Greetings everyone. Been a while since I’ve posted anything, but I haven’t had the urge to do much of anything, honestly. However, I figured I’d post about a new acquisition and an old makeover.

Since the beginning of the year, I was looking to get a replacement for the Eee PC 901. Even though it’s still quite useful due to its size and upgrades, I wanted to get something just a little bigger and with more recent hardware. One day, I walked into BrandsMart and came across this laptop, an Evoo Elite Series EVC-141-12BK (the BK stands for black, though it’s more of a charcoal gray). The basic specs are the following:

  • AMD Ryzen 5 3500U
  • 8 GB DDR4 RAM (replaceable on the only SO-DIMM slot)
  • AMD Vega 8 graphics
  • 256 GB mSATA SSD with Windows 10, and a M.2 slot for a NVMe SSD.

I was quite impressed with the specs given the price at the beginning of the year (around US $300). Unfortunately, having spent money already on Christmas gifts for everyone, I had to wait before jumping on it. The keyboard had a nice feel for me, and it felt quite sturdy in spite of the price. As time went on, I noticed that it was very hard to come by and was no longer available at BrandsMart or even online. For the ones that were available, like the EVE-141-12SL (SL for silver), the price jumped up to over $400 (thanks, inflation). At this point, I thought I’d never be able to get this machine, until one day I searched and found a refurbished EVC141-12BK for US $255 on Walmart’s website ($273 after taxes and shipping at the time). I jumped on it and, within a week or so, I had the laptop in my possession.

Since it came with Windows 10, I figured I’d use a NVMe SSD on the available M.2 slot to install OpenBSD. Once that was located, I finally got OpenBSD 7.1-current installed on it. All that was left was to move my files from my current OpenBSD 7.1-current laptop, the Dell Latitude E6410 mentioned in my previous posts, once I got home.

My Evoo EVC141-12BK laptop running MATE Desktop on OpenBSD.

So far, OpenBSD has worked surprisingly well on this laptop. Even OpenGL games like Quake and others are well supported with amdgpu(4) with nary a crash, though I do notice that running MATE Screensaver with the Pop Squares screensaver has a tendency to freeze the machine on occasion. Battery life is about 4-5 hours depending on how intensive the applications are, which is fine for me. Suspend and resume works, but only when I use “zzz”. If I just close the lid, it can’t resume and I have to force-poweroff the laptop. I should see if I can get some system information and post it on the openbsd-misc or openbsd-bugs mailing list for the devs to look at. For now, though, “zzz” is an acceptable workaround.

Now, as for the Dell Latitude, it was “out with the old, and in with the new,” with something old, but new!

The Slackware Linux logo.

I know you’re wondering, “WTF?!,” but hear me out. Since I no longer needed OpenBSD on this laptop, I decided to give another OS a try. Relatively recently, Slackware 15.0 was unleashed to the world after 6 years of development in Slackware-current, unbeknownst to the mainstream FOSS world. I used to run Slackware as my primary Linux OS before moving over to Fedora for a number of years, but I always wanted to revisit Slackware on one of my numerous machines. Now, with Slackware 15.0 available and the Evoo taking over OpenBSD responsibilities, the Latitude was free to “achieve Slack.”

My Dell Latitude E6410 performing a terse installation of Slackware 15.0.

I made a USB installation disk with Slackware 15.0. and proceeded to go through the install. I wanted to take advantage of the UEFI support on the Dell which worked fine on OpenBSD. I partitioned everything as necessary, but once the installation was done, I realized that I had used cfdisk to partition instead of cgdisk for GPT partition tables (UEFI must use GPT tables), hence not being able to boot. Once that was corrected, I was finally able to boot to the login prompt without issue. During all of this, a feeling of nostalgia was hitting me, and I was so happy to be back in the world of Slack.

My Dell Latitude E6410 sitting at the Slackware 15.0 login prompt.

