back to article DEATH-PROOF your old XP netbook: 5 OSes to bring it back to life

My son's school has decreed that next year he'll need a computer of some sort. Mr 12 wants an iPad. I want him to use the 2009-vintage Lenovo S10e Netbook gathering dust in the study, because it's already been paid for. The netbook is also fit for purpose: it was the very model handed out in Australian schools circa 2009. It' …


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  1. Doozerboy

    So I guess Mr 12 is getting an ipad then?

    1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Not sure what is the bigger horror - Mr 12 who wants iPad, or another Mr 12 who wants to run Debian on it.

      Just ran into the latter type. I kid you not.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        I've been running Debian on an Asus netbook for a few years now and it seems generally as adequate as the XP it came with. The install then was a bit hands on due to wifi driver needs, but I think that's been remedied. Not sure why this is such an absurd idea. The minecraft installation instructions are simple enough and appear to work (same for Ubuntu and Debian), and the applications ought to be fit for a 12yo in middle school.

        Not as cool as an iPad, though a few orders of magnitude more useful

        1. @Clwydian

          replace xp with...

          Linux Mint. Its an easy install, mine recognised webcams and wifi out of the box, there are mint-friendly repositories built into the menus (but you can still add other linux -- I think .deb files (its been a whilse since I got minecraft running). Have savd three machines with that and with openoffice or apache or whatever similar version...its a microsoft format friendly machine

          1. Number6

            Re: replace xp with...

            Yes, definitely. Linux Mint 13 (so long-term support) XFCE edition runs just fine on my Aspire One. I did subsequently install LXDE (a trivial process) because I preferred it to XCFE in trials, but they are but two examples of lightweight window managers - avoid KDE/Gnome/Unity and all the other modern stuff only suited to systems with reasonable grunt (which an Atom N270 is indeed lacking).

            As for Minecraft, you just have to go download the jar file from the Minecraft website once you've logged in. I vaguely remember Mint 13 comes with a working Java engine without having to try hard to get it to go. I managed to install it first time on an old Celeron-powered laptop from 5000 miles away and it worked first time. However, it will probably have a dire performance on old and underpowered machines, the Celeron (eight years old) couldn't cope, and I suspect a 2008/9 vintage netbook would similarly fail in the speed department when rendering all those blocks.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: replace xp with...

              openSUSE with KDE Plasma Netbook version - works fantastic and beautiful on my 5 year old eeePc.

              For running Minecraft on openSUSE, I would recommend reading this How-To by openSUSE forum member @rrimc69 first:

          2. thalass

            Re: replace xp with...

            Agreed. Mint has been keeping my eeepc 1005p for a while now. Its battery died, too, but $30 or so thrown at ebay fixed that problem easily enough. Unfortunately my father in law is buying my kids an ipad anyway, so I guess I get to keep the netbook.

      2. John Sturdy

        Young people are getting worrying sensible these days. Some of them, anyway.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "So I guess Mr 12 is getting an ipad then?"

      Poor boy is going to join the collective without choice. Another one bites the dust then.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Plenty of brand new Windows/Linux notebooks available for less than the cost of an iPad so its pretty daft to limit talk to ancient slow netbook vs an iPad.

      A Dell Venue Pro 8 at £249 at might be fun for a 12 year old, at least its a programmable tablet he can write and run his own software on if he's into that kind of thing.

      1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Oh, yes, he did end up with a small notebook, as he deemed iPad too expensive and not quite suitable for his needs.

        It was just too damn funny to hear a young chap contemplating Debian on iPad. Not to mention that he actually read about difficulties involved (starting with jailbreaking) and would have pulled it off, too.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Parents these days...

      No wonder another kid joins the "collective" when today's parents think that with a 12 year old nipper they need to allow a situation where as far as IT choice is concerned "a compromise has been reached". Words almost fail me. He's 12 for goodness sake, he's your kid, not a business colleague you are negotiating with.

      If it were my kid it would be a firm but fair "Hey sprog, here's a portable computer that you can use for school, it does far more than an iPad, but it's all a bit different so I'll need to spend a little while with you showing you how it works. You'll be able to do your sums, write essays do projects and lots of interesting and fun things with it that will actually help you get a job in this world rather than sitting on your ar$e all day long playing with your iPad sponging off me, or the State. Yes, we'll even get a few games on it, and no, don't worry, it will not replace your iPad which you'll still be able to use at home once you've finished your homework. Now there's a good boy and....oh, my goodness, where did you get those nude girly pictures on your iPad from?."

  2. jason 7


    ...throw it away and buy a second hand Thinkpad or the like.

    Nothing puts people off computing whether it be Linux or windows than a crappy slow netbook experience. Any machine that requires you to have to move standard option menus up and down due to limited screen depth is an instant non-starter.

    They filled a niche back in 2006-8 but their time since is passed.

    I now in most cases refuse to support them. Luckily most of my customers who had them took the advice and dumped them for tablets or better laptops.

    Slow netbook is...slow netbook.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Alternatively....

      Agree about the Thinkpad or similar business grade laptop (eg. Dell D630) with at least a CoreDuo CPU loaded up with at least 2GB of RAM.

      Over the last few years I've done several for children of this age group, running XP-Pro (sticker on laptop, relatively easy to obtain an OEM distribution so next to no OS cost) and a stay in the background AV - my preference was PrevX SafeOnline, but Webroot are now charging for it... If you are concerned about malware, then MS SteadyState can be downloaded and installed (which is where cloud AV such as Webroot/Prevx and Panda prove their worth).

      The nice part about using these older business laptops is they are still reasonably performant, they will take a few knocks unlike many consumer-grade products, plus once the child has shown due care and attention they can be upgraded with a new machine that will be care for better than if they got the new machine straight away ...

      The other good thing for running XP, is that much good software exists for this age-group that is either cheap or free. Because putting together a laptop

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Alternatively....

        Had this been 10 years ago, I too would've nodded my head in agreement at buying a second hand IBM Thinkpad. *

        I can't say the same now though, and would not suggest buying a Lenovo Thinkpad.

        Thinkpads are alright in corporate world, when you have next-day replacement support when the inevitable fan failure occurs.

        For domestic use, they're not built to last beyond the 2-3 year corporate upgrade cycle. You don't want it out of action for a week or two trying to source and fit aforementioned fan.

        * My 380Z thinkpad is still going strong.

        1. jason 7

          Re: Alternatively....

          Yet here we are discussing passing on a donkeys year old and vastly inferior (hardware/usability wise) net book that was designed to last a year tops...

          Plus I'd rather try replacing parts in a corporate Lenovo than any crappy netbook.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Alternatively....

          If the first second-hand amchine fails, just buy another one. Better still, buy two to begin with so the spare is available straight away.

        3. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Alternatively.... @Sir Wiggum

          I must admit my opinion of Thinkpads is strongly coloured by my experience of the T series, which are designed to come apart (and go back together !) so as to facilitate maintenance.

          Yes the fans do get noisy, but as I've discovered there are useful YouTube video's and other support out there to enable you to fix this yourself. About the only real problem I've found is that IBM keep changing the product numbers, so whilst you can find an exact match for what was in your machine, it can take a bit of searching to find the part numbers of the later revisions that fixed many of the faults in the components your machine is using...

          The things that have needed replacing I've found are: battery, A/C power adaptor, fan. Anything else seems to be down to user (mis)handling...

  3. AlanGriffiths

    "Bare metal" vs Wubi?

    Wubi installs the linux image as a file on the Windows NTFS filesystem: This is hardly a fair "bare metal" comparison. On adequate hardware this shouldn't have much effect, but I found it significantly slower than installing on its own partition on an old system I experimented with.

    1. Fatman

      Re: "Bare metal" vs Wubi?

      That caught my eye too.

      I was wondering WTF!!! Why do something that stupid nonsensical, and cripple the performance of the machine having to deal with WindblowZE.

      Just completely nuke that thing, and be done with it.

  4. Tom_

    What about keeping XP?

    I've got an NC10 that I still use for programming during my commute. It came with XP and I run Visual Studio on it, which sounds absolutely horrific, but works well enough. Building is slow, but just writing code is fine, so I can upload it and do my builds/debugging on my desktop when I'm at home.

