Last year I wrote a huge blog post about an offline laptop attempt.
It kinda worked but I wasn’t really happy with the setups, need and goals.
So, it is back and I use it know, and I am very happy with it.
This article explains my experience at solving my needs, I would
appreciate not receiving advice or judgments here.
State of the need
Internet is infinite, my time is not
Having access to the Internet is a gift, I can access anything or anyone. But
this comes with a few drawbacks. I can waste my time on anything, which is not
particularly helpful. There are so many content that I only scratch things,
knowing it will still be there when I need it, and jump to something else. The
amount of data is impressive, one human can’t absorb that much, we have to deal
I used to spend time of what I had, and now I just spend time on what exist. An
example of this statement is that instead of reading books I own, I’m looking
for which book I may want to read once, meanwhile no book are read.
Network socialization requires time
When I say “network socialization” this is so to avoid the easy “social
network” saying. I do speak with people on IRC (in real time most of the time),
I am helping people on reddit, I am reading and writing mail most of the time
for OpenBSD development.
Don’t get me wrong, I am happy doing this, but I always keep an eye on each,
trying to help people as soon as they ask a question, but this is really time
consuming for me. I spend a lot of time jumping from one thing to another to
keep myself updated on everything, and so I am too distracted to do anything.
In my first attempt of the offline laptop, I wanted to get my mails on it, but
it was too painful to download everything and keep mails in sync. Sending
emails would have required network too, it wouldn’t be an offline laptop
IT as a living and as a hobby
On top of this, I am working in IT so I spend my day doing things over the
Internet and after work I spend my time on open source projects. I can not
really disconnect from the Internet for both.
How I solved this
First step was to define « What do I like to do? », and I came with this short
- listening to music
- playing video games
- writing things
- learning things
One could say I don’t need a computer to read books, but I have lots of ebooks
and PDF about lots of subjects. The key is to load everything you need on the
computer, because it can be tempting to connect the device to the Internet
because you need a bit of this or that.
I use a very old computer with a PowerPC CPU (1.3 GHz single core) with 512MB
of ram. I like that old computer, and slower computer forbid doing multiple
things at the same time and help me staying on focus.
For reading, I found zathura or comix (and its fork mcomix) very
useful for reading huge PDF, the scrolling customization make those tools
Listening to music
I buy my music as FLAC files and download it, this doesn’t require any internet
access except at purchase time, so nothing special there. I use moc player
which is easy to use, have a lot of feature and supports FLAC (on powerpc).
Emulation is a nice way to play lot of games on OpenBSD, on my old computer
it’s up to game boy advance / super nes / megadrive which should allow me to do
again lots of games I own.
We also have a lot of nice games in ports, but my computer is too slow to run
them or they won’t work on powerpc.
Encyclopedia - Wikipedia
I’ve set up a local wikipedia replica like I explained in a previous article,
so anytime I need to find about something, I can ask my local wikipedia. It’s
always available. This is the best I found for a local encyclopedia, works
Since I started the offline computer experience, I started a diary. I never
felt the need to do so but I wanted to give it a try. I have to admit summing up
what I achieved in the day before going to bed is a satisfying experience and
now I continue to update it.
You can use any text editor you want, there are special software with specific
features, like rednotebook or lifeograph which supports embedded pictures or on
the fly markdown rendering. But a text file and your favorite editor also do
I also write some articles of this blog. It’s easy to do so as articles are
text files in a git repository. When I finish and I need to publish, I get
network and push changes to the connected computer which will do the publishing
I will go fast on this. My set up is an old Apple IBook G4 with a
1024x768 screen (I love this 4:3 ratio) running OpenBSD.
The system firewall pf is configured to prevent any incoming
connections, and only allow TCP on the network to port 22, because
when I need to copy files, I use ssh / sftp. The /home partition is
encrypted using the softraid crypto device, full disk encryption is
not supported on powerpc.
The experience is even more enjoyable with a warm cup of tea on hand.