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 Forum index » Advanced Topics » Hardware
Dell Inspiron 1100 and other "noughties" laptops
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Puppyt

Joined: 09 May 2008
Posts: 756
Location: Gatton, Queensland

PostPosted: Sun 01 Oct 2017, 08:07    Post subject:  Dell Inspiron 1100 and other "noughties" laptops
Subject description: Dell "Tragics" submit your stories of glory here
 

Kudos firstly to Mike Walsh on these forums, who has led a heroic and ultimately successful campaign to keep his 14-year old Dell Inspiron 1100 laptop functional like any recently-manufactured laptop. Within reasonable comparison.
I used to throw sideways glances at his posts, as he regularly queried the experts about his hardware issues. I can't remember anyone saying that he should just give up on it. Why not keep an early-model laptop/ laptop owner happy with his lot? I mean - if you are so willing to consume and dispose of technology then you might not even have heard of "Puppy Linux", let alone find yourself reading this post.

And then one of these laptops fell into my clutches. Or rather - I fell into its. It truly is an impressive piece of work - even if you could fry an egg on the keyboard "...the running temperature from a normal operating temperature of 77-87 °C ..."(source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dell_Inspiron accessed 1 Oct 2017).
So I've been re-tracing Mike's journey of discovery through the Murga forum, and I found some solutions of my own too. I thought it would be helpful for anyone coming fresh to Puppy Linux with a similarly-vintaged machine, to collate all the highlights in one place, for easy reference.

Anyone is welcome to post their Dell-focused findings in this thread.

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Puppyt

Joined: 09 May 2008
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Location: Gatton, Queensland

PostPosted: Sun 01 Oct 2017, 10:51    Post subject:  

This is a quick illustration of recycling various components inexpensively from different computer projects. I had a Lenovo ThinkPad X31 motherboard die on me some time ago, and finally can put its SSD to good use since the original HDD in the Dell 1100 is on its last legs...

EDIT: So it's a 44-pin PATA. No wonder I get mixed up with my microSATA, mSATA and SATA formats, 1.8" v 2.5", 44- and 50- pin PATA... Thank goodness it's cheaper than Lego.
dellhdd2.jpg
 Description   Illustrating comparisons and preparation to replace HDD with SSD. A 40-pin adapter is shifted from the original HDD.
 Filesize   103.57 KB
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dellhdd2.jpg

dellhdd3.jpg
 Description   Hi-tech solution for holding the 1.8" drive in alignment within the drive caddy
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dellhdd3.jpg

dell1100.jpg
 Description   POST Screen showing the latest BIOS in use (enables 8MB UAM video ram), with 2GB RAM and mSATA SSD successfully installed
 Filesize   82.31 KB
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dell1100.jpg


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Puppyt

Joined: 09 May 2008
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Location: Gatton, Queensland

PostPosted: Sun 01 Oct 2017, 11:01    Post subject:  

Placeholder to include:
Puppy Linux versions working OOTB wrt to
a) Screen issues (Digital Flat Panel 1366x768, Intel(R) 845G x86/MMX/SSE2)
b) Wi-fi (pcmcia/carbus32)
c) ALSA (CH4 - Intel 82801DB-ICH4)

...but so much will just be re-hashing Mike Walsh's work on the issue Smile

EDIT: Mike has added a huge wealth of experience a couple of posts below - a definitive "how to" of all things Inspiron 1100. Thanks Mike!

...and, I listed those issues above as problems I encountered trying to match the vintage hardware with contemporaneous Puppy versions - Series 2 to Series 4. I really needn't have bothered - TahrPup 6.0.6 works OOTB, and is only 243 MB (e.g., http://distro.ibiblio.org/puppylinux/puppy-tahr/iso/tahrpup%20-6.0-CE/) Fabulous work done by 666philb and everyone in the CE team.

