The $100 used laptop and getting riled up.

Lenovo-ThinkPad-T500 - Source - Wikimedia commons
Lenovo-ThinkPad-T500 – Source – Wikimedia commons

I was reading a thread on phoronix where a student was sharing that it is or can be expensive to get even a used laptop and he shared his predicament and was hammered a bit for it to some going to the extent of questioning his life-choices.

While I’m not a student it still triggered something in me. I am not dirt poor but neither am I insanely rich. The same questions he has, similar questions I have had. While in his case he is probably in his early to late 20’s, I am pushing 40. Most of the money I make goes in for everyday purchases, veggies, house-rent, electricity, landline, broadband and cell phone bills. What little is left is most of the time kept for a rainy day as there is no Government pension.

From what I have heard and read on the web, in the west specifically in the States, if I buy a used laptop, I usually get a 6 months – 1 year warranty . Here, while you could get a used laptop for around INR 10k there is no warranty/guarantee, so I never get into that. It’s ‘buyer’s beware’ all the time.

For people who like/want FOSS or specifically something like Free DOS (like me), I had to wait for almost 6 years to get a model I was happy with, with the specs. I was ok with.

Was really lucky enough to get a Thinkpad T440 with 8 GB of RAM for around INR 80k/- with Free DOS.

The specs –

T440 Core I 5 (4300) / Dos (NEW MODEL)


Intel Core i5 – 4300M (2.5 GHz / 3 MB / 5 GT/s) / Intel QM87 Chipset / Integrated 802.11 n WIFI LAN + Bluetooth 4.0 / 8GB DDR III Memory (2 DIMM SLOT) / 500 GB SATA HDD @ 7200 RPM / 14.0 HDy / FPR / Dos / 2 USB , VGA Port , RJ 45 Port /GB LAN /Track Point with 5 button Glass Touch Pad /Stereo Speakers with Dolby Enhanced Audio / 6 Cell Battery /Approx 2.14KG/

While it is/was actually pretty expensive but then wanted something which can take a beating, deal with all the heat, noise and dust (specifically where I live, right in the middle of the city).

The reason I used the word lucky is that now there is no model in the T-series range which has FreeDOS on it. Of course, I hopefully will use it for another 4-5 years at the very least depending on how much it cooperates with me, I have heard that Thinkpads function for a long period of time even in dusty environments so banking on that. 🙂

What probably pissed me is the condensing note in the comment, how does he know what pressures an another individual might be in. It’s almost like saying “You are refugee because you made a wrong life choice” or something to that effect which again is stupid.

I actually feel/felt embarrassed to bring this up as I truly am lucky to be safe, secure, have food on the table, am able to sleep on a bed at night, have a workstation AND a laptop, have somewhat of a sound mind 🙂 and a body which is able to move around without any hassles. Add to that, incredibly as it may sound, was also able to see another country for a few days

In relation to people being persecuted and having to run off to save their own lives or even people living on the streets, I am actually living in luxury. While I can’t go through life feeling guilty for all the good things that have happened with me, I do feel disgusted when I see some people put blinding statements like that.

One of the biggest reasons that GNU/Linux and Debian in particular gelled with me was that it’s incredibly flexible and generous. Nobody tells me which packages I should or shouldn’t have. I do right things, good, I do something wrong, an opportunity to learn and hopefully learn from my mistakes. In either case, one of the most forgiving kind of system to learn and hack on.

While speaking of mistakes, could somebody look at #849684 . It almost feels like a tennis match going between the maintainers concerned. While I don’t have the technical skills to ascertain who’s right and who is not, it would be nice if some cooler heads can make sense and see if a way could be found out. Can somebody help ?

Laptop over-heating issues.

Hi all,

There was a Mini-Debconf held in IIT Mumbai on January 17 – 18 .  The event was good from outsider’s perspective but there were and are a lot of kinks we need to work out when holding future mini-debconfs. I was hoping we would be getting some photos from the event by our official/unofficial photographer of the event Purvesh Shah but as that has also not materialized as of yet hence doing it without it.

But before getting into the specifics of the event itself there was a question raised by several people as to why Debian or any GNU/Linux runs hot on their laptop. Now because I didn’t want to get into the nitty-gritty details therein hence didn’t get into it but now as have the time and the place can share it better.

The answer to it is somewhat complex. Part of the problem on many chips is and was that the software bits (the firmware) which should be telling the CPU telling that each activity doesn’t need full power/frequency was not there. It still is not there as that part has been patented and is considered valuable IP (as shared before it’s called firmware). This was for a long-time then some years back (circa 2004) and after there was a workaround utility made cpufrequtils

$ aptitude show cpufrequtils
Package: cpufrequtils
State: installed
Automatically installed: yes
Version: 008-1
Priority: optional
Section: admin
Maintainer: Mattia Dongili
Architecture: amd64
Uncompressed Size: 233 k
Depends: libc6 (>= 2.3), libcpufreq0 (>= 006), debconf (>= 0.5) | debconf-2.0, lsb-base (>= 3.0)
Description: utilities to deal with the cpufreq Linux kernel feature
This package contains two utilities for inspecting and setting the CPU frequency through both the sysfs and procfs CPUFreq kernel interfaces.

By default, it also enables CPUFreq at boot time if the correct CPU driver is found.

