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Linux - Laptop and Netbook Having a problem installing or configuring Linux on your laptop? Need help running Linux on your netbook? This forum is for you. This forum is for any topics relating to Linux and either traditional laptops or netbooks (such as the Asus EEE PC, Everex CloudBook or MSI Wind).

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Old 04-18-2007, 01:14 AM   #1
kyleryner
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Linux for old 233mhz 64mb laptop that performs better than win98?


Hi all,

I had this old dell latitude cp - Pentium 233 mmx with 64 mb laptop. Its hard disk was broken, but I recently "resurrected" it with a 6 gig hd.

At first, i planned to set up win98se on it with MS office 97 for my wife to use Word and Excel on for light work... then a thought struck me.

I thought "Hey, I always was curious about this Linux thing ive heard so much about.. I hear they perform well on old hardware" So i decided to try it out. (Before this, my first exposure to Linux was when I downloaded Knoppix Live CD.. an online friend recommended that to try and recover some Hard disk data on my PC... that didnt work, but I was still impressed with Knoppix)

In the past 2 weeks, my mild curiosity/afterthought about Linux slowly turned into a downright obsession.. :-) ive downloaded, burned several CDs (in retrospect i should have used CD-RWs), installed and tried different Distros. I'm trying to diligently search and read forums as i go along, and everyday i learn something new. Im glad that i have this old laptop to "experiment" on. (Ive partitioned/formatted the hard drive several times ---sometimes without meaning to). Once i have this thing perfected, then maybe i could attempt to install it on my faster desktop systems (right now i dont want to risk "accidentally" partitioning my drives). The downside with experementing on this laptop is Im limited on what distros to use bec of the low-end specs (I read Debian and Ubuntu would have been awesome on a faster machine).

Anyway, my progess so far:

Knoppix didnt work on this old laptop, so didnt Debian, Ubuntu & Ark.

[EDIT: Thinking back, Debian actually worked; but I think it was bit slow and kinda complicated for me (it was my 3rd attempt I think, so maybe i was just still overwhelmed). Im clarifying this so as not to prevent others with low-end machines from trying out Debian...]

I think im forgetting one more i tried, but i also investigated several other distros... (ive read similar threads on the subject and saw forum members' suggestions) Some distros recommended as "light" (for example, Zenwalk) turned out requiring better specs than what i have. (so i didnt download it anymore)

What seemed to work best is DSL and Puppy. Im downloading Vector now as I type this (probably will finish in 3 hours.. i dont have very fast internet connection)


Ive checked out the Tuxmobil and linuxlaptops sites.

I still have issues on certain hardware (sound and wireless pcmcia, but thats a separate topic)

As I mentioned, Puppy and DSL seems to work ok, but im wondering if anyone can suggest a possibly better light distro for THIS particular low-end machine?

As for my subject line, I did in fact install win98se on the machine and I dual boot it with a Linux OS (DSL and Puppy managed to do it). I'm surprised myself how relatively smooth win98se can be (especially with that "fresh install" feel). Running winamp, vcd player to play vcds, etc.. it *is* possible to make a decade-old machine still useful.

Now if win98 can run these things relatively smoothly, Im sure Linux can do it better.. right? So far the distros I tried seemed a bit sluggish compared to win98 though. So i guess it goes back to the question of the proper distro for this particular hardware...

Can anyone give a specific suggestion, or a case-study for a similar low-end machine such as this?

Thanks a lot for reading this far :-)

P.S.... speaking of "low-end machines".. Ive seen a lot of posts about "old laptops", "slow machines" etc. and then i see theyre talking about Pentium IIs, IIIs, with 128mb, 20-30 gig HD, etc... If we're talking about "old machines" mine should take the cake.. :-) ... unless someone tries to install Linux on a 486 machine here... :-P

Last edited by kyleryner; 04-18-2007 at 02:41 PM.
 
Old 04-18-2007, 01:36 AM   #2
theNbomr
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I've run Linux (Redhat 7.3, IIRC) on a 32Mb 66Mhz '486. Made an okay home firewall. The big problem seems to be that the newer distros have the security bugs fixed, but they also require bigger faster silicon to run them. If your experimental system isn't going to be exposed directly to the internet, I guess I'd probably recommend an older distro; one with a 2.4 kernel. I think quite a few modern packages that you might like to install afterward alos require modern kernels/libs/hardware, so that's another obstacle. Maybe your analysis should start with what aplications you wish to use, and find a distro that will support that. I've never tried them myself, but I sense that DSL & Puppy are probably going to end up somewhere as near to optimal as you will get.
--- rod.
 