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Robert123

Joined: 20 May 2016
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PostPosted: Sun 01 Oct 2017, 13:17    Post subject:  

Here is an 1100 pix for those not famillar - Dell made some cool looking stuff.
serveimage.jpeg
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serveimage.jpeg


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Fossil


Joined: 13 Dec 2005
Posts: 1120
Location: Gloucestershire, UK.

PostPosted: Sun 01 Oct 2017, 15:55    Post subject:  

Full Agree! The old Dell 1100 is extremely well made. Heavy, yes, but sturdy with it. Flashed the BIOS very early on, allowing full screen images. The old 'heat-pad' is still running efficiently with it's original hard drive! Still lots of fun!
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Mike Walsh


Joined: 28 Jun 2014
Posts: 3144
Location: King's Lynn, UK.

PostPosted: Sun 01 Oct 2017, 20:17    Post subject:  

Well, well, well...

I know you said you were going to start a thread on the old 1100 'paint-stripper' (my affectionate term for the heat output from the Celly/P4 through that rather stylish rear vent..!), but I didn't think you'd actually get around to it! Fossil always reckoned it was good for his 'rheumaticky' knees.... Laughing

No, there's no getting away from it; Dell may have churned out an enormous variety of models throughout the latter part of the 90's/early 00's, but the Inspiron range at that time were definitely the 'cream of the crop'. A large part of the weight, of course, is down to that huge, 14-cell, 21.6 v battery pack; needed because the Dells at that time were utilising full desktop Celeron/Pentium 4's, with a correspondingly high TDP; 58W for my original 'Celery', rising to 63W for the replacement 2.6 GHz P4 that's now doing the honours. Low-power, mobile CPUs were still just a gleam in the Intel engineer's eyes at that point in time.

(I know, I know; some of you youngsters will be raising your eyebrows in disbelief at the figures I've just quoted.....after all, the dual-core Athlon 64 X2 in my 'big' Compaq desktop only tops out at 89W.....)

The disconcerting thing is that if you remove that battery pack, then open the screen up to its normal viewing angle, it'll almost (but not quite) overbalance, if you're not careful.... That screen's no lightweight, either; it has, after all, got a steel frame to it..!





A somewhat more 'flattering' view of the 1100..! Laughing

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

CPUs

The Socket 478 motherboards in these will only run Cellies/P4s with a maximum FSB of 400 MHz; it's no good thinking you can stick an HT-equipped 'Prescott' in there. Aside from the heat issues those chips had (the Inspiron literally would go into meltdown with one of those, thanks to Dell's infamously lousy 'thermal solutions' at that time), they simply won't run, as they utilise an 800 MHz FSB. So, forget that idea.

This means you're looking at a maximum 2.8 GHz Celly/P4 in there. Intel did make a 3.0 GHz 400 FSB P4, but they're rarer than hen's teeth.....and if you do manage to luck out and find one, they are going for silly money (since they were all snapped-up long ago by the 'overclock brigade'.....and probably suffered with terminal SNDS - 'Sudden Northwood Death Syndrome' (Google for it; it makes for quite amusing reading!))

But, all joking aside, it is worth trawling Amazon & eBay to see what's still out there. They come and they go, but there's usually a fair selection of used P4's to be had. And the gains (although small) are worth pursuing, since, due to the much larger L2 cache, they're not working as hard, and therefore run that bit cooler...

Which, in the case of the 1100, is a good thing..! Most 'Cellies' were simply P4s with some of the L2 cache either disabled, or 'victims' of faulty production in the Intel fabs.....

Mine cost me all of £4.73p on eBay..... Not bad for an almost mint-condition example.

One word of advice.....and this is important. They need to be regularly spring-cleaned on an annual basis (not hard, since there's bags of room inside 'em to work with). And while you've got the case cracked open, re-apply the TIM to the CPU's heatsink. It'll thank you for it, trust me.....and will repay you with increased longevity. I'm aiming for the 20th anniversary, now, having passed the 15-yr mark last May..!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

RAM

My 1100 originally came with just 128 MB of DDR1 SoDIMMs. How on earth it ran XP with that, I will never know; I do recall it was pretty slow!

