What's the best low-end supported Linux to use in a very old 2008 MacBook Pro?

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Ant

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Jun 15, 2022, 2:41:50 PMJun 15
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Hello.

I have a 14 years old old MacBook Pro (15" A1260 model, unibody; 2.4 Ghz
Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB (667 MHz) of DDR2 SDRAM, 200 GB HDD, NVIDIA
GeForce 8600M GT (256 MB of VRAM), & Mac OS X (El Capitan v10.11.6))
from early 2008. Its software are too old, unsupported, and too slow.

I am thinking about replacing them with Linux, but which one would be
suitable for it? I still want basic GUI like web browsing. I remember
trying doing the same for an old PowerBook G4, but I couldn't get its
wifi to work with various Linux installations. I hope this won't happen
again with it.

Thank you for reading and hopefully answering soon. :)
--
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Note: A fixed width font (Courier, Monospace, etc.) is required to see this signature correctly.
/\___/\ Ant(Dude) @ http://aqfl.net & http://antfarm.home.dhs.org.
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Mike Easter

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Jun 15, 2022, 4:08:13 PMJun 15
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Ant wrote:
>
> I have a 14 years old old MacBook Pro (15" A1260 model, unibody; 2.4 Ghz
> Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB (667 MHz) of DDR2 SDRAM, 200 GB HDD, NVIDIA
> GeForce 8600M GT (256 MB of VRAM), & Mac OS X (El Capitan v10.11.6))
> from early 2008. Its software are too old, unsupported, and too slow.
>
> I am thinking about replacing them with Linux, but which one would be
> suitable for it? I still want basic GUI like web browsing. I remember
> trying doing the same for an old PowerBook G4, but I couldn't get its
> wifi to work with various Linux installations. I hope this won't happen
> again with it.
>
I don't have any personal experience w/ this; I just read things.

Is your plan to install the linux to the hdd, or just run it live? I'll
assume you want to install it, because that is more conventional, and
also you will have more 'breathing room' than just doing everything live.

Personally I like to 'evaluate' things by running an .iso live, so the
majority of my experience is with live, which in your situation has
advantages to check out a number of live distro/s before installing.

My preferred method of running live distro/s is using a Ventoy USB
stick, because I can put some number on a 16 or 32G stick. Also Ventoy
lends itself to faster 'putting on' and 'taking off' of .iso/s to test.
You are posting here w/ linux, so I assume you can use the linux tools
to make a Ventoy USB, then save some .iso/s to hdd and pick some to
write to the Ventoy.

Your 2G of ram is enough to boot whichever linux you want, but not
necessarily give you a lot of room to be wasting ram on a bloated system
w/ a lot of browser window/tabs open.

I think the Mac would need some help w/ the boot, such as refind.

> Newsgroups: linuxanswers.discussion ,alt.os.linux, alt.linux, alt.uu.comp.os.linux.questions

You are x-posting your msg to various groups I don't read; and I don't
post to groups I don't read so I'm stripping all of the groups for my
reply except aol. If you xpost, you are obligated to read every group
you post to.


--
Mike Easter

Marco Moock

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Jun 15, 2022, 4:08:18 PMJun 15
to
Am Mittwoch, 15. Juni 2022, um 13:41:43 Uhr schrieb Ant:

> I am thinking about replacing them with Linux, but which one would be
> suitable for it? I still want basic GUI like web browsing. I remember
> trying doing the same for an old PowerBook G4, but I couldn't get its
> wifi to work with various Linux installations. I hope this won't
> happen again with it.

Debian should be fine. Use LXDE or a window manager like mwm/fvwm.
For wifi, open a separate thread and post the device id (lspci shows
it).

Mike Easter

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Jun 15, 2022, 4:21:31 PMJun 15
to
Ant wrote:
> I remember trying doing the same for an old PowerBook G4, but I
> couldn't get its wifi to work with various Linux installations.
The easiest way to solve wifi problems for me is to hook up to temporary
ethernet to get connectivity. Then I'm able to post info to a newsgroup
and get some help getting my wifi situation straightened out.

Also, if I'm connected it is easier to dl tools or packages to solve the
problem. Personally I like to use inxi -Nn to get info about my network
devices and drivers, and some distro/s have inxi installed by default
and some have it in their repo/s.


--
Mike Easter

Mike Easter

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Jun 15, 2022, 4:54:18 PMJun 15
to
Ant wrote:
> Subject: What's the best low-end supported Linux to use in a very old 2008 MacBook Pro?

Give MX Linux a shot; it has some neat tools in the default to solve
networking problems.

