How Far Can a $300 Laptop Go?

When my last laptop decided to give up on me, giving me a one blink on caps lock, which apparently means that CPU has failed, I needed to get a replacement quick.

I decided to search for Linux laptops, because that’s what I used on my last machine. I could either shop some specialized vendors for laptop, or as I always do, search Amazon.com.

Then I found this device called Acer Aspire V5-131-2887.


This is a very inexpensive $300 laptop that is pre-installed with a variant of Linux called Linpus. Just because my preference, I’ve reinstalled Ubuntu running KDE desktop.

According to Amazon.com, this device has:

  • Intel Celeron 847 1.1 GHz
  • 4 GB DDR3
  • 320 GB 5400 rpm Hard Drive
  • 11.6-Inch Screen
  • Linux

Usually, when it comes to computing, it’s pretty much you get what you paid for, and this computer is not an exception. For instance, I wouldn’t expect this machine to do heavy computing, such as video editing and 3D modeling.

Yet this Intel HD Graphics GPU built into the CPU is actually not that bad of graphic processor, capable of displaying 3D contents with very surprising speed; I just don’t think I would play cutting edge games on it but nonetheless provides adequate speed for applications like Google Maps in WebGL mode. Another good thing about this particular GPU is that it’s one of most well supported series of graphic card on Linux.

This machine is equipped with 1.1GHz processor, which is not very fast, even at yesterdays standard, but it is very smooth, and in very good thermal profile. (It’s usually around 50C.)

as for connectivity, this computer provides 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth. It is a nice touch, it provides those as even more expensive machines of often lacks 802.11a and Bluetooth. (Amazon’s listing is missing those features, you may want to go to a product page for Acer Aspire V5-131-2887 for more complete information.)

Would I recommend this laptop? Absolutely, but only if you know something about Linux. For example on Ubuntu, it worked, but I had to modify grub setting to make brightness adjustment work. If you don’t know what that means, maybe you want to stay away. But then, if you are considering learning how to deal with Linux, at $300, maybe this is a good start!

Raspberry Pi as VPN Host Point

My work has been used VPN for certain applications that requires static IP. Since the location of my work is pretty much abandoned by pretty much every single broadband companies (other than Clear), I’ve decided to move VPN access point off-site, to ensure I have access to this device at decent speed — even from off-site if needed to be.

At the office, I have connected the VPN router through one of PC running Linux. For taking this functionality off the company network, I wanted more power-efficient, portable solution. I already had one of Raspberry Pi, so I decided to take it a spin for using it as a VPN Host Point.

For providing the conduit to this system, I’ve decided to use recently open sourced SoftEther. The reasons I’ve selected this particular solution is:

  • It’s easy to configure
  • Provides a variety of emulation, including OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec (since SoftEther lacks client support for Mac, those emulation supports are very useful)

Another factor was the fact that I was already familiar with UT-VPN which has similar configuration styles.

Configuration for SoftEther went fairly smooth, only pitfall was that when kernel mode NAT was used in conjunction with the device, it obtained IP address outside of the VPN, thus, I had to set DisableKernelModeSecureNAT to true.
While vpncmd utility would provide configuration options, configuration options were bit confusing, such as natenable, and securenattable actually switches different part of the NAT system; I had to wonder why NAT was not activated. Once I learned to inspect both of them, it wasn’t too bad after that.

So far, performance seems to be satisfactory, and the next step will be to actually have dedicated Raspberry Pi for this purpose.