Dell forum queries of the time were always met with the stock line that 'You can't go higher than 1 GB of 266 MHz DDR1 RAM'. Plenty of folks queried that, but for a good while that was accepted as the max.

Intel did publish the specifications for the 845 chipset, way back in 2002, but they well and truly 'hid' the fact that the 845 would accept up to 2 GB of the stuff. I've detailed this pretty thoroughly, here.

Currently, I'm chugging along with 1.5 GB. I did have 2 GB a while back, but one of the 1 GB modules I purchased turned out to be faulty, so I simply replaced it with one of the old 512 MB SoDIMMs. It's quite happy at 1536 MB.

Good quality DDR1 SoDIMMs are not cheap anymore. Don't waste your time with the 'bargain bucket' stuff from the Far East that's flooding eBay & Amazon; it's not worth the postage, much less the purchase price. Micron or Crucial are worth every penny, believe me.....and you won't need to keep replacing it.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

STORAGE

Nothing wrong with HDDs, but for decent performance, go with an SSD. PATA/IDE interface SSDs are now available from quite a few sources, although as Puppyt says, you can get SATA to PATA converters. If you stick with PATA interface SSDs, and you can run to it, pay the extra for a model from Transcend. They've only recently broken into the consumer market, but for years they supplied flash memory modules to the industrial sector.....where reliability is of paramount importance. Businesses can be notoriously tight-fisted when it comes time to replace stuff, but many don't mind paying a wee bit more if they know they'll get years of trouble-free service. And the build-quality of Transcend SSDs is exquisite. You definitely get what you pay for.

I'm using a 64 GB model at present, although 128 GB is a decent, practical maximum for these machines. I can't find any reference to the maximum size the 845 chipset will comfortably support, so I'd rather not push it. And you can get lots of Pups on 128 GB! With Pup's 'running-in-RAM' model, actual speed is determined by your RAM clock speed; go for the 400 MHz modules; the 845 will support it, despite Dell claiming to the contrary!

I'm also using a pair of 128 GB SanDisk 'Ultra Fit' nano USB drives in the rear ports as external storage. These might be USB 3.0, but they will run considerably faster through a USB 2.0 port than a standard USB 2.0 drive. The only downside to 'em is they get bloody hot.....but they don't get hot enough to melt the plastic end-caps, fortunately. From the original tiny 20 GB of storage, I'm up to a much more acceptable 320 GB.....

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

WIRELESS

Unlike its 'big brother', the 5100, the 1100 doesn't come with built-in wireless; it only comes with a Broadcom Ethernet controller. So, practically, you have 2 choices. Either a USB wireless adapter.....or a PCMCIA 'CardBus' model, which will occupy the slot under the hard drive caddy (and has the distinct advantage of leaving both rear-mounted USB ports free for other duties.)

(Incidentally, that CardBus slot gives you all kinds of possibilities; there's no end of different cards available for them, if you know where to look...)

I'll recommend 3 different wireless adapters that I guarantee will work with the 1100.

a) NetGear 'RangeMax' WP-511N CardBus adapter.

https://wikidevi.com/wiki/Netgear_WPN511_v1

This has an Atheros chipset, and uses the 'ath5k' driver, which has been in the kernel since, basically, forever..! I've yet to find a Puppy it won't work with.....and the range isn't bad, considering it tops-out at 54 MBps. Recommended.

b) TP-Link WN725N 'nano' 150 MBps 'n'-rated USB adapter

Absolutely brilliant, with an incredible range. At over 100 feet from the router, it's still operating at full strength.Uses the 'r8188eu' driver for the RealTek chip. Make sure you get the v.2 model; the v.1 was known to be 'awkward' under Linux.