#1 in DistroWatch pagehit rankings. The flagship is the XFCE v.

https://mxlinux.org/


--
Mike Easter

Ant

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Jun 15, 2022, 7:55:59 PMJun 15
to
Mike Easter <Mi...@ster.invalid> wrote:
> Ant wrote:
> >
> > I have a 14 years old old MacBook Pro (15" A1260 model, unibody; 2.4 Ghz
> > Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB (667 MHz) of DDR2 SDRAM, 200 GB HDD, NVIDIA
> > GeForce 8600M GT (256 MB of VRAM), & Mac OS X (El Capitan v10.11.6))
> > from early 2008. Its software are too old, unsupported, and too slow.
> >
> > I am thinking about replacing them with Linux, but which one would be
> > suitable for it? I still want basic GUI like web browsing. I remember
> > trying doing the same for an old PowerBook G4, but I couldn't get its
> > wifi to work with various Linux installations. I hope this won't happen
> > again with it.
> >
> I don't have any personal experience w/ this; I just read things.

> Is your plan to install the linux to the hdd, or just run it live? I'll
> assume you want to install it, because that is more conventional, and
> also you will have more 'breathing room' than just doing everything live.

Install into its original HDD.


> Personally I like to 'evaluate' things by running an .iso live, so the
> majority of my experience is with live, which in your situation has
> advantages to check out a number of live distro/s before installing.

I can try live to see if OS briefly works or not. However, live discs
are slow so...


> My preferred method of running live distro/s is using a Ventoy USB
> stick, because I can put some number on a 16 or 32G stick. Also Ventoy
> lends itself to faster 'putting on' and 'taking off' of .iso/s to test.
> You are posting here w/ linux, so I assume you can use the linux tools
> to make a Ventoy USB, then save some .iso/s to hdd and pick some to
> write to the Ventoy.

Hmm, I wonder if it can even boot from USB.


> Your 2G of ram is enough to boot whichever linux you want, but not
> necessarily give you a lot of room to be wasting ram on a bloated system
> w/ a lot of browser window/tabs open.

Yeah.

Ant

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Jun 15, 2022, 8:17:10 PMJun 15
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Which ones do I get from https://mxlinux.org/download-links/ for it?

David W. Hodgins

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Jun 15, 2022, 8:28:27 PMJun 15
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On Wed, 15 Jun 2022 19:55:52 -0400, Ant <a...@zimage.comant> wrote:
> Hmm, I wonder if it can even boot from USB.

Some bios will not show the option unless it detects a bootable usb drive
already plugged in.

Make sure you use a raw write utility such as dd to copy the iso to the usb
drive, not a file level copy utility.

Regards, Dave Hodgins

Ant

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Jun 15, 2022, 8:44:29 PMJun 15
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I don't think MacBooks have BIOS like PC unless I'm missing something.

David W. Hodgins

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Jun 15, 2022, 8:52:07 PMJun 15
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On Wed, 15 Jun 2022 20:44:22 -0400, Ant <a...@zimage.comant> wrote:

> David W. Hodgins <dwho...@nomail.afraid.org> wrote:
>> On Wed, 15 Jun 2022 19:55:52 -0400, Ant <a...@zimage.comant> wrote:
>> > Hmm, I wonder if it can even boot from USB.
>
>> Some bios will not show the option unless it detects a bootable usb drive
>> already plugged in.
>
>> Make sure you use a raw write utility such as dd to copy the iso to the usb
>> drive, not a file level copy utility.
>
>> Regards, Dave Hodgins
>
> I don't think MacBooks have BIOS like PC unless I'm missing something.

If it uses uefi, the Mageia iso images support that too.

Regards, Dave Hodgins

Mike Easter

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Jun 15, 2022, 9:11:36 PMJun 15
to
Ant wrote:
> Which ones do I get fromhttps://mxlinux.org/download-links/ for it?

I seem to remember someone Mac saying something about part of the Mac
being 32bit in spite of a 64bit cpu; maybe you should get the

> MX-21.1_386, containing a 32 bit PAE kernel from Debian Stable,
> suitable for systems that are 32 bit only.

The guy who dev/d the refind has these things to say about your El
Capitan 10.11

https://www.rodsbooks.com/refind/sip.html

> Apple's macOS 10.11 (aka El Capitan) added a new feature, known as
> System Integrity Protection (SIP), aka "rootless" mode. This feature
> causes some consternation for advanced users, because it restricts
> what you can do with your computer, even as root. This page is
> dedicated to this feature, including basic information on why SIP
> exists, how to install rEFInd on a computer with SIP enabled, and how
> to use rEFInd to manage SIP.




