My Adventures in Tech Longevity

In my return to writing for this blog, I'd like to talk about my journey working with older pieces of tech in my day-to-day life.

As I've probably mentioned in previous posts, I'm not a very tech-savvy person. I only recently started using Linux and I work in the terminal where I can. I'm still learning the Linux ins-and-outs, but for over a year now I've been almost exclusively using Linux as my primary operating system. It's been a game changer and the biggest driving force in my pursuit of increasing the longevity of the technology I use.

My Daily Driver

I call this my daily driver, but it really is just my work computer. I use a computer primarily for work and as such I use it practically every day.

The laptop in question is a 2011 Dell Latitude E6410. It has an Intel Core i7 CPU M 620 @ 2.67GHz x 4, and 8gb of RAM. I'll be honest, not sure what most of that means, but I can tell it was quite powerful for 2011 and still has some juice left in it.

I found it caked in dust in my parents garage with another, less powerful laptop. After buying a new battery and booting it up, I heard that familiar Windows 7 sound. I'd be lying if I said I didn't shudder. However, at that point in my Linux evolution (Linuxvolution?) I was immediately preparing a USB stick or two with distros to install and try out. I eventually settled on Debian Stable and got to work learning and working with what has become my new favorite computer.

My first concern with this laptop was whether it would get bogged down and start to stutter when I opened up a few too many applications. These concerns were quickly allayed. Since starting up the machine and working with it almost every day, this machine has had few if any issues managing whatever applications I have running.

I use this laptop as a desktop machine 99% of the time. Thus, I wanted to add additional monitors, an external keyboard, and mouse. I was able to find a Dock for this machine on Kajiji and it's fantastic. I now have dual monitors (Lenovo ThinkVisions from 2013), keyboard, mouse, printer, WiFi adapter, and a few other devices, connected directly into the Dock. My desk is now incredibly clean and I can detach the laptop and go with the push of a button.

I can't say the journey has been without its hiccups. At one point Zoom was the only video conferencing software that wouldn't work on my browser, and I was banging my head against a wall for months before realizing my browser was blocking javascript for Zoom when I thought I'd allowed it. Also, when we recently upgraded our router, my laptop and my WiFi adapter both decided they could no longer connect to the internet. I truly felt I would have to call it quits for this machine, but after we added an extender both my laptop and the adapter reconnected, and my baby lived to see another spreadsheet.

Overall, this laptop has exceed my expectations ten-fold, and I hope to keep it going for years to come. Every time I use this eleven year-old laptop, I think of the laptops tossed into landfills or replaced year-after-year for newer models. There's so much potential still left in those devices, we just have look past the proprietary walls of Apple's and Microsoft's operating systems.

Operating System and Software

The Linux flavour I use daily is Debian Stable. I'm sure there are plenty of distros that would more perfectly fit my needs, but I feel extra secure working on Debian Stable.

When I first Installed Stable on my computer, it took a lot of getting used to. I chose to use Xfce as my desktop environment. I'm honestly not sure why I picked it, but I've found it usable and have had no issues with it so far.

I was shocked with how smoothly everything ran on this machine right off the bat. I had to do very little configuring myself and I just started setting myself up with the different applications I wanted to use.

After installing Vim, I started setting up Thunderbird as my primary email client. I also use Libreoffice as my word processor and Microsoft Office alternative.

As time went on, I made a conscious effort to avoid installing bloated, proprietary software as much as I could. I don't have any Microsoft Office suite of tools, Teams, or Zoom. If I ever need to use those services I just use them through the browser. I foresee a time when I will need to acquiesce and truly put my machine to the test installing a hungry, bloated application for work. But until that day, things are running smoother than I ever could have imagined on this clunker.

I hope someone finds this rambling piece at the very least entertaining. I am constantly gushing about my little laptop to friends and family and I figured I should put my thoughts out into the world. If you've got an old computer you love that seems to be slowing down in its old age, there may still be some hope for it with a new Linux operating system and a little TLC.