Now this utility itself was broken for quite sometime and came into its own just few years back. Sharing output from an old machine I have at my disposal :-

$ cpufreq-info
cpufrequtils 008: cpufreq-info (C) Dominik Brodowski 2004-2009
Report errors and bugs to, please.
analyzing CPU 0:
driver: acpi-cpufreq
CPUs which run at the same hardware frequency: 0
CPUs which need to have their frequency coordinated by software: 0
maximum transition latency: 10.0 us.
hardware limits: 1.20 GHz - 2.70 GHz
available frequency steps: 2.70 GHz, 2.00 GHz, 1.60 GHz, 1.20 GHz
available cpufreq governors: userspace, conservative, powersave, ondemand, performance
current policy: frequency should be within 1.20 GHz and 2.70 GHz.
The governor "ondemand" may decide which speed to use
within this range.
current CPU frequency is 1.60 GHz.
cpufreq stats: 2.70 GHz:30.84%, 2.00 GHz:2.46%, 1.60 GHz:3.22%, 1.20 GHz:63.49% (19978)
analyzing CPU 1:
driver: acpi-cpufreq
CPUs which run at the same hardware frequency: 1
CPUs which need to have their frequency coordinated by software: 1
maximum transition latency: 10.0 us.
hardware limits: 1.20 GHz - 2.70 GHz
available frequency steps: 2.70 GHz, 2.00 GHz, 1.60 GHz, 1.20 GHz
available cpufreq governors: userspace, conservative, powersave, ondemand, performance
current policy: frequency should be within 1.20 GHz and 2.70 GHz.
The governor "ondemand" may decide which speed to use
within this range.
current CPU frequency is 1.60 GHz.
cpufreq stats: 2.70 GHz:29.07%, 2.00 GHz:2.42%, 1.60 GHz:3.04%, 1.20 GHz:65.47% (20496)

Now because this is on a desktop I haven’t used any governors. If it was a laptop I would have chosen “ondemand” which is the best one. If you want to see which governor you are using or not, see :-

$ cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpuidle/current_driver

As it says none there, that’s telling me I haven’t turned on any of the governors.

There are quite a few competing applications/packages that you can try to see if any of them do it better. Some of the more well-known ones are cpufrequtils (shared above), thermald, TLP and couple of others.

Now the job is and should be simple, you have an application running and the CPU should allocate power and performance to do computing without over-heating itself. BUT there is no single application, there are multiple applications, some running in the background while some running in the foreground. For e.g. I usually have at least the music player running while browsing the web or doing anything else for that matter. I have a terminal emulator which is running all the time, I have a network monitor which also is going on apart from other things, so there are lots of competition between those applications happening at times but at other times there is virtually nothing or minimal resources are being spent for which something called ‘C States’ which was point of discussion few years back. An article refreshes the memory.So the kernel has to make decisions which applications to give priority and which not and many a time it doesn’t do good enough of a job. Add to that there are wake-up events, for e.g. let’s see you had your instant messaging application on the tray and it’s sleeping (conserving power) and somebody sends you a ‘hi’ power would have to be sent to that application and you will get a nice chat window where you could answer to whoever said hi to you. While I’m saying applications I am referring to anything which will interrupt to the sleep state.

There is work happening partly on the hardware end to improve the scene and it’s the failure of third-party device manufacturers as well as developers who should be thinking about power-management for laptops as well. This also hurts MS-Windows but not as much as GNU/Linux due to lot of reasons and I don’t really want to go there. A link as how it can also be somewhat of a ruinous experience for MS-Windows is shared by the Anandtech article who goes in some detail as well.

For people looking to fix the situation I would direct them to look up and work with the kernel and specifically the power-management folks. This is and will require lots of reading, lots of trying out stuff etc. It’s a long-term game where the goal posts will keep on moving from time to time (as CPU’s and GPU’s don’t seem to be ending manufacturing anytime soon) as well as form factors such as tablets, phones etc.

Also look at where Mr. Bj ̈orn Br ̈omstrup (I hope it comes out right) shares the current state of power management in linux rather than in my stumbling manner but then this post was not for those who understand these matters in the first place 🙂

Looking for a laptop -2

Hi all,

I know I promised to put the 3rd edition of the GNU/Linux primer and would be doing that, just some things keep coming in the way.

I had some interesting discussions as to why I chose what I chose as specs for the laptop. The remainder of this blog post would be tackling the same

Continue reading “Looking for a laptop -2”

Looking for a laptop

Dear lazyweb,

Looking for a laptop.

Configuration :-

Chip and Graphics chip :- AMD-ATI (5/6/7) 00 card

Memory :-  2 GB DDR2 (upgradable upto 4 GB)

Gigabit ethernet port

Wireless  :-  Atheros 6k-9k chipset

Budget :- Between 30-50,000 INR (inclusive of all)

I looked up the Dell Vostro lappies but all of them are Intel-based 😦

Looking forward to comments and suggestions for the same.

Update 06/10/08 18:50 :- Forgot to add the caveat. No Windows anything, Free DOS or Ubuntu pre-loaded or nothing at all is also good.

Another Update 06/10/08 18:55 :-  I just had a telephonic conversation with somebody called Ravi Shankar, a Dell representative. Apparently, Dell is fully an Intel shop. The other shocking news was that the Dell Vitros which I had looked up, they don’t sell the same in India 😦

Update 3 09/10/09 :- I tried getting a lappy couple of months back. This is what happened with me 😦

The end result, the decision has been postphoned to next 6~12 months when USB 3.0 is out and can get more than 4 GB RAM without an issue. 😦

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