Old 04-18-2007, 03:03 AM   #3
kyleryner
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theNbomr
I've run Linux (Redhat 7.3, IIRC) on a 32Mb 66Mhz '486. Made an okay home firewall. The big problem seems to be that the newer distros have the security bugs fixed, but they also require bigger faster silicon to run them. If your experimental system isn't going to be exposed directly to the internet, I guess I'd probably recommend an older distro; one with a 2.4 kernel. I think quite a few modern packages that you might like to install afterward alos require modern kernels/libs/hardware, so that's another obstacle. Maybe your analysis should start with what aplications you wish to use, and find a distro that will support that. I've never tried them myself, but I sense that DSL & Puppy are probably going to end up somewhere as near to optimal as you will get.
--- rod.
Thanks for the reply, Rod (wasnt expecting one so quickly.. :-))

So your 32 mb 66mhz beats out my 64mb 233mhz in the slowest machine dept. :-)

But as i understand it, you made it into a dedicated firewall? Redhat looks too intimidating for a first time newbie like me, I think (though i could be wrong).

As to what applications i want to use.. just the basics... I think at this point its turning into more of a project/hobby... see how far i can push this thing. Part of the excitement is learning a new OS and discovering previously unheard of apps... Im surprised as it is that even the smallest.. Damn Small Linux offers basic office suite, media players and the such. In any case, i doubt at this point Ill be using it as machine for daily use... but who knows, maybe if things go really well i can find myself using Linux apps more often..

And anyway, (im not sure at this point) but I think i can add/install additional apps as needed? Im thinking cool, free games for one :-)

You are probably right.. DSL and Puppy might be as good as it gets. (im still going to try Vector though). DSL seemed faster (i like the stats shown on the desktstop.. '32mb of 64mb free') but Puppy is much more user friendly, giving helpful tips and hints. (I did have some weird glitches booting Puppy though... had to re-install twice)

Im still having problems with network and sound... net access is optional i guess, but nice to have. Sound is essential if i want to play games and mp3s on this thing.

Im also thinking i have some other old desktop machines here.. i have the parts but no spare monitor to run it with... their soundcards and lan cards might be better supported actually... but working with a laptop is just more convenient :-)

Anyway, sorry for rambling.. :-)

thanks again for the suggestions.
 
Old 04-18-2007, 05:24 AM   #4
Old_Fogie
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You mentioned vector linux, and in case your not aware that's based on Slackware.

I run slackware 11.0 on older pc's than yours

Now, Slackware is not a 'beginner's' distro, but with your hardware requirements, and the desire for a complete desktop and one that is actually current to date with security updates, and such, well there really is no other choice than slackware these days IMO. If you are willing to open your mind, and be willing to do some reading, and practice patience (as it can be frustrating with any linux distro and ten times more it feels on slow pc's) then the rewards will be ten fold!. The slack forum here is great and the irc channel is very good to.
 
Old 04-18-2007, 07:17 AM   #5
IsaacKuo
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I don't have a 486, but my Pentium 120 is half as fast as your machine (it has 48megs of RAM). A clean Win98 OS actually runs pretty slick on it--but it's limited to old software. I can't even successfully install current versions of Firefox on it (the installer complains about the lack of stuff it requires).

I have Debian on it, but other than using IceWM, I haven't done anything in particular to optimize it. I like anti-aliased fonts, so that makes it run a bit slower than Win98 (if you turn off font anti-aliasing, you get quite a speed boost!). The main benefit for me is that I can actually run Firefox and other current software.
 
Old 04-18-2007, 09:41 AM   #6
monsm
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I am afraid I haven't tried Linux on that sort of hardware.

But, after what I have heard any of the big distros should do. You might have to think of it in slightly different terms. E.g. you don't want to install Gnome or KDE as graphical desktop, you want something like XFCE. It might be a matter of finding the distro which give you this as an option during installation. Latest Slackware might be a good option, they are the oldest disto in existence, so should have the experience. They also tend to be mentioned in articles on older hardware...

You can install a modern kernel, but it might be an idea to compile a custom one after you have done the main installation. Alternatively, maybe some distros has precompiled kernels for old Pentiums (?). Compiling a custom kernel isn't as scary as it might sound. Plenty of good guides around.

Also, depending on internet, lan or not, you probably also need to switch off any unnecessary services that gets started by default.

EDIT: Checking my assumption, I came across this article: http://polishlinux.org/choose/linux-on-old-hardware/

Last edited by monsm; 04-18-2007 at 10:02 AM.
 
Old 04-18-2007, 11:08 AM   #7
KeithE
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old_Fogie
You mentioned vector linux, and in case your not aware that's based on Slackware.

I run slackware 11.0 on older pc's than yours
I have two old (a 100 MHz Pentium I with 32 Mb RAM and a 433 MHz Celeron with 192 Mb RAM) PCs and neither will even recognize the first Slackware 11 install CD as even being in the drive, although Slack 10.2 and Debian Etch install disks boot perfectly on both. It's been reported in several places that because of the way Patrick set up the Slack 11 ISOs, they may not work with older BIOSes. For this reason, I don't recommend Slack 11 on older PCs. Some may work, mine didn't.

Another thing I found out with these ancient machines was that they wouldn't install a system with a 2.6 kernel, which eliminated my installing that Debian disk. They'd get about half-way through the install and lock up. It's not a GUI issue since I was doing a text-based Debian install.

