My Newest Dev Setup

A few months before my switch to Colemak[0], I distro-hopped back to
Debian and switched my “daily driver” machine from a Lenovo ThinkPad
x230 to a Lenovo ThinkPad x60s. For those of you that are still
reading after that sentence, you are probably wondering why I went
from a very new machine to a machine that was released in 2006. I will
answer that question in a seemingly roundabout way, but I assure you
that it will be answered.

The ThinkPad x230
The ThinkPad x230 is a wonderful machine. It can run a 64bit OS
and supports a bunch of RAM – mine has 16GB in it. The screen is
fantastic (back lit too!) and the battery life is excellent. I
have two main issues with that machine though; First, I never used
a meaningful portion of its hardware capabilities, and second,
even using only free software from the kernel up, I was still
forced to use a proprietary and closed BIOS.

With regard to never fully utilizing the hardware of the x230, I
suppose that I could take out some of the RAM. There was more than
one time that I would forget that I had multiple VM’s running and
keep spinning up more. The x230 also has an Intel i5 which I
hardly ever made peg. There were, of course occasions that I
would be using 100% of the CPU, but in all cases, it was due to
some runaway program under development. Surely that machine is
overkill for working on code for embedded systems or the
occasional web API.

Enter the ThinkPad x60s
I first thought about getting an x60, x60s, or t60 after meeting
one of the Coreboot developers at LibrePlanet 2013. I however
didn’t take the plunge until July of this year. I picked up an
x60s on EBay for ~$165 if I remember correctly. The x60s has very
humble specs – An Intel Core Duo processor, support for up to 4GB
of RAM, and a non-back lit 1024×768 display in a 4:3 aspect
ratio. I have found though, that except for compiling a 32bit of
GNU Icecat, this little machine is more than enough for what I do
on a computer throughout the day. Presently, I am working on
automotive embedded systems so I do a lot of serial communication,
compiling C for micro-controllers and circuit design. While I am
working, I constantly listen to music (using Emacs as my media
player of course), and have a graphical web browser open. All the
while I have bunches of buffers open inside of Emacs and I have
yet to cause the x60s to bog down.
The x60s is supported by Coreboot, so from the BIOS up, I am only
using free software. While this may only be a moral/philosophical
point, it is a point that I am rather proud of.

Using a seven year old laptop with rather meager specs compared to
contemporary laptops is obviously not for everybody. How many
people actually require the hardware that their computer has
though? The sorority sister playing with social media at the
coffee shop certainly doesn’t need an i7 CPU. The back-end web
developer doesn’t need a very recent processor – ssh is their
gateway to computing power. I am fairly certain that outside of
compiling code, I could probably do the entirety of my work on a
microprocessor based computer from the late 80’s. Maybe that
should be my next project; Getting one of my IBM PC’s or the Apple
][+ set up as my main machine.


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