Getting older, not necessarily wiser!
In this post I am preparing to installing Linux on an old laptop. Periodically I see stuff on line about using Linux to breath life into old hardware. I figured it was time to give it a try.
While packing up for my upcoming move I came across an old ASUS T100 Transformer, from approximately 2013. So it is almost 10 years old. I figure this will be perfect for testing Linux on a computer with limited resources.
This specific model, T100TAF, comes in two pieces, the laptop itself and a keyboard dock. It is equipped with the following hardware; Intel Atom Z3735F cpu, Intel HD Graphics, 32GB storage, 2GB RAM, and a 10.1” 1366 x 768 touch display.
It has a rather limited selection of ports available; one USB2 (on the dock), one Micor USB (for charging), a micro SD card slot, and a micro HDMI. There is no built in Ethernet connection.
The device also has Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0, courtesy of a Broadcom combo card.
To be honest, I do not expect this to be very smooth for a couple of reasons. The first and most obvious is the way I like to install software – avoiding as many per-configured packages as possible. I don’t expect to have any problems getting the laptop to boot. I expect a problems with specific hardware.
From reviewing the very slow Windows 10 that was installed and some online research, I have determined that I am likely to see issues in four places; the UEFI boot partition, The Wi-Fi card, Bluetooth support, and the built in Web Camera.
From what I can tell, even thought the processor supports 64 bit, the motherboard firmware is forcing a 32 bit UEFI. This means I need to either install a 32 bit Operating System, or trick the computer into letting me install a 64 bit one. While 32 bit Operating Systems are getting rare (pretty much every device built in the last ten years supports 64 bit), Debian still maintains a 32 bit version. Debian also has a multiarch distribution I will need to look into. In theory this would allow me to install a 64 bit Operating system while maintaining the 32 bit UEFI. The question, is it worth the effort?
The Wi-Fi card supports both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. I have identified the firmware that should enable the Wi-Fi, but so far I have not found anything for the Bluetooth part.
The installed webcam was not identifiable under windows 10. I suspect the driver was for Windows 8, which was stock on this device. So far it has resisted my attempts to identify the manufacturer/model number. I believe it is a Intel avstream camera. I feel it is going to be a problem to get working.
I have done my basic research, so the next step is to setup a USB boot key, and give it a try.
I am not overly concerned with either the Bluetooth or the webcam, as I don’t recall them getting much use in the first place.
There are some slightly complex alternative methods to try with some hardware, either using a wrapper or extracting and configuring the firmware to make the windows drivers work under Linux. But I don’t currently have the time to explore these. And I question the value. It would be a great mental exercise, but I don’t think I would miss either the camera or the Bluetooth on this ten year old laptop.