Secure Portable Workstation with Debian Etch

Pictures coming soon!

I came across a “dying” Dell Latitude C680. It was old, but after looking at the specs I decided to keep it.

2.4/1.2ghz (speedstep)

1GB Ram

60GB HDD (mine was dead)

Two battery/expansion bays (one battery, one floppy)

One CD-Rom drive (thought it was dead, turned out to be the bay itself was bad)

GeForce 440 64mb video

The cdrom drive failed on me, but I was able to replace the floppy drive with another CD-rom drive.

I modified the hard drive bay caddy (mostly with electrical tape and the plastic case of a CF card) to house a 4GB CompactFlash card connected to a CF to IDE laptop convertor. With a little bit of fuss, I was able to get it to slide into the bay without catching on anything.

Using a Debian Etch CD, I did a full disk encryption LVM base install. It wasn’t too slow, however there were parts where the CF card was obviously choking a bit.

After booting into the system, I tested the CF card with hdparm -tT /dev/hda and was pleasantly surprised.

Timing cached reads: 716 MB in 2.00 seconds = 357.50 MB/sec
Timing buffered disk reads: 114 MB in 3.02 seconds = 37.71 MB/sec

So cached reads are about 1/2 as slow as I’d expect from a regular IDE drive, but the buffered disk reads are about as high.
I’m running Fluxbox, with Iceweasel and a few other operations and am noticing no problems with performance. Sometimes when dealing with multiple files at the same time things get slow.

Like any solid-state drive, this will make your laptop much more rugged (no moving parts except for fans and cd-rom drive).

While it has limited space, I could have easily purchased a 8/16/32GB CF card with similar speeds… if I had the money.

The CF card was around $25, and the adapter was $5.

For the next stage, I plan on using the now dead CD rom bay on the side to house USB devices with a powered USB hub.

This laptop will mainly be used for school (if it gets stolen, not a big deal) and war driving.

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