    So what about sticking with XP? As I understand it, the idea is that Microsoft will stop supporting it, so there will be no further security patches and that's the main concern. Is there more to it than that? Can the netbook be kept secure enough to continue working on it and include some minor web access in that or is it really curtains?

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: What about keeping XP?

      I'm not sure that 'Windows XP' (post April/2014), 'Secure' and 'Schoolboy' can be used together in the same sentence.

      For schoolwork, it'll need web access and presumably, as it's a netbook, he'll be out and about with it, so however well you've configured your router, you'll be relying on the school's, coffeeshop's, mate's house's routers to be configured equally strongly.

      Also, the work policy here is that post April 2014, XP systems will be barred from the network. If the school has a similar policy, he may find problems if he is intending to use it in the classroom.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: What about keeping XP?

      Keeping XP secure...

      Here's an idea, though I haven't thought it out fully:

      Can the XP machine be set up so that a breach of security isn't the end of the world? Regular image back-ups of the system, get Mr 12 into backing up documents that are important to him, that sort of thing... i.e use the risk of a security breach to instil some good habits in Mr 12.

      However, I don't know how Mr 12 will be able to keep his on-line credentials safe against a keylogger or password sniffer... is there a secure browser available that doesn't store passwords in plaintext?

      Anyway, it's just a thought, and I'd welcome thoughts on whether its stupid or not.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: What about keeping XP?

        >Can the XP machine be set up so that a breach of security isn't the end of the world?

        For most purposes restricting Mr 12 to a limited user account will prevent much and minimise the damage from some of the worst. One of the limitations of XP is that you can't specify "run in administrator mode" for a single program without the limited user knowing the administrator's password... so no installing any user program that requires admin mode to run.

        If really concerned about things, then download MS SteadyState - may need to google as MS withdraw this very useful & free XP add-on (if you wish to pay then Deep Freeze is the better product)... The only issue with these tools is that you need a cloud-based AV as otherwise when you reboot, you loose all the updates...

        From recent security reports, I would limit Mr 12's access to any home shared drives to read only.

        As for passwords, well to encourage good habits, I would install a password manager that support's cloud storage of the password file, which will be readily accessible from a future replacement machine. But probably the best thing will be to use a security tool with good browser integration because as you point out the vast majority of the threats will come via the internet and hence automated use of browser add-ins.

        But from my experience the biggest risk Mr 12 actually faces is the closing of applications without saving his work ... but he'll soon learn ...

        1. Simon Harris

          Re: What about keeping XP?

          "But from my experience the biggest risk Mr 12 actually faces is the closing of applications without saving his work ... but he'll soon learn ..."

          Also, whatever OS he ends up with, if he's using it in an environment with all his schoolmates, instill in him the discipline to lock his computer whenever he's away from the screen - or who knows what pranks his mates will play while he's away.

    3. DrAJS

      Win 7 on the NC10

      I have an NC10 that I just upgraded to 2GB (£20), 320GB 7200rpm HDD (gathering dust) and Win 7 (left over after a full upgrade to Win8 on my desktop) and it works very well. The XP install was creaking after 4 years of pretty hard use but the upgrades have rejuvenated it. Don't get me wrong: it's no where near as good as my 13" i5-2410 VAIO (with hybrid drive) but is still way preferable to a tablet for proper computing/video.

      Definitely try Win7 on Mr 12's netbook.

      PS. You can also get a touch screen upgrade for the NC10 on ebay for 50-60quid if you just have to have finger prints all over your screen.

  5. deadlockvictim

    Why not get him an old 800MHz Ti Powerbook and put a PPC Linux distro on it?

    The husband of one of my cousins runs this and finds it most satisfactory for everyday tasks.

    Or, if the boy is a mac fan and you are not ready for Apple prices, would a hackintosh do?

    1. Daniel Barnes

      The S10e makes a good little hackintosh on snow leopard, comparable performance-wise to the 12" powerbook 1.5ghz. Check out, it has a great comparison chart of compatible netbooks.

  6. Julian Bond

    - You should try Windows 7 home premium and report back. Your experience with WIn8 makes me never want to go anywhere near it. Which is a shame for a very long term Windows user.

    - Probably current and working Chromium-OS available from Will run from USB key to try it out. If it can't find the USB key ESC during boot and then

    chromeos-usb.A root=/dev/sdc3

    or sdd3 or whatever device the USB key is on.

    - Puppy Linux with Google Chrome will run from USB and worth a look. Fast, snappy, but not very pretty

    1. RustyNailed

      Not sure which Windows 8 the author was using

      With respect to Windows 8, my personal view is that for most people an upgrade from 7 to 8 doesn't buy you much unless you want the new UI, and that it is also easy to use 8 in the same way you use Windows 7. Using something like Pokki (free) or Start8 (paid, but only about 5USD atm) you can restore Windows 7 like Start button capability (and boot to desktop if not using 8.1).

      If you are moving from say Vista or XP then I'd say might as well move to Windows 8 if the hardware supports it, and if you don't get on with the new UI, use one of the aforementioned tools and have it work like Windows 7.

    2. Nigel 11

      Good luck!

      Good luck with Windows 7 on an ancient underpowered netbook. It's the most resuource-heavy Windows Microsoft has produced to date. Personaly I think 4Gb is its minimum RAM (and a Netbook can't have more than 2Gb). Windows 8 is actually far less demanding.

      On the other hand if you have a Lenovo T400, Windows 7 is OK after you have upgrade the RAM to 4Gb. If you also replace the HD with an SSD ... who needs a new Windows notebook?

      Wish you'd reported the kid's feelings about other Linux Desktops (KDE, Gnome3, Cinnamon) but I guess a bit OT.

      1. RustyNailed

        Is Windows 7 really worse than Vista?

        I've been running Windows 7 Home Premium on my NC10 with 2GB for 3 or 4 years. It was quite usable as a little laptop, although I don't use it as much since I got a tablet. It was my personal system when travelling so saw a fair amount of use. I suspect SP1 might be a significant bloat inducer though, so will see if I still think this way after a fresh install.

        As for Windows 7 being the most resource-heavy OS from MS - all I can say is that Win 7 runs on the NC10, but I would never have even considered trying Vista.....

        1. Nigel 11

          Mea Culpa

          Sorry, I'd forgotten Vista. Wiped it completely from my mind, or maybe Microsoft brainwashed it out of me. Though in my defense I could assert that Vista was just a Windows 7 RC, which should never have been sold or even shown to the world.

          And was/is Vista more resource-heavy than 7? My impression of it was that it was buggy and brain-damaged in equal measures, rather than that it would have been OK given 4Gb RAM and a CPU speed boost.

  7. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    Low-resource OSes

    I tend to recommend Bodhi, Peppermint (word processors can be installed from the Ubuntu repos, btw), and for really low-end, Crunchbang, AntiX or Slitaz.

    Bitcoin mining is not really a profitable use for it - even dedicated GPUs aren't worth the effort.

    As for Minecraft, a quick DuckDuckGo found this:

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Low-resource OSes

      What is quite telling is that the author didn't get Mr 12 to evaluate Quick Start - Lenovo's implementation of Splashtop, that was installed as standard on the S10e. But probably he disabled it in the Bios settings and (naturally) forgot all about it.

  8. Richard Wharram

    Peppermint 4

    Seriously, did you actually try it?

    Never mind the SSB gimmicks. It's a quite attractive, extremely quick Linux distribution that is very well suited to netbooks. Much better than standard Ubuntu. Nothing worth commenting on in that?

    There's even special combination download packs like the office productivity one.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Firstly I applaud you for getting Mr 12 to test all the different software and appreciate the situation you are in with regards to what to supply him and budget availability.

    My daughter is in the same boat, she has access to my iPad at home and uses it all the time, loves it, its a great games/consumer device. Like you though a requirement for a 'computer' has been pushed out by the school and all the kids are shouting iPad/tablet! Unfortunately I will have to purchase a new device as have nothing spare and am entirely unconvinced that a tablet is the best approach for kids, far too many easy distractions for a start. As they are personal devices will they be locked down, will it be up to the parents, will the person my daughter sits next to play angry birds all day and be a massive distraction?

