The Best OS for your old laptop? Pt 1 of 2

29 05 2008

Do you have a spare old computer lying around collecting dust?


What do you do when you have an aged laptop or desktop and running Windows XP is a pain in the ass? A friend of mine wanted me to fix his sister’s old computer, a Dell Inspiron 2100 laptop running ……

Microsoft Windows XP SP2
Intel Pentium III 700Mhz
128MB RAM (1 slot, upgradeable to 256)

A sticker on his diminutive laptop (now called a sub-notebook) carried the l’terrible Windows ME sticker in a corner galvanizing me to set forth on an adventure to seek out the best usable Operating System for that old POS. Since the end-user would require a familiar user-interface, my first bet was Windows XP. It was bad. Really bad and took a longer time to load and operate than expected.

Being the honorable ninja, I was began looking for “free” Operating Systems devoid of commercial value. So the next thing to XP, since Vista is definitely out of the equation, was TinyXP. You can google it up and download the ISO file via torrents for free. Install the ISO as I have detailed in this post and try setting it up on your computer. Remember that when you install it on a drive, you will have to format the drive so backup everything you have on DVDs or CDs or another hard drive.

So how’s TinyXP? It’s great for that laptop when I installed Rev08 and it’s the same as Windows XP for the regular user other than certain disabled features. Only took like 500MB so was pretty neat. The only problem was after installing all the different add-ons like Flash Player for YouTube and Office 2003 etc etc, the laptop became slow. There are options to remove printers and other features and even after combing out everything from the start-up and uninstalling McAfee Anti-Virus, it wasn’t as fun. The wallpaper and theme figures into the slowness of the operations of the computer as well. Oh and you can’t run updates to secure your machine on the internet.

After these problems with TinyXP, I said fuggit and formatted the drive with the much heralded Fluxbox variant of the already open-source and “free” Ubuntu known as Fluxbuntu. After formatting the drive to EXT3 and getting Flux on it, to my shock, it was a plain Linux screen where everything had to be done manually. Click on the terminal window to install applications (example: sudo apt-get install firefox) but to it’s credit, Fluxbuntu did have some nice looking preloaded themes to it.

To get an updated repository list of applications, you would have to open up the terminal window and type in sudo update-menus before you can do the sudo apt-get install [name of application]. It did not recognize my Western Digital external hard drive and had trouble loading my flash drives. Apparently you have to manually mount them to the computer through commands on the terminal. Pfffft. Gave it another 24 hours and blah. Gave up on it. It’s light-weight and great for an old workstation but simply not user-friendly enough for the average person like my friend’s sister.

And so our ninja trod on towards his next project, KDE. I remembered having problems installing Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon – Gnome) and knew that similar issues could arise during installation of Kubuntu (KDE Ubuntu) so ran the lazy man’s way of installing Kubuntu over Flux.

[To Be Continued…]


Windows Search = Death Toll for XP

26 10 2007

Many of us have the Microsoft Windows XP updates set to “Automatic” which also happens to be the default setting meaning if you haven’t bothered with it, your computer gets updated by Microsoft, when they feel like it. And as we all know from some of my previous posts that I am not the greatest fan of MS’s attempt to slow down your computer with the myriad updates that Mr Gates’ company would like you to stuff down on our aging computers.

The last update contained Windows Search and Index applications. What this is, is it’s basically like Google Desktop Search. It resides in the background of your computer’s memory and hogs it down. The upside to that is it allows you to look up anything you’ve typed or written. So in other words, a more powerful version of the lame Windows Search thing you click on after clicking the START button. Search and Index comes prepackaged with the slow-selling Windows Vista.

You can see how much RAM they use by hitting CTRL+ALT+DEL, then clicking on Task Manager, and then the Processes tab. searchindex.exe, searchfilterhost.exe, searchprotocolhost.exe, and mscorsvw.exe should be hiding among the processes listed. These are the suspects where mscorsvw does something a bit different and doesn’t have much to do with the Indexing portion.

There’s more than 1 way to turn it off. The method I chose was to go to…

Start > Run and then type in services.msc and hit enter.
– Go all the way down to Windows Search under the Name column after clicking on the title to arrange it in an alphabetical order.
– Double-click Windows Search and click on the “automatic” drop down tool bar and set it to “disabled”.
– Then hit Apply and watch your computer pick up in speed.
– Then delete it from the Startup. Click on Start > All Programs > Startup and then right-click on Windows Search and select the delete option.
– Don’t forget to reboot your computer after disabling.


