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

Today in Techrights

Games: Radeon Benchmarks, New Games, and CrossOver 17

  • AMDGPU-PRO 17.50 vs. RADV/RadeonSI Radeon Linux Gaming Performance
    With today's AMDGPU-PRO 17.50 Linux driver release alongside the Radeon Software Adrenalin Driver for Windows users, it's significant in a few ways. First and foremost, AMD has stuck to their word of the past two years and is now able to open-source their official Vulkan Linux driver. When it comes to AMDGPU-PRO 17.50 itself you are now able to mix-and-match driver components to choose what pieces you want of AMD's somewhat complicated driver make-up. Additionally, their OpenGL/Vulkan drivers in 17.50 have some new feature capabilities. So with that said here's a fresh look at how the AMDGPU-PRO 17.50 professional driver performance compares to the latest open-source RadeonSI OpenGL and RADV Vulkan drivers.
  • The End Is Nigh for Linux gamers is now out of beta on Steam
    Did you get a little worried at the start of that headline? Fret not, as it's about the game 'The End Is Nigh' and it's now out of beta on Steam for Linux.
  • The GOG winter sale is on, you can grab Grim Fandango Remastered for free
  • Run Your Favorite Windows Apps and Games Directly on Your Mac or Linux OS
    It’s almost 2018, and for some reason there still exists an obnoxious barrier between Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems when it comes to running apps and playing games. CrossOver 17 for Linux was designed to break that tedious barrier down, by allowing you to run your favorite Windows apps and games directly on your Mac or Linux computer, and it’s available for over 50% off at just $19.

Graphics: NVIDIA and AMD

  • NVIDIA Pushes Out CUDA 9.1 With Compiler Optimizations, Volta Enhancements & More
    AMD isn't the only one busy with GPU software updates today but NVIDIA has issued CUDA 9.1 as their first feature update to the CUDA 9 compute platform.
  • Happy Holidays: AMD Finally Pushing Out Open-Source Vulkan Driver
    Ahead of the Vulkan 1.0 debut nearly two years ago, we heard that for AMD's Vulkan Linux driver it was initially going to be closed-source and would then be open-sourced once ready. At the time it sounded like something that would be opened up six months or so, but finally that milestone is being reached! Ahead of Christmas, AMD is publishing the source code to their official Vulkan Linux driver.
  • The Feature Differences Now Between AMD's Two OpenGL & Two Vulkan Linux Drivers
    For modern AMD graphics cards there are two OpenGL drivers and two Vulkan drivers available to Linux users/gamers that support the same modern AMD GPUs, not counting the older AMD Linux drivers, etc. Here's a rundown now on how those drivers compare. With AMDGPU-PRO 17.50 now allowing you to mix and match driver components and AMD finally open-sourcing their official Vulkan driver, the scene may be even more confusing about which AMD Linux driver(s) to use depending upon your use-case.
  • AMDGPU-PRO 17.50 Now Bundles Open-Source Components, Lets You Mix & Match Drivers
    There's more Radeon Linux excitement today beyond AMD finally open-sourcing their Vulkan driver. Coming out today is the AMDGPU-PRO 17.50 driver that bundles in the open-source RADV and RadeonSI drivers too, in letting you "mix and match" the driver components you want for your system.

End of Fedora 27 Modular Server

  • Fedora 27 Server classic release after all — and Modularity goes back to the drawing board
    You may remember reading about plans for Fedora 27 Server. The working group decided not to release that at the same time as the general F27 release, and instead provided a beta of Fedora 27 Modular Server. Based on feedback from that beta, they decided to take a different approach, and the Modularity subproject is going back to the drawing board. Fortunately, there is a contingency plan: Fedora’s release engineering team made a “classic” version of Fedora 27 Server — very similar to F26 Server, but with F27’s updated package set. The quality assurance ran this version through validation testing, and it’s being released, so:
  • Fedora 27 Modular Server Gets Canned; Fedora 27 Server Classic Released
    - The Fedora Project's plans on delivering an initial "Fedora 27 Modular Server" build constructed under their new packaging principles has been thwarted. Due to less than stellar feedback on their Fedora 27 Modular Server build, the Fedora Modular working group is going back to the drawing board for determining a brighter future to its design. Previous to being canned, F27 Modular Server was delayed to January but is now being abandoned in its current form.