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pppaaarrrkkk 10-04-2007 07:41 AM

Old laptop with DSL is slow
I loaded DSL onto an old Toshiba laptop with 32MB RAM. It works fine, but it is slow, in particular when I read .PDFs which is what I was trying to use it for.

If I experiment with different filesystem types (ext2, fat32 etc..), might that improve performance ?

Is it that there is not enough RAM ?

If I increased swap space (it's 256 MB) would that make a difference ?

Is it just that hardware is old and that's that ?

matthewg42 10-04-2007 07:54 AM

Different filesystems do have different strengths and weaknesses. My personal recommendation would be to use ext2 on that system. You don't have enough memory to use a journalling filesystem like ext3. FAT breaks too easily and suffers badly from fragmentation over time, plus you may have case-sensitivity problems with some programs. I'm sure there will be other opinions out there too.

32 meg is not a lot of RAM. However, I ran an old 486 machine for years which had only 20 meg, and that was usable. It would probably be painful to use for me now, but I had a lot of fun back in the late 90s with it :)

PDF rendering can be quite heavy. Some programs are faster than others. Which program are you using to view them?

On a machine of that age, I would guess that quite a lot of the speed is when your graphics card is blitting stuff about. You may be able to speed things up by changing the colour depth of your display. I used to use 256 colour mode on my old machine. This was ugly, but worked for most stuff I did. The ugliness was worth it as the 24-bit colour mode was painfully slow.

matthewg42 10-04-2007 07:55 AM

With regard to swap, I wouldn't increase the swap so much. Use as little as you can get away with without running out of memory. The rule of thumb I used to use was twice system ram, but like anything, take that with a pinch of salt.

tredegar 10-04-2007 09:38 AM

32MB of RAM is not very much when you are trying to render and display pdf's.
If you can increase the amount of RAM, you will probably see an improvement.
Runnning top in a terminal window whilst you are loading / scrolling around a pdf may show you that it is your CPU that is struggling, in which case more RAM will only help a little.
Increasing swap is unlikely to help, because swap is v-e-r-y s-l-o-w compared to RAM

matthewg42 10-04-2007 10:41 AM

Further to what Tredegar said, swap is used if a program will not fit in real memory. It does not increase speed, instead it lets you run programs which are too large to fit in ram. The drawback, as Tredegar mentioned is that swap is very slow. If your hard disk light flashes a lot when the slowness hits, that's a sign that more ram will help.

Kahless 10-04-2007 10:31 PM

in your situation, I would do two things.

one: get as much ram as you can afford and fit into the machine installed (assuming that you can get it cheap enough that it would be better than buying a new machine)

two: use as light a window manager as you can tolerate. xfce or fluxbox come to mind as the two I would suggest you try.

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