Category Archives: Computer tips

Work on an older, slower computer


Over the years I’ve gone through a lot of laptops, trying different brands. My last laptop was a Macbook Air. While traveling I wanted to do some fancy video editing and thought I’d give it a try. I had Windows 7 installed on one half, for translation and other work, with Mac on the other half, for video and graphics work, and internet (I found Chrome worked best on the Mac “side”).

I particularly enjoyed going to cafes and doing the ol’ three finger swipe, jumping back and forth between either operating system (yes, I had them both running at the same time), always hoping for some macsnob to shudder in horror of seeing Windows running on their favourite machine.


It was a great setup, worked quickly, and lasted about six years. But my constant close proximity to the ocean, most often living in a hut or bungalow right on the beach (one of the pleasures of this online job), meant a shorter lifespan for virtually all my electronics, including even cables, due to the moist, salty and often windy air.

When my macair finally did die, it happened at a time when I had other obligations and did not want to fork out the high cost of a replacement. Nor did I really want to, because I intended to remain with a life on the beach, and wanted something that could be more easily replaced.

Acer One

After some research, I settled for this. A mere $200 and seemed to have a good reputation. For my smartphone (necessary for this job), I’ve been happy with the Samsung S5. Reasonably waterproof, overall good quality, and can be bought new on ebay also for $200.


The Acer came with only a 1.7GHz processor and the much heralded Windows 10. But after spending a solid two weeks reading many websites, tweaking and disabling as many services as possible, I finally decided that W10 is a total piece of crap. All these unnecessary bells and whistles, and I started to dream of the days when I worked on XP. Back then I noticed when I upgraded to W7, a sluggishness would soon creep in and strengthen as time went on. On my Mac, it worked fast, but I did not want to waste my time trying it on this slow machine. Which gave me an idea…

Linux Mint


I tried dabbling in Linux once before and found it quite horrifying, but this particular “dev” (development of Linux) is actually quite Windows-like and easy to use. Sure, I ran into a few bugs, but the Linux world of forums is full of enthusiastic geeks who are quite happy to help you, a result of which there is a wealth of answers already out there available for you to surf through. I’ll give you some simple tips to help you get set up quickly and hopefully problem free.

Download to USB stick or memory card


There is tons of info out there on this. The way I remember is I downloaded the Mint .iso installation file and, using Windows, created a boot installation disk on a memory stick or card – whatever free slots you have on your laptop.

You then restart your computer. In both Windows and Linux, the F8 key should get you to a menu where you can decide where you want to boot from. Choose the memory stick or wherever you create your boot drive.

Before this you should have studied and downloaded some websites explaining the various options. For example, it can boot the Mint operating system running directly from your stick. From there you can use the native browser to surf the internet. If you have enough room on your hard drive, you can keep your Windows as backup, create a partition and install the Linux. Then, when you restart your computer, you can boot to the Windows or the Linux that you had freshly installed on your system.

I started slow and had both systems, because it was somewhat scary to enter the world of Linux geeks and I wanted to make sure I could keep working.

Once I got used to the system, I was ready to start all over again and get rid of W10 once and for all.


When I first started using my Mac, there was a two month period when I was not able to access my Windows half, but fortunately it did not cost me anything because I discovered a wonderful free program called Open Office. This can be installed on Mac, Windows or Linux and is capable of opening and working with all Microsoft Office software.

The only problem was that my translation memory (TM) software required Windows.

Anyway, before my big upgrade and erasure of W10, I decided to upgrade the harddrive to ssd and pump up the ram from 2 to 4 gigs.


After some research, I found that it is best (for any operating system) to partition the hard drive into 50gig slots, keeping the main operating system on the C drive. Use only that for the operating system and your Linux software. Here is a screenshot of the disk space analyzer in Linux:


Okay, rather geeky, but just wanted to show you how pretty it can be. Here is a screenshot of the various partitions (although I did not bother with compartmentalising into 50gig sections):


Note the separate partition for the Swap. This makes the ram more efficient, so make sure you read up on that. Apologies that I did not save the websites I found, but there are many and not difficult to find an easy step-by-step explanation how to accomplish all these. Partition 1 is for the operating system and Partition 2 is for storing data or the Windows virtual machine (if I’m not mistaken regarding the latter).

It is apparently much safer and faster to break up your remaining space into smaller chunks of let’s say 50gigs. You do not need to defragment an ssd drive, but generally this is a good approach. One of the slots should be saved for…

Oracle VM Virtual Box


Note that so far everything has been free. I even downloaded the free version of Lightworks for Linux, for video editing. It can occasionally stutter, and I have to shut everything else down to conserve ram (remember, only 4gigs), but what do you expect with a 1.7GHz processor? It does the job in any case.

Within the virtual box I then installed my beloved XP. Man! what a treat it is to see how lightning fast everything is. No sluggishness at all. Found it easily enough on the pirate bay. Make sure to get the SP3 version, which is the most stable. This should be installed on one of the separate partitions.