--
Mike Easter

Paul

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Jun 16, 2022, 1:43:46 AMJun 16
to
On 6/15/2022 2:41 PM, Ant wrote:
> Hello.
>
> I have a 14 years old old MacBook Pro (15" A1260 model, unibody; 2.4 Ghz
> Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB (667 MHz) of DDR2 SDRAM, 200 GB HDD, NVIDIA
> GeForce 8600M GT (256 MB of VRAM), & Mac OS X (El Capitan v10.11.6))
> from early 2008. Its software are too old, unsupported, and too slow.
>
> I am thinking about replacing them with Linux, but which one would be
> suitable for it? I still want basic GUI like web browsing. I remember
> trying doing the same for an old PowerBook G4, but I couldn't get its
> wifi to work with various Linux installations. I hope this won't happen
> again with it.
>
> Thank you for reading and hopefully answering soon. :)
>

The "Nvidia 8600M GT" is one of the ones with the solder balls problem.
Depending on the service history (already replaced motherboard),
you may or may not want to spend one extra thin dime on the thing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacBook_Pro_%28Intel-based%29

*******

You could get a 2x2GB SODIMM kit and upgrade the RAM a bit.
The RAM is not soldered down.

The max RAM is listed as 6GB (2GB+4GB kit), but that's a lot
more expensive than a 2x2GB kit. The chipsets of that era
(like my deceased X48 motherboard), Intel had a lower limit
on the CAS value, like CAS 4 was as low as mine would go.
Whereas my VIA chipset Core2 motherboard, could go down to
at least CAS 3 (I tested that).

https://eshop.macsales.com/shop/memory/MacBook/Pro/Core2/

4GB (2GB x 2)
CAS 4 Low-Latency <=== lower CAS is better... until chipset limit hits
$20.88

That suggestion is not necessarily to help the OS, it's
for whatever the web browser turns out to be.

*******

As for what OS, I would not be too picky to start with,
and just "test'em". Using a Mac is likely to have surprises,
and attempting to "dial in the exact right distro on the
first try" may be an unrealistic expectation. You'll
get symptoms, you'll feed the symptoms into Google
searches, and that will help you tune the final distro
choice.

I've run a PPC Ubuntu distro on my Mac G4. The second last
distro was better than the last distro made for PPC. I think
that Mac might still have been OpenFirmware (OF) and the boot
used on the DVD was "unique" in a sense.

With regard to your statement about

"Aw, but LiveDVDs are so slow"

Well, not if you do this on the kernel boot line

TORAM=yes

That transfers the 2.6GB DVD into RAM, and you can
pop the DVD out of the tray and everything and run.
You can even do an install from the RAM, eliminating
a lot of clunking noises until it's done.

To be successful at TORAM runs, I'd want the 2GB+4GB
configuration, so that you can test anything you like.
The 2GB+2GB memory kit will be enough for a lot
of setups, but maybe not a max-sized one like a Knoppix
while using TORAM. Knoppix actually has a different
command line thing for its TORAM option.

For the final install, I would think the $20.88 memory
kit would kick ass. It's just for testing large LiveDVD
and TORAM, I'd want lots of RAM so there will be room.

To read the DVD into RAM, takes time. It helps if
your DVD media isn't a poor brand (like what I'm using),
as the read rate during loading stays high if you have
good DVD media. If the media needs error correction,
the load time can slow down.

I'd just calibrate with a Linux Mint Cinnamon, install it
(so the RAM will stretch further), try it out and see
what you think.

*******

To be at its absolute best, you'd want an NVidia driver
for the 8600M GT. There are several legacy drivers, as
replacements for Nouveau. The legacy drivers have
"kernel version ranges" with regard to DKMS installation
of the NVidia driver. The oldest legacy driver may not
be suited to running with a 5.15 kernel.

https://www.nvidia.com/Download/driverResults.aspx/156163/en-us

It's possible kernel 5.4 might work.

https://forums.developer.nvidia.com/t/nvidia-340-108-driver-kernel-5-11-support/182663/6

We go here and see that UMA hasn't gone crazy yet with kernel version.

https://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=mint

5-LMDE 20.3
elsie uma
+---+
linux (5.18.4) 5.10.103 |5.4|
+---+

It looks like 20.3 uma would be a good fit for an NVidia Driver.

I'm sure you're going to have fun with this.

