tablet. The bad news is:

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo T8300 (2) @ 2.40 GHz
GPU: Integrated
Memory: 2 Gb
Storage: 120 Gb

Oh my lord…

Take note that my other PC isn’t really that amazing either. It had an Intel Core 2 Duo Q9500, 8 Gb of memory, and a storage capacity of 500 Gb. Comparing that to a modern computer is like comparing the abacus to a transistor; but it’s definitely better than counting using fingers.

This laptop was the main computer that I used around 5 years ago. I used it to learn a bit of html and just to make simple word documents. Unfortunately, around that time the laptop suddenly broke down, but since i didn’t really need a computer (I’d usually just a visit a computer cafe), we never tried to fix it again. only recently did I decided to tinker with the laptop again. Apparently, the hard drive connection was being blocked by a candy wrapper (i have no idea how that got there), and all I had to do was remove it and reconnect it. I tried install manjaro on it, to perhaps let my family use it, but I should’ve known better and i instead settled from alpine to void.

I use dwm as a window manager and st for my terminal. This system with xorg started uses around 110 mb on fresh startup, which is great compared to the 1 gb usage of more common distros nowadays, which is a no-go for a laptop like this (I was already using void on my old pc, but my point is that i could’ve installed pop os/devuan on it with almost no problems whatsoever). With this setup, this laptop is definitely usable. Things like playing video games and browsing the web are a special case, however.

Since most modern web browsers nowadays love to use so much ram, it’s hard to do much without having to actively keep track of your active tabs. Hell, sometimes you’ll have to completely restart the browser because it eventually uses too much ram, despite having only 1-2 tabs open. Sometimes, I’d use simpler web browsers like lynx/netsurf, but some websites will just not work with some sites (for school, I need to use google services like drive, classroom, and meet). While qutebrowser, epiphany, and surf are “alternatives”, they don’t really work well in some cases. I often find their performance to be lackluster, and their ram usage is either slightly lower or pretty much the same with modern browsers. With this, I have two choices: firefox, or ungoogled-chromium. I will never use chrome for the life of me, and chromium itself still contains components that are tracked by google. I used to be a firefox user, and loved the ability to customize it (my profile removed tabs in favor of tree-style and had custom icons), but I found that chromium actually used less ram than a fresh profile, and I could open more tabs in it. Sorry, firefox.

Gaming on a 15-year-old laptop is definitely gonna be very limited, but i find that I don’t actually play a lot of intensive games. I play most, if not all of my games on a 640x480 resolution, and usually with the lowest possible graphical settings possible. Games that i play are osu!, Celeste, Doom (1993), the old GTA trilogy, and SWAT 4. I used to play a lot of Team Fortress 2, but this laptop is so old that source games are unplayable on this laptop, with terrible framerate and weird graphical artifacts, most likely due to driver issues (I mean, who would write drivers for an antique?)

I used to deal with a lot of freezing, even with my old PC. Oftentimes, I’d forget that I’m using way more ram than I can, and i either have to slowly go to a tty and kill a process using too much ram or just unplug/hold the shutdown button (which is dangerous, but there’s not really anything you can do when your computer has completely freezed). I discovered recently, however, that there’s this neat program called earlyoom. It checks your ram usage and kills processes automatically for you, which is simply a life-saver on systems like this. You’d be wondering why i’d just want a program to completely kill whatever i was working on, but the processes it prioritizes to terminate are spot-on (i mean it doesn’t kill programs that don’t affect the memory that much like terminals, text editors, etc. but kills programs like browser and electron apps) and it’s a lot easier to get back to where I started when my laptop is turned on as opposed to having to wait for it to restart.

I honestly hope that more work is done to make using cheap computers become easier and more viable. Moore’s law can only get you so far, and the latest gpu shortage just proved that computer parts aren’t infinite in number. I also learned a lot of things from using a low-end computer for most of my life, and I think I just wouldn’t be able to see things the way I do today if I owned a good computer.

update: A friend of mine gave me 2 sticks of 4 gb ram. I’m incredibly grateful to him for letting me go through my day like a normal person.