FlightAware Discussions

Linux LapTop

Has anyone set up a older laptop running Linux just like we use a Raspberry Pi for? I am curious what could be done and possibly a list of specs and what version on Linux to use?

Thanks in advance.


Doesn’t really matter which Linux.
Any Ubuntu or Debian will be easiest in regards to compiling dump1090-fa/piaware.

Not sure how old you are talking, but a Laptop from 2005 will be easily sufficient to run dump1090-fa.
At least that would be my guess.

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I have tried both Ubuntu 18.04 and Debian 9.9 on Intel machine. I found that Ubuntu takes longer time to boot and respond compared to Debian.

Raspbian Desktop for PC & Mac is faster than both.


I have repurposed a couple of 10-year old netbooks (32-bit Intel atom CPU, 2GB memory - Acer and Asus) for various things (pi.hole, testing various ADS-B antenna/dongle combinations remotely, etc.), using Raspbian Desktop (set to run headless) for a very similar ‘Pi’ experience. The bonus features for me: the batteries are still reasaonably good(!), they have realtime clocks, they have ethernet (hard-wired and wireless), have plenty of USB ports, they have a screen and keyboard, they are very portable and self-contained, they consume barely a few more watts when charging than a Pi, and they still work well(!). Very slight differences in libraries and sources for building things, but keeps the ‘mind-switch’ between Pi and PC installed OS to a minimum for me. And if you don’t want the GUI interface, simply turn it off using systemctl set-default multi-user.target or back to GUI using systemctl set-default graphical.target and rebooting.

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I was.offered to buy a quad core laptop that is several years old but in nice shape. If I can remember it’s a I3 model. I thought about installing Linux on it and using it for more radio projects plus making it easier for me to learn. I saw a few YouTube videos showing how to replace windows with linux

i3 isn’t quad core. at best it’s two cores with hyperthreading.

not that it matters it’s plenty fast.

Just don’t pay too much, old laptops are real cheap if they are old enough :slight_smile:

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Are they cheaper than RPi?
What about Electricity consumption for 24/7 use compared to RPi?



100 W is not realistic for a laptop.
Those are much lower.

If powersaving powers off the screen, most should be less than 20W easily at near idle.

If you use powertop --autotune on startup as a cronjob that also can help quite a bit.

I’ve got my (not too old) Lenovo x230 down to 8W running dump1090-fa with an rtl-sdr dongle.


That calculation was for a Desktop :wink:

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Same here with my old Acer and Asus netbooks - screen off, not charging, FA Blue dongle, wireless on, bluetooth on, screen OFF - 8 watts steady consumption (Kill-A-Watt measurement device). When the charge cycle is on, consumption is 14-16Watts, and that’s not often.

A more ‘recent’ vintage 2011 Dell 5430 laptop with core i5 10GB memory, FA Blue dongle is a bit more power-hungry at 11 watts steady state, 23 watts charging (bigger battery), (all screen off). Paid 65USD with shipping (found a good deal).

Pi 3B+ with FA Blue dongle wireless on is 5Watts steady consumption.

For a ‘mature’ application like my FlightFeeders, the Pi is fine. For development and testing, I’ll gladly take the additional 3-19 extra watts power consumption for the benefits of a completely portable device with battery backup, SSD storage, real time clock, keyboard and screen. Other’s preferences will be different, of course.

But this is somewhat off topic - just wanted to give my ‘thumbs-up’ :+1:vote for the Raspbian Desktop on an Intel/AMD-based device, especially for not having to deal with too many differences between that and the OS running on a Pi.:+1:


On Raspbian Desktop you can even add the armhf architecture and run armhf fr24feed.
(the x86 versions are outdated)

Also you can just use the piaware repository for dump1090-fa and piaware.


I picked up a Dell Inspiron 1545 dual core 4 threads for this adventure. My other offer of a laptop did not go through. I found it on offer up and offered 50 bucks. Nice shape but needed battery. Amazon and 19 bucks later for the battery. A new adventure into ADSB.

Im actually having trouble installing Raspberry Pi desktop onto the laptop. When I try to install it the installation it will not allow to use the drive or a USB stick either

You shouldn’t expect the Raspberry PI distributions to work on laptops. The hardware is different.
The laptop is most likely using an Intel processor (old apple laptops had Power PC processors).
So you need an Linux OS install for Intel CPUs.
Any of the default standard Linux distributions should work. Choose Debian or Ubuntu if you want to have ‘apt’ for managing package installations.

If it’s an old laptop - then do some research on the net about which desktop environment you use. There are some desktop environments that remove features to save on resources - so things go faster.

As an example - some desktop environments will have a process running that is keeping a search index up to date - so you can search for contents of files and get the results quickly. This type of activity can eat away at the available CPU and Memory on the machine - leaving less for your normal activities.

Picking a ‘lite’ desktop environment saves resources by not bothering installing those extra bells and whistles by default

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The Raspbian Desktop distribution is made for x86 (intel processors).

So it’s a choice just like you describe, a rather lite distribution.

The laptop should be sufficiently current for this.

(Edit: not going to find much more useful than hitting F12 probably:
Have you googled the model number of your laptop combined with “installing linux”?)

Just after turning on the laptop, hit F12 repeatedly until a menu comes up.
This way you can select to boot from USB.

Does it boot from the USB drive?
That hopefully makes less problems than using a cd-rom.


This guide seems appropriate, maybe try it in regards to making the USB drive?


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Those are good questions I need to answer. I will have to Google and try like you said. No it doesnt boot from the USB drive or a DVD disk or from a Micro SD card.