When HP recently unloaded it’s 11 inch chromebooks on employees for an excellent price – $129 for devices that list for $279 – I couldn’t resist. I wasn’t sure what it would be good for, but for that price I figured I could afford to find out. Quite a lot, as it turns out, but that is a post for a different day. Shortly thereafter, a friend of mine got his Dad’s old eMachine D620, These were built by Acer about 5 years ago, and were decent but performance was not spectacular. They were built around an AMD Athlon 2650, single core CPU running at 1.6 Gigahertz, and sporting 1 Gigabyte of memory. Probably the worst thing about them was they they came with Vista.
Related – see Chromebooks: Suitable for Writing?
The laptop was running pretty slowly by the time my buddy got it. I agreed to tune it up for him, thinking I would remove viruses, spyware, and any unnecessary software, and optimize the hard drive. It was still abysmally slow after that, at least compared to what I am used to. I decided that I could not, in good conscience, leave him with Vista. I thought sheesh – the Chrome OS performs pretty well on my chromebook with lightweight hardware, and Tim doesn’t really need much besides a good browser (he uses Gmail) – why not? I’ll reload the OS using Chromium!
Well, I did manage to get Chromium running on the laptop, and it was pretty snappy, but there was something wrong with the video support. There was constant distortion in sawtooth shaped patterns across the screen. I tried fiddling with the Xorg configuration, but it didn’t seem to help, and I couldn’t find anyone else who had put Chromium on one of these devices successfully. So I went to the Internet in search of modern, light-weight Linux distributions.
Several came to light, but for various reasons I opted for Bodhi. I don’t regret that choice at all. Bodhi was easy to install – like most modern distributions, you can use a program like Unetbootin to create a bootable flash drive, boot into Bodhi Linux, and take it for a test drive. That went well, so I used the “Install” option to install it on the hard drive, replacing Vista completely.
Bodhi comes with a lot of configurable GUI options, like replaceable profiles, themes, and icon sets. I set him up with a desktop profile and a nice theme, installed the Chrome browser, and showed him how to install additional software should he ever want it. We installed Chrome apps for Youtube, Netflix, and Gmail (the 3 things he usually uses), and off he went. It’s been a couple of weeks now, and my buddy is completely happy with his laptop. He says it runs better than it ever did for his dad.
I had one issue during the configuration. The chrome browser would not let me install any chrome apps, extensions, or themes. I found a thread about the issue, which is evidently a known bug in the most recent versions. The solutions is to downgrade to a previous release. It was only a temporary setback, and hopefully they’ll have this bug fixed soon. In the mean time, the older version is running fine.
Next installment – Bodhi on an 8-year old HP Pavilion Desktop along with a new SSD. Hint: it flies even faster.