http://uk.tp-link.com/products/details/cat-11_TL-WN725N.html

This thing cannot be faulted; it seems almost unbelievable that something this tiny can give such a strong signal, or work at such a range.....but it does. (And it runs cool, too; unlike under Windows, where it gets distinctly warm to the touch...) Build quality is simply beautiful. TP-Link cost a wee bit more, but their stuff just 'works'.

c) NetGear WNA3100M USB 'mini' wireless adapter

Again, a Realtek chip.....and this one uses the 'rtl8192cu' driver (which, again, has been supported in the kernel for quite a while now.) Good range.....but don't try and connect with the 'WPS' button on the top. That only works under Windoze!

http://www.netgear.co.uk/home/products/networking/wifi-adapters/WNA3100M.aspx

This one's a 'mini', as opposed to a 'nano'; a little bit bigger, but still acceptably small.....and doesn't stick out that far. Slightly more expensive than the TP-Link, but well worth it.

Where the kernel doesn't contain the modules for the last two, Bill (better known to all as rcrsn51) produces a range of drivers for both these two, for a range of different kernels. Look for 'em in the 'Hardware;Wireless' sub-forum.

rtl8192cu - http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=100675

r8188eu - http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=107047 Tahr 6.0.5 seems to have this one built-in, so if you're using the TP-Link, or any other utilising that chipset, the k3.14.20 kernel already has it; you just need to OK it when the wizard asks you for confirmation on adding it to the list.

(These three above will definitely work with the 1100.....guaranteed.)

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It just goes to show that sympathetic upgrading with newer technologies as they come on to the market will keep even elderly hardware like this still viable, useful, and productive. And it helps to keep the landfills from filling up so quickly; I'm no 'green warrior', but I absolutely cannot see the point in chucking out gear that still works 100%. To me, that's pointless.....but the tech companies would love us all to swallow their claptrap, hook, line and sinker.....

(*shakes head in amazement*)

Well, that's my lot for tonight. No doubt I'll be contributing further to this thread, but I'm yawning like a good'un right now.....so it's off 'up the wooden hill' for me. The Sandman's a-calling!


Mike. Wink

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Puppyt

Joined: 09 May 2008
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Location: Gatton, Queensland

PostPosted: Mon 02 Oct 2017, 04:08    Post subject:  

Firstly - thanks Robert123 for providing the focus on the "main game" - I completely forgot to include a center-spread shot of the star of this particular show... nice to see Inspiron aficionado's responding so quickly.

And Mike - thanks so much for that encyclopedic contribution to the cause - I appreciate it very much, as I'm sure loads of passers-by will too regarding possible options for rejuvenating "obsolete" or "vintage" technology.

I'm not really sure how I came to spend so much time coaxing the most out of such "dated" hardware. Reckon its the principle of the thing. I respect that a big multinational hit the "sweet spot" regarding build quality a technological eon ago, and I appreciate the effort so many volunteers have put into Puppy LInux (for example) to ensure that users receive true value from their tools. Not for us the false economy of the technological tide of programmed obsolescence and waste. Heck - we can all play at being King Canute - and doesn't it feel good?

OK so my youtube vid has finally uploaded - you are saved any more diatribe Smile
https://youtu.be/8qbo5tRUKcA(I think I am getting better. Umm...um... er...)

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Robert123

Joined: 20 May 2016
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Location: Pacific

PostPosted: Mon 02 Oct 2017, 04:35    Post subject:  

Great video Puppyt - you speak very clearly - nice work.
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Puppyt

Joined: 09 May 2008
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PostPosted: Mon 02 Oct 2017, 06:33    Post subject:  

Thanks very much Robert123 - still have a way to go to reach SneekyLinux's confident patter! Gotta wipe about 250 pixels from stage left - thought I could do it post-production on YT but they've deprecated that ability, about 18mo ago... will upload a more centered file shortly. No biggie. Happy trails with your Dell 1100 and its siblings, btw Smile
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Mike Walsh


Joined: 28 Jun 2014
Posts: 3144
Location: King's Lynn, UK.