So, at least from my experience, I'd stick with Slackware 10.2 on older PCs. DSL will probably work too but I haven't tried it. The biggest difference between Slack 10.2 and 11 is the KDE version, which is probably irrelevent in this situation anyway.
 
Old 04-18-2007, 02:27 PM   #8
kyleryner
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Thanks for all the helpful comments guys!

No, I wasnt aware that VectorLinux is based on slackware.. (as a totally linux newbie, there are many things im not aware of :-) )

I just downloaded VectorLinux 5.1 (the latest, 5.8 asks for faster hardware.. 5.1 says it can run with 32mn ram)

I Installed it.. (wasnt even sure i did the proper install.. it was asking for 1 to 2 gig root, 500 mb for swap, and 500 mb for home.. I can only spare the existing linux (puppy) partition of 1.6 gigs. I went ahead with the install anyway and rebooted..

It LOOKS and PERFORMS GREAT!!

Nice desktop selections.. xface, icewm and a couple of others.. (I dont know what GNOME and KDE desktops looks/performs like, but these so-called "light" desktop systems looks fine to me!

I think i may just have found the perfect distro for my particular hardware.. DSL was great, and I think DSL is meant to run on even slower machines, or totally in RAM. (In my case, I dont mind installing to the HD but have limited memory... I guess the proper distro can also depend on where you want the OS to run)

Puppy was great, it was the only distro i tried that made mounting my windows partition (hda1) easy to do. I had no idea how to do it in DSL and the other distros (except for Knoppix on my PC).

Finally figured out how to set it up in Vector (it assigns the drive at boot). I needed to access windows folders so i can access files i need to test the system (mp3, video files, pictures, etc)

In Win98, I was trying to check out the laptop's performance... it can play VCD discs fine, DVDs were slow, and Divx and Xvid files werent playing properly (even with the codecs and players downloaded).

In Vector Linux, i played these Divx and Xvid files, and it played fullscreen smoothly! (didnt even have to ask for codecs and such)

The only drawback is I still dont have sound.. But its more of the hardware's fault (this particular model's sound drivers seem to be difficult to set). Also my PCMCIA wireless card still not recognized. Still not giving up trying on these though.. and worse case I plan to buy a cheap $6 USB Sound device to get sound..

Was still fiddling around with Vector Linux till the battery died out on me at 2:00 am

As one poster mentioned, there's still plenty of stuff to be learned using Vector or Slackware. (although Vector seemed sort of user-friendly I think). By the way, I have no idea what version of Slackware Vector Linux 5.1 is running... but it works great on the old 233mhz 64 mb system.

(Hopefully all these rantings and helpful replies by others will help some newbie with old hardware searching for answers like I did)

My next goals:

Get the dang sound and wireless pcmcia card working! Or seek alternative ways like the one I mentioned.

Install more Linux apps? I can do this right? (I know I should/can research this myself.. and I will, but at 3:00 am Im too tired but still excited so i'll ask here anyway.. )

I can download the Linux equivalent of "setup.exe" files, right, and run them from Vector (or whatever OS)? Like games, an Excel-clone (Vector was one of the few distros that dont have one.. even DSL has one!) And the Image viewer that came with it isnt that user-friendly too.

Anyway, Im pretty happy the way things went (even w/o the sound and net access!) I think Ill stick with Vector. I love the dual boot screen, I can go to Win98 anytime I want (ie, Ill boot there, access the internet, download some linux setup files, save on the Windows hard drive, reboot to Linux, then access hda1 to run those files... heck, its a bit complicated but It'll do for now while I still cant get net from linux...

Thanks again to all those who replied and gave advice. I hope some folks can still post their experiences using distros on older machines... it's surely a big help to other newbies trying to get into linux.
 
Old 04-21-2007, 07:20 PM   #9
Old_Fogie
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regarding your sound card not working, I'm going from memory here, but check the vector's synaptic/tool to find alsa utilities. or if you search around some more, basically you're looking for a tool called "alsaconf" that you run as root in a terminal, it will probe your pc for your sound card and set it up for you.

I'm guessing here, but most likely you have an isa device and the alsaconf makes life easier. If not I got some tricks up the sleeve here to help you out ( or so I hope )

There is a possibility ? and I can't recall off the top of my head, but you 'may' have to also download some more 'modules' for your kernel. I believe ? that vector didnt ship all the isa sound modules with the live cd installer, I could be mistaken.
 
Old 04-23-2007, 10:38 AM   #10
kite
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Try alsaconf, if it does not work, you could still try oss driver, check this site out:
http://www.opensound.com/
 
Old 04-23-2007, 08:37 PM   #11
Old_Fogie
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agreed however, I don't believe ( and I could be wrong) however the modules are now in the kernel (tho listed as depracated) and as this is a slack distro, pat does include 'yes' for old OSS modules, so I dont' think he's going to need it but good to point out non-the less? lspci output would help if you could post please.
 
  


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