    I appreciate that touch screens are more than here to stay but having used mine at work, its useful for some things but you need a real keyboard for serious typing work. Plus posture of crouched over the keyboard/screen is bad when compared to keyboard/laptop style screen, which is bad enough already!

    I have no answers but am interested to read about others with similar decisions to make. Would be interesting to hear others approaches to this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      " iPad at home and uses it all the time, loves it, its a great games/consumer device"

      Thank you! So why do so many think it acceptable to be seen using one in a business environment?

      Sick sick people.

      1. Scott Bartlett

        Whether iPads (or any other computing device for that matter) are suitable for use in schools (or businesses) is of course entirely down to how said school (or business) implements them. With mobile devices like iPads the issue is clouded slightly because there is the choice of having 'school owned' units and 'home owned' units - the former would normally be completely locked down, but with the latter you want to be able to secure them when at school (and add/remove things when needed) but leave them free at home because they don't belong to you. Both of these things are entirely possible to do of course. In fact, it's a bit of a doddle — managing iPads (of either type) is far easier in many ways than administering and securing a PC network for example. But, as ever, the results are determined by the implementation — both technology wise and, most importantly, policy wise. As for whether a PC or a Mac or an iPad is better (for school, not play!) then, well, it's all in the apps needed of course...

      2. ecofeco Silver badge

        "So why do so many think it acceptable to be seen using one in a business environment?"

        Because it's super trendy cool, that's why and it the tells the world you are one hip and happening person.

        (do I need to type the sarcasm tag?)

      3. Adrian 4

        'Acceptable to use one in a business environment' is a matter of choice. If you can use it to do what the job requires, it's acceptable. If it causes more suffereing than it's worth, it's not

        'Acceptable to be seen using one' is quite different. If you work in a business where you're judged on what computer you're seen to be using, or, worse, imagine that you are .. get out fast, get a proper job, and meet some colleagues who aren't some sort of fashionista or corporate streetcred retards.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. BlinkenLights

    Cruel and Unusual Punishment

    Forcing someone to use any kind of "desktop" OS on a 1024x576 screen is just being cruel.

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Cruel and Unusual Punishment

      The BBC Model B I used at school had a 640x256 screen

      1. jason 7

        Re: Cruel and Unusual Punishment

        Yes but it didn't use option windows that were 350 pixels deep did it?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I loved my netbook, but regardless of what distro you put on it this will be the falling down point -

    1024 x 576-pixel 10.1-inch screen

    EasyPeasy was one of the better distros I came across, but it's been discontinued and despite being aimed at netbooks there was an issue where the menu wouldn't fit on the screen fully.

    I don't understand how the likes of Google can produce the Nexus 7 with a fantastic screen resolution that you can touch, but no company could turn out a netbook with anywhere close to a 'retina' screen. Shame they've been killed off I thought they were brilliant little machines

    1. Justicesays

      Blame Intel & MS

      Pretty sure the reason why netbooks have screens below 1024x600 and 1GB of memory is due to the OS and processor pricing discounts given to systems using Intel Atom CPU's and Windows XP/Vista netbook pricing (a discount given to prevent the early Linux netbooks getting market share).

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Blame Intel & MS

        There have been a few 'Retina'-like Windows laptops released in the last year (Toshiba Kirabook, Lenovo Yogo Pro 2, for two) and reviews suggest that the issue is legacy desktop applications often don't don't scale well. Photoshop, for example, presents you with tiny icons that are hard to see. However, the TIFKAM applications do scale properly.

        So, for very high res laptop screens to work requires some effort from 3rd party software developers.

        "Whereas navigating the Modern Live Tile interface was easy on the Kirabook, it was nearly impossible to touch anything, much less use the cursor, in desktop mode. The menu options in Photoshop Elements were microscopic. We don't consider our eyesight to be poor, but even we had to hold the notebook close to our face. Fortunately, a Toshiba Display Utility lets you set the size of on-screen icons and text in Windows, but it doesn't apply to the apps themselves."

        "World of Warcraft" supports the Kirabook's high-res display, but, like on Photoshop, menu text is tiny.


      2. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: a discount given to prevent the early Linux netbooks getting market share

        So that's why we haven't had the year of the linux netbook! FFS M$, back off!!!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blame Intel & MS

        Oh will your stop with this tired old arguement about XP and Intel.

        Linux was on Netbooks well before XP was used. Face fact most NORMAL i.e. non-techies, didn't want it. End of.

        The reason they had shit parts is they were (originally) cheap. You can't have a i7 (or whatever it was then) in a £200 toy, it's called economics.

        Thsi may come as a suprise, but companies like to MAKE money, not loose it.

        The netbook was always a niche product and was killed off simply because people didn't want them.

        The problem with this site it's so bloody distorted, that they forget about the 99% of other people out there.

        As this article actually showed, the end user doesn't care what the OS is, so long as it's easy to use, and has the features they want.

        This is why many techies tend to make utterly shit designers. What you want colours, but that will take 1ms more to render on the screen?

  13. Test Man

    Regarding Windows test - Windows 7 Home Basic was only available to certain developing countries, so would have never been available for you.

    "lowest-specced" is probably a bit ambiguous to state - all versions of Windows 7 have the exact same hardware requirements, so Windows 7 Home Premium would run with the same requirements as Windows 7 Starter, the only real difference is the number of features each edition has.

    You CAN upgrade from Windows XP to 8.1 - simply purchase Windows 8.1 and install (only clean install). Obviously a Windows 8 key isn't going to work on Windows 8.1 (just like a Windows 7 key isn't going to work on Windows 8), so I don't know why you tried to use one.

    There's nothing wrong with Windows 8 or 8.1 on a netbook except you can't go to the store when using the native screen (if you had an additional screen connected that had a higher resolution it'd be fine) and you can simply use the desktop exclusively and install the same applications that you would on Windows 7.

    1. qwarty

      You can also configure 8.1 to login directly to desktop.


    Try Puppy Linux.

    It runs well on nearly everything, and the web experience was spot on. One thing though, I had some difficulty installing to the hard disk until I discovered the 'One-click' installer on the Puppy Linux forum. Start Puppy from a USB stick, use the built in browser to find the Puppy forums, find the 'One-click' installer, download, unpack and run it, err, easy.

  15. Ryan Clark

    I recently re-invigorated our netbook with win8.1, It was running slower and slower on xp so I formatted and but 8.1 on. It now starts and runs much quicker. The screen size issue has so far not proved a problem and the main user (Mr 5) has been happy with it so far when he is not on his cheapo chinese tablet.

    1. bill 36

      Linux mint xfce with Mate 32 bit

      I installed it on my neighbours Gericom Q10 netbook instead of XP just two weeks ago.

      It has an Intel Atom cpu and 1GB memory plus the usual, bluetooth, internal camera, modem, wifi etc etc

      He uses it mainly over 3g on the internal modem.

      When asked about its performance, he said there was no difference between his experience now and when it was running XP. Boot is faster.

      Open Office is installed by default and language packs are freely available. He's a native German speaker.

      All features work as they should, including modem, camera, bluetooth, wifi and it is stable.

      The desktop looks good and is very intuitive.

      As for Minecraft, there is a youtube vid here which gives you the ppa repository to download and install

      As for being cool, i would have thought that being the only penguin in the class with a machine that can do everything the others can do would be too cool to touch ......

      1. fixit_f

        Re: Linux mint xfce with Mate 32 bit

        "As for being cool, i would have thought that being the only penguin in the class with a machine that can do everything the others can do would be too cool to touch ......"

        You have to be joking, right? Most kids are idiots, the only cool thing to have will be an iPad, or at worst an android tablet. The rest of the class will all be downloading the latest flavour of the month game off the app store, and the kid with the LINUX netbook will be the one that can't participate. Pariah status will follow. When I was a kid I was the only one in class with an IBM PC at home, everyone else had consoles. Now while I owe my working life to what I learned from that ancient XT clone (rather than spending my time playing starwing and streetfighter 2) and long term it worked out well for me, I can assure you that at the time it was in no way "cool" to have something different to what everyone else had. Kids are very much of the pack mentality, and at that age "different" is bad - not having an iPad screams "poor kid".