Another way you can turn it off is by clicking on…

Start > Search > Change Preferences > With Indexing Service
– Make sure the [NO, Do Not Enable Indexing Service] option is selected.


Change Indexing Service Settings
– [Indexing Services] Window
– Click on Action > Stop

Sorry to announce this but attempting to disable the Search/Index via Windows Search isn’t very effective. Just try my steps from the “services” menu and REMEMBER to delete the Windows Search icon from the Start-Up menu before you reboot your system.

So what do I think of all this? This is madness. This is Sparta. I feel like I’m in fuckin Sparta. Surrounded by Bill Gates and his evil henchman Steve Balmer’s asswipes looking for an easy kill. They want to bog down our Windows XP operating systems with all their unnecessary system files/processes so that in the end, we give up on XP and move over to Vista.

Wait. Not so easy you evil Redmond clowns. Some of us are actually going to make the switch over to Mac OS X Leopard (10.5) and Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) so I wish you all luck. Microsoft continues to alienate their true fans by trying to Mackify their UI (user interface) but comes out with a shitty product and making themselves look bad. All those updates this year have been extremely aggressive. I can’t see why Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft hate their users so much. I’ve been a Windows fan for a long time but times are changing. Especially this year.

EDIT: John Wood has a quick detailed guide to disabling mscorsvw.exe on your computer.

Honda Civic Cruise Control problem solved!

12 09 2007

In my previous post dated 07/23/07, I talked about a problem getting my cruise control on my Honda Civic to work on the freeways. My only trick was to drive for 5-10 mebbe 15 minutes to get it to work. But that didn’t work all the time and was pissing me off. This time I figured it out. Before we go there, let’s get back to the initial problem.

The symptoms it showed were:

1. When the cruise button ON switch was depressed, the green light would come on.

2. Then when the SET CRUISE button on the steering wheel was pushed, nothing would happen.

While driving down to the cities the previous week to drop-off a friend to the Minneapolis (MSP) airport and talking to him, I realized something – my cruise had worked the second I pushed the 2 buttons. Then a nagging feeling hit me …

… My clutch! Ever since I had my clutch replaced, those mechanics didn’t bother to put in the right hydraulic pod and it doesn’t come all the way back up. Usually, I’d jus nudge it from below and it would pop-up all the way. Sometimes, it jus came up by itself but there’s that 1 inch of looseness in the clutch.

I tried it. I pushed down the clutch. My CRUISE disabled itself. WOOOT! With my clutch not all the way up, I hit the SET CRUISE. The cruise system didn’t take over. I nudged the clutch a bit and it went all the way up and then hit the SET key. SUCCESS!

And to think this whole time I was afraid it might’ve been an electrical issue. Had the “main relay” replaced and that didn’t fix it. Checked almost all my fuses under the dash and under the hood and no problems there either. So the answer was right there next to my left foot. Gosh!

Conclusion: If you drive a stick (or manual transmission) and have issues getting the cruise controls to work, try and see if your clutch goes all the way up.

Gateway laptop with MBR Error – Pt 3

11 09 2007

In response to my previous 2 posts – Part 1 and the noobilicious Part 2 on the ongoing saga of a dying Gateway MA1 laptop notebook (whatever you call it) hard disk drive which kept repeatedly displaying the MBR ERROR message upon boot, I finally got sick of it. I didn’t have a mini-SATA hdd enclosure to hook up the laptop hdd so I could manually run “fdisk” on it and possibly fix it. The stupid cdrw/dvdrw drive on the laptop also wasn’t user friendly enough to allow me to hook up the drive on another MA1 laptop. To make things worse, the laptop was a pain in the ass to open up. The last screw was botched and the phillips-head kept slipping on it. So there was no way for me to test out the drive on another laptop by hooking up 2 hdds – the damaged hard drive loaded onto the slave drive port.

Did what any sane person would do and I’m not sure why I didn’t do it earlier. I called up Gateway support and explained my problem. I was advised that the laptop was still under a 3-year warranty so a HDD exchange would be done free of cost. WOW! The call was made last Friday on the 7th and the packaged box from Gateway arrived today on the 11th. Inside, a brand new shiny Toshiba 60GB mini-SATA HDD.

Removed the 2 screws holding the HDD along with the plastic cover from the bottom of the laptop. Then took out the 2 screws on either sides of the HDD+plastic cover and the old HDD came off loose. Put the new one on it. Screwed it in with 4 screws (2 on each side). Slid it on the laptop underneath. Put in the 2 new screws. Booted it up.