Once I brought the laptop home, I decided to move from the 15.0 stable branch over to -current. Doing that was easy (edit the /etc/slackpkg/mirrors.conf file accordingly), and I was then able to download the updated base packages since 15.0’s release. However, I did hit a snag when the kernel was updated. Previously, I was used to running “lilo -v” to update the kernel entries after the kernel was updated. However, since I’m using UEFI, I had to use elilo which I wasn’t familiar with. Thus, I ended up booting to an older kernel that had no working modules. I had to boot from the USB installer and manually move over the kernel and initrd image to the EFI partition after I was able to mount it. Once that was done, I was back in business with the correct kernel and initrd image. It seems the process is much easier now and you don’t have to run anything; just copy over “vmlinuz” and “initrd.gz” from /boot over to the mounted EFI partition in /boot/efi before rebooting to the newly installed kernel (for me, that’s /boot/efi/EFI/Slackware).

So, how does Slackware 15.0 fare on this old hardware? Well, all I can say is that it’s FAST! Really FAST! Considering this laptop is running with a Core i5-520M, I was extremely impressed. Much faster than OpenBSD (though OpenBSD is known to be slower compared to Linux). Heck, I’m even using KDE Plasma 5.25 as of this post and I’m also impressed at how far Plasma has come along in terms of speed, so much so that MATE Desktop’s dominance might be threatened in my future! There are still some things that I’d like to see on Plasma before I move over completely, but otherwise, it’s become a formidable contender to MATE for me. The same goes for Fedora’s dominance on my main systems. Slackware has really come a long way since I last used it a few years ago on much older hardware (32-bit Pentium-M laptop a few years ago and my desktop rig before it until I moved to Fedora).

My Dell Latitude E6410 running KDE Plasma 5.25 on Slackware 15.0.

So that’s pretty much it! Thus far, I’m very happy with these two laptops after they’ve had their makeovers. I still use my Fedora laptop (HP ProBook 4540s) as my workhorse, especially for work, but this trifecta of systems will keep me well-armed for many years to come.

Now to see what I can put Haiku on… πŸ˜‰

Hello, friends. πŸ™‚

Two months after my last post, I’m back with another update. Nothing to stop the presses, really, but now that I’m officially on Spring Break from work, I figured it was time for a post.

So, what have I been up to? Nothing much, really. Same ol’ stuff, that being work and life. However, I did tend to some care and feeding of my OpenBSD laptop, a Dell Latitude E6410, specifically the one shown below which was taken this morning as I enjoy my coffee. β˜•

Me on the couch with my black Dell Latitude E6410 laptop on my lap and my black mug of coffee with milk held by my right hand. On the laptop screen is MATE Desktop with Firefox maximized and focused on the default page for Firefox which shows the Firefox logo and brand, a search bar below it, and 8 icons for most visited pages below the search bar.
My Dell Latitude E6410 laptop on my lap as I hold my cup of coffee on my right hand.

This laptop started off with 4 GB of RAM which was good enough for a while, but I noticed lately that it was becoming rather cramped for my uses. On top of that, I noticed that the laptop was getting rather hot which I thought was also contributing to the lag. Thus, I decided to open it up and check the state of things with the CPU and cooling system.

One of the things I noticed was that it had an excessive amount of thermal paste, with a good amount of it caked on the outer surrounding areas of the die. There was also a good amount of dust by the fan and radiator since it hadn’t been opened this way since it was probably purchased new. While I was able to clean everything out, I was left without thermal paste because I couldn’t find the one I had “lost” earlier this year when working on my old Celeron D 335 PC. I tried putting it together to see if the copper heat spreader would suffice, but unfortunately, the system would freeze up right after logging in to MATE Desktop due to overheating. So, I decided to leave the system unused and ordered some thermal paste from Amazon. I also bit the bullet on 8 GB of DDR3 RAM since I was on a mini buying spree. πŸ˜›

Two days later, my RAM and thermal paste was delivered just as I arrived home from work. I unpacked everything and ripped open the Latitude to get that thermal paste and RAM installed, this time with proper thermal paste application compared to how it came from the factory. Once everything was ready and the laptop was closed up, I booted up and ran some tests before running sysupgrade to move to the latest OpenBSD snapshot. Running Firefox with a number of tabs and stress-testing the system via a stress-test website, the system’s thermals topped out a little over 70C. Things got noticeably slower, but that’s expected when stress testing. During normal use, things were a lot cooler without any slowdowns, and the extra RAM definitely improved performance. After some time using the laptop without any lockups, I decided to run sysupgrade and bring the system to a current state.

