Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

DSL 2.1r1 on old Laptop

Filed under
Linux
Reviews
-s

The developers of Damn Small Linux have announced the availability of the first release candidate of version 2.1. My gentoo install is quite dated on my aging laptop, and due to speed and other certain hardware considerations (like a whiny harddrive after a couple hours of compiling), it isn't likely to be updated again. I decided to see if dsl could run on this ancient Dell laptop.

Damn Small Linux is a damn small linux distribution, literally. For those who don't know, it's a 50mb livecd that is also installable onto your harddrive or an usb key. It's a fully functional system consisting of an graphical interface featuring the fluxbox window manager and many useful applications and utilities/tools.

The Change log for 2.1r1 includes:
1. Improved SATA boot time support (see f3)
2. USB 2.0 boot time support fixed typo
3. Torsmo replaces asmem, wmcpuload, & wmnet to better support both window managers.
4. Ted replaces Flwriter
5. Updated xtdesk improved dragging when double click enabled.
6. New Icontool GUI controls many icon features.
7. Added missing tools section to jwm menu.

Well, the first test, to see if it would boot with only 80mb ram.

I needed to download and dd the bootfloppy img due to the fact that this laptop is so old, it doesn't support booting from the cdrom. How long before it's a fish sinker? Well, that may be inevitable, but it's not a fact today. My old laptop did in fact boot dsl on a p1 with only 80mb ram. However, (you knew there was a however, right?), the video/display wasn't very readable when just hitting enter at the boot prompt. I decided to reboot and try some of those fb modes the F2 options screen suggests is for laptops. Crossing my fingers I tried fb1024x768. When that didn't work, I tried fb800x600. That was the ticket. I was in. I was thrilled. I was comforted by the telltale "beep, beep" of the pcmcia network being activated (although it turned out to be short-lived). Then I was asked about which x server module to use, xvesa or xfbdev. I chose xfbdev and was asked about my lang and mouse. At the answering of those questions, X started and looked beautiful and my scroll ball mouse device worked too. Damn Small Linux scores again!

        

Fly in the ointment:

My old and commonly recognized pcmcia wireless network card (linksys wpc11 rev3 that uses orinoco) was incorrectly detected as some Bromax unsupported/unknown card. One can modprobe orinoco and it'd get loaded without error. Still no wlan or eth0 device was available. Also not correctly setup was my netgear FA411 wired pcmcia netcard (that uses 8390). However, we did have some luck with a 3Com/Megahertz 3CCFEM556B. So, whoops. One strike against. Have to, a laptop just isn't any fun if the wireless doesn't work. It's not just me, please see this post for confirmation.

Sound is another small issue. Actually it isn't. It wasn't correctly detected or setup, but in all fairness, it never is. It works fine in Linux, but I have to pass some specific options to the kernel for it to work. It's an old dell latitude XPIcd and I always have to use /sbin/modprobe sb io=0x230 irq=5 dma16=5. I can't tell you how long I spent finding that solution my first Linux install on this thing! Big Grin So, we'll give dsl the brownie point there.

But how would it perform on such a low resource system?

Well, overall, most excellent. Most light applications, like emelfm, Ted or xpaint opened within a few seconds. Dillo took about 9. Sylpheed required 3 or 4. However, mozilla took about 70 seconds to open and another 4 or 5 to render the dslos.com start page. It took about 6 second to render other sites at that point and there was a marked delay or unevenness (is that a word?) with scrolling. Of course, this isn't really a reflection on damn small, just an interesting note. Another thing, xmms was running at the time, which was requiring some cpu cycles to stream that default classical station it was playing. In addition, we're still running from the livecd at this point as well. I'd have to install Opera if I was going to install this onto my hard drive for sure, but given the fact that the pcmcia stuff is somewhat broken, I think I'll forgo the install and wait for the next rc.

        

Conclusion:

I found dsl to work rather well on this old laptop. Applications functioned well and looked quite nice, save mozilla. The video was great looking, the mouse device, cdrom and floppy worked fine of course, and the sound works with a bit of nudging. Some pcmcia cards work and some that should don't. The torsmo looked and worked great. I never did find that gui icontool in the menu (oh, ok, founnd it... hey, that's neato). In addition, I think there should be some kind of battery monitor. Once they sort out the pcmcia stuff, I'm sure it would perform much better from the harddrive.

        

Re: A wonderful review on DSL ?

atang1 wrote:

Its wonderful and tell tale DSL install.

Love your review of DSL.

Yeah, I'm going to soon replace gentoo with a binary distro and I think dsl will be the one.

Thanks for saying! I suffered with the "butterfly syndrome" as I hit submit, as I often do. I appreciate it. Smile

great review... UPDATE .....

UPDATE...

Added 128 mb of memory for a total of 160mb.

DSL now loads and works like a hot damm. Even found an older PCMCIA 3com network card and I had connectivity. Looks like the perfect distro for this laptop. Never would have beleived it if I hadn't tried it.

Nick

But tried it on a compaq presario 1200 with 32 meg mem. (k6 475 mhz processor)and it was next to useless. It booted up but took way too much time to get anything running.

Will try to upgrade the memory to 128m and try again

Nick

Great review but... Sorry for the duplicate...

DSL has lots of trouble on a compaq presario 1200 k6 475 with 32 m memory.

