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robertjinx 06-09-2012 02:20 PM

Linux slow as hell on Dell XT
Hello, got a Dell XT (table pc), with the low power cpu Intel Dual Core 1.33Mhz and the Toshiba 80GB 4200rpm, 8Mb cache disk. The system has about 3GB of RAM, but almost all Linux distro's I've tried ended up really really slow.
Also tested flash in Firefox on all of the distro and is also slow taking in consideration that the laptop comes with an ATI Radeon graphics card with 256MB of memory.

I've tested Ubuntu 12.04, SLED 11 SP2, Debian 6.0.5. With Debian or SLED the laptop works a bit better, but still slow as hell. I'm thinking is the disk which make everything slow, but not sure and still don't know why it is so slow.

Any ideas?!

jefro 06-09-2012 03:51 PM

Boot to a live usb then and see if it still acts poorly.

business_kid 06-09-2012 03:52 PM

I take it the cpu is 1.33 Ghz; if not there's your explanation.
Whatever you settle on - go through it and configure each driver. For the disk, Try

hdparm -tT /dev/sda (or whatever the disk is) and get speeds. If you're slower than about 40Mb/S unbuffered you may have a motherboard chipset driver problem. I always build a kernel, generic pci stuff as a module, and my exact chipset compiled in and never look back.

Post the output of lspci.

nixblog 06-09-2012 04:46 PM

That hard drive isn't helping if it's only a 4200RPM. You may need to try a 5400 or, better still, a 7200RPM hard drive.

robertjinx 06-11-2012 01:55 AM

I would change the disk, but it's on ZIF interface and not very easy to find one that is at good price and faster.

syg00 06-11-2012 03:03 AM

With 3 Gig, you shouldn't be hitting the disk that much in a quiet (i.e. not playing video/games whatever) system.

You might try latencytop, but it'll show the disk(s); don't be misled if you're not actually hitting the disk. Have a look at collectl to see what the I/O rate is.
No good changing things if you don't have some baseline numbers to compare against.

business_kid 06-12-2012 05:01 AM

I ran a couple of 'slow as hell' boxes, and there's a few basic rules.

1. Avoid Bloatware and large java applications - kde, gnome, seamonkey, firefox (less so), libreoffice, etc. Think Abiword, Opera(that's swelling too), and ncurses based stuff.

2. Avoid distros that rely on python, perl, & who knows what else to do something basic (like start X) - Mandriva, Red Hat, Fedora etc. They also have 25 background daemons of questionable value running.

3. Use a light system. I used Linuxfromscratch. There's also kevux which has the goods and is deadly light, if a little quirky.
Not everything is available for kevux(wine, for instance) because uclibc has a threading issue. Their threading is/was behind the pace.

ruario 06-12-2012 07:06 AM


Originally Posted by business_kid (Post 4701301)
1. Avoid Bloatware and large java applications - kde, gnome, seamonkey, firefox (less so), libreoffice, etc. Think Abiword, Opera(that's swelling too), and ncurses based stuff.

Actually that is false. Opera is getting smaller and more compact:


$ wget -q
$ wget -q
$ ls -lh opera*
-rw-r--r-- 1 ruario users 11M Jun 12 14:02 opera-11.64-1403.i386.linux.tar.xz
-rw-r--r-- 1 ruario users 12M Jun 11 15:53 opera-12.00-1454.i386.linux.tar.xz

markseger 06-16-2012 06:00 AM

can you define slow? is it cpu, disk, network, memory? clearly some resource is being starved or overwhelmed and w/o data everything being discussed is pure speculation. if it were my box, I'd run a disk load generator - my favorite is Robin Millers dt: but any tool should work. Then write a file at least 3GB (to force it to be written from cache) and watch it with sar, collectl, whatever. If you're not getting decent rates, there's a good shot it's your disk.

I'd guess it's not network - assuming you're verified it runs slow when not connected.

AS for the CPU, see what it's doing slow. Is there a high usage? And don't just look at the average load because on say a 4 core system one CPU could be getting hammered and the load still show at 25%.

Memory can be tricky, because on a well-oiled system you should not have a lot of free memory since most will be used by cache. But if you're low and it isn't dominated by cache usage, perhaps someone else is grabbing it. How's your slab memory usage? But really, on a virgin linux box 3GB should be more than enough so I'd bet it's something else. Have you verified the system sees all 3?


eunix 06-17-2012 08:11 AM

I went and looked up the specs for this machine as the poster said that he had a dual core processor which sounded like the old Pentium-D class processers that started Dual Core which is different from core2 Duo etc.

