A small note on this post: there is a good music to listen while reading this blog post and I can confirm as I’m typing this post while doing so: 300 MB, bu Neil Cicierega. youtube link.

I didn’t know to start this blog post, but here it is. I got myself a “new” laptop. After my current one didn’t survive its first coffee cup, I was for a few weeks without a computer anymore, only with smartphones and a Raspberry Pi. Of course I had to do important stuff like scanning documents during that. Of course.

A while after that I bought a new PC, I got my eyes on an old laptop bag, and was too curious to not open it. An old, bulky, 12 year old laptop was peacefully resting there. My first laptop. So I decided to do the action that was the most evident coming from me: using it again. This blog post is written with that laptop.

A little bit of story: it’s actually a gift from my native region’s education administration. During the period when I was a highschooler, half way in Bouches du Rhône’s highscools, the “4e”1, there was a program to lend laptops for students so they could work on their lessons, etc etc. Those laptops were distinctively blue and weren’t used a lot for school work in the end. There was supposed te be a filter to block anyone from executing a program not related from work, but the program itself just matched the executable’s filename. Rename your favorite emulator into mspaint.exe and you were good to go.

When I was eligible for the program, the program mutated. There wasn’t question of lending anymore but gifting one and the laptop model was changed for a better one. So I had the chance to be one of the first to get a brand new laptop, stamped with the region’s logo and all.

The usual suspect

It is a HP Compaq 6715b. It’s a 15” bulky laptop that seems to be built to last. Seriously, this beast even survived getting a bigger orange juice glass over it than my “shiny and chrome” Asus ex-daily driver’s coffee mug2. Don’t expect this laptop to be powerful though. If you read the name of the post, you should have an idea of how good it runs. The “Ducktato” (Duck-Potato, I’m not even ashamed). It has for a CPU a Mobile AMD Sempron 3500+ but I’ll let /proc/cpuinfo introduce it to you first.

processor       : 0
vendor_id       : AuthenticAMD
cpu family      : 15
model           : 76
model name      : Mobile AMD Sempron(tm) Processor 3500+
stepping        : 2
cpu MHz         : 1800.000
cache size      : 512 KB
physical id     : 0
siblings        : 1
core id         : 0
cpu cores       : 1
apicid          : 0
initial apicid  : 0
fpu             : yes
fpu_exception   : yes
cpuid level     : 1
wp              : yes
flags           : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat
pse36 clflush mmx fxsr sse sse2 syscall nx mmxext fxsr_opt rdtscp lm 3dnowext
3dnow rep_good nopl cpuid pni cx16 lahf_lm extapic cr8_legacy 3dnowprefetch
bugs            : fxsave_leak sysret_ss_attrs null_seg swapgs_fence amd_e400
spectre_v1 spectre_v2
bogomips        : 3586.06
TLB size        : 1024 4K pages
clflush size    : 64
cache_alignment : 64
address sizes   : 40 bits physical, 48 bits virtual
power management: ts fid vid ttp tm stc

So, what to say from that? First, it’s the first time I see the bugs line in the listing (hello Spectre). Also, I don’t know if it has multiple cache levels, but let’s say no. IIRC today’s computers have a few megabytes of cache divided in cache levels with varying speed/quantity. I don’t know what the apicid except that the APIC doesn’t work on this laptop with today’s kernels.

It’s a potato, it’s my potato. Something I forgot to mention is that it was also bundled with a 512 MB of RAM (actually ca. 440MB), a 40GB HDD… And Vista. Yes, that Windows Vista. With a single core CPU, 400 MB of RAM and it still could run Vista, even if very, very poorly. I played a few games on it even though it barely ran. Dang, the time I wasted on Dofus on it‥

The GPU also is old. It’s a Radeon Xpress 1200/1250/1270 with 128MB of RAM and supporting only up to OpenGL 1.4. I’m still surprised I could play games like Spore with not a lot of issues minus a abysmal framerate. But I can’t deny it’s still pretty sluggish for today’s standards. The thing can’t even run RetroArch’s menu drivers at full speed.

Today, the Ducktato got a new life, it’s third. I previosuly gave it a 2GB RAM stick and reformatted it to a Manjaro to lend it to my little brother for him to play a few games (and trying to convert him to linux, but that point failed because he prefer playing more modern games on PC, oops). But Manjaro broke down and I couldn’t figure what was holding systemd from fully working. And it was left in this state for a few years.

When I undusted it, I grabbed an Arch ISO and did the usual, setting a single partition, the locale, pacstrap, cursing at wifi drivers and voilà, I had a computer that barely worked but still did. I’m spending part of my free time tuning it a bit as if it was my main computer. Mostly for fun, but also as an experiment to see how I’d make a new base for a future setup. Turns out it doesn’t look that ugly, I still wonder if I should make a conky monitor for some stuff.

Click for the desktop's screenshot.

The laptop being very old, I’m facing compatibility issues: APIC doesn’t work (hello random crashes), the Wifi must not be turned off else it’s a chore to turn it back on, the touch slider for volume goes too fast, the fan can stop after exiting sleep mode, I currently have issues with usermode Xorg, the drive could stop working after waking up from sleep mode, etc etc… But generally it works well and can chug through I ask it without issues, except of course the speed. I’ll still tweak around, there is a lot of things to check and install.

At least, I know I won’t use this laptop for gamedev, except Pico-8, which runs surprisingly decently with seemingly no slowdowns. It’ll put away the fact that I had to install PulseAudio to have decent sound as I’ll chalk it off as I was too lazy to properly setup ALSA (if it’s even possible).

Anyway, I have nothing much more to add about it. It still works and the battery isn’t totally dead yet. It’s ugly but pretty sturdy. I guess I’ll keep it a few more decades. See ya next time.

My current avatar in sticker and with a limited color palette. Because why not.

  1. The class you enter usually at 12. ↩︎

  2. I swear it even ran better after being vitamined. ↩︎