        I'm not saying any of this is right, it's just how kids operate. Well that's how I remember it all anyway :-)

    2. Philippe

      Registry Hack for screen size below 1024+768

      There is a simple registry hack to get the store to work on old style netbook.

      My brother has been running Windows 8 and now 8.1 on his Vaio netbook since earlier this year and this has never been an issue.

      The author should try and key an 8.1 key and give it another go.

    3. dajames

      Maybe so, but ...

      I recently re-invigorated our netbook with win8.1, It was running slower and slower on xp so I formatted and but 8.1 on. It now starts and runs much quicker.

      Had you chosen to reinstall XP I'm sure you would have seen the same increase in speed. Old Windows installations slow down because they accumulate cruft (and malware) not because the system itself ages.

  16. RustyNailed


    Not entirely sure why the author thinks that the Windows Store is such an integral part of Windows 8. I've been running Windows 8 for a year now and the only time I've downloaded from the Store was at the beginning to see what it was like.

    Additionally, the statement "I wouldn't mind using Windows 8, because a quick CTRL-ESC gets me to a swift and stable Windows desktop. But overall, this was just a poor fit because the OS is crippled. " is just completely rubbish.

    I use Windows 8 exclusively in desktop mode, currently with Start8 and previously using Pokki, and it works pretty much as Windows 7 did. It is by no means 'crippled', not at all. After trying for two weeks to come to terms with the new UI, I gave up and boot directly to the desktop, with a Start button, and avoiding the new UI completely.

    As it happens I run Win 7 Home Premium on my similarly specc'd netbook (a Sammy NC10 with a slightly larger screen) and it's "ok". It certainly runs better than Ubuntu ever did (I tried it and quickly reverted).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "After trying for two weeks to come to terms with the new UI, I gave up and boot directly to the desktop, with a Start button, and avoiding the new UI completely."

      What is wrong with people?

      Why is a start screen any different from a start button?

      I can see why people get confused with "metro" apps, but really? Whats wrong with you all?

      It's hardly a huge leap from button to screen.

      1. RustyNailed

        Re: AAAAARRRRGH!

        "It's hardly a huge leap from button to screen."

        Um, really? Personally I think that having a button which pops up a menu in the corner of my 2560x1440 primary display leaving all my windows visible is quite a leap from having one which causes the entire display to be blotted out with a mass of tiles.

        However, my main reason for ditching the new UI wasn't the Start button - it was the new UI itself. On original Windows 8, the meshing between new UI and multiple screens (I have 3 on this system) was horrible. I don't like the full screen approach for apps. I should decide which apps I want full screen - put it this way, do I really need a single chat window in 27", full screen, 2560x1440 goodness?

        In fairness, 8.1 has improved things where multiple displays are concerned, and also with allowing apps to be sized and have more than one to a display, and for me, the improvements still make the new UI less flexible and useful than the old desktop model. A Start Button which works in Windows 7 style means I can avoid the visual and conceptual jolt switching between the two worlds involved.

        Anyway, my point was that Windows 8 is NOT crippled by using the desktop as asserted by the articles author, and you can have it working pretty much how it was before with Windows 7 should you choose.

        If I had a single touch screen display in a laptop format, I would definitely give the new UI a thorough whirl on that, and suspect it will be quite good as others have found, but for traditional desktop use - software developing, image processing and the like, the new UI is not for me, and if it works for others, great.

  17. T.Omoto

    Not alternative enough.

    If you are to indoctrinate a child in esoteric operating software, do it right - Push the (rather usable) nightly install of into it.

    It has all the modern trimmings like WiFi support and eh, huh, a WebKit-based browser.

  18. codeusirae

    Installing Minecraft under Ubuntu ..

    'A PPA provides packages for Ubuntu 12.04 through 13.04:` link

  19. Tank boy

    I like to see articles like this. There's no harm in trying to repurpose old equipment, and I appreciate any pointers. I thought about buying my wife a netbook on the cheap, stuffing some Linux in it so she could play games and such, but there just wasn't a lot of versatility to it, making it a unitasker. Coupled with the shortage and rarity of parts now that they are all but gone, couldn't see that kind of investment of time and money.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you want it to run fast, you need to do a fresh install of an old OS and old software.

    Despite what Microsoft claim, the new OS is always slower than the old OS on old hardware.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      When it comes to XP on older kit

      You absolutely have to keep XP SP3 off of it.

      I'm convinced that MS added an extra "feature" to SP3, which was "make it run so slow that the user wants to dump it and buy a new computer".

      My dad had a Thinkpad T43 (Pentium M Mobile, 1.83GHz, 1GB memory) running XP SP2 with auto-update turned off, quite well. Some MS social engineering trick (click here to fix this) got him to turn on auto-update, and now it is barely usable.

      I know, I know. There's other security fixes in SP3 as well, but I've repeated the exercise several times on other machines running XP, and it really is the case that SP3 increases the OS footprint and loads heavyweight services that make an older machine really sluggish.

      You should see how fast even a quite modest machine (by today's standards) runs with a fresh install from a 2002 XP install disk! (my first XP machine had an AMD Athlon XP1700 - 1.5GHz, 128MB memory, and was pretty fast at the time). Just don't connect it directly to the Internet, or browse any dodgy web sites!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "If you want it to run fast, you need to do a fresh install of an old OS and old software.

      Despite what Microsoft claim, the new OS is always slower than the old OS on old hardware."

      You are a crims dream. Thinking its ok to run your computer without adequate protection.

      Hello, support is essential.

  21. Pat 11

    Battery + SSD?

    It would fly with a SSD in it. Battery off ebay? Shame to landfill useable kit.

  22. Syd


    My (10yo) son got Minecraft working on the latest Ubuntu - he even (after much swearing) persuaded some mods to work. It was a very good exercise actually - forced him to learn stuff about how it all works.

  23. Tim Walker

    Arch Linux?

    In 2011, I needed an alternative Linux for my (even then, venerable) Eee 701 netbook, as the distro I was using (Eeebuntu) had become unsupported.

    Ideally, I was looking for a Linux which could be tailored to very modest hardware (and on that measure, believe me, the 701 qualifies), but that was unlikely to be abandoned like Eeebuntu had been. For me, the latter meant looking for a "top-level" distro (i.e. which isn't an offshoot of another), whilst the former was tricky, as many distros give you lots of apps, etc. out of the box. If you want a lean and fast machine, this can be a mixed blessing.

    Long story short: I settled on Arch Linux, and have never looked back - the 701 is running it here beside me as I write. Arch is not a distro for Linux "newbies" (and I don't mean that disparagingly; you really need some knowledge of what you're doing), but I was able to build a system which runs pretty speedily, even on the 701. I had to say "buh-BYE!" to GNOME or KDE as a desktop - I chose the less-lardy Xfce, but LXDE would probably be even nippier - and if you need eye-candy, you can add a morsel or two like Cairo-Dock without impacting performance greatly.

    Obviously this is all moot in the writer's case (and I don't know how long he would've had to work on building an Arch system), but I thought other owners of XP netbooks looking for a "resurrecting" OS, might want to look at Arch as an option.

  24. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Did you not read the manual?

    Not the computer manual, silly. The child rearing one.

    The boy is 12. He doesn't want *buntu or *nux.

    What he wants is something like all his friends have, but just that leeeeeetle bit better¹, cooler and (if he can pull it off) more expensive.

    And next year. Repeat.

    [1] better: bigger screen, faster, thinner, LOUDER, breaks into more piece when it is (inevitably) dropped. Plays more games. Homework? you ask? LOL.

  25. spidercrab

    What an interesting article and one that illustrates the utter mess that real users can find themselves in.

    I would suggest that the solution is to do a fresh installation of XP SP3 and install Firefox or Chrome and also Office and Dropbox. Then keep a mirror disc image for when things go slow or wrong. To hell with there being no more updates for XP. It isn't as if the updates have kept XP free of problems anyway.

    Also there is a very valid argument for giving your kids an old slow computer that does little else at an acceptable (to them) pace, than web browsing, email and MS Office.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


      The problem here is that MS will probably stop updating Security Essentials immediately, and then pressure the other anti-virus companies to stop providing updates for XP (they have various contractual tricks they can use to force software suppliers who use MS application development tools and libraries to stop providing updates).