Windows loaded. New user Windows blah blah blah. Went through setting up Windows and after like 15-25 mins, it came up on the regular Windows XP screen. Problem was, it’s XP Home and doesn’t support Remote Reimaging via Altiris. So tomorrow, gonna peel off the HOME Edition and install the snazzier PRO Edition. Will install Altiris and then get it reimaged with all the software I need to have loaded on.

Conclusion: If your laptop says MBR ERROR – PRESS F11 or something along those lines, it means you wanna get your hard drive replaced. If you do NOT want to do that, find a way to hook up your mini-SATA hard drive (from your laptop) onto another computer. Then run “fdisk” and defrag the entire drive. Back up all your files onto dvds, cds, or another hdd. Finally, format that useless HDD and start-over fresh!

New muffler for the old ride

21 08 2007

So had a new muffler and pipe installed on my old Civic. Set me back only $105 which was surprising. The muffler installation on my old Probe GT cost me $250 so this took me back. And without hesitation, had the old holey muffler and pipe removed/sawed-off. The new one had to be ordered, took 15 mins and when it got here, the guys at MG Exhaust Service (on Lincoln) did a great job of getting the correct length of the end tailpipe and welding everything together along with the screws.

Boy did I get a deal. $75 for the muffler, tailpipe, and mmm over axel pipe? and $25 for labor. All’s good!

Logged on eBay to look up somethings and noticed a seller selling a muffler for my Honda. WTF! It’s only 30 bucks after shipping. Holy shit! It was one of those after-market cool-looking ricer stuff. Feel kinda dumb now. If only I’d bought it on eBay and had the muffler guys fix it. I’d even pay them 50 bucks for labor. Oh well. I know what to do for my next car. And hope you don’t make my mistake!

Gateway laptop with MBR Error – Pt 2

17 08 2007

The laptop worked out fine. All files were backed into a virtual partition. Then the main C: partition was formatted, XP Pro installed on the empty partition, the backed up files moved into a folder on the C: called BACKUP-GATEWAY.

Then I had a noobilicious moment. For some reason the newly formatted laptop wont work on network.

Ethernet cable from wall connects to the hub, my desktop connects to the hub, and so does the laptop. So since the laptop didn’t work and my desktop was, I tried reseating the cable coming from the wall on the end to the hub. That didn’t go it either. Then I noticed that my desktop didn’t go offline. There was only one ethernet cable connected to the hub and it’s linked to my desktop. Weird.

I followed the cables and came to the conclusion that my computer had magical powers. But I was wrong. With the gazillion cables in the back thanks to the dual mounted CPUs, I’d been deceived when I was following the ethernet cable. That came at the expense of moving my desk and computers and laptops etc around. 60 minutes wasted. Office in disarray. Feeling stupid.

And yes. There are no more MBR Errors anymore.

Gateway laptop with MBR Error

16 08 2007

So this one stupid Gateway laptop decides to die on me today. Well it started acting cranky coupla weeks ago when just before a conference began, it had to be rebooted and then won’t boot up to Windows because of an MBR ERROR message on the screen.

So the picture on the screen said:

Press F11 to start recovery
MBR Error

… and when you hit ENTER, it tries to initialize the ethernet card which doesn’t do much.

There’s a 3 second wait period when you get the first line of the error message and if you don’t hit F11, you get MBR Error. Guess what? I pressed F11 and still got the MBR Error. How dumb is that?

Physically rebooted the machine by holding the power button. If you just push the power, it turns it off and you can turn it on but you’re unable to boot to Windows thanks to the MBR Error. So you have to make sure you hold the power button until it shuts down completely. Did that. Turned it back on, and after the F11 message, it automatically loaded to Windows. I didn’t push a button.

Last week it did the same thing so I disabled Windows Restore function thinking that might be the culprit. It didn’t do it again. So that was the cause of the problem?

Fast forward yesterday. Same problem. Today. Same problem. Grrr.

Powered it down. Powered it back up and hit the F10 key when you see the GATEWAY logo on the DOS screen. It let me in on the boot order. I selected the HDD option to edit and chose to do a NON-DESTRUCTIVE or BACK-UP FORMAT. Backs up all data to a virtual partition, then runs a format on the rest of the other partition, and reloads Windows. All software/apps will need to be reinstalled however.

Painfully slow. 30 mins and I think Windows XP Pro has been reinstalled. Will supply pics later.

Soooo slowww. The ninja is about to pass out due to boredom. Ninja will keep you updated. Gawd this is a boring day.