“My Life in Laptops” – am I Doug Rocket?

In truth I’ve been planning to publish this ever since first seeing Nathan Barley back in 2005. The series “Nathan Barley” was a Charlie Brooker/Chris Morris satirical masterpiece, it was way ahead of its time and it accurately foretold several online & cultural trends. [EDIT: I didn’t actually fully understand Nathan Barley until I read this ] If you’ve never seen it then I highly recommend you seek it out on All 4. It’s genius. It’s 6 slices of 26 minutes of pure satirical gold. One of the characters “Doug Rocket” (played by the legendary David Hoyle) is a parody of Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics and in episode 3 we see Rocket’s collection of laptops made into art installation at “Place” (“be enabled, Place is creativalisation”)….

MY LAPTOPS 1991-2005 :: Doug Rocket at Place

This post is purely a self-indulgent, archival list of things. I don’t expect it to have any meaning to anyone else… Am I Doug Rocket? Maybe, maybe not. Anyway this is my homage to his installation “MY LAPTOPS 1991-2005” (and so in some ways to Rocket himself, the owner of “Place – a multimillion-pound creative enablement hive, which comprises studios, galleries, minglespace, thoughtcupboards, flotation melds and an Eric Clapton memorial songwriting vineyard“). ENJOY. It’s well f***ing futile.

0. Psion MC400   (personal) – Feb 1995 & April 2021 – still alive!
Lusted after one of these ever since seeing the A4 brochure
Feb 1995: Spotted one in Exchange & Mart, drove over to Bourne, Lincolnshire to collect. Wrote to software to add DTMF/MF4 dialling capability coz why not?
Jun 1995: Sold on CiX to fund impending wedding/honeymoon.
Iconic design in many many ways – way ahead of its time… it had a trackpad, SSDs and >40hr battery life in 1989!
— Missed it so much I recently bought another.

1. AJP 6200 T  (personal) – May 1997 – sold for spares
P166MHz First proper “PC” computer I ever bought brand new.
Big, heavy, slow Win95 laptop. But it had PCMCIA slots, which a “Pace 33.6k voice”, then a Psion Dacom 56k “Gold Card” modem found their way into, and wahey! It was on the internet! Later (post-1999 but before ADSL/broadband) used as a Linux-based dial-up gateway for the whole home network… PCMCIA modem & network cards! I over-clocked it and added a massive heatsink that protruded through the bottom of the case. RedHat something-or-other (probably 6.1 or 6.2?) with some scripts to do the on-demand dial-up.
Made in Taiwan by “Kapok” and re-badged by AJP in the UK.

2. Dell Latitude CPi A (work) – 1999 – scrapped
P266MHz, my first official work laptop – Windows NT! Eventually upgraded to 256M memory! Tremendously underpowered, but it gave me my first taste of Linux – later installed on a spare HD that I would swap out to run either win/lin. Used for out-of-hours on-call tech support, had a Psion “Gold-Card” modem to dial-in to the corporate WAN.

3. Dell Latitude CPt C (work) – 2000 – scrapped
Celeron 400MHz, Replaced the CPi. Installed win2k (unofficially) and built the Marconi standard Novell + office stuff on top…

4. Dell Latitude CPx H (work) – 2003 – still alive!
500MHz, Primarily used for Linux – used to swap HDs between (yet another unofficial build of) win2k and Linux. Upgraded the win2k up to XP later. Removed all plastic case parts and sprayed them matte black! Used for occasional wardriving with a PCMCIA 802.11 card with external (car-roof mounted) antenna around 2003-4. Keyboard intermittent, but still going. (Recently pressed into action to upload firmware to an old Magellan handheld GPS unit. )

Using an actual 16550 UART RS232 serial port

5. Toshiba Qosmio F10 (Personal) – 2005 – barely alive! (available for spares/repair)
Windows Media Centre laptop with built in (analogue) TV tuner, DVD drive and “Bang & Olufsen” speakers. Brightest, clearest screen I’d ever seen… HDD began to fail just days out of warranty, but I was able to clone it before it properly died. Soon after that the fan failed and then it liked to spontaneously shut-down as it was getting too hot. Tried to repair with a 2nd hand fan from ebay, but that soon failed too!

