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Old 05-10-2004, 11:21 AM   #1
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Pentium 100Mhz performance questions

I have an old Pentium which I dedicated to Linux:
Compaq Deskpro 5100 - 100Mhz, 40mb memory, and a 1.2G disk

I was able to install a minimal Red Hat 7.2 on it. For grins I included KDE in the install, and to my surprise KDE ran better than I thought it would - although it is a bit sluggish.

That has raised my hopes of using this Compaq as the primary "front-end" machine for my family's internet connection and email. I have two other networked machines with dual boot, and eventually I'll add the Compaq to the network. My main question is this: what way(s) can I improve this machine so that it can perform decently under Linux?

More specifically:
1. Will upgrading memory from 40mb to 96mb help a lot or a little?
2. Will upgrading the processor to 400Mhz help a lot or a little?

I think I can upgrade the memory to 96mb for about 30 bucks, and possibly upgrade the processor to 400Mhz for 20. But I really don't want to sink much more money than that into an old PC when I could get a newer one eventually...

3. What distros are known to work well with 100Mhz machines?

I'm not going to stay with Red Hat 7.2 - I'm getting SuSE 9.1, but I'm certainly open to other suggestions.

4. Will recompiling the kernel help performance?

I've heard it helps speed things up...

Any comments, links and suggestions are welcome, including things I haven't thought of at all

Old 05-10-2004, 01:02 PM   #2
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dont upgrade ur processor, u can try upgrading RAM, though.

Recompiling kernel and optimising it to ur machine helps -- but i fear it might take day(s) to compile on ur system. Also if u decide to compile, then install latest kernel (either 2.6 series or 2.4 series)
Old 05-10-2004, 03:59 PM   #3
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Avoid any sort of GUI. It will only kill your resources, and there is nothing you can do in the GUI that you can't do on the command line.

Something like Debian or Slackware, Server Optimized Linux might also be a good choice, it is designed to run only what it needed for a server.

I agree that a kernel compile would be brutal. I compiled mplayer on a 133 MHz P1 with 32 MB of RAM, and it took 2 hours.... To compile a kernel would take at least a day, depending on what you include.

You could compile on another machine and install it on the older machine, but it might not be worth the trouble. If you get the amount of services running down low, and get some extra RAM, performance would be pretty good.
Old 05-10-2004, 05:28 PM   #4
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I compiled a kernel a couple of time on a P100/32 - took approximately 8 hrs or less (I dunno - it was done when I woke up. ) Ran an XFree86 3.3.4 and a KDE 1.1.1 pretty well. Later had a more recent X3x and various wm's that also did okay. Now it's an X-less ZipSlack, though.

You also have to think about disk I/O with a (probably old) hard drive in a P100. Anything you do could help - RAM definitely the most - but you'd probably be better off ebaying for something else if you really wanted a full-tilt system - but for what you're talking, no GUI's necessary and it'll do great, I'd figure.
Old 05-16-2004, 08:15 PM   #5
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Thanks vinay_s_s, ms3fgx and digiot for the replies!

Instead of spending 50 bucks to upgrade the Compaq, I decided to take digiot's advice about ebay. First I learned through reading and observation. Then I was able to snag a 450MHz IBM 300PL with cd-rom/6Gb HDD machine with no OS for 25 + 25 shipping = 50 bucks. So for the same price of an upgrade I got another machine to put Linux on instead. Sometimes it pays to listen to someone else, so thanks digiot for the suggestion!

In the meantime, I attempted to install Mandrake 10 on the Compaq. The Compaq doesn't boot from the CD-ROM - the BIOS doesn't allow for that option. So I tried the boot floppy route as I did with Red Hat 7.2, but despite a few tries the Mandrake floppy install just didn't recognize the CD-ROM. No biggie, I think I'll eventually do an install over the network. I was able to install Mandrake 10 on my dual-boot 400MHz. I'm certain the new 2.6 kernel is faster, and I look forward to getting the SuSE Linux 9.1 in the mail.

I did some more research on what to use an old 100MHz Pentium for. I discovered the site:

where I could use the Compaq as a thin-client on my home LAN, allowing it to access programs and files from a server - even GUIs like KDE run decently. Another site I discovered other possibilities:

where I could for example setup the Compaq as a music jukebox. The site (and their book it seems) gives some good "howtos" on this and other ideas.


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