I have different distributions (Ubuntu,Kubuntu, OpenSolaris, Puppy, and OpenSuse) runing on various older machines includding a couple of Dell D810s, Gateway/eMachines M6811/Dell Latitude 1501 / and even a dell C640 and Gateway solo 9600 (Debian) and even though the performance is not stellar on the older boxes, it is tolerable.

Here are the specs for your machine that I found :
Processor Performance Single Core: 533 MHz FSB with 2.0 MB of level 2 Smart Cache
• Intel® CoreTM 2 Solo ULV processor U2100 (1.06GHz)
Dual Core: 533 MHz FSB with 2.0 MB of level 2 Smart Cache
• Intel® CoreTM 2 Duo ULV processor U7600 (1.20GHz)
Display 12.1-inch WXGA (1280 x 800 resolution), LED-back-lit display
12.1-inch WXGA (1280 x 800 resolution), Outdoor Viewing display, up to 400 nits
Dimensions LED Panel: 1.0" (h) x 11.7" (w) x 8.6" (d); Outdoor Viewable Panel: 1.2" (h) x 11.7" x (w) x 8.6" (d)
Weight LED Panel: 3.57lb (1.6kg) with 4-cell battery; Outdoor Viewable Panel: 4.19lb (1.9kg) with 6-cell battery
ATI Radeon X1250 UMA Graphics (integrated)
Memory1 1GB (1x1GB on board) 533MHz
2GB (1x1GB on board, 1x1GB DIMM) 533MHz
3GB (1x1GB on board, 1x2GB DIMM) 533MHz
Power/Battery 4-cell 28W/Hr Li-Ion primary or secondary
6-cell 42W/Hr Li-Ion primary or secondary
45W/Hr Li-Ion High Capacity Battery Slice
45W (small form factor), 65W, Combo Auto/Air (90W test only)
3-foot power cord standard, 6-foot optional
Hard Drives2 40GB/80GB 1.8” 4200 RPM HDD
120GB 1.8” 5400 RPM HDD
Input Devices Finger Touch – Capacitive Touch Screen
Pen – EM Digitizer
• Eraser functionality actuated via side switch
• Optional tether
•  nteraction with display controlled by three different replaceable “tips” for user-selectable
writing experiences
Full-size keyboard / full Latitude localization
Dual-pointing; rubber domes with leveling rods
Scroll Wheel with enter and back functionality (on display / slate)
Operating Systems Windows VistaTM Business (32-bit, 64-bit); Windows VistaTM Ultimate (32-bit);
Windows XP Tablet Edition 2005
Connectivity Options Dell Wireless 1390 (802.11g)
Dell Wireless 1490 (802.11a/g)
Dell Wireless 1505 (802.11a/g Draft n)
Dell Wireless 360 Bluetooth® Module
Dell Wireless 5720 Mobile Broadband for Verizon Wireless3 (EV-DO Rev A)
Dell Wireless 5720 Mobile Broadband for Sprint3 (EV-DO Rev A)
Dell Wireless 5720 Mobile Broadband for TELUS3 (EV-DO Rev A)
Dell Wireless 5520 Mobile Broadband for Vodafone3 (HSDPA 3.6)
Dell Wireless 5520 Mobile Broadband for TeliaSonera3 (HSDPA 3.6)
Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000)
Carrying Cases D-series small nylon case
D-series small leather case
D-series nylon backpack
XT leather slipcover
XT bump case
You should be getting pretty good performance, even with your slow HDD.
Since this is a "tablet" I would try one of the Netbook distros. Kubuntu Netbook distro may be OK.
(I don't particulary like the Ubuntu distro but I get rid of Unity and add cairo doc) but give them a try.

Arcosanti 06-29-2012 01:17 AM

One thing that would help is to use a light desktop. Try out Xfce, LDXE, or The Equinox Desktop Environment (EDE). Not too many distros use EDE though. When I was running Linux Mint 11 Katya, the Gnome desktop was bogging down my Dell Latitude D400 which has a Pentium M processor that has a maximum speed of 1.80 GHz. Now I am using Slackware with the Xfce desktop. I am seeing much better performance with Xfce than I was with Gnome.

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