Dell Latitude D630 System Check and Tumbleweed Update

I have loved the openSUSE project for quite some time and I love how it keeps my old systems relevant and working beautifully. I like to test whether or not this continues to hold true on older machines, especially those that have meant a lot to me over the years.

D630 Hero Shot

Mothballed my D630 when I got this HP EliteBook about a year ago. I intended on keeping the machine updated about every 3 to 6 months but time hasn’t permitted. I located the laptop in a plastic tote with other laptops from yester-year. Plugged in and powered up the machine. Just as it was when I retired it

The battery had discharged itself sitting for a year, even though it was off, which I found rather surprising. Not a huge deal but still surprising. The machine took much longer to start up than I remembered taking I realized that this computer still had a “spinning rust” drive in it as it was only in the last few years that I have gone all SSD on my laptops.

When the machine booted up, it was just as I had let it. I would call it like a time capsule but that is what my offline backup tool, Back In Time is used for. I clicked around a bit and lamented the ropey open source Nouveau graphics drivers. When the Nvidia Quadro NVS 135M GPU in this was supported, I had a fantastic experience with it. Now, not so much. I still have high hopes for Nouveau, I hope that it can be worked on to the point that I can get non-glitchy performance out of it yet.

Perform Updates in Terminal

As I had committed to do, when I turned this on, I performed the updates in Tumbleweed. Very simply, I ran the update command in the terminal.

sudo zypper dup

The update process did take a while. I had forgotten how slow spinning rust hard drives are as compared to the contemporary solid state equivalents so the update on this machine was an all day affair. I checked in on it throughout the day to see how it was doing. After what ended up being about 8 hours, the update was complete and I rebooted into the freshly updated openSUSE Tumbleweed snapshot.

How it turned out

The update process progressed about as smoothly as one could expect. There were no hiccups or update failures, no weirdness outside of a single time-out that happened. I’m not sure what was to blame on that but it was a minor thing.

I did try to use the Nvidia installer directly from Nvidia but it failed so I decided it was time to pack up my, still yet, special machine back into storage for it to resurface once again to get a Tumbleweed update. I intend to see for how long I can keep this machine going. I am almost considering throwing an SSD in this to see if it would improve performance enough but I still have no intention on using this in production at any level.

Dell Latitude D630 Retirement

There have been a lot of improvements in Nouveau in the last year. The big glitches are seemingly gone but when trying to use the compositing desktop feature in Plasma, the movements of objects has a bit of shudder to it. Using the obligatory GLXgears as a kind of test, it reports a 90fps but the shuddering is very noticeable. Turning off the compositor is a substantial improvement and everything looks silky smooth.

The laptop is surprisingly usable again but I won’t be employing it full time. I am going to leave it in its retired status but I think I will bring it out more frequently. I am now interested in seeing how Nouveau progresses. It may also be beneficial to try out Wayland again in the future on this machine.

Final Thoughts

Using this computer really does bring a smile to my face. I started writing much of in it’s early days on the Dell Latitude D630. The keyboard still feels great, I will say, it does feel better than my HP EliteBook 840 G7. Dell just did laptop computer keyboards right.

This update went far better than I expected it to go. The Nouveau drivers are seemingly greatly improved over it has been in years past. The D630 is still a nice feeling machine to work on. The 1440 x 900 display is not to my liking anymore but this is far better than the 1024 x 768 that I have on my Google Chromebook. Dell has done a good job of sourcing components that seem to last a long time. It may be worth putting an SSD in this machine at some point, just to see how it would change the user experience but the GPU, RAM CPU speeds are a bit lacking for what I do with my computers today. It’s not that it isn’t a very usable machine, it is more that I do more with my computers than was ever intended on the Dell Latitude D630.

This old Dell will remain as a retired bit of my personal computer history. I still think it is a great machine, feels nice to type on and has a great form factor, albeit from another decade. It is a tough machine that was an incredible road warrior for me for just shy of 10 years. Overall, I am really glad I took the time to do this and I am very happy with the result.


How and When to Update openSUSE Tumbleweed | Blathering
Dell Latitude D630
HP EliteBook 840 G7
Back In Time for Data Backups on openSUSE | Retrospective

3 thoughts on “Dell Latitude D630 System Check and Tumbleweed Update

  1. I still use my D630 (with Ubuntu Studio OS) when I need to be anywhere outside of my bedroom!
    It is still a fantastic core 2 duo laptop!
    A few years ago, I replaced the HD with a SSD, and increased the RAM to the max 4gb, and this beauty runs much better than it did new! I suggest you should do the same and take it out of retirement!

    1. I have 8 GB of RAM but the issue is the Nvidia GPU. I can either run an old version of Linux with the Nvidia GPU drivers or the open source Nouveau drivers that have sub-optimal performance. I still get it out and do updates. I need to yet this year.

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