Going back to my roots
While I usually have many ideas and most of them are quite stupid, here is an idea that’s not stupid (or at least I’d like to think that), inspired by Tie’s “I want a Computer that I Own”:
How about going back to the roots and ditching your top-of-the-line computer and use one from more than 10 years ago, for one month?
I can see you people already cluching pearls and crying for your Discord, XCode, Electron apps that use 4GB of RAM, Chrome with 100 tabs open, Docker, Adobe Photoshop, Android Studio and the likes. But hear me out, what if using an older (and obviously slower) computer will make you focus better? No more distractions (no, you can’t run Overwatch on a 15 years old laptop), you won’t be happy if you spend 3+ minutes to load Youtube or Twitch in your browser and if you think you can watch 4k I’ll just LOL at you, so you will either do actual stuff or just give up and run back to Steve Jobs’ (or Bill Gates) ample bosom.
Maybe write more. Maybe write more code. Or Allah forbid, maybe even write better code. You will definitely have to adapt and adapting is one of the best features of us humanoids even though most of the time we’re failing at it.
So, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and do that, replace my 2020 Apple MacBook Pro laptop with a 2008 Nokia Booklet 3G for one month and try not to die while doing it.
The biggest downside of using an older laptop is that you will be relegated to older hardware which definitely doesn’t match the performance of the current laptop (or desktop). This might not be such a big deal, because in my opinion, computers hit the “good enough” point for a casual user some years ago.
The M1 MacBook Pro is the 2020 version of the laptop (with the crappy touch strip), has an Apple M1 ARM64 CPU and 8GB of RAM and runs macOS Ventura.
The Nokia Booklet 3G is a 2008 netbook powered by an Intel Atom Z530 CPU @ 1.6GHz and 1GB of RAM. It’s running the latest version of Devuan (Chimaera 4, 32bit) which is based on Debian with systemd removed. The disk is encrypted at boot with a password that’s different from the one on my main laptop. Desktop Environment is Xfce4, everything works perfectly, including Bluetooth, WiFi, keyboard shortcuts (brightness, volume, etc), system suspend/hibernate.
The battery on the MacBook Pro holds for about 16 hours, on the Booklet it holds for almost 12 hours so the difference isn’t that great, the biggest difference is in the actual raw power (CPU+GPU+RAM) that’s not comparable by any means. It’s like an ant trying to strangle and elephant. The ant weighs 1.2kg versus 1.4kg for the elephant.
While minuscule, I LOVE the Booklet chicklet keyboard, I suppose MacBooks ruined the proper keyboard feeling for me and returning to a keyboard where you can actually feel the length of the keypress makes me dread the eventual return to the MacBook. On the other hand, nothing comes close to the sharpness and clarity of the MacBook Retina 13" display (definitely not Booklet’s 10" one).
Also, let’s not forget that you can open the Booklet flat and place the screen at whatever angle without it wobbling. If any hardware problems arise, I only need a screwdriver to open the laptop and replace its guts. Oh, and the battery is removable and you can pop another one in if you have it (and I do).
- The MacBook will not be opened under any circumstances, unless it’s a life-or-death situation, so if I forget to move something, at least for one month I won’t have access to it.
- Absolutely no games, I’ll miss Oxygen Not Included and Timberborn A LOT!
- Everything work-related will have to be done from the Booklet.
- Challenge started on April 1 and ends on May 1. If everything is at least ok, I will extend it for 3 more months.
- Little Snitch will be replaced with nothing because on Linux applications don’t make random requests 24/7 sending “telemetry stuff” to the mothership. UFW is more than enough for this, outgoing connections are allowed, incoming ones are denied.
- VPN support is built into Network Manager so there’s that.
- I used to write in iA Writer, which is an amazing application but now I’ll settle on using Sublime Text for that. Sublime might not be as beautiful as iA Writer but it will do its job well.
- KeepassXC will have to replace 1Password (having less than 10 accounts helps with the migration). The 1Password vault got imported into KeepassXC without any issues.
- For IRC connections, Textual will be replaced with irssi and maybe Pidgin (depending on the mood, both are installed). Pidgin should work for XMPP too.
- Telegram has a Linux version so it’s good, I tunnel all its traffic through Tor as it should be.
- For development, OSdev is a bit impossible now; while I can write the code in Sublime Text or CLion, I can’t test the Hoshi ISO because the Atom CPU is 32bit and installing (and running) VirtualBox is just not possible. But this just means that I’ll just write untested code, which should actually improve my C skills, at least until I figure out a solution for it.
- Docker is no longer an option either but I wasn’t using it a lot anyway.
- Some reverse-engineering/debugging/infosec tools are not supported (not sure if I can find an IDA Pro version that runs, torrents to the rescue) but I’ll figure out a solution for that someday.
- Browsing is easy, Firefox is the same on Linux and macOS, I even imported the profile from the other laptop so I don’t lose settings, addons and bookmarks, same thing for Thunderbird.
- I can’t run the Monero GUI wallet (no 32bit support) so I guess I’ll have to learn how to use the CLI wallet tool.
- Tor browser runs just ok, I’m using a Tor daemon anyway so if I need to tunnel traffic through Tor I can do that (Telegram, IRC).
- This website is being build using hugo (latest versions seem to have 32bit support removed, probably because Golang removed it, not familiar with Google junk) so it works as expected, I have a bunch of Python scripts that take care of configuring hugo and building/minifying/compressing/EXIF removing/image optimization and everything is compatible. Well almost compatible, once I removed
''from the sed
-i ''commands. The only problem is that I can’t run
hugo serveranymore because the Booklet runs out of RAM and the process gets killed. But I’m not complaining, build stage takes a bit and I can make tea during the downtime, do some birdwatching or water my bonsai.
- I’ll miss Affinity Photo like hell, for sure, but I’ll have to do with Gimp for now.
- LibreOffice will replace Microsoft Office and I just need something to open
- Reeder will be replaced by FeedReader for RSS consumption.
- I’m not using any online services for listening to music so the migration is just copying some mp3 files to a different laptop.
Those are the applications I will be using on the Booklet, if the requirements change I will alter this article with the changes. Let the games begin!
P.S. Maybe I should replace my phone with a Nokia E7 too, but I don’t think the world could afford such an insane amount of awesomeness.
Update after one week: things are looking grim, I miss working on 星 (writing code is easy, testing it is another question). I did write a Process Manager for it and I’m waiting for May 1st to compile and test it. On the other hand, the modern web is unusable but personal websites are fine. The fact that I can’t run
hugo server is a bit annoying but that just means I need to look closer for mistakes in my articles.
Update after two weeks: game over, it’s not doable. I’ll keep alternating between the laptop and the netbook, but using just the netbook is nearly impossible in 2023. Thank you, kind developers for allowing me to use 1GB of my computer’s RAM to show emojis. Thank you.