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Donation update, and the secrets of cheap laptop computing

Here's some info on how my "donation drive" went, and tips for laptop computing on the cheap.

As for the total amount for donations received, it did not cover the cost of what I spent on replacement computer stuff - but I'm not complaining as it was more than I expected considering I just threw this out there after that lightning storm happened that killed my laptop.

What I did get covered more than 25% of what I spent on replacement stuff but less than 50%. But again, I am not complaining. I was happy to get anything.

A big thank you to those who sent some green to help me out. People from Germany, USA, Finland, Canada and at the last second the UK all sent something.

Now as I said before, the cash was already spent before I even asked for anything, and it was put towards three things:

  1. A refurbished laptop (Dell Latitude E6330)
  2. A wireless router (Linksys WRT54GL)
  3. An HDMI cable

The total cost for the above, as mentioned before, was $330.33. Again, this was already spent before I even asked for anything.

The donations received did cover the cost of the cable, router, and some of the laptop. Again, no complaints.

Both the router and cable have been received. The router works great. I don't know if the cable works because I need the incoming laptop to test that. The laptop will be arriving a few days after I write this. It's a refurb, so I hope everything works in it and all goes well because I am getting sick of using my backup laptop. Yeah, it works fine, but it is ssssllllooooowwwww....

Anyway, another huge THANK YOU to all who sent a few bucks. You're all awesome. Truly.

Yes, I am still accepting donations. Again, if you've found any of my writings here informative, educational, useful or entertaining, please send what you can. Thanks for being awesome.

The secrets of cheap laptop computing

I figured I'd write some info here on how to compute fast and cheap because there's really no reason to dump a bunch of money into a laptop anymore.

Cheap laptop computing means you have to understand a few things.

Don't game on it

Laptops aren't meant for gaming. Never have been, never will be. Don't even think about it.

The most important program is the web browser

Whether you use Firefox or Chrome, this is the program you use the most.

At the time I write this in June 2016, the minimum OS requirement for Firefox 47 is Microsoft Windows XP. Why do browser programmers support an OS that old and obsolete? Because there's still enough people out there using XP to warrant continued development of a modern browser for it.

What does this mean to you? It means you can safely use an older OS such as Windows 7 or Windows 8 and still browse the web easily for probably the next 10 years (not that you would, but you could.)

The OS is unimportant as long as the hardware supports it

This is where I get specific with hardware brand.

Let's say for the moment you want to compute fast and cheap, but also want nothing to do with Windows. You would obviously go with Linux such as Linux Mint. But at the same time you don't want to deal with a bunch of problems from hardware not working because Linux drivers haven't been written for your specific laptop.

To avoid that crapola, specifically buy a refurb Dell laptop. Dell laptops have more Linux device drivers written than any other manufacturer brand simply for the fact the brand is so ubiquitous.

And yes, there are plenty of choices well under $500. Remember, if you intend to use Linux, the OS that the laptop comes with is unimportant since you're going to wipe it anyway.

The more portable apps you use, the better off you are

All the best free portable apps are here. It's a big list, and the apps are all good. And no, you don't need the PortableApps launcher, although you could use that if you wanted to. I just run the EXE directly because it's easier and there's less overhead.

An example of the beauty of portable apps:

You have a laptop with a bunch of portable apps on it like portable Firefox, portable Audacity and so on. Once a week you back up all your apps to a memory card.

One day, your laptop dies. It won't turn on.

No problem.

Grab your memory card with your backed up apps, go to another computer, launch your apps there, and you're back in business.

Since portable apps aren't hooked to the system like regular installed applications are, you can totally run them like that. That's what makes them "portable."

Business laptops are better than consumer laptops

With Dell, their business line is the Latitude and the consumer line is the Inspiron.

Business grade machines typically last longer and are easier to work on. For example, swapping out a hard drive with an SSD on a Latitude is really easy. It's so easy that you don't even have to take the back cover off. Four screws, pull out, swap drive, four screws back in, done. For RAM upgrades, yeah the back cover does have to come off, but it's also very easy to get to. You can bump from 4GB to 8GB or 16GB or whatever in just minutes.

Consumer grade Dell laptops sometimes include "convenience" features that may prove to be altogether useless later. An example of this would be any "convertible" Dell Inspiron. Does it work? Yes, but you must stick with Windows. Put Linux on one of those and you're just inviting frustrations.

At the end of the day it's all about the software and whether it runs fast or not

Aside from resource-intensive gaming crapola that you shouldn't be running on a laptop, as long as you can do what you need to do and the computer runs fast, that's all that matters.

In a nutshell, it all boils down to this question:

Can the laptop run the latest web browser with 10 tabs open, all running different stuff including videos, and have no slowdowns at all while doing it?

Provided the OS is "clean" without any unnecessary junk running in the background, if the answer to that question is yes, the laptop is good.

When you know what hardware to use, there's really nothing new that can outrun it

The Latitude laptop I have coming next week will come with an Intel Core i5 3360M processor. The RAM doesn't matter because it's being taken out and replaced with 8GB from my old laptop (unless it got fried by lightning, which I hope it didn't.) The HDD it comes with also doesn't matter because I will be installing my Crucial m4 256GB SSD I bought a few years back (which I have confirmed does still work fine.) It's an older model, but it still runs circles around the old platter-based HDD.

I know that Windows 7 loaded from SSD and powered by a third generation Intel Core i5 with 8GB RAM on board is a total screamer of a laptop. Yes, it's all technology from about 5 years ago, but it's still plenty fast.

When it comes to crunching data fast, your two best friends are RAM and SSD. As long as the CPU and graphics are in check, you mate that to proper RAM and SSD and you'll be in real good shape.

While I'm sure that benchmarking reports will show that faster processors like a mobile Core i7 and newer SSDs can crunch data quicker, I seriously doubt there would be any real-world difference on a laptop I could see. Neither web pages nor emails will load any faster on newer hardware. The only real improvement would be when rendering large 1080p video files. And I don't do that very often.

Software does get "dirty" every so often and it has to be "cleaned"

The software that gets "dirty" the most is the most-used thing on the computer, the web browser. That program is constantly accessing files both large and small all over the place, crunching script data, playing audio, playing video and so on.

I do periodically "flush" my browser out with a few utilities I have. There are also times when I'll back up my bookmarks and so on, outright uninstall the entire browser, purposely delete its application data folder, reinstall it clean and then add back my bookmarks and add-ons and such.

Overkill? Nope, because a web browser will get "dirtied" up with junk even if you're really careful about where you go on the internet.

"Dirty" software = slow software. You could have the fastest PC on the planet, but that won't do much good if you browser is clogged up with crap.

In conclusion...

I'll post an update once the Latitude arrives and I have everything set up.

Also, again, big thanks to those who sent something my way. If you've not sent anything, consider it. Anything helps.


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