Running better, on next to nothing!

This is my first post written on a solid state computer. I am running the elegantly minimalist Puppy Linux from a 128 Megabyte Compact Flash card inserted into the IDE adapter I bought (described and pictured here) which fools the laptop's BIOS into thinking that there's a real hard drive there. It's shockingly quiet, and frankly, I didn't think it would work. (As Sigivald warned, "many of the very cheap flash-to-IDE adapters are at best flaky and persnickety at booting - even when they swear they're bootable.") This thing just booted right up with no need to do anything to the BIOS.

Even more amazingly, I have a ridiculous old clunker Gateway (Solo 1150) landfill laptop which I was ready to throw away because it was completely useless. The hard drive had failed, and it would not boot with nor recognize any hard drive, and I tried five. Plus, the cd-rom was broken, and it was too old to boot from the first generation USB ports. No way to get anything in there. Almost as one those deliberately futile afterthoughts, though, I tried the CF drive, and that hopelessly dead computer suddenly booted right up! I was dumbfounded, for it will not recognize any hard drive. As to what could be going on, I'm clueless.

All I know is that I am very impressed with this solid state business. I realize that flash memory deteriorates over time, but then, so do regular hard drives.

This seems almost like revolutionary technology. So clean, so quiet. No moving parts. Downright spooky.


By the way, I tried the 128 Megabyte CF card only because I had it lying around and wished to experiment. Puppy is a small scale, highly efficient OS, and 128 Megs is the absolute minimum size drive required.

This whole thing is so pared down as to be almost, um, survivalist in nature.

Yet it not only works, it is faster. And the battery is discharging more slowly.

It actually seems better.

If someone had told me about this, I would have been skeptical. But seeing is believing.

MORE: Yet another advantage of running Linux generally, and Puppy particularly:

Detective Inspector Bruce van der Graaf from the Computer Crime Investigation Unit told the hearing that he uses two rules to protect himself from cybercriminals when banking online. The first rule, he said, was to never click on hyperlinks to the banking site and the second was to avoid Microsoft Windows.

"If you are using the internet for a commercial transaction, use a Linux boot up disk - such as Ubuntu or some of the other flavours. Puppylinux is a nice small distribution that boots up fairly quickly. It gives you an operating system which is perfectly clean and operates only in the memory of the computer and is a perfectly safe way of doing internet banking," van der Graaf said.

I hadn't thought of that, but it makes sense.

posted by Eric on 05.18.10 at 12:06 AM


Thanks. I have an old laptop that is almost identical to the useless one you describe.

Mine will recognize hard drives but the internal CD is shot and no replacement seems available. So I have no way to load Linux and no use for the W98 on the hard drive.

It is terribly slow running W98 but it mostly waits for the old hard drive. A solid state drive might make it usable. The wireless PC card always worked well, and I have USB alternatives if it doesn't.

I will get it out and see if everything else still works.

KTWO   ·  May 18, 2010 1:38 AM

As a guess... the laptop isn't providing enough power to the drive. The flash drive doesn't need as much, and thus works...

Phlinn   ·  May 18, 2010 11:45 AM

With a custom install, you can get a nice working linux in well under 128 megs. Especially if you don't need X and KDE/Gnome.

I remember running in 30 or 40 megs, with room to compile the kernel.

(And reboot to linux to do banking? Sheer paranoia. Even if one's that paranoid about it, use a virtual machine, don't reboot.)

Sigivald   ·  May 18, 2010 1:19 PM

Good stuff, very interesting.

IIRC the latency times for even older flash drives should be well below even the shinest new HDD.

I'm almost tempted to get a 10G flash drive and use it for booting my XP machine.

TallDave   ·  May 19, 2010 11:34 AM

In the long run, solid state drives will be the future of all notebook computers. They are expensive for capacity, but the advantages on boot and power consumption are very attractive. I had one of the older HP palmtops that I used for trips to libraries back East because:

1. I didn't want to risk losing or dropping a very expensive (at the time) notebook.

2. It was so small that it slipped into my briefcase, so I wasn't carrying a briefcase and a notebook case.

Unfortunately, the OS was Windows CE in ROM, and there was no practical way to upgrade it.

Clayton E. Cramer   ·  May 19, 2010 12:37 PM

Thanks for all the comments. Dave and Clayton, I just bought an 8GB Compact Flash card on eBay for $15.95 plus postage. (That's big enough to run any distribution of Linux, or Windows XP, and maybe even two operating systems if you included Puppy or Slax.)

Prices on flash will keep coming down because of improved technological developments. But with the hard drives, there are innumerable moving parts, so while memory size increases, pretty soon there will be a meeting point where prices will be competitive, and then flash will pull ahead. I would not be buying stock in a company that continues to insist on making only the tiny turntables which are hard drives.

Flash is already cheaper if you only need a small drive. Right now I'm running my Dell 700M on a 256MB flash drive I made, and it is running flawlessly. Quicker than the hard drive, spookily silent, and easier on the battery.

Eric Scheie   ·  May 19, 2010 11:44 PM

Oddly enough, I've never been hacked while using Quicken for Windows, even though I didn't run the application under Linux.

Occasionally the strengths of Linux are over-stated, while those of Windows NT are under-stated.

Of course, it all depends on who you ask. I recall a few years back my Operating Systems Overview professor sighing "Man, they really messed up a good operating system." He was talking about Windows 2000... Heh.

A large proportion go modern "hacking" involves social engineering. Most normal adults know to lock their houses & cars, be careful about strangers, etc, but have yet to develop appropriate reflexes to email and web navigation. For example your bank will almost never ask you for your username & password, or other vital data in an email.

Getting back to the thread, the compact-flash to IDE adapter is very cool. Giving them the reliability and MTBF of hard drives, would be a game-changer.

Casey   ·  May 21, 2010 1:01 AM

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