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    For the past two years I’ve been using a Raspberry Pi Zero W (yeah, the $10 one) as my daily driver. I do occasionally get to do extraneous stuff on my uni-issued laptop, but for the most part I use the Pi, with Alpine Linux (which I found to be much more lightweight than Arch or Debian-based distros) and i3wm.

    Suffice to say that most things simply don’t work on the Pi. Browsing is limited to Netsurf with JS disabled, meaning I have to use my phone to comment here (HN being the only site I’ve seen so far that works perfectly without JS). I practically live in xterm, because most GUI stuff is too slow to be usable. I do occasionally use some lightweight GTK or SDL applications though.

    By far the most annoying thing about using the Pi Zero, though, is that any software that relies on GPU acceleration is completely off-limits. That means that pretty much all Vulcan/OpenGL/GLU software is unusable, which includes all Qt applications (I haven’t found a way to disable OpenGL in Qt; if you know a way, by all means let me know). Even simple things like music players and pixel art editors that lack any kind of animations or videos or any other godforsaken garbage that would benefit from hardware acceleration in the least uses Vulcan or OpenGL for some reason. Why? Just why?

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      Regarding hardware acceleration in 2D applications. Using a dedicated chip for rendering is more power efficient so it should be used if possible. For example in a video player the image needs to be interpolated to match screen resolution and a colorspace conversion might be involved as well, which are both an ideal match for a GPU.

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        I’ve wondered this myself. My home computer is an 8-core AMD FX with a 1GB GT720, and anything that uses opengl for compositing feels sluggish. I have to configure Firefox to not use the GPU for compositing, else I run up to the 1GB limit after opening just a few web pages, and then everything starts to feel slow.

        If it’s not for compositing then I don’t know what else Qt would be using opengl for. 20 years ago I ran Qt apps on machines that didn’t even have mesa installed, so what changed?

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          As someone who uses a ThinkPad T41 (Pentium M, 1GB RAM), I recommend Opera 12. It starts slower than Dillo or Netsurf, but it handles relatively modern JavaScript. Many sites like Lobsters and old Reddit work perfectly. The T41 is probably a bit more powerful than the Pi Zero W, but it might work for you too.

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          At home I’m using a small ARM device (Raspberry Pi 4 with an SSD) as my main computer

          I was interested to learn the why behind this choice but I didn’t think it was covered in the post?

          I toyed with a Pi 4 as a desktop for a bit too, out of curiosity mainly. It works pretty well—especially native binaries. Browsing and web applications, as well as things implemented in scripting languages like Python were where it fell down for me. You could only keep a limited amount of tabs active at a time and it became quite clear in things like modern chat applications that a lot of JS was running on every keystroke.

          It was great for finding slow paths in my usual set up though. The multi-second lag starting a new zsh instance prompted me to replace nvm with fnm for instance.

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            You could only keep a limited amount of tabs active at a time and it became quite clear in things like modern chat applications that a lot of JS was running on every keystroke.

            modern software is an absolute travesty

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              and it became quite clear in things like modern chat applications that a lot of JS was running on every keystroke.

              This describes my snappy-feeling. I have teams running and although it works, it isn’t pleasant. Switching from one chat to another takes 5 seconds. I really hope that someday someone makes a teams plugin for pidgin.

              I was interested to learn the why behind this choice but I didn’t think it was covered in the post?

              The why behind it has to do with my commute and the weight of my backpack. For the past few years I’d only have work computers at home, sometimes workstations and sometimes laptops (heavy due to the specs). Nothing that actually was mine. We are going back to the office instead of full remote and what drew me over the line was the weight of my current work laptop. When cycling to work its really noticeable if you have 3 kilograms less weight in your bag. Without laptop and power brick, I’m only carrying lunch, a tire repair kit and my wallet. Why not leave the laptop at work? Well, it’s uncertain if the next day I’ll be at work due to covid. Maybe a coworker has to quarantine and so do we or maybe the rules change.

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                Even lighter would be a VM that you hibernate to a thumb drive, and performance would be comparable.

                (Edit: on my initial read I thought you were toting the pi instead of the laptop, but after a second read, it sounds like maybe you’re just using it as a home computer and not toting any computing device?)

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                  Seems like a great solution. Less to cart on the bike and a super cheap home computer.

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                    Have you any idea what KDE is doing that would cause issues with snappiness - assuming you are noticing some effect on non-KDE apps?

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                  TBH, I’m not sure why one would do this other than e-Cred. You can find e-waste that will outperform this for dirt cheap; business desktops and even laptops.

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                    I personally did this back in 2012 when my 2008 Mac Pro died. I didn’t have any money to replace it and so used my Raspberry Pi as a daily driver for nearly two years until I had enough saved to buy a new computer.

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                      weight, power consumption, replaceability of hardware, maybe? you are right, I’m pretty sure buying a dirt cheap old thinkpad would be a much better experience, but they’re pretty heavy.

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                        It’s not like a Pi is a laptop without having to add a bunch of awkward peripherals.

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                        Cost of the unit isn’t necessarily the only factor. For me, having something that is energy efficient is important, especially if it’s on for many hours a day, ever day. It’s hard to beat the power consumption of a rpi or other ARM SBC with any ageing business desktop/laptop. Of course I’m assuming a typical workflow that doesn’t need a powerful system to begin with…

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                          I’d think if you were looking at a laptop, something like a Pinebook might be more appropriate than a Pi. (I would also suggest the M1 Macs, but I suspect someone using IceWM on a Pi probably wouldn’t want one no matter how good it is.)

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                            Yeah good point. Though if I were looking for a “desktop”, the rpi or something like it would be better than the pinebook since I’d want to use my own display and keyboard (so paying the premium for those in the pinebook doesn’t make a lot of sense)

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                        Thanks for the write up! I was not aware of IceWM. I’ll have to try it, as it looks like it has all the things I use in i3 and comes with a taskbar bundled.

                        I have long given up running all sorts of GUI apps on my RPi 4. It’s close, but not there yet. Hopefully the next generation will be fine. For now, I think the sweet spot for a cheap home (hell, even throwaway) machine is the used ThinkPad market. I’m typing this on a X240 that’s still going strong.

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                          I tried doing the same (edit: or rather, I tried this, but just with a custom case, and no SSD), and it was surprisingly effective and helped with focus, but the one thing that killed it for me was the SD card dying.

                          I really wish there was some way to trivially attach an NVMe drive to it. Maybe this case would make it worth trying again?

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                            Jeff Geerling has a write up on the case: https://www.jeffgeerling.com/blog/2021/argon-one-m2-raspberry-pi-ssd-case-review - that review was what made me buy and try it. Otherwise I hate SD cards, back in 2015 I already wrote about issues with the Pi and SD cards: http://raymii.org/s/blog/Broken_Corrupted_Raspberry_Pi_SD_Card.html

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                            The Raspberry Pi 4 is about as fast as a current-generation Celeron (used in lots of low end laptops or fanless PCs), so it’s actually not too underpowered for this…