PostPosted: Mon 02 Oct 2017, 08:51    Post subject:  

Love the vid, mate. Nicely done....nice'n'clear, too.

One query; what were you using to record the vid with (sound especially).....and did you use the 1100 to do so? I like to use SimpleScreenRecorder, but I haven't quite figured out the settings in Retrovol, yet.....

Care to share? (Pretty please.....with sprinkles on? Laughing )

I'm just dead curious to know which method was used, that's all..!

Puppyt wrote:
And Mike - thanks so much for that encyclopedic contribution to the cause - I appreciate it very much, as I'm sure loads of passers-by will too regarding possible options for rejuvenating "obsolete" or "vintage" technology.


Hah! I did go a wee bit OTT, didn't I? Laughing I just kept thinking of things I wanted to add..... I'll bet you're beginning to regret mentioning this thread to me, aren't you??? Rolling Eyes Embarassed Very Happy


Mike. Wink

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Puppyt

Joined: 09 May 2008
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PostPosted: Wed 04 Oct 2017, 05:15    Post subject:
Subject description: Behind the scenes
 

Regrets? Not in the slightest! It *is* actually you, Mr Mike Walsh, who inspired it.

I've got some wifi cardbus varieties to add to your menagerie, and I reckon your motherboard-hygiene section nails an essential truism for the longevity of the laptop. I ran out of time to hyperlink my intended areas to all the relevant "Mike Walsh Experiences" posts - I was going to shamelessly hawk your tips, so I'm very pleased you were able to add to the discussion personally, and so comprehensively. The expansions that you've been able to implement, boggles the mind quite frankly. Dell should invest in a (edit: "Provenance" line and dedicate firmware upgrade support for their products of that era, I reckon Smile

Regarding the video production issues, ummm I wish I was using screencaster or SimpleScreenRecorder anything similar. I thought it would be more authentic to film the machine in its natural habitat... but I *still* have to remove the deadspace to the left of screen, and put the focus truly on the monitor. Just couldn't get the dimensions perfect. Project for next weekend...

I filmed using my olde Android (of course!) LG-P970 phone. Sincerest, sincerest apologies for its occasional refocus it does - I find it most irritating. Will look at other filming apps to prevent the intrusions - whatever my Android 4.0.4 limitation can manage.
I have a cheap Inca camera tripod that I use - but the hotshoe / mounting screw doesn't gel with the smartphone. Instead, I found that I could adapt one of those universal car-mount gadgets into it to hold the phone steady - will attach a mock-up to demonstrate. I also use the earplug/microphone the phone came with, recording my audio directly that way to try to cut down on the the additional "ambiance" of roosters, house cows, cat fights etc etc happening around the house.
That said, there are only another few machines I would be tempted to record for posterity this way - my 486DX (with CRT monitor), for starters. I would much rather a SimpleScreenCaster option. I purchased a Sennheiser PC7 USB headset for voip and skype, and found that it works well OOTB in TahrPup32 for audio capture - at least with Audacity, that I've tested. But that is certainly something that you mentioned that I would be keen to help out with, at a later stage. Perhaps the smartphone earplugs/mic combo would also work through the Retrovol mic settings in Puppy?

Thanks guys for your positive feedback - I certainly hope you are willing to maybe film something similar with your getups.

BTW - On re-reading the earlier posts in the thread just now - I think that if we could work out some way to replace the "hit" or "buzz" consumers get when they acquire a brand-new disposable product, and transfer that to a - I don't know - a rich sense of custodianship for items of technology that others have found useful. Like the feeling I get using a 100yr-old pitchfork in Sheffield Steel, or an 80yo scythe to mow the lawn... my "whisper snipper". Smile
filming setup for smartphone.jpg
 Description   Quick mockup of my jury-rigged camera setup.
Car mount shown in full to better illustrate its adaptation here.
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Mike Walsh


Joined: 28 Jun 2014
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Location: King's Lynn, UK.

