This is part one of a four-part posting.
Awhile back, I had an interesting situation in upgrading the RAM in my Dell Inspiron 1150 laptop. It came with one 256 MB and one 128 MB RAM chip in slots A and B, respectively. This made for some really slow computing. So I purchased a pair of 512MB chips from Kingston. But when I installed them, and turned the laptop back on, it refused to boot. In fact, other than one of the LEDs flashing a few times, it would simply shut down.
So, first I swapped back the original pair of chips (after shutting down and removing the battery, per Dell instructions) and everything worked fine. So I tried installing one of the 512s and the 256 (after shutting down and removing the battery) but got no joy. So, I tried just a single 512 with the “B” slot empty (after…well, you know the drill). That worked. So I shut down again, removed the battery, and installed the second 512 chip. Low and behold, the laptop booted successfully and recognized the 1GB of RAM. I have no idea why I had to do the installation in steps, but it worked for me.
Unfortunately, I have been underwhelmed by the speed difference. Don’t get me wrong, there is a difference, but it’s not dramatic. Although programs run a little better, the boot process is still measured in minutes (I’m not kidding here, it takes minutes to boot). But, for awhile I just lived with it since I didn’t use the laptop that often.
But recently, I decided to bring the laptop from home to work so I could use it for meetings away from my office. Since it would not be appropriate to connect my laptop to the network (since they frown on attaching non-government owned PCs), I decided to get a Sierra Wireless AirCard(r) 875 PC card from Cingular Wireless/AT&T. This provides Internet access wherever a cell phone would work. Although Cingular does not have 3G service yet in Hawaii, when it does, this card supports it. In the mean time, the speed it does get is fast enough for email and web browsing.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, in getting the software installed and configured by the very patient Cingular sales person, my slow hard drive took so long that I was embarrassed by its lack of speed and decided enough was enough.
So, I ordered a Hitachi Travelstar 7K100. This is a 7,200rpm second generation 2.5 inch drive. I am hoping that the speed difference between this drive and the original IBM 4,200rpm unit that came with the laptop will make a noticeable difference. Along with the drive I also ordered a copy of MS Vista Home Basic.
Why Windows? Because I have software that runs only on Windows. Why Vista? Because I want something that will be supported as long as possible and because it is, in my opinion, more secure than XP. Why Home Basic? My laptop meets all of the hardware minimum requirements for the higher editions except for the video graphics. As far as I can remember, the built-in Intel graphics uses no more than 64MB (and maybe as little as 32MB) of shared RAM. Vista Premium/Business/Ultra requires a minimum of 128MB. Since the Intel graphics does not meet the minimum requirements, it would not make sense to pay for the more expensive features, such as Aero, when I can’t run it.
That said, I will also dual boot Vista with something else. What version of GNU/Linux I choose I’m not sure yet. Linux and laptops usually do not go well together because laptops tend to use proprietary components that many times require drivers. Said drivers are usually not made for Linux. However, some versions of Linux are getting better at supporting laptops so maybe I can find something that will work. If any of my 11 readers have any experience with getting Linux running on a Dell Inspiron laptop, please leave a comment here. Thanks.
Have a Great Weekend, Everyone – Aloha