recommendations for a mini laptop

Paul Boddie paul at
Wed Aug 7 14:20:32 UTC 2019

On Thursday 18. July 2019 09.54.59 Michael Kesper wrote:
> On 17.07.19 13:30, Paul Boddie wrote:
> > And obviously, with everybody loading up the "modern" Web with superfluous
> > gadgetry, Firefox will gladly saturate the CPU, I/O channels and take lots
> > of RAM. Unfortunately, more lightweight browsers like NetSurf [3] are
> > likely to struggle with today's mainstream sites infused with
> > surveillance capitalism, reaching out to dozens of other sites serving
> > their own JavaScript payloads on every page load.
> I run some old machines too with xfce, will try MATE too. :)

In the warmer weather, I switched to using the CI20 as my main working machine 
and can share a few more experiences. In summary, I can say that silent 
computing, without a fan making a noise like a turboprop aircraft on the 
runway and without the constant stream of hot air through the rear of the 
machine, is probably something I will be doing more of.

Also - maybe most importantly - it saves energy and will be generally better 
for the environment: a MIPS-based SoC is always going to need less power than 
a Pentium 4 from possibly Intel's most wasteful generation of CPUs. Sadly, 
"more is better" continues to be the dominant theme of the technology 
industry: power consumption benefits (due to more efficient circuitry) are 
typically overturned by vastly increased consumption.

Anyway, while there are some things that MATE, being a continuation of GNOME 
2, doesn't do well - a lack of keyboard shortcuts for switching virtual 
desktops, for instance - the environment seems decent enough for my purposes. 
The terminal can show colours that I like, mostly performs as well as Konsole 
(on KDE), and only lacks the Shift-Up/Down shortcuts for line-by-line 

On machines like the CI20 where the proprietary GPU is disabled, you need to 
have software rendering/compositing/whatever enabled. MATE supports this, but 
other environments may not (or not obviously). Scrolling and navigation in the 
terminal can be slower (although I also experienced this after a Debian 
upgrade on my Intel machine), but vi/vim permit convenient jumping around by 
multiples of lines, so it isn't a huge problem.

> While normal sites are usable when uBlock Origin takes care of filtering out
> most crap, more "active" sites (heavy use of JS/CSS) become really sluggy,
> though and turn otherwise silent machines into noisy monsters because their
> fans will run at full throttle.

So, my solution to this is to open the network monitoring development tool in 
Firefox, load a page with a lot of surveillance scripts, save the log as a 
"HAR" format file, and then I have a script which dumps the hosts from the 
log. With that output, after editing to preserve the sites providing genuine 
content, I have another script which assigns the hosts with unrouteable IP 
addresses, and this then gets deployed in /etc/hosts.

It is remarkable how much difference this makes and how many 
script/image/tracking hosts are involved in serving even those sites that have 
something to say about the ethics of surveillance. I guess it is easy to 
criticise a habit but harder to actually break it. Again, leadership from 
organisations like the FSFE on such matters is rather lacking, but that is 
another topic.


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