Making a Mac do things they didn't want you to do,
is a great hobby :-)

*******

These are the two formats for potential GLXGears benchmark command.
Passing the parameter, takes the frame limiting cap off. Above
20000 to 22000 frames a second, the response is non-linear, and
it's not clear exactly how much higher it will go. This would
be considered a Stupid Pet Trick. The main purpose of doing this,
is to see if hardware acceleration is working. You expect the
NVidia driver to be better than the Nouveau default. I would not
be so against the Nouveau driver, if it did not black screen the
other machine so much. I have to use NVidia driver on the other machine,
to ensure a working screen on each boot.

vblank_mode=0 glxgears

__GL_SYNC_TO_VBLANK=0 glxgears

If hardware acceleration is working, this will help your browser
to work better. Then, only the Javascript can suck the life
out of your dual core processor.

Paul

J.O. Aho

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Jun 16, 2022, 1:44:49 AMJun 16
to
On 15/06/2022 22.08, Mike Easter wrote:

>
>> Newsgroups: linuxanswers.discussion ,alt.os.linux, alt.linux,
>> alt.uu.comp.os.linux.questions
>
> You are x-posting your msg to various groups I don't read; and I don't
> post to groups I don't read so I'm stripping all of the groups for my
> reply except aol.  If you xpost, you are obligated to read every group
> you post to.

And you ruined the thread for all who do not subscribe for alt.os.linux,

--

//Aho

J.O. Aho

unread,
Jun 16, 2022, 1:54:10 AMJun 16
to
On 15/06/2022 22.21, Mike Easter wrote:
> Ant wrote:
>> I remember trying doing the same for an old PowerBook G4, but I
>> couldn't get its wifi to work with various Linux installations.
> The easiest way to solve wifi problems for me is to hook up to temporary
> ethernet to get connectivity.  Then I'm able to post info to a newsgroup
> and get some help getting my wifi situation straightened out.
>
> Also, if I'm connected it is easier to dl tools or packages to solve the
> problem.

Back in the days with PowerPC Mac's, there was issues with some apple
hardware not supported and only a limited amount of Macs was supported
by distros like Yellow Dog. A half hour install tended to take a whole day.

Nowadays you have better support for Mac, but you should be a bit
hesitant to install Linux bare metal on a M1/M2 apple, there are some
issues with those.


> Personally I like to use inxi -Nn to get info about my network
> devices and drivers, and some distro/s have inxi installed by default
> and some have it in their repo/s.

Not all distros has inxi, but then lshw is available which I think is
great if you need a lot of information, otherwise lspci tend to give
enough information to the further if there is an issues with wifi.

--

//Aho

J.O. Aho

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Jun 16, 2022, 2:06:01 AMJun 16
to

On 15/06/2022 20.41, Ant wrote:

> I have a 14 years old old MacBook Pro (15" A1260 model, unibody; 2.4 Ghz
> Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB (667 MHz) of DDR2 SDRAM, 200 GB HDD, NVIDIA
> GeForce 8600M GT (256 MB of VRAM), & Mac OS X (El Capitan v10.11.6))
> from early 2008. Its software are too old, unsupported, and too slow.

Maybe this was your thread at reddit:
https://www.reddit.com/r/FindMeADistro/comments/ut747l/distro_for_ancient_2008_macbook/

You have to keep in mind the number of Mac users ain't really big and
even less of them uses Linux, so that why you will not get a best tested
distribution suggested. I could add AntiX as a distro you can try out,
you may want to run the distro from USB first, to see what it supports
from default.

https://antixlinux.com/the-most-extensive-live-usb-on-the-planet/

I would suggest you do the same for which ever distro you want to test.


I would also recommend to look into replacing the 200GB HDD with at
least a 250GB SSD, it would make the laptop a bit more responsive even
if you only get 3Gb/s as max from the SSD.


--

//Aho

Richard Kettlewell

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Jun 16, 2022, 3:28:46 AMJun 16
to
Mike Easter <Mi...@ster.invalid> writes:
> Ant wrote:
>> Which ones do I get fromhttps://mxlinux.org/download-links/ for it?
>
> I seem to remember someone Mac saying something about part of the Mac
> being 32bit in spite of a 64bit cpu; maybe you should get the

Some of them had 32-bit EFI despite running a 64-bit OS, e.g. the early
Mac Pros.

https://everymac.com/systems/apple/macbook_pro/specs/macbook-pro-core-2-duo-2.4-15-early-2008-penryn-specs.html
says A1260 has 64-bit EFI however.