DSL boots up but just thrashes away continously. Got to find a 128 meg memory module to add or else its a doorstop.

nicsmr

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

More in Tux Machines

Audiocasts/Shows: Open Source Security Podcast, Linux Action News, and SMLR

Review: Artix Linux in 2021

Artix Linux is a fork (or continuation as an autonomous project) of the Arch-OpenRC and Manjaro-OpenRC projects. Artix Linux offers a lightweight, rolling-release operating system featuring alternative init software options, including OpenRC, runit, and s6. The distribution is available in many editions, including Base, Cinnamon, LXDE, LXQt, MATE, KDE Plasma and Xfce. With all of the desktop options, combined with the available init choices, there are 21 editions, not including community spins from which to choose. All editions appear to be built for 64-bit (x86_64) machines. Picking randomly, I selected Artix's Plasma edition featuring the runit init software. The download for this edition is is 1.3GB. Browsing the other editions it looks like most flavours are about 1.1GB to 1.3GB in size, though the minimal Base edition is a compact 618MB. The project's live media boots to the KDE Plasma desktop. On the desktop we find multiple documentation and README icons. There is also an icon for launching the system installer. The default layout places a panel at bottom of the screen where we can find the application menu and system tray. The default wallpaper is a soft blue while the theme for windows and menus is dark with high contrast fonts. [...] Artix Linux is one of those distributions I really enjoy using and yet struggle to review in a meaningful way because it doesn't really go out of its way to introduce new or exciting features and everything works smoothly. The distribution is wonderfully easy to install, offers top-notch performance, and is unusually light on resources. Artix is somewhat minimal, but still ships enough software to be immediately useful right out of the gate. We can browse the web, install packages, view files, and play videos. Meanwhile the application menu isn't cluttered with a lot of extras. The developers clearly expect us to install the functionality we need, while doing a really good job of providing enough for the desktop environment to feel base-line useful right from the start. Artix does a nice job of balancing performance and functionality while also juggling ease of use against not getting in the way. There is a little documentation, but no initial welcome screen or configuration wizards that might distract the user. The one piece I felt was missing was a graphical package manager which would have made it easier to build the extra functionality I wanted on top of the base distribution. However, that one piece aside, I felt as though Artix was really well designed and put together, at lease for someone like me. It's not a distribution geared toward beginners, it's not a "first distro". It is a bit minimal and requires command line knowledge. However, for someone with a little experience with Linux, for someone who doesn't mind the occasional trip to the command line or installing new applications as needed, then Artix provides an excellent experience. It's fast, light, looks (in my opinion) great with the default theme, and elegantly walks the line between minimalism and having enough applications ready to go out of the box to be immediately useful. I'm unusually impressed with how smooth and trouble-free my experience was with this distribution and the fact it offers such a range of desktop and init diversity is all the more appealing. Read more

Alpine Linux Review: Ultimate Distro for Power Users

Alpine Linux is gathering a lot of attention because of its super-small size and focus on security. However, Alpine is different from some of the other lightweight distros we covered on FOSSLinux. It isn’t your typical desktop distribution as it is terminal-based like Arch and is marketed as a “general purpose distro.” It is currently widely adopted as a Docker container thanks to its ultra-small footprint. However, it can be used for all sorts of Linux deployments that benefit from small, resource-efficient Linux distros. Now, that statement might feel too generic. But don’t worry, as we have put together an in-depth and comprehensive review of Alpine Linux, giving you a detailed look at what it has under the hood and how to use it. As such, by the end, you should have a clear understanding of whether you should consider Alpine Linux as your next Linux distro. So without further ado, let’s dive in. Read more

Programming Leftovers

  • How to manipulate strings in bash

    Without explicit support for variable types, all bash variables are by default treated as character strings. Therefore more often than not, you need to manipulate string variables in various fashions while working on your bash script. Unless you are well-versed in this department, you may end up constantly coming back to Google and searching for tips and examples to handle your specific use case. In the spirit of saving your time and thus boosting your productivity in shell scripting, I compile in this tutorial a comprehensive list of useful string manipulation tips for bash scripting. Where possible I will try to use bash's built-in mechanisms (e.g., parameter expansion) to manipulate strings instead of invoking external tools such as awk, sed or grep. If you find any missing tips, feel free to suggest it in the comment. I will be happy to incorporate it in the article.

  • Python Generators

    Python generators are very powerful for handling operations which require large amount of memory.

  • We got lucky

    If you’re having enough production incidents to be able to evaluate your preparation, you’re probably either unlucky or unprepared ;) If you have infrequent incidents you may be well prepared but it’s hard to tell. Chaos engineering experiments are a great way to test your preparation, and practice incident response in a less stressful context. It may seem like a huge leap from your current level of preparation to running automated chaos monkeys in production, but you don’t need to go straight there. Why not start with practice drills? You could have a game host who comes up with a failure scenario. You can work up to chaos in production.

  • React Testing Library – Tutorial with JavaScript Code Examples

    This post will help you to learn what React Testing Library is, and how you can use it to test your React application. This tutorial will assume you already know some basic JavaScript and understand the basics of how React works. React Testing Library is a testing utility tool that's built to test the actual DOM tree rendered by React on the browser. The goal of the library is to help you write tests that resembles how a user would use your application, so that you'll have more confidence that your application work as intended when a real user do use it.

  • Why I Moved From Ops to DevOps (and why you might want to)