      You will also find that MS will be indirectly pushing for companies like banks, who need decent security, to change their web-sites to stop accepting connections from IE8 or earlier, for "the user's own security and on-line safety". Of course you can run Firefox or Chrome, but Google have a history of stopping providing updates for Chrome on an OS once the OS goes unsupported.

      Once you have an unsupported OS with no up-to-date AV, and a limited choice of browsers, I suspect that you may think again about whether the box may be more useful with Linux on it.

  26. Suricou Raven

    More on win8 please.

    Given that just about any new laptop purchased now is going to come with win8, I'd like to know exactly what evilness MS has in store for those of us who want to dual-boot linux.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: More on win8 please.

      any new laptop purchased now is going to come with win8, I'd like to know exactly what evilness MS has in store for those of us who want to dual-boot linux.

      Some pointers

      Make those restore DVDs as soon as you've unpacked it. Then make another set just in case. Assume that your first attempt at converting it to dual boot will brick it at the software level, and then you can only be pleasantly surprised. (Unless you manage to brick the hardware - far too easy on certain Samsungs, supposedly now fixed in the BIOS. They blamed Linux until someone demonstrated you could also brick one trying to dual-boot two versions of Windows).

      Use Google. Read about the generics, and as much about the specifics of your model as possible.

      It's probably running in secure boot mode as shipped. This can be turned off, from within Windows 8. I'd recommend that you do. After that you just have to master re-partitioning a UEFI disk, installing Linux into UEFI partitions, and installing Grub2 or other boot manager. Alternatively you can have "fun" trying to install a secure-bootable version of Linux.

      The quick and easy way for casual Linux usage is to download free-beer VMware player for Windows and run your Linux inside Windows. (Yes, I know, leaves you feeling unclean just thinking about it. But easy) The other way around requires paying Microsoft more dosh for a retail Windows distribution (or playing fast and loose with your employer's volume license ... which might just cost you your job so don't.)

  27. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Win 8.1

    I upgraded Miss 15 from Vista to Win 8.1 with a new ultrabook and she's been very happy - it's fun to watch her trying to swipe the screen on my wifes' old Win 7 machine though ...

    My feeling, after watching Miss 15 make the transition to Win 8, is that Microsoft really got it right with the new UI - it was never about getting us old folk to use it, they are aiming at the younger market.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. Tommy Pock

    MSI Wind U100 here

    Almost exactly the same specs as yours (2GB RAM, 160GB HD).

    I use vanilla Ubuntu with mine, because I've become hooked on Unity's contextual search*. I've tried a LOT of other distros, but this one works best with the form factor. It probably doesn't run as fast as you lot reading this would like, but it probably runs better than you'd expect.

    Battery life was comical though, coming in at less than an hour, so I sorted that out with a 6000mAh battery from Amazon for 30 quid, which gives me a real life 7 hours use. Also handy as a keyboard tilt because it's bloody massive.

    Elementary OS Luna is another OS you might want to look at, it's small and very fast but just too basic for me. It's very well made but looks like a Fisher Price My First Mac.

    Yes your son may prefer an iPad but so would mine (he's 15) and he''s quite welcome to buy one from his own money. When he's earned some.

    I'm happy with my little laptop which cost me, new battery included, £120. It'd be very difficult indeed to get that much functionality for so little money any other way.

    *and Compiz's Wobbly Windows. I'm a sucker for wobbly windows.

    1. dajames

      Re: MSI Wind U100 here

      *and Compiz's Wobbly Windows. I'm a sucker for wobbly windows.

      You, sir, are clearly insane ... but I upvoted you anyway!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    All I see is Linux. Where are the different OSs? And it's not as if Linux can be put to serious client use. There's a reason it only has a sub-1% penetration - it doesn't work for the average user.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: OSs?

      Nice try troll. But factually wrong.

      1. Tubs

        Re: OSs?

        I agree with the AC's first point. The title of the article promised me 5 fast OSes.

        1 x Windows + 4 x Linux /= 5 OS

        I am sadly disappointed.

        1. The BigYin

          Re: OSs?

          Umm, even their first point is wrong. Linux is just the kernel. It's quite possible to have many different OSs that share the same kernel.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: OSs?

            Idiot. Linux is the ball anc chain that drags most of these down. They are all the same. Just because you wrap a turd in different coloured paper doesn't stop it being a turd.

            The Windows kernel is in many different OSs and has proven itself from the smallest mobile to the largest servers. Linbux has, at vast expense, been made to work in nice applications; but for the general consumer it sucks liquid ass. Sub-1%. You FAILED!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: OSs?

              Idiot. Linux is the ball anc chain that drags most of these down. They are all the same. Just because you wrap a turd in different coloured paper doesn't stop it being a turd.

              Idiot. The Linux kernel is in many different OSs and has proven itself from the smallest mobile, embedded appliances to the largest servers. Oh, and in case you didn't know, there is a very successful general consumer OS out there that uses Linux, it's called Android. The kernel has nothing to do with the usability of an OS, it's all a matter of userland.

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: OSs? @AC

      If you want to be taken seriously, post this as something other than an AC.

      BTW. My everyday system (systems, really, because I move/clone the disk from laptop to laptop as I change machines, upgrading the distro whenever appropriate - but still with the same home directory and machine identity) has been Linux only for about 8 years. It works very well, actually, and I make a habit of not fiddling with it under the covers, because I don't want to break it. Almost all of the installation, admin and maintenance is done using the GUI tools provided.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OSs? @AC

        I put it to you that you are not the average user. The person on the street. You may have the technical skills to install and constantly maintain a Linux system by hacking away on a text terminal, but most people don't. Most people want stuff that works right out of the gate, and that's why they buy MS and OS X. You know, OSs that present information in a graphical manner to the lay person and don't require on arcane commands and a doctorate in computer science.

        It's also why Linux is an epic fail for most people (sub-1% cannot be argued against, it is a matter of fact).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: OSs? @AC

          "install and constantly maintain a Linux system by hacking away on a text terminal"

          You've clearly never tried a recent modern Linux. Do you/your employer not understand the meaning of "know thine enemy", or do you just enjoy looking like an ignoramus?

          A popular choice of Linux for ease of management for novice and expert alike is the too-rarely written about [1] Suse, which has the marvellous no-terminal-needed Yast for system admin stuff. Even if you want to work without a window system, the original character cell Yast doesn't need any command line knowledge. Other no-terminal-needed options are available on other Linuxes.

          "Most people want stuff that works right out of the gate"

          Quite right. Suse does it for me (13.1 is a super-quick install too, though as yet I've not come across any must-have stuff that would make me want to immediately update everywhere from 12.3).

          "OSs that present information in a graphical manner to the lay person and don't require on arcane commands and a doctorate in computer science."

          You're way off message here, boy. Return to your local Redmond subsidiary for re-education on the value of Powershell and the increasing importance of headless MS servers, which finally showed that MS finally realised that there was more to system admin work than point+click alone could ever deliver.

          Dave Cutler (one of the NT architects, with plenty of real non-Microsoft experience before he was poached) already understood that. DCL = Dave's Command Language, for IAS on PDP11 and VMS on VAX and beyond, entirely readable to sentient humans capable of stringing more than five syllables together. Cutler was presumably overruled by the WIMPy people in the Gates camp, who presumably now realise how idiotic they looked back then.

          Still, you make a mildly amusing read, for the first few posts anyway. It's almost like you're *trying* to make MS fanbois look like idiots.

          Have a lot of fun.

          [1] Nice writeup of the just-released Suse 13.1 on this very site. Even runs on Raspberry Pi. Does Windows (NT->8) run on anything other than legacy x86 these days?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OSs? @AC

        "If you want to be taken seriously, post this as something other than an AC"

        Why? Putting aside the convenience of thinking it helps you understand who's saying what...

        In a fact based discussion such as this should be, it shouldn't much matter *who* is saying something. What should matter is whether what is being said is plausible, sensible, evidence-based, idiotic, or whatever.

