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2018-08-10Project Zebra 2: Minimalist customisation on old hardware

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(More like PZ 3 because I've stuck Mint on a laptop for my mother as a full browser alternative to a couple of tablets, because Windows updates made it virtually unusable).

As I'm bouncing between two addresses, I figured it was worth getting a cheap 24" monitor to work properly and reusing some other hardware. In this case a passively-cooled Shuttle XS35GT V2 from 2011 – maxed out (IIRC) at 4Gb but an Atom D525 and USB2.0 only, so basically an early netbook in a case. It ran Windows 7 very slowly by the end – which considering I used it as a daily driver for some years is strong anecdotal evidence for Windows installs slowing down over time and a lot of patching – so I was interested to see how responsive Xfce would make it.

I stuck in a surplus 32GB SSD (which identifies as a Crucial V4-CT032V4SSD2 and performs like a mediocre hard drive) so that it remains silent, and it already has a slot-loading DVD drive. When I’ve finished using it as a stopgap desktop machine, I’m considering VESA mounting it onto a monitor as a video player, meaning a lot hinged on how well the NVIDIA drivers handled the ION graphics (which is how Shuttle sold this as being a media/signage PC). As it turns out, it's bearing up with 720p MP4 without hitting the CPU too hard and 720p YouTube with rather more effort, so apart from maybe some tweaking of tear-free settings (perhaps Compton as a compositor) it should do for the majority of content I’m interested in. If I later throw in a Logitech K400 wireless keyboard with trackpad, either a monitor with speakers or some Logitech USB ones, maybe an old MS infra red remote, and a large flash drive for playing non-stream stuff from, it ought to be quite nice.

A fuller run down is;

Xubuntu 18.04 LTS with NVIDIA driver
Greybird-accessibility, Adwaita, Elementary, 28px panel
Chrome with uBlock Origin, Chromium Wheel Smooth Scroller, some download tools, etcetera
Synaptic, VLC, Gimp, XnViewMP, Geany, and some tools such as xdotool, kdocker, xcape

I find Adwaita acceptable enough, ditto the window manager theme, but the former does rely on the compositor to show a border (shadows) on GTK2 menus; https://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=823311 + https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=741355 which I didn't initially realise.

A couple of further tweaks were then made in the course of normal usage;

https://alexcabal.com/disabling-gnomes-recently-used-file-list-the-better-way/

rm ~/.local/share/recently-used.xbel

~/.gtkrc-2.0

https://rudd-o.com/linux-and-free-software/tales-from-responsivenessland-why-linux-feels-slow-and-how-to-fix-that

/etc/sysctl.conf

vm.swappiness=1
vm.vfs_cache_pressure=50

So far the only fly in the ointment, apart from one or two HD videos (in Quicktime format) that clearly didn't get passed through to the GPU, has been not being able to get hibernation to work.

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/SwapFaq

swsusp can’t use a swap file. After some buggering around with uswsusp and a swap partition, I gave up – suspend works with swsusp, and the machine is only for light use. If I could get tuxonice running on it, that would probably be ideal since it's going to stay on an LTS cycle.

I also set up a 256GB flash drive to keep TV and music on, shared by SMB;

useradd [name]
passwd [name]
smbpasswd -a [name]
smbpasswd [name] (to change pw later)

net usershare add [sharename] "[fullpath]" guest_ok=y Everyone:R 

You can check the config has been created in: /etc/samba/smb.conf

net rpc user (list samba users)
net rpc share list (fairly self-explanatory)

It's surprising that there don't seem to be many (any?) currently maintained Samba GUI interfaces specifically for Xfce, but at least it's pretty straightforward.

I also have an old Thinkpad T61 (a 2007 ex-Vista machine that was quite high spec at the time; I think a Core 2 Due 2GHz with 2GB RAM) that's been returned to me with a knackered HDD so I'm considering putting another one in and sticking an LTS distro on, which it'd be interesting to see if manages comparable performance.


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