Of course I can imagine a lot of alarm signals went off in your head. I often fantasize bragging about my system, and when average Joe hears that I work in XP, I imagine a humorous conversation commencing.

“You have internet on your system?”
“You don’t install updates?”
“Nope, and I don’t bother with any virus protection.”

You can imagine the rest. But you do have to set it up properly.


First of all, with any operating system, after you get your basics set up in your administrative account, you then set up a regular user account, which you use for your main work.

The reason for this is if you are working in a regular user account and happen to get a virus, it will not be able to access administrative privileges without you manually typing in the password for the administrative account. So just this act alone will contain the virus, preventing it from wrecking havoc throughout the rest of your system.

It also once happened that a glitch developed and I was simply able to turn off the machine, restart, load into the Linux admin account and fix the user account externally.


The wonderful thing about Linux is that there are hardly any viruses for it. Furthermore, you generally download all the software from the dev’s own “repository”. Each dev is slightly different. When installing software, you log into your admin account, activate the native Software Manager, and install new programs directly through that. This Manager accesses the software on Mint’s own site, so there is no danger of getting a virus from third party software. Very rarely do I have to go to a third party site to download some software and install it separately.

So in Linux/Mint there really is no need for antivirus software, which generally hogs up system resources and slows down your entire system, especially during occasional scans.

linux-system-resources-translation-computer-tipsAbove is a screenshot of the system resources program native to Mint. To the lower right are two additional programs I installed into the task bar. One when you click on pops up the info shown, while to the right of the cursor is a cpu bar always showing. After lengthier use the system starts to feel sluggish, usually when the Memory and Swap our pretty high. I find a quick restart (and it is quite fast) resolves this for another lengthier period of time.

Furthermore, I’d say that hackers generally respect the Linux community, so they don’t bother creating viruses for it. You are safe in the world of geeks!

The chrome browser works quite well in Linux.

The XP is fast, my translation memory software works fast, I prefer to use Office 2003, which works great, and I only have a few other software I use for Windows, such as Corel (although the simple Draw which comes with OpenOffice in Linux is surprisingly useful), and some software I prefer to work with when designing html pages (Microsoft Impressions), PHP (HTML Kit) and FTP and file management (Total Commander).


Hence, the only internet I use in XP is for uploading files by FTP to my own server, so completely safe. Therefore, there is no need for anti-virus software in the XP as well. I know, feels like a naked, vulnerable baby, eh? But it’s foolproof. Of course, set up your regular user account on the XP as well, and just for fun I keep the firewall on, but doubt it’s necessary.

For quick editing of pics I prefer to use IrfanView in Windows, but Gimp for Linux is half decent and does the job.

Other software


  • VLC works fine in Linux for watching movies.
  • I use Galculator as a calculator in Linux.
  • Nitro in Windows for creating PDF files (through the print function, any program – nothing like that exists for Linux).
  • Libre (OpenOffice) Draw in Linux can edit PDF files.
  • Dropbox in Linux for creating folders which automatically backup to the web every time you make a change to any of the files within them.
  • Gimp Image Editor for editing pics.

I see other software on my system, such as for rotating videos and so forth, but haven’t had a need for them yet. In any case, the Mint repository of free software is quite extensive. You then have your XP for anything particular you cannot find.


The above is a screenshot of the free software available through the Software Manager. Note that I had to log into the admin account (you can just switch accounts so you do not have to logout of your regular user account) in order to activate this program to install software – good safety precaution.


And now possibly for the best part. Check out GParted.


Yet more free software for Linux. After reading up on it, download it and follow the instructions to create a boot disk. Less than 16gigs total! Restart your computer and F8 boot to that to check it out. Has its own Firefox browser and has tons of little programs, even for Windows! You can use it to test your disks and other problems, in both Linux and Windows.

For me, I put in an external hard drive and simply cloned my system once I had everything set up and humming. It cloned also the Windows, so if something ever happens to your computer, a quick $200 expenditure and you’ll be up and humming again in no time.


For particular files, like your accounting, pictures or translation files, you can backup those separately, since it takes a while to clone your entire system and you cannot work at the same time. It also has a synchronisation feature so you can backup only small changes. Quite robust little system, and it will give you a little feel for Linux before committing. Note that this is a different dev than Mint.

But as mentioned before, you can create a boot disk of Mint on a flash drive, for example, to give it a test run. Note that by default you will not be able to save anything on the flash, such as your desktop settings, but there is a way around that if you really want. I believe it involves partitioning the flash drive so that there is somewhere where you can store stuff (persistent storage).

Or if you want to get really fancy, you can clone your system onto an external ssd drive so that you can plug it into any computer to F8 boot into that and translate using someone else’s computer!

Note also if your laptop decides to stop working for whatever reason, the ssd drive and ram could still work, so all you need to do is insert those into your new Acer machine. But make sure to make a full backup anyway, as it takes time to set up a new system, with the virtual box and so forth.

With the old, regular spin type harddrive that I replaced with the ssd, I simply bought an adapter with case (IDE or SATA, depending on how many pins your internal HDD has) to turn that internal harddrive into an external one, meaning no waste.


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