        If folk are happy to associate their usernames with their posts, or if El Reg want to discontinue unnamed postings (they're not anonymous or cowardly and never have been), so be it. But either way a message is a message, regardless of who the messenger is.


        thanks for not posting anonymously, folks. But not everyone wants to do that. Some people may be happy to post "non anonymously" most of the time and *occasionally* have valid reason for not posting using a regular username. My reason is I have bills to pay and my employers do not own my free time or my opinions, but they do own my salary continuation plan.

    3. Fatman

      Re: OSs?

      There's a reason it only has a sub-1% penetration - it doesn't work for the average user.

      Is that you, Loverock????

  30. Alfie

    Another NC10

    The XP install on my NC10 got slower and slower over the years, so I ended up dual booting it with Mint Linux XFCE. Much faster boot and login times. Made a door stop useable again. I then tried using the Cinnamon version, and although it still runs faster than XP it isnt as fast as XFCE and I'm not sure that the eye candy is worth it. There is also the problem of one of the setting screens (cant remember which) not liking the 1024 x 600 desktop in Cinnamon, but I dont remember XFCE having any problem. Like others have said everything worked out of the box.

    P.S. It is still dual-booting to XP to access an old scanner that isnt supported in Linux or later Windows OSs. It isnt even supported by WinXP 64-bit that is on my Opteron desktop. The desktop will probably go to Mint Cinnamon in the near future (before April) when I might even get around to replacing the scanner with something a bit more 21st century. I dont use the desktop enough anymore to justify replacing it with something new.

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: Another NC10

      If you're just keeping XP for the sake of your scanner, you may want to investigate VueScan (

      If that supports your scanner, it might find a new life with later versions of Windows and Linux.

      1. Alfie

        Re: Another NC10

        Thanks for that link. I had looked at the SANE list and my scanner isn't supported, but is supported in VueScan, so I'll give it a shot.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Another NC10

      Know the situation, inspite of Win7 telling me otherwise, it just doesn't want to talk to my old but still fully working Deskjet 960c printer.

      So now that the netbook has been forgotten about (superseded by an iPad and a Win8 laptop), it is being re-purposed as the home print server. This having the benefit that I can still run all my USB connected Windows compatible printers, scanners etc. and access them from the home network. Also I have installed Collobos Fingerprint so that all these devices are also readily accessible to iOS devices.

      About the only downside is that very few battery managers support the partial charging of batteries - Lenovo's ThinkVantage Power Manager does, so I can set the battery to only charge to 20~30% whilst on mains power so helping to prolong it's life.

  31. Michael Habel

    As someone with a Samsung NC150 (Intel Atom N450 GMA3150 IGP and a hand-me-down 2GB SO-DIMM), I can tell you that Windows 7 (Ultimate Edition), runs like a Dog on that Netbook too!

    Why Ultimate Edition? 'cause Samsung never packed in a Recovery Disc for Starters, and all I could find at the time was the 32-Bit version of the OS. Thankfully I was able to recover the *.XRM-MS Certificate and replace it into the $OEM$ Folder. Then again my Netbook did come with W7 as standard. I's assume you'd have to update the SLIC on your BIOS from 2.0 (XP), to 2.1 (W7/W8), though.

    In any case (like I already mentioned above), I find that Windows 7 runs like crap on my Netbook, and plan to replace it with Cinnamon Mint Linux eventually. That, or perhaps ChromeOS or even an Android x86 Port.

    I just wonder if the mind behind it got rid of the OSK? if so this could be a bit of fun... Perhaps

    1. dvd

      I've got the self same netbook with W7 on it and it runs fine.

      1. Michael Habel

        Till you use it long enough to slow it down to frozen Molasses on a colder then Hell January Morning. Then you can sit back and enjoy your Sandwich & Tee waiting for that POS to get past the Boot stage. On the whole though Windows 7 is a bit much for that Netbook. Then again its not like I ever saw XP manage any better on it either. Now that I com to think about it. I just never saw the point in keeping it on long enough to... Get to know it better then I had...

  32. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. GettinSadda

      Re: Have you tried...

      >...just beating him until he realises he doesn't actually NEED a laptop, he just wants one?

      How about reading the first line of the article:

      "My son's school has decreed that next year he'll need a computer of some sort."

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Have you tried...

        Actually it is the school that needs beating!

        "My son's school has decreed that next year he'll need a computer of some sort."

        For the school to make this sort of announcement means that they won't actually be using the computer for classwork!

        I would expect the school to at least give an idea as to what it is they will be expecting pupils to be able to do on this 'computer' and where. A trend I've noted in my local secondary schools, is that they not only mandate a computer but have gone so far as to provide computers at school which do not leave the premises - this avoiding pupils forgetting to bring them in each day and has reduced the amount of support - (this includes re-installs due to botched attempts to upgrade the OS to MS's latest and greatest).

        1. Darryl

          Re: Have you tried...

          Welcome to the 21st century, where students use computers. I know it's a bit of a shock to those of you who had your knuckles rapped with a ruler if you were found using a calculator, but the times, they are a-changin'

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Have you tried...

        Well my boys have got a 10 year old or so Pentium 4 to use, XP Pro dual boot with Linux Mint, if they need to take a computer to school one can carry the base unit and the other the monitor and keyboard, On their bikes.

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: Have you tried...

          "One can carry the base unit and the other the monitor and keyboard. On their bikes."

          Shurely you meant to end this with "uphill both ways"?

  33. neilt0

    Put 2GB RAM in it and run Windows 7. Add a USB flash drive for ReadyBoost and install Chrome as your browser. I run a netbook with that spec and use it every day (as a secondary machine), it's just about quick enough.

    Windows 7 runs faster than XP if you switch off Aero/transparenct and the other interface stuff you don't need.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And an SSD really helps if you can get one to fit, also makes the unit more shock-proof.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My dad makes me use this Linux computer

    Way to get teased at school.

  35. stu 4

    Broadcom HD accelerator

    stick one of these in it - they are about 15 quid. either needs a spare PCIE socket or take summit else out.

    I still run an old acer one A150 1.6 atom glued (literally) to the back of the 42" LCD in the conservatory.

    With the broadcom it can play all 720p and 1080p movies you throw at it.

  36. stu 4

    Hackintosh would be cool surely

    I did one (and still have it) on an acer A150 (I have another one still running windoze - see other post).

    I even made the LCD back apple light up thing...he could help with the painting, etc.

    hell, I even internally crammed in a tv card, GPS, bluetooth and HD acceleration into mine.


    1. Tommy Pock

      Re: Hackintosh would be cool surely

      I've Hackintosh-ed mine, I've got a spare HD with it on somewhere. Works okayish. 60% of the time it'll boot into a wrong-aspect ratio square screen and there's absolutely nothing I can do to get it back. Brilliant when it works, but incredibly annoying when it doesn't.

  37. Gordon861

    Old Netbooks

    I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that I'll have to just replace my old NB100 Toshiba Netbook if I need something more up to date now.

    But I have found that they still work great as a mobile backup device for digital photos when you are away from home. Every evening create a new directory and backup all you photos from the day to the machine whilst deleting the crap. That way if you lose your camera whilst out you still have a full copy of all your pics.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    sony vaio

    I just bought the mrs a Sony Vaio E with Windows 8 (which I swiftly updated to 8.1 before she noticed the missing start button). It's not great specs but it's fairly sturdy and cost me 300 quid. Runs nicely for web browsing, word processing and so on, boots quick, has Windows Store if you want that and decent screen size (15" I think).

    An ipad surely isn't going to work as a computer for work? Surely need something with a proper keyboard unless schoolwork these days is just answering multiple choice questions.

  39. stucs201

    Surface Pro?

    I'll probably be downvoted for sugesting it, but the Surface Pro (or Pro 2) might be a nice (if expensive choice). The keyboard and kickstand will work well for work on a school desk, but it can still be a tablet for the playground at lunchtime.

    Even the RT might do the job, if it wasn't for the Minecraft requirement - he'll want the pro version for that (I'm confused how he thinks he'll play it on an iPad).

    1. David Barrett

      Re: Surface Pro?

      "(I'm confused how he thinks he'll play it on an iPad)."

      He will probably download it from the app store and just play it.. theres been a version of minecraft for IOS for ages, wife had to take it off her phone because the kids kept nicking it for toilet visits!

      1. stucs201

        Re: Surface Pro?

        Oh, Minecraft PE? I assumed that the requirement was to run the full version. Only Mr 12 can clarify that part.

  40. Arachnoid

    Rather strange

    That some point out Schools/Colleges would no longer allow XP to access its server yet no mention of weather older Linux distros would be barred too.Are they not just as much of a security hazard?

    As to the original topic the main problem may be down to which software students may be required to use and what file types teachers need to supply to and get from students,not an easy task over differing OSs

    Personally ignoring the cost for a moment, one has to remember you are aiming to provide your child with the best education and the best knowledge for the future that your money can afford.Its not about ones got Nikes and ones got Speedos its about doing the right thing to kit them out as best you can so they can learn and take on board what is in essence their future personal cache of knowledge.

    So as the old saying goes you need to spend to accumulate........

    1. revdjenk

      Re: Rather strange

      Linux is not a security hazard compared to windows, no matter what the age, as long as the updates are available and current.

      The sharing of files and file types is easier through Linux, because Linux was built on the Internet, using standards and knowing it needed to share to be usable. Either use the older MSOffice formats or pdf to share to most other OS'.

      With Linux being used more and more in the scientific, server, military, 96% of the top 500 supercomputers, and of course on the majority of mobile systems, it is the OS to know going into the future.

  41. Mage Silver badge

    You can buy new batteries cheap!

    Just saying.

    A "Cloud" OS is isn't an option, that's just a Terminal that relies on the Internet, thus much slower and less reliable than a wired terminal to a server in your own building.

    "Clouds" only make sense for people with loads of separate offices all on redundant fibre broadband and probably with their own cluster or (several co-located servers in different data centres)

    You can configure Debian or Ubuntu to run sensibly on netbook with "Classic" desktop. Or Mint.

    If XP or Linux is too slow it's not configured properly. Uninstall parts never needed and disable any thing that can't be uninstalled that isn't need. On XP "Disable" services, not "Manual".

    Learn how to not install malware and up to date Browser with No Script or equivalent. Never add Toolbars, disable all PDF and external Media Playing and Skype plug-ins in Browser.

    Then don't run AV. It needs too much RAM & CPU. False positives and false sense of security and not as much protection as "using" the computer properly.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: You can buy new batteries cheap!

      It's a Lenovo!

      Yes you can buy cheap batteries, but with Lenovo they have to be recognised by the Bios (and if using Win7 or later have the data fields populated how Windows expects them to be...). So whilst with some shopping around you can avoid paying full RRP, expect the really cheap models to be of questionable quality.

  42. The New Turtle

    Back in the spring I needed a cheap 'disposable' computer to take to Africa, and acquired a 7 year old Philips/Twinhead H12Y 12" laptop with 1.6GHz core 2 duo and 1Gb ram. Performance on the original Vista was laughable (10min to a ready desktop) but both Pear Linux and LinuxLiteOS gave entirely acceptable performance, LLOS being similarly responsive to my unibody Macbook with 4Gb and SSD running OSX 10.8. And LLOS is Steam ready.

    Since the lad likes the idea of a Mac, something like Pear might have quite appealed - shame the battery died.

  43. John Tserkezis

    If the current crop of 12 year olds around here are anything to go by, if it doesn't sport an Apple logo, it won't cut it. The coolness factor on anything other than Apple branded kit is so low, you need to use quantum mathamatics to work out how dorky you are to even suggest it.

    Apple laptops are actually useful. Even though you're not likely (going on odds) to see them on your job, there's enough transferrable skills there to still be useful. Coolness factor is low, but viable.

    Apple tablets outstrip anything else in their coolness factor by a million times, but the odds on seeing ANY tablet in a corporate setting is near nill, as well as the minor issue of zero transferrable skills.

    So, their obvious choice is an Apple tablet. I can't understand why you suggest Windows and *nix. What? Were you hoping they would learn something? They're 12.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Other than Apple

      Well my daughter set her mind on a Vaio this seems OK.

      Boys want something Minecraft and Terrerria compatible, but are happy on their old XP thing for now.

      I now prefer build it yourself.

    2. John Tserkezis

      Perhaps my choice in "the current crop of 12 year olds" wasn't complete.

      I asked my two 12-13 year old neices (no idea why I didn't ask them first..) two things: If the choice was yours, would you pick a laptop or tablet, and on brands, Apple or anything else?

      Both picked laptop over tablet, citing a laptop can do many more things than a tablet, which is quite limited.

      On brands, One picked Apple, the other picked Samsung.

      So there you go, either they're sensible, or there's something wrong with them. Or my survey techniques are slightly flawed...

  44. i like crisps
    Thumb Up

    Nice article.

    Very entertaining to read.

  45. David Barrett

    or... you know...

    Buy a new battery for £30 and save the cost of a ChromeBook?

  46. SJG

    Mint and Minecraft

    Minecraft works fine on Mint 13, including all the mods I've tried so far. You'll need a reasonable video card and a reasonable CPU though, my 256Mb integrated intel video is certainly not enough. Build in a few popular mods in minecraft and the Java process can easily grow beyond 1Gb - e.g. the popular Tekkit set of mods really needs 2Gb just to get started.

    I suspect that whatever OS you put on there, it's not going to be fast enough in Minecraft to keep a 12 year old happy.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Mint and Minecraft

      "You'll need a reasonable video card and a reasonable CPU though, my 256Mb integrated intel video is certainly not enough."

      That may be more of an issue than the OS. There was a minecraft update a few months ago that mean it no longer runs on one of our older laptops.

  47. David Barrett

    Also, I don't think that you can complain about windows 8 not working properly - it did warn you!

    Windows 7 is much better suited to old netbooks compared with 8.

    Also, lets face it, if this is going to be used at school you can be sure that the teacher will whip out some windows only software that will be required at some point... Not saying its right, but its going to happen!

    Im fairly sure you could get an OEM windows7 starter on eBay fairly cheap - might not strictly meet terms of the OEM licence but its close enough to keep me happy!

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Nice to see an article about computing in the real world, where people have budgets and PR doesn't count for squat.

    Not sure what the IT landscape is like chez Mr 12 but you mustn't forget the longstanding Windows bias of schools. My Mr 12 dual boots Ubuntu and Win 7: we've got nearly everything playing nicely on the former but every so often the school system will do something like mandate an online textbook with plugins that work only on Windows. It's becoming less of an issue as the years go by, because (personal theory) most content is now web based, and the publishers know they must deal with asizable and vocal minority of Mac users, but it still happens.

    One option I did not see mentioned in the event that you need to but something new might be (draws a deep breath) a Surface2? In my part of the world they are heavily discounted, but they actually work pretty well. They might not be as price competitive as a lappy though.

  49. The last doughnut
    Thumb Up

    Full ubuntu runs slow on some older graphics chips, xubuntu is a much better bet and has a more traditional Gnome-based UI.

    Buy a replacement battery for the laptop if necessary. Fill its memory slots. Slap a new hard drive in there if you have to.

    Should run well for the forseeable.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To be encouraged.

    I've just put debian on my old msi netbook. It was only five years old and still working well so there was no way I was going to landfill it. Seems to run a treat so far. It isn't being pushed too hard but the iplayer works ok, and it works a treat with the the arduino IDE.

    Next step is to see if there is any way I can make an old CRT imac more usable.

    1. Tommy Pock

      Re: To be encouraged.

      Are you me...?

      I recently got an old iMac, too. Ran like a dog. I put Tiger on it, updated it, stuck another 256mb of PC133 RAM in it and it runs like new. New in 2005, but still new.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Not really sure why Minecraft wouldn't work for you.

    It's written in JAVA and runs OK for my son on our Linux Mint/Ubuntu machine.

    Download it, make sure you have JAVA installed and off you go.

    There aren't really an issues unless the machine is just too pedestrian on the graphical front to cope.

    What were the particular issues that you had?

    1. Tommy Pock

      Re: Minecraft

      Oolite runs well, Half Life runs perfectly in Wine but you scan forget Minecraft. It just doesn't have the power.

  52. seanclarke

    What about chromium os?

  53. LyingMan

    ebay and thinkpads

    Got 3 T420 thinkpads i5 2520 for £250 each from ebay with 1600 x 900 resolution and while the videos look horrible the text and 2d performance blows everything else away.. even the sd card slot supports sdxc!!

  54. Tom 64

    You really should

    Check out archbang linux. Its the best distro I've tried by far for my ageing netbook.

    Fast and bang up to date.

  55. Gray

    Try a polished but lightweight linux

    Check Distrowatch for SolydXK, a form of the Mint "Debian" edition. SolydXK is Debian-based, in a 'rolling' format with monthly update packs to keep apps and OS on track with current upgrades. For the kids, Steam and Wine (with PlayOnLinux) are pre-installed. Choose the KDE version, or the lighter Xfce for even older machines. The Distrowatch page for SolydXK lists all of the pre-installed apps, with access to the Debian repositories. BTW, it runs brilliantly on a PIII Dell 5000 laptop with 512mb ram ... not many that old still kicking around!

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    My own netbook experience is thus:

    - Bought Acer Aspire One, ran Linpus. I actually liked it, a small, fast, appliance-like distro. Of course I found the terminal quickly, enabled the right click menus etc. - biggest problem now is that it is a few years out of date, upgrading the likes of Firefox is a little cumbersome.

    - Installed XP on the netbook. Runs ok. Support is going to end though I'll not use this for anything secure / banking etc.

    - OSX. Bit cheeky, but this runs brilliantly. Biggest problem is that it does seem to make the machine run warm. For a little hackbook it is quite nice.

    - Toshiba netbook with Windows 7 starter, bought as a gift for my other half. Despite being newer than the AAO, runs very slowly. Even Ubuntu put on it runs slow. Was gathering dust when she got an iPad.

    Combined though, I use the AAO to run on the TV to stream videos from my external drive, the Toshiba is used on the other side of the living room, with synergy, to drive the mouse on the AAO.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Netbooks

      Well, it all depends.

      I have my old AAO, put a 1GB DIMM in it so that it now has 1.5GB and replaced the slow 8GB SSD by a slightly less slow 32GB CFCard with an IDE to ZIF adapter. Added a 6 cell battery. Installed kubuntu, enabled the plasma netbook interface, and my daughter is now using it for her school work without complaints apart from the crappy low res screen. Still have XP in a partition (7 won't install in a "removable" drive) and it is slow as molasses. Kubuntu is not fast, but usable.

      Toshiba NB550 - replaced the 2GB DIMM with a 8GB one, "upgraded" windows 7 to 8 (now 8.1) to take advantage of the low launch price to get the pro edition, since 7 starter edition is unusable. Still a lot slower than Arch Linux on the second partition, but almost usable with classic shell. Tried the fisher price interface for some time, but it is even less usable than on windows phone, and still fugly.

      I've also replaced the original LCD with a 1366x768 one, and it does make a difference. Unfortunately, windows 8 is still atrociously slow. Gets to the desktop quickly, but then... Having the same number of tabs open in firefox as I usually do in arch (20+ tabs) almost kills the machine in w8.

      The Toshiba has been my work laptop for the last year and half, on the train or connected to a screen in the office, and is now being replaced by a Nook HD+ with a bluetooth keyboard. Half the weight, and MobiSystems OfficeSuite Pro is now good enough on Android to replace LibreOffice, with the free QuickOffice also a good alternative. And all these three are ribbon free and can write MS Office compatible formats, so it is a win-win situation.

      I also had an asus 1101ha, which convinced me never to buy intel again after the way the handled the whole poulsbo debacle, but it now no longer charges (and I don't have surface mount soldering tools and skills to replace the power socket on the MB). Too bad, the screen is better than the AAO.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Don't be confused by the name, it has all the stuff you need for a general-purpose computer as standard.

    It's optimised for slow 32-bit computers and I've been running it on an ancient Dell X1 which my wife uses (without too many complaints). Boot-up time is slow but we mostly leave it suspended to ram.

  58. Instinct46


    I have the full minecraft working on Ubuntu, in fact it runs smoother on older laptop in linux than it does in windows.

  59. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    XP FTW

    The bottom line seems to be that XP is a reasonable fit for the hardware you have and, though Ubuntu is a good alternative, there can be issues with apps one would like or want.

    I would say that is pretty much the conclusion most XP users have come to and why they are sticking with it, and most likely will even when Microsoft drop support for it.

  60. Robert Sneddon

    XP vs. Win8 on older hardware

    Someone did a test on a 2007-vintage IBM/Lenovo laptop a while back, reinstalling XP on it and then Win8 and running benchmarks on both. The Win8 install ran the same apps a little faster than XP did with the same physical resources (memory, hard disc etc.)

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The answer is Windows. Now what's the question?

    Well no actually the answer isn't Windows, not always anyway.

    One alternative answer is just a few days old and a few column inches away from here and yet appears not to have been mentioned in the three pages of replies:

    For a low power laptop, something other than KDE or Gnome may be good, which is fine, Suse can easily do that.

    Given that the original netbook has departed, how about a 2nd hand business class laptop with a legitimate Windows install (for those occasions where the school misguidedly insists on Powerpoint or whatever, add Office Addicter for Students or whatever it's called)?

    I've been using refurb business class HPQ since the last days of Armada, my most recent purchase was an HP eLitebook 6930 with decent 1440x900 screen, decent disk and CPU, plus docking station and legit Windows 7, all for £200 (vs maybe four+ times that when new). Battery life not brill, so this may not be a good choice for mobile usage. YMMV.

  62. John Sanders

    My children...

    Use what I use at home, Linux on the Laptop, Linux on the workstation (Xubuntu), and Linux on the Server. (Debian)

    My daughter one day came with some nonsense about having to use power-point and word and that it was the end of the world if she did not use it.

    I told her to politely ask her teacher to give me the money for Office and a Windows license, obviously she did not understand what I meant, so I explained her how to use LibreOffice & Inkscape, then I told her how to export to PDF and how to export to .doc, .ppt, etc.

    She's quite happy and she says she prefers the desktop at home than the one at school. This could just be familiarity though, or that she likes my clutter-free approach to desktop configuration using xfce.

    We never have any problem with any hardware in the house, because I'm one of those people that never buys anything that doesn't work with Linux, or at the very least have read that works with Linux. I also tend to stick to open standards for everything. I prefer not to buy if whatever I'm interested in doesn't play along.

    I'm teaching my children in the same way, and my daughter 10, understands that it is the person who creates the artwork and types the text, the software is just a tool, and word is not going to improve your writing and photoshop will not make her paint skills better.

    She understands what an operating system is, what a program is, what a file is in that a file contents and its name doesn't necessarily need to be related. She knows a file is data for the program to interpret.

    I'm just introducing one concept at the time for her as she needs stuff done, so far she is doing quite well, she can do all her homework without messing up anything on the computer (as opposed to her mum)

    Me and her share a Minecraft world we're building together on the local server, Minecraft runs on Linux perfectly.

    I'm of the belief that when she earns her own money she can have whatever she wants though, but on the mean time she's going to learn some computing as she ages.

  63. cmaurand

    If you want dual boot

    Install Win8 first then Linux. Grub will start Windows. Windows has always done a poor job of living cooperatively with other OS's.

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    My old hackingtoshed Dell Mini 9 with runcore SSD still raises kids eyebrows because they actually think its a new Apple device. Nephew is older than 12 and thinks its way cooler than his Blackberry tablet.

    Dirt cheap but no good for minecraft. Buy him raspberry Pi for that and let him work out how to run it.

  65. Tony Rogers

    Minecraft Aids?

    As a Bitcoin Miner I am always on the look-out for new skills.

    Not sure why so many parents are aiding their children in

    the pursuit of such underground work.

    The country has fought hard and long to prevent the exploitation

    of children in such barbaric and outdated occupations.

    Let the children concentrate on their homework and class activities.

    The wasteful time spent learning such awareness of mines is futile.

    Free the child from Minecraft and buy an old Amstrad to while away

    the freetime.

  66. bpfh

    Minecraft on Ubuntu

    An obsure website called Google gave me this link about how to set up the real Minecraft on Ubuntu...

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