By Ben Nitkin on
Earthbound is sick. That's my laptop - two years old now. It's been through many unreasonable adventures, and is a little worse for wear. The backlight's flickered out twice (fixed by whapping the left wrist rest), the power plug broke off (fixed with hot glue), a few screws have gone missing (fixed by hoping for the best), and the CD drive is sticking 2mm out of the case (not fixed).
I'd like to be more gentle to the computer, but I also need a machine to take to classes and around campus.
Enter Puck. Puck is a not a moon; it's T41 thinkpad that my family bought at a government auction. As a thinkpad, Puck is built like a rock. As a T41, Puck is also fairly light. Its only weakness is processing power: an 800MHz CPU with 40G HD space is underwhelming.
My plan is to use Puck as a laptop and retire Earthbound as a desktop. Earthbound will live a life of comparative luxury in my room, with an external keyboard, mouse, tablet, and all the fixings. Puck will travel with me to take care of lightweight computing.
But first I need to set Puck up. Until I got my hands on it, the machine was running Mint Linux. A fine distribution, but not quite to my taste. (I like working under the hood, so Mint's too easy.) Earthbound runs on Arch, so Puck will too.
Installing Arch used to be a cinch, but they discontinued the automatic installer a few months ago. Instead, the user has to write individual files to configure locale, bootloader, internet and so on.
Basic settings are easy enough. That's things like timezone, preferred font, and keyboard layout. Installing the bootloader took a different wiki page, but was again simple. Audio worked out of the box, a pleasant surprise. As soon as the audio was unmuted, youtube started playing. Even flash just worked after installing the package. No hoops to jump through.
The only hard part was internet. During the install, Puck refused to connect to my family's router, so I used a wired connection. After rebooting into arch, the lack of internet grew frustrating.
Although iwconfig showed a network card, NetworkManager didn't recognize it. (NetworkManager is heavy at 300Mb, so I tossed it instead of troubleshooting.)
Arch ships with a network manager integrated into SystemD - netctl. It uses one text profile per network and is invisible to the end-user.
Setup took some work, but Puck now connects to Linksys (home router) when it boots. It needs a little more work to reassociate after sleeping.
As I was working, though, I spilled some water on Puck. A nice tall glass of icewater to cool off on this warm summer day. It liked the water less than I did, and shut down instantly.
Puck's now in the ICU. Well, dining room, drying in the lowest-humidity room in the house.
Update: After sitting to dry for two days, Puck came back!