6. IBM Thinkpad R51 (work) – 2005 – scrapped
Came without a wifi card inside. Installed one from ebay (miniPCI) and then had to hack the BIOS to get it to recognise the card! Was briefly a hackintosh, my first taste of OS X – I was so impressed that I bought a Mac mini! Replaced HD later with a bigger one and installed WinXP/FC9 in dual boot. Plastic case/hinge badly cracked, original PSU DC jack failed (frayed!) replaced with new PSU from ebay. Overwrote FC9 installation with Ubuntu 9.10. One of the best laptop keyboards I’ve ever used (apart from the MC400). Sadly no longer with us, properly died June 2013 😦

7. Fujitsu Lifebook B2154 (Personal) – 2005 – still alive!
Tiny, super-portable Celeron 450MHz with 10.5″ 4:3 touchscreen. This little fella gave me a real challenge – reclaimed scrap, presented as “dead” I brought it back to life with a soldering iron – repairing the charging socket/PCB, but managed to kill the trackpoint “nipple” thingy in the process. Luckily this machine had a touchscreen. Original 2GB disk replaced with a 6GB one. Next challenge was how to install XP on it – as it had no internal optical drive. Went for a network install, another learning process. Tried linux, but without a decent touchscreen driver it was painful… Still going!

8. HP Compaq nc6120 (work) – 2006 – still alive!
WinXP. Nothing else to say. Some keys non-functional. Still going (as a linux lab PC).

9. Samsung Q45 (work) – 2007 – still alive!
Ace little 12″ screened super-portable machine. Replaced original 70GB drive with 250GB drive and dual boot winXP/FC11. Later replaced Fedora with Ubuntu 9.10. Some keys not working. Dodgy battery connections, intermittent backlight (!) and some random reboots – but apart from that, still going (yet another linux lab PC)!

dirty Samsung Q45

10. Asus eee PC 901 (Personal) – 2009 – still alive!
Replaced original Xandros with FC10. Flash disk died on day 5. Replaced whole machine under warranty. Later ran Crunchbang from SD card, then finally replaced Fedora with Ubuntu 9.10. Keyboard failed (random keys not working) – replaced with ebay spare! Still going, mainly as a testbed for random 32-bit Linux distros.

eee + crunchbang linux in Tokyo hotel bar 2010

11. Apple MacBook Pro (Personal) – 2010 – still alive!
My first apple laptop (not counting [ 6 ] ). Installed XP & F13 in VM (virtualbox) 3 OS’s on one machine!
Apr 2013: Spilled Whisky (BNJ!) on it… top-case replaced in Vally-Fair mall Apple store, CA ($198 – £134), later boot issues – fixed Jun 2013 Liverpool 1 Apple store – motherboard replaced at no charge! Swapped HDD for 480GB SSD. Still going.

12. Toshiba Portege R700 (work) 2011 – 2015 – still alive!
Intel Core i3 M370 2.4GHz – 4GB – 320GB. Win7. yuk.
Feb 2016: Swapped original HDD for 240GB SSD, installed Fedora 23. Still going (F37!)

13. Apple MacBook Air (Personal) – 2013 – still alive!
Migration-Assistanted from Macbook Pro [11] 1.8GHz Core i5 – 4GB – 256GB SSD

14. Asus Zenbook ux303 (work) 2015 – 2022 (replaced with Zenbook ux363)
Intel® Core™ i7-5500U CPU @ 2.40GHz × 4, Intel HD Graphics 5500, 8GB, 500GB
Came with Windoze 8.1 pre-installed Aaaaaagh!
Jan 2019: swapped original SSD for Samsung 500GB, cloned + added Fedora 29 Jan 2019 (dual boot).
Aug 2019: RH Hinge snapped off the plastic screen mount – repaired with epoxy glue/sugru/screws drilled through lid 😄 Frankensteinlaptop.
July 2021: LH hinge died too, another drill-though-the-lid repair 👍
Still going. Now Fedora 36. Writing this post on it right now 😀 Trusty dev machine.

frankenstein hinge repair 🙂

15. Asus Zenbook ux363 (work) 2022
Fedora 36/7/8… Of course.

Published by zedstarr

Chilled out human being, doing techy stuff.

7 thoughts on ““My Life in Laptops” – am I Doug Rocket?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: