My new test box for Linux


Updated: April 16, 2012

Now and then, mostly now, I tend to refresh my test arsenal, which consists of sturdy antiques in the form on an ancient T42 all the way up to a fancy HP Pavilion with a proper graphics card, lots of RAM and booting almost a dozen operating systems. Throw in everything in between, and it's one happy family.

However, you have mostly seen my T60p, a 32-bit beastling, in Linux distro review action. That's about to change, as I have a new monster at my disposal. The old guard will still feature here and there, but from this moment on, it will be a custom-pimped T61, with a 64-bit processor and two SSD. Yup, you read it right.

Test box exposed

All right, so let's be dramatic. A friend of mine loaned me this box for an indefinite period, and it's going to be used for all kinds of purposes, including mostly Linux demos and presentations and Linux reviews. To make things even more interesting, the friend loaned me a pair of Intel's new 320-series 40GB SSD, which are supposed to be fast and elegant and robust.

So I set about using a screwdriver and replacing the internal 2.5" disk, but I also added the second unit in lieu of the DVD bay using a SATA-ported CD sabot. So we end up with a pair of disk, both of which most dutifully show in the BIOS boot menu. The only thing missing is the SATA III interface, but I'll do just fine with a slightly slower bus.

Boxes

CD inset

Boot menu

Operating systems

The two disks will each host two operating systems. The partition scheme is identical, and it includes two 10GB root partitions, plus 2GB swap and about 18GB for user data in the Extended partition. Three systems will be featured permanently, which the fourth will be periodically replaced as reviews come and go.

SSD first disk

SDD second disk

So you might be wondering what systems I'm going to use here?

Well, I've already installed them. We have Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot, Kubuntu 11.10, which I have not tested so far, and Linux Mint 12 Lisa with Cinnamon, all 64-bit editions, fully up to date.

The two Ubuntu flavors reside on the first disk, with Kubuntu in control of the GRUB2 loader. Mint is installed on the second disk, but its menu contains entries for its brethren. This way, it's the simple matter of choosing the relevant boot device on startup. In a way, the system will eventually have a cyclic double dual-boot and a quadruple boot configuration.

Conclusion

I've been using this old-new test machine for a very short period. So far, it's working really great. The CPU is not the fastest, but definitely adequate, 2GB RAM is sufficient for most tasks, and the combination of lean and efficient operating systems, 64-bit and SSD offers a fresh breath of sprightly performance to an otherwise somewhat obsolescent four-year-old laptop. But that's part of the magic.

That's all for now, just an introduction, a teaser, if you will. Soon, we will have a rather interesting boot speed competition, as well as a triple review of the resident systems, to see how they fare on this new box. Take care.

Cheers.

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