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How I Migrate My Old Laptop From Lubuntu To Debian

Background story

I bought this old laptop (Dell Inspiron 3421 2GB RAM) in 2012. When it’s new, it came with Ubuntu 10.04. Over the years, its performance becomes slower. It comes to an unusable point for me.

Since 2015, I hardly use it. Near the end of 2019, I began to explore my options to revive this old junk. It’s not in good condition. I’ve already thrown away the battery because it’s not working anymore. Its DVD drive is not working anymore.

At the beginning of 2020, I did a clean install of Lubuntu. Here’s why: it’s not able to keep up with the latest Ubuntu version anymore. As far as I know, at that time, Lubuntu is much lighter than Ubuntu. It’s true.

After installing Lubuntu, I feel it’s a fast as when it’s still brand new. Booting is much faster. Running Firefox still feels responsive.

Problems with Lubuntu

After several months, I notice there are some problems:

  1. When I type something, I see the keyboard seems running itself. It is happening randomly. For example, when I press the Y key, it will show many Y on the screen as I keep doing it several times. Weird.
  2. The network manager icon often disappears. Not sure why.
  3. The transition between the window is too fast. It’s not smooth.
  4. I can’t upgrade from 19.04 directly because it has reached its end of life.

For the last problem, I admit it’s my fault. To upgrade, I need to do a clean install of Lubuntu 20.04.

So, instead of upgrading to Lubuntu 20.04, I explore more alternatives. I want to know there’s something lighter and more minimalist than Lubuntu.

Download Debian

On that Sunday evening, I decided to try downloading the Debian. Ubuntu and Lubuntu base on Debian. So, why not give it a try.

Here comes another problem. I only have a thumb drive with 2GB capacity! Yet, it needs more than 2GB to download and save the Debian installer.

I explore more and realize Debian provides installation through the network.

Then, I remember I still save a long LAN cable somewhere in this house. I look for it and test it. It works. Therefore, everything is ready.

Install Debian 10 Stable

After downloading the Debian for network installation, I save it to the thumb drive and make it bootable.

It’s easy to make it bootable. I use the startup disk creator program on the existing Lubuntu.

The installation process runs smoothly. I only have one doubt during the process. The touchpad doesn’t work at all. I navigate through the installation menus using the keyboard.

If things come to worst, and Debian can’t make the touchpad working, I’ll buy a USB mouse.

But, after installation is complete, the touchpad works well. Only one thing does not work. It’s Wi-Fi.

Fix the Wi-Fi problem

I do these to fix the Wi-Fi problem:

  • Find the Wi-Fi card series.
  • Search it on Google.
  • I land on the non-free Debian repository that contains the drive for that Wi-Fi card.
  • I add it to the sources list
  • Run apt-get update
  • Install the driver package

And the Wi-Fi problem solved.

Aftermath

I don’t do many tweaks. I just uninstall all the packages that are not necessary. I leave only those parts of the gnome core.

I also install some packages I need like htop, vim, etc.

Then, I tweak some settings on Firefox ESR for more privacy. I also tweak it to use less memory.

In the end, everything runs smoothly again. All the four problems with Lubuntu above solved.

However, I see another problem now. When I open many tabs in Firefox ESR, the desktop is frozen. Here’s how I solve this problem in detail.

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