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Hot Rodding Your Slightly Dated Laptop For Fun and Profit - page 4

Wrenching On A Laptop?

  • November 18, 2002
  • By Rob Reilly

Here's some more simple ideas for tricking out your Linux laptop.

Get some headphones and pack in your favorite CDs or Ogg files. I write many of my stories happily listening to Santana or some jazz while hammering away on my laptop keyboard. Headphones plug right in the side and provide great sound. On high-bitrate streams and files you seem to need at least 128 MB of RAM and a 266-Mhz PII system. Otherwise, you'll get annoying skips when trying to play a 128 bps audio stream. Most mainstream laptop sound chips seem to be supported in the modern distributions of Linux. XMMS is my audio player of choice. You might have to change permissions on the /dev/hdc device so the player can access the CD as a user.

If you use a 10/100 Ethernet card either buy or make a 10-foot Cat 5 cable. Get the patch type cable because it tends to be rather pliable and easy to coil up for storage in your computer bag. You could also carry a short cross-over cable too, for easy two-computer networking and transfers. Don't forget to start up your DHCP and Samba server to communicate with that "other OS" machine. You probably have those processes starting at boot time anyway, since you are running a Linux server/workstation.

Personally, I'm going to be switching over to an 802.11 card pretty soon. Think of it, a powerful, portable Linux server/workstation with wireless capability. It opens up all manner of client integration opportunities. In an office, in the pits at a race, or on the field at the high school football game. Web enabled database applications, complex graphics programs, and real time portable data entry/consolidation all can be a reality on your lowly old refurbed laptop. How about coupling your wireless Linux server/workstation with some wireless PDAs for portable inventory control systems? Does that make any sense? I'm thinking about on-site seminars and CBT opportunities using wireless Linux laptops and projectors. Seems like endless possibilities to me.

Get yourself a mouse or small track ball. I think a serial wheel mouse is much better than one of those little red keyboard pencil erasers or a touch pad. A serial or PS/2 mouse doesn't take up much space and is cheap. Plus, the PS/2 mouse won't take up a valuable USB connector.

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