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ash4stuff 02-09-2004 02:28 AM

Optimizing a pentium II 200 Mhz MX on debian
Hi there! I want to optimize an old computer running debian. Tips can include what services I could spare, what kernel i should use, or what desktop environment is best. This computer will be used to surf the internet, and maybe some simple office work.

Right now its running a 2.4.18 kernel. I was thinking in 2.4.23 or 2.6.1? Does it make sense to use a 2.6? I think some preemt properties might be useful, but I dont know if the 2.6 is heavier on the long run. I installed xfce as desktop environment, firebird mozilla as browser. I know openoffice is relatively slow but its the most compatible option to microsoft office that i know of.

i would appretiate everything that would help the sistem to be a little lighter, i have the feeling that X is not configured very optimal, im using the debian package xserver-s3, is it better to use the free86?


s3 trio
intel 430vx pentium II MMX 200 Mghz 32 mb ram


Rounan 02-09-2004 08:24 AM

With 32 MB of RAM, you're going to have a hard time multitasking office and web browsing no matter what you do - lots of swapping. It can be done though - make sure you've got a 100-200MB swap partition right near the start of your drive, to make it as quick as possible.

Services - what do you need? You probably DON'T need httpd, or telnet (I'd leave sshd on, just to connect remotely. if you never use it, though, you can cut it.) Just look at your init scripts, figure out what each service is, what it does, and if you need it.

Kernel - I'd go with 2.6.2. I'm under the impression that 2.6 is faster than 2.4, and on a system that's starved for processor power, pre-emption will lead to a "snappier" feel. For optimum performance, compile it yourself, and cut out anything you don't need. I've heard that a "monolithic" kernel - no modules, everything compiled in directly - is faster than one using modules. Does anyone have an opinion on this?

X - I've only ever used XFree86, I don't know how speeds would compare... I'd be interested to hear opinions on it. You might also want to check out IceWM. It's supposed to be one of the fastest window managers out there. Try benchmarking it against xfce, see what comes of it.

Good luck!


ash4stuff 02-09-2004 12:25 PM

Hi ! Thanks... yes, i wanted to try icewm and fluxbox and see how they work on this machine. Right now i can surf the web, but its still increidably slow.. jejeje... i think i will buy a little bit of ram a little later, but I want to see how far i can go with what i have. It might even become a new hobby, I think it could be something interesting and useful for some countries low on resources to use hardware other people are throwing away and still be effecient. Maybe a console text editor that can open and edit
(simple) microsoft word documents? ;) jejeje

ill repartition the disk and put the swap on front. And Ill compile a 2.6 (ill compile it at home via ssh and then download it because Id like it to finish this year jeje)

thanks and take care,

wapcaplet 02-09-2004 03:50 PM

One thing that'll help is using a more minimal XFree86 server - xvesa and xfbdev are a couple I know of (check out this KDrive site for details). Debian packages for those may be available.

XFCE4 I've found is a good choice - nice compromise between minimalism and friendly icons.

Supposedly KWord (the KDE word processor) will open MS Word docs, but I've never had much success with it, so OpenOffice is probably your best bet there, unless you can do without total MS Office compatibility.

Dillo is a pretty decent and very lightweight browser; you might want to compare with Firebird to see which one is better suited. Definitely try paring down services. You could probably save a couple hundred extra KB by removing extra tty consoles from your /etc/inittab (several lines that say 'getty' or something similar in them) - you could safely remove all but one or two of them.

edit: You know, I'm surprised there aren't more programs with MS Office compatibility now.... I mean, OpenOffice is open-source, so you'd think everyone would have borrowed their nice import filters by now. Weird.

edit #2: One possible reason

ash4stuff 02-10-2004 03:17 AM

well, the 2.6 kernel that I compiled for this machine is going very slow, i stripped alot, maybe too much, so i have some questiones...


r they necesary?

framebuffer video device? is this also necesary... ?

there are a lot of options that I also could strip but that I am not aware of.

elf / a.out /ecoff / misc

crc32 ?

could i live without plug and play?
frame buffer device?
system v / bsd .. / sysctrsyp... ?

until now i have always been trying to get a machine work with everything it has... jejeje

icewm and fluxbox have been working better than xfce. and i still have the feeling i still have a long way to go on optimizing X. ill try and see what packages i find...

ash4stuff 02-10-2004 11:34 PM

well, ive tested several configurations, i dont manage to get 2.6 fast on this sistem... i think ill keep fluxbox and icewm, xfce is a bit slower on this machine

ill reformat the harddrive and bring the swap to the front now.... that will take awhile
does anybody know if its bad to have a too big of a swap?

Rounan 02-11-2004 08:01 AM

Generally, the rule of thumb I've heard is make swap twice your RAM or 1GB, whatever comes first. In your case, though, I'd give it a good 128MB. Maybe 256. with only 32MB of physical ram, and trying to run a goliath like OpenOffice, you'll need some swap space.
I don't think you can have "too much" swap, but after a certain point it doesn't help anymore. RAM is better than swap, but swap's better than nothing. ;)


whansard 02-11-2004 08:08 AM

net and openbsd's kernel's are much less memory hungry than linux in my opinion.
i think they'll leave more ram for apps to load in. that's my opinion anyway.

Rounan 02-11-2004 09:02 AM

I'd be interested to see how much - A well-compiled linux kernel would be under a meg, and though I don't doubt BSD could beat it, it'd be to the tune of maybe 100k... when you're trying to run a gui and office apps, I don't think you'd notice the difference. ;)

ash4stuff 02-11-2004 12:12 PM

thanks, i had just got through the linux partition howto and now I am spreading my partitions and swap partitions throughout the disk. I tried openoffice, I can forget it, jejeje... i could open it, but it even took to long to print out my keystrokes... so I went for abiword. It works FAST! It takes only aprox. 8 sec to load... Mozilla firebird takes 34 sec.

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