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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Unleash the inner tinkerer!

Darn it. I'm so down on my computers right now, I almost want to wipe the hard drives clean and install Linux on 'em. Almost.

Failing that, I would love to buy a super-cheap x86 laptop so I could install Linux on it and tinker. There's just something about command-line tools that I love. I don't know why. Maybe it's because they're so fast.

Wouldn't it be great to be able to set one up as a cheap-ass server and learn PHP? Or poke around in free software until I could figure out how to make ffmpeg create the new-style H264 low-complexity codec that allows 640x480 video on iPods? Or, heck, write a novel on LyX for NaNoWriMo...

This is what a geek does. Earlier generations might have opened up a VW Beetle. My generation opens up operating systems.

Just how cheap could I get a laptop these days?


Godfrey said...

Well, you could buy a Linksys NSLU2 (ca. $80) and a USB hard drive, and put Linux on that... There are a couple of flavors of Linux available for the Slug, including Debian. (I'd suggest cracking open the case and pulling off the resistor which cuts its clock speed in half.) It's not blindingly fast, it doesn't have huge amounts of memory, but it's got enough juice to run Apache and PHP. (Haven't tried MySQL yet, but in theory it's possible...)

When I went to England, I brought along my Linux Slug and a MemStick reader; I wrote a boot script for the Slug to check for an inserted MemStick, and if it found one, move all the image files off the stick into a directory named after the current date. And the whole thing fit into a small beltpack, including an England-to-US power converter.

Zach Brewster-Geisz said...

Hmmm... intriguing!

I'm not sure I want to go completely CLI, though--I'd like to try out the KDE as well. But then again, how can you go wrong for $80?