Ok, let’s say you left home this morning for an important meeting and, when you got there, you discovered that you have left the presentation file and the whole USB stick plugged on the PC back home. What do you do?
Most people would prefer a typical solution for remote access, like the Remote Desktop service on Windows or a VNC server on Linux. Usually, these server applications are configured to start on system boot and stay up, regardless if you need them or not. In the worst case, you may even forget all about them after some time, creating yet another security vulnerability for your system. Ideally, we would prefer the option of turning these servers on and off on demand, but the problem is that you’re not in front of your desktop PC to do so.
We have not yet found a way to “wake up” a server that it is not even running, so that you can connect to it and start it. Nevertheless, a combination of tools and web services can enable just that. I was wondering if it is possible to signal my home computer to start a server on demand, via a telephone (modem) or something, but I ended up in a much different and much more efficient way.
It seems that web 2.0 is becoming much more than a social thing. It can also be used a public “bulletin board”, accessed through various means and devices, making it a perfect “triggering” platform for web-enabled applications. Likewise, VNC is now becoming a standard practice for home and small-scale remote accessing, something like a mini-cloud architecture, for individual users for their own private needs. A combination of all these technologies can build up into a seamless service that can be characterized as a true “remote office via web 2.0” – definitely science fiction for those who have witnessed the birth of World Wide Web, only two decades ago.
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A few months ago I decided it was time to replace my old laptop. It is an Acer Aspire 1302 series, with AMD AthlonXP @ 1.6 GHz, 512 MB RAM and 20 GB hard disk. As I wrote in the previous article about openSuSE 11.1, this machine is now so deprecated compared to today’s mini netbooks, that searching the net for “Acer Aspire 1300” returns almost entirely shops for battery replacements. It’s true, the main problem with old laptops like this is finding a “live” battery, so that it runs as a real “moving” laptop and not pugged into a power socket all the time. Of course, The second major problem is that, if someone wants to be up-to-date in some serious programming (or other) suite, every new software version renders the machine slower and slower…and slower……and slower…………..
Until now, my laptop used to “struggle” under Windows XP Home SP2. I had the chance to get a spare hard disk exactly as the one bundled with this model and I decided it was time to put the current disk away as-is and try something entirely new from scratch with the new disk, something more efficient and lightweight. I had already tried several live-CD distributions (primarily Linux) and most of them they ran smoothly, despite the tight fit into 512MB of RAM.
A set of live-CD tests, along with comments on performance and screenshots, are available on my website.
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Recently, I got the chance to “revive” my old laptop: an Acer Aspire 1300, with AMD AthlonXP 1.6 GHz, 512 MB RAM and 20 GB hard disk. This machine is so deprecated, compared to today’s mini netbooks, that searching the net for “Acer Aspire 1300” returns almost entirely shops for battery replacements.
Until now, it used to “struggle” under Windows XP Home, but I decided it was time to try something more efficient and lightweight. And here it is, as good as new, with openSuSE 11.1 (32-bit of course), full installation plus Matlab and some other tools:
It seems that Linux is still the best way to revive old PC machines, discover more free space in the hard disk and get the most out of legacy hardware.