PostPosted: Wed 04 Oct 2017, 07:37    Post subject:  

Well, now; talking about 'codge-ups', you might be interested in one that I performed with a webcam...

I've got an HP HD2300 (UVC-compliant, so just 'works') which I've used on the big Compaq desktop for some years. I wanted to get another UVC-compliant webcam for the DELL, so it would, again, just 'work'.....but I didn't want to pay silly money for one. I finally settled on a Creative VF770, for around £12 GBP. Now, this is where the tale starts..!

As it comes, out of the box, the Creative has no 'pan & tilt' capabilities at all; just a simple hinge for up and down. Well, that was no good, so I had a bit of a head-scratch, and finally came up with a working possibility.....

I'd got an old Trust webcam I bought some time ago, simply 'cos I liked the way it looked.....reminiscent of one of the expensive Logitechs. But it wouldn't work at all under Linux; not one kernel supported it, and Trust don't provide Linux drivers. They also use some bloody weird chips, too. So, it sat on the shelf gathering dust for quite some time.

It did, however, have a brilliant flexi-grip attachment for laptops.....and, more importantly, a full 360-degree ball joint for movement, which upon closer inspection was screwed to the bottom of the housing! So, I removed it from the cam (which then went in the bin); glued the hinge on the Creative together, so it was rigid; drilled and tapped through the now-rigid hinge (which is quite big).....and attached the Creative to the top of the ball-joint stalk. Result!

My Creative VF770 now has full 360-degree 'pan-and-tilt' capability..! It's amazing the solutions you can implement sometimes, given a little bit of ingenuity.....and a large dollop of luck.



Sorry for the lousy picture quality (my old Nokia's only got a VGA, I'm afraid!).....but you can see the Trust stand underneath the Creative cam.


Mike. Wink


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Puppyt

Joined: 09 May 2008
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Location: Gatton, Queensland

PostPosted: Wed 04 Oct 2017, 16:59    Post subject:  

Result!
We are Borg-ish! When you consider the efforts some corporations go to to ensure incompatibilities even with basic connectivity between products within their own stable (hint - doesn't fall far from the tree) - well, if they give us lemons, lets make lemonade... while being mindful that the "Tinkerer's cause" is probably of emotional benefit in its own right, irrespective of it superior take on resource management. But that's another topic Smile

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Mike Walsh


Joined: 28 Jun 2014
Posts: 3144
Location: King's Lynn, UK.

PostPosted: Wed 04 Oct 2017, 18:19    Post subject:  

Considering that I've only gotten into the 'techie' side of things this last few years, another illustration springs to mind.

Like the very first time I gave the Dell a 'spring-clean', and replaced the TIM for the first time. The crud was baked on to the top of the CPU lid that hard, that even attempting to remove the heatsink as I should resulted in dragging the CPU out of a still-locked socket along with it..!

A few pins on one edge of the old 'Celly' got bent, but some judicious straightening with a nail-file and a pair of mini electronics tweezers got those sorted out. Cleaned the crap off everything, reseated the heatsink and CPU, together with a fresh application of goo.....and she fired up without a murmur. Just goes to show how tough the old Cellies and P4's were, really.

But oh, was I pleased, after purchasing the P4 off eBay, and fitting it in the Dell, to see that 'Pentium 4' logo appear on the splash screen for the first time. Made my day, that did..! Very Happy


Mike. Wink

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Burn_IT


Joined: 12 Aug 2006
Posts: 2914
Location: Tamworth UK

PostPosted: Thu 05 Oct 2017, 08:00    Post subject:  

My old P4 Dell C840 is still going strong. I don't use it much nowadays except as a Desktop as it is far too heavy to use as a Laptop.
It is maxed out at 2gb memory and runs Win 7 as well as Puppy.

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