--
https://www.greenend.org.uk/rjk/

Aragorn

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Jun 16, 2022, 6:38:37 AMJun 16
to
On 15.06.2022 at 19:44, Ant scribbled:

> David W. Hodgins <dwho...@nomail.afraid.org> wrote:
> > On Wed, 15 Jun 2022 19:55:52 -0400, Ant <a...@zimage.comant> wrote:
> > > Hmm, I wonder if it can even boot from USB.
>
> > Some bios will not show the option unless it detects a bootable usb
> > drive already plugged in.
>
> > Make sure you use a raw write utility such as dd to copy the iso to
> > the usb drive, not a file level copy utility.
>
> > Regards, Dave Hodgins
>
> I don't think MacBooks have BIOS like PC unless I'm missing something.

They have an Apple-specific implementation of UEFI, but it should be
compatible with any UEFI-capable x86-64 OS.

--
With respect,
= Aragorn =

Aragorn

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Jun 16, 2022, 6:45:19 AMJun 16
to
On 15.06.2022 at 18:11, Mike Easter scribbled:

> Ant wrote:
> > Which ones do I get fromhttps://mxlinux.org/download-links/ for
> > it?
>
> I seem to remember someone Mac saying something about part of the Mac
> being 32bit in spite of a 64bit cpu

The first Intel-based Macs were all 64-bit capable, but they would
boot a 32-bit version of the kernel by default unless a special key
combination was pressed during power-up. If the user did press that
key combination, then it would boot a 64-bit kernel, but the userland
was all still 32-bit.

Later versions of macOS would boot in 64-bit mode only, and I'm not
even sure whether it was still compatible with 32-bit userland
software — it might have been, for a while still.

J.O. Aho

unread,
Jun 16, 2022, 7:41:23 AMJun 16
to
Yes, the PowerPC OSX (10.5 Leopard) that did run 64bit kernel did have
support to run both 64bit and 32bit applications.

--

//Aho

Auric__

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Jun 16, 2022, 12:34:43 PMJun 16
to
Ant wrote:

> I have a 14 years old old MacBook Pro (15" A1260 model, unibody; 2.4 Ghz
> Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB (667 MHz) of DDR2 SDRAM, 200 GB HDD, NVIDIA
> GeForce 8600M GT (256 MB of VRAM), & Mac OS X (El Capitan v10.11.6))
> from early 2008. Its software are too old, unsupported, and too slow.
>
> I am thinking about replacing them with Linux, but which one would be
> suitable for it? I still want basic GUI like web browsing. I remember
> trying doing the same for an old PowerBook G4, but I couldn't get its
> wifi to work with various Linux installations. I hope this won't happen
> again with it.

I spent 2 years running my slightly older iMac (2007, 2.0GHz, 1GB RAM, dead
HDD) off a Slax v6 disk. Worked just fine. Modern versions of Slax no longer
work for me, but SystemRescueCD did, last time I tried. (I haven't tried
anything recently, because it now runs an old version of OSX.)

Personally, I prefer Slackware, but I don't know if v15 or -current would
work on such an old machine.

--
Truth is meaningless to a demon. It is only a tool to be used as convenient.

Ant

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Jun 16, 2022, 8:28:47 PMJun 16
to
In alt.os.linux J.O. Aho <us...@example.net> wrote:

> On 15/06/2022 20.41, Ant wrote:

> > I have a 14 years old old MacBook Pro (15" A1260 model, unibody; 2.4 Ghz
> > Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB (667 MHz) of DDR2 SDRAM, 200 GB HDD, NVIDIA
> > GeForce 8600M GT (256 MB of VRAM), & Mac OS X (El Capitan v10.11.6))
> > from early 2008. Its software are too old, unsupported, and too slow.

> Maybe this was your thread at reddit:
> https://www.reddit.com/r/FindMeADistro/comments/ut747l/distro_for_ancient_2008_macbook/

Nope. Darn, his post got deleted.


> You have to keep in mind the number of Mac users ain't really big and
> even less of them uses Linux, so that why you will not get a best tested
> distribution suggested. I could add AntiX as a distro you can try out,
> you may want to run the distro from USB first, to see what it supports
> from default.

> https://antixlinux.com/the-most-extensive-live-usb-on-the-planet/

> I would suggest you do the same for which ever distro you want to test.


> I would also recommend to look into replacing the 200GB HDD with at
> least a 250GB SSD, it would make the laptop a bit more responsive even
> if you only get 3Gb/s as max from the SSD.

I don't have the budget to buy stuff at this time. I just wanted to see
if I could reuse this old MBP with supported modern softwares.
--
:) Picard Day! Nice hump day until at night when the router's wifi acted weird with the Internet. :( Please beat Celtics tonight, Warriors!
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