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

Software: Castero, Skrooge, gtk-vnc

  • castero – command-line podcast player
    I’ve been tinkering with a few modern podcast players in the past few months. CPod, Vocal and Winds all use modern web technologies; in the case of CPod and Winds a combination of JavaScript weaved with the Electron framework. It’s only fair to take a different tack. castero differs fundamentally — it’s a command line podcast client. It’s designed to be easy to use and targeted at users who want lightweight command line applications instead of bloated GUI-based alternatives. castero lets you add podcasts via RSS feeds, and handles a large number of feeds. It’s released under an open source license. The software is written in the Python programming language.
  • Skrooge 2.15.0 released
    The Skrooge Team announces the release 2.15.0 version of its popular Personal Finances Manager based on KDE Frameworks.
  • gtk-vnc 0.9.0 release
    I’m pleased to announce a new release of GTK-VNC, version 0.9.0. This is a cleanup/modernization release. Note that the next release (1.0.0) will drop support for GTK-2

Graphics: Intel and AMD Developments

  • Intel Has Quietly Been Working On A New Gallium3D Driver Being Called "Iris"
    After resisting Gallium3D for the past decade with a preference on continuing to maintain their "i965" Mesa classic driver and all they've invested into its compiler stack and more, it seems times are changing as the open-source Intel team has been starting up development of a modern Gallium3D driver. This is not to be confused with the former i915g or i965g efforts from about a decade ago that were the experiments of Tungsten/LunarG for driver research/experimentation purposes or in the case of i915g to handle some features with LLVM in software, but this is a modern Gallium3D driver targeting their current hardware.
  • AMDGPU-PRO 18.30 Linux Graphics Driver Released with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and RHEL / CentOS Support
    The long awaited AMDGPU-PRO 18.30 driver update for the AMD Linux graphics driver package has finally been released, with a driver installation option for both “all open” and closed / proprietary driver modules. What is great about this driver package update is that it is supported on the latest Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS as well as Ubuntu 16.04.5, and RHEL / CentOS 6.10 and 7.5 respectively for their Enterprise Linux support targets.
  • AMDGPU-PRO 18.30 Released With Ubuntu 18.04.1 Support & WattMan-Like Functionality
    AMDGPU-PRO 18.30 is now available as the long desired update to this official AMD Linux graphics driver package that consists of the driver installation option for both the "all-open" and closed/proprietary driver modules. Notable to the AMDGPU-PRO 18.30 release is that Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS is now supported as well as Ubuntu 16.04.5. Additionally, RHEL/CentOS 6.10 and 7.5 release series round out their enterprise Linux support targets.

Wine 3.14 Released

  • Wine Announcement
    The Wine development release 3.14 is now available.
  • Wine 3.14 Adds DXTn Texture Decompression, Other Improvements
    Due to the summer holidays it's been four weeks since Wine 3.13 but it has now been succeeded by Wine 3.14 as the newest feature release. Wine 3.14 adds support for DXTn texture decompression, deferral support for MSI install actions, Japanese keyboard support within DirectInput, improvements to the standard task dialog, more Shell32 icons, and a total of 36 bug fixes. Those bug fixes range from Adobe CS4 issues to problems with Wargaming, Chromium, Guild Wars, Civilization V, Chaos League, and other software.
  • Grab a glass as Wine 3.14 is out today with DXTn texture decompression support and plenty of fixes
    The latest and greatest in fine Wine [Official Site] is out today with Wine 3.14 filled with features and the usual bug fixes including support for DXTn texture decompression

Android Leftovers