ThinkPad Modding ft. Some Self-Reflection

“If you go too far left, you end up right” might be an apt way to describe my viewpoint on computers (well, among many things, but I digress).

I distinctly remember being 12, searching through catalogs and wasting my (precious limited) screen time online, picking PC parts and laptops and designing a dream build. Of course, that dream never came true. Instead, it faded into obscurity, bitterness, and embarrassment as software became more resource-heavy and the old machine at home would struggle to open more than 2 Google Chrome tabs, let alone support going to class on Zoom or join a Discord stream and play games with friends.

For years, I thought the solution to the problems I faced was just to buy something well-known and better - my classmates' parents and our family friends had no qualms dropping a (couple) grand on a new MacBook, so why shouldn’t we? Going into college up to getting my current laptop, I had an eye for the MacBook. Just about everyone I knew at home had one, and it was even more prevalent at school given how Windows setup and development can be.

However, my first laptop, a 14" HP Pavilion, was a far cry from what I considered ideal. Sure, at first, it ran fine - it even held its own editing short videos with Adobe After Effects and playing a handful of games - but again, it fell prey to both software bloat and gradual wear and tear. 9 months down the line, IntelliJ would freeze when opened, and again, tabs would eat up the measly 8 GB of RAM in seconds. At that time, I was introduced to notetaking with (Neo)Vim and LaTeX and consequently WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) and had much more freedom when it came to screen time as I was now in college. Through reading online, I learned to cut costs - use WSL and Neovim over VSCode for LaTeX, remove bloatware and unused programs to save resources, and switch around browsers to use less RAM. All of these workarounds made things just a bit more tolerable, but in the end, less than a year after IntelliJ quit, the hard disk followed suit after holding a Zoom discussion, causing a handful of students I taught to blame me for my computer.

As I thought about replacements for my then-dead laptop, a I brought up the idea of a MacBook again, this time with the leverage of making my own money and having had the dire situation that was my computer fizzling out during discussion. Of course, again, I didn’t end up following through, and well, it’s a good thing I settled on getting my current laptop for a fraction of the price. My positive experience with WSL and wariness of another drive meltdown pushed me to dual-boot, and before I knew it, I had Ubuntu on my system, and I haven’t looked back since.

Switching to Linux full-time was really when the realization kicked in - it wasn’t about what I had, but rather how I used it. It was what my parents had been telling me all along (given that every old machine at home has Linux on it in some way, shape, or form), but of course, it made more sense when I had to put the pieces together and learn for myself. And so, from there, I continued to go down the Linux/command line rabbit hole and learn beyond what I had been taught - learning new things about Neovim, shell scripts, command-line tools, window managers, and Arch (btw).

While I was looking to get RSS feeds instead of wasting hours on YouTube, I stumbled upon this article by Luke Smith, and things really went full circle - from the journey to seeking the latest and greatest in tech to going back to old computers. Of course, I was hooked, and now that I can feasibly sustain an expensive hobby, I went and did my research, then bought a T430 to mod. I hope I’ll be able to document my journey with the T430 (and hopefully more to come) and eventually use the T430 as a daily driver over summer in Seattle.

T430 Modding

T430 End Goal:

Current Status: Got all the mods done.

Future Projects