Having breathed some new life to this laptop, I decided to do one more upgrade to it down the road. During the process of removing the old paste, I noticed that this laptop has the CPU on a removable socket, so I plan to upgrade this from the i5-520M CPU to an i7-620M CPU. Granted, I’m sure this might introduce more heat, but hopefully not by much (or at all). For now, though, I’m glad to have this beater laptop in good and working condition. πŸ’»

Well, that’s all for now. Hope to have some more interesting stuff to blog about soon. Maybe how I redid my PinePhone with postmarketOS running Sxmo? We’ll see… πŸ˜‰

Greetings, everyone!

Yes, it’s been quite a while since my last post. Lots of personal trials have gotten in the way since I last blogged about anything, but thankfully (big thanks to “The One Above”) those trials were overcome. I’ve also been busy with work and getting things ready for Phase II of our return to in-person instruction.

Now that all of that is done, it’s time to get back to some geeky stuff.

Or better said, “gEeeky stuff!” πŸ€“

As you’ve read in my previous posts, I’ve revived my venerable and battle-scarred ASUS Eee PC 901 so I can have a really portable laptop to run OpenBSD. Over the summer, it was running as an OpenSSH server as it sat atop the PS4 Pro in the room. However, I decided to buy a new battery for it so that I could take it on the go once again (another blog post is in the works about what took its place πŸ˜‰).

While the Eee PC 901 has been great since I’ve gone mobile with it, the 901’s internal storage was becoming a problem. My Eee PC 901 configuration has an internal primary 4 GB SSD (more on this later) and an easily accessible but significantly slower secondary 16 GB SSD underneath. I had the 4 GB SSD configured as the root partition and the 16 GB SSD configured as my home partition. With all of the software I installed, I had about 10% or so of available space in the root partition, so while things were tight, I still had some room to play around with.

One day, out of nowhere, I noticed that OpenBSD was complaining that the root partition was out of space after I conducted a sysupgrade to a current snapshot. Once it managed to boot, a quick “df -h” showed something rather odd. All of a sudden, my root partition is only showing 3.6 GB of space and I’m “over capacity” at 103% capacity!

My Eee PC 901’s screen showing only 3.6 GB on what should be a 4 GB partition.

The only explanation for this is that the internal SSD was failing (remember, this is a 10+ year old netbook and most of these components were cheaply made). The only way for me to claim back some space was to uninstall Firefox and a few other packages. I had my space back, but I’ve now lost the whole reason for using my netbook. Sure, I could use lynx/links/etc., but I wanted to access my Mastodon timeline and other “modern” web sites from here. I did install Luakit and used it for a while, but as great as that was, there were some rough edges that didn’t make it useful enough to replace Firefox (Chromium was even bigger so that was out of the question). All of that on top of data loss validated my decision to purchase a new SSD for this netbook.

I already knew that the secondary SSD was attached to a Mini-PCIe slot. I started my search for a replacement and came across a lot of affordable mSATA SSDs and was about ready to make a purchase when I became hesitant of what I was reading. I noticed that many vendors were referring to these as “Mini-PCIe mSATA” SSDs. Something didn’t seem right, so I decided to investigate further before committing to a purchase.

After doing some extensive searching and researching (be sure to skim the comments; very important), I realized that replacing the original drive was not as easy as it seemed. I won’t go into too many details, but the gist of it is that while Mini-PCIe and mSATA connectors look the same physically, they are wired differently. Thus, inserting a mSATA SSD drive into a Mini-PCIe won’t work. Additionally, the Eee PC 901’s Mini-PCIe SSD interface is PATA, not SATA! Thus, I’d need to find an adapter to make this work.

My Amazon order for the mSATA SSD and the mSATA to Mini-PCIe adapter.

I did manage to find an adapter on Amazon that was specifically for using mSATA SSDs on the Eee PC netbooks, so I finally decided to purchase that along with a cheap 120 GB SSD. Granted, the read-write performance on this SSD was paltry compared to the Samsung 860 EVO I purchased for my PS4 Pro, but it was way faster than the 15 Mb/s that the original secondary SSD gave me. So, the order was put in and, in time, the SSD and the adapter arrived.

The SSD and adapter in my grubby hand.

The time came for me to crack open the Eee PC 901 and get to work. I flipped the Eee PC over and removed the bottom cover exposing the RAM, SSD, and other components. The old secondary SSD was removed and the adapter and new SSD was inserted. I closed everything back up, fired up the Eee PC, and hoped for the best.

My left hand holding the new SSD as I begin the replacement process. The bottom of the Eee PC 901 is exposed as I replace the old SSD still attached.

After turning the Eee PC on and going into the BIOS, I checked to see if it detected the new drive. I was pleased to see that the new drive was detected, but noticed that the old primary one was now disabled (not sure what’s happening here, but I imagine it has something to do with the adapter). Not a problem since I wasn’t going to use the 4 GB partition anyway, but I could not find a way to change the boot priority of the new drive. So now, whenever the Eee PC goes through the BIOS checks, it complains that there’s no primary boot drive and prompts me to hit F1 to continue. I guess I can live with this for now since my main concern was whether I could boot from it at all, so I plugged a USB drive with the OpenBSD 6.8-beta snapshot installation and off I went installing onto the new SSD with one large root partition since I had enough space to do so.

The installation went through without a problem, but the moment of truth was still to come: will this SSD boot even though it’s not the primary? After everything was installed, I rebooted and the BIOS warned me again about the lack of a primary drive and to hit F1. After hitting F1, I was happy to see the OpenBSD bootloader at the prompt running from the new SSD! It booted just fine and a LOT faster than the original internal 4 GB drive. I proceeded to bring my files back from the backup I made before starting this process and configure everything the way I had it previously as well.

The Eee PC 901’s BIOS showing only the 120 GB SSD detected as the “primary slave”.

Remember earlier in this blog post when I mentioned the 4 GB internal SSD? I learned that this is actually a removable SSD just like the 16 GB SSD! All this time, I was under the impression that the 4 GB SSD was soldered to the mainboard, and mainly because that’s what I had always read online! I guess some models do have it soldered to the board, but mine was on another Mini-PCIe slot on the inside of the 901. Since I had to open it up to resolve an issue that I thought was related to the internal power cable for the power jack, I figured I’d get in there and see if I could move the new SSD to that primary slot. Unfortunately, the 4 GB SSD is half-height, which means that my full-height SSD with the adapter was not going to fit at all. I did manage to find a Mini-PCIe extender ribbon on Amazon, so I may get that in the future to have it finally work as the primary and bypass the F1 message. For the time being, I can live with that minor nuisance.

I also found out that my power issues were related to the new SSD touching the aluminum foil plating on the inside of the bottom cover (the adapter brings the SSD up off the mainboard so it’s close enough to possibly make contact), and a piece of thin cardboard between the SSD and aluminum foil solved that problem.

To date, I’m completely happy with my upgrade purchase and it’s breathed some real life into this little netbook. I’ve been able to use it for some work-related tasks, but I can’t push it too much due to its lowly CPU and RAM. Still, it performs a lot better than it did with the original drives and it continue to be a great attention grabber when I take it on the go. 😊

Coffee and computing on my upgraded ASUS EeePC 901.