Thanks for A Great Distro

Forum: User Feedback
Topic: Thanks for A Great Distro
started by: bulldozer

Posted by bulldozer on April 10 2008,17:13
I just got DSL up and running on a < Toshiba Libretto 70ct >. One of the scientists here where I work as a support tech asked me what he could do with it. It originally had Win95 and somehow managed to run Office 2000 with 120MHz (underclocked Pentium MMX 160MHz), 16MB RAM, and a 6" LCD. No CD-ROM but he did provide me with a PCMCIA floppy.
I told him I could install Linux so that it would have a modern OS and modern browsers for surfing the internet. It would be better than Win95! So I set out on my quest. In retrospect it was alot easier than it seemed, but I had alot of trial and error. After reading a few guides on HDD installs without a CDROM I removed the HDD and attached it to an Ubuntu 7.10 machine I use daily and formatted it with a 64MB partition and one large partition for the rest. I copied the KNOPPIX folder contents from the ISO to the small partition and created a boot floppy. Once I put the HDD back in the Libretto and started booting off the floppy I thought I was home free. But alas, I was not.
Segmentation Fault! Around the time of creating the RAMDISK the system would panic, I saw kwapd and cp -r in the errors. I had no idea what to do. I almost gave up and left the Libretto sitting on my desk. During this time I was trying to post to this forum but my account had not been activated. I didn't give up, I just dove deeper into the wiki and there it was under boot option cheat codes: mem=xxM I added that to the boot options and after a few minutes, JWM with a nice Dillo window to greet me.
After that it has been all fun with no real problems. Dillo works great, but Firefox took 5 minutes to load cause it filled up what remained of the 16MB of RAM and started the kernel swapping like a madman. Another hurdle, Dillo didn't display everything correctly, I decided my test for a browser would be logging into my bank and checking my transaction history. Dillo wouldn't work with the javascript crap my bank used. Another week or so went by, then I remembered Opera, it seemed like a relic from the past in my mind, but I went into myDSL, installed Opera and it worked, slowly, but usably for the occasional non-DIllo working websites it would be used for. I replaced Firefox in the tray with an Opera link and not the little Libretto is usable!
I'd like to thank everyone that works on DSL for putting together a distro that, while not made for older hardware, works really well because of the size constraints you have challenged yourself with. My next task is to get a wireless card operating on this notebook to replace the PC card ethernet to cut the final cord and make this thing fully portable.

Posted by ^thehatsrule^ on April 10 2008,17:25
If you want the system to move better, you could create a swap partition which would definitely help your low memory situation.
(If you don't feel like repartitioning the hdd, you could use a swap file instead.)

Other cheatcodes of that may be of interest: lowram dma

Using DSL with 16mb and Opera - looks like DSL lives up to its name :)

Posted by bulldozer on April 10 2008,17:43
Oh yes, I forgot to mention a few tweaks. I did HD install on the big partition (~1.4GB) and reformatted the small 64meg partition to swap after the installation was successful. I also configured JWM and disabled 3 of the 4 desktops and also got rid of all the virtual terminals beside 1&2 as suggested in the wiki "reducing memory usage" page.

These are the boot options I'm sending: noacpi nodma noscsi nousb noagp nofirewire frugal mem=16M tz=US/Central
In choosing those, I took the disable everything and enable as necessary frame of mind. Am I actually saving and CPU cycles or memory by nousb, nofirewire, etc or does it not matter because those aren't present on the system anyway? What would be the advantage of enabling dma? Also, I think mem=16M implies lowram or something because the desktop icons are not enabled, but the floating desktop system widget is. I like the desktop widget and lowram gets rid of it...

Posted by ^thehