Category Archives: Fixing Stuff

Random thoughts about “Linux on old computers”

Many years ago I wrote a series on “reviving your old PC with Linux“, a topic which still remains in active discussion all around the Linuxy corners of the Interwebs.  Most of what I wrote still applies, so long as you shift things forward seven years into the future.  But as someone who continues to engage in the hobby (and discussion of the hobby) of foisting free operating systems on whatever decaying PC hulks float my way,  I thought I’d write up random thoughts about the subject in response to things people say or the changes in computing.  A bit of a rant, a bit of state-of-the-union, and a little thinking out-loud on the topic of old hardware running old faithful.

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Replacing Windows 98, and other seemingly impossible tasks

Sometime during the last decade, I managed to get a reputation as the guy to whom you can donate your old, dusty computer when you don’t want it any more; and while I must confess that I don’t mind in the least (keep it coming folks – I do have a major weakness for free computer hardware, as well as a profound satisfaction in making “trash” useful again), it’s often a challenge to actually make use of a lot of it.

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Ubuntu Studio 12.04

A screen cap of the Ubuntu Studio Desktop

The Ubuntu studio 12.04 desktop.

Not so long ago, I posted about my attempts to bring my old DAW system back to life with Lubuntu.  Emboldened by my success, and eager to get it on a nice firm LTS-release foothold, I tried to upgrade it to Precise Pangolin a few weeks ago.  Sadly, the results were not so great:  after upgrading, I ran afoul of a mysterious bug that caused Ardour, Audacity, and Hydrogen (and possibly other programs) to segfault when I started them.  Despite my best efforts to track down the error (probably caused by my liberal use of PPAs and 3rd-party repositories), it became clear I needed to start afresh.

This time I decided to skip a bit of the DIY and just grab a ready-made audio production distro; after all, there are plenty of them out there, aren’t there?  Well, the hunt began for an audio-production oriented distro that would work decently on an older 32-bit system while promising future updates; and yes, believe me, my not-so-fond-of-Ubuntu friends out there, I didn’t limit myself to ‘buntuland.  Yet search as I might, every project I found seemed either at least 18 months stale (if not out-and-out abandoned), or a one-man project based on Debian or Ubuntu anyway.  In the end, Ubuntu studio seemed best to fit the bill.  So I downloaded the nearly 2 GB .iso file, popped it on my flash drive, and loaded it onto the old workhorse; and here, dear reader, are my findings so far…

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Recovering data from a PC: a guide for “not computer people”

It’s a little unfortunate how much we rely on something as unreliable as a computer.  There you are, working along, happily doing your thing, and suddenly Windows (or OSX, or Linux, or BEOS, or whatever it is that sits between your hardware and your web browser) pukes up some error and refuses to boot, work, or be otherwise useful.

Fixing the computer itself is just a matter of time and money; getting back those pictures, documents, emails, and other files that you always meant to back-up is another issue.   So in this article I’m going to show you a simple way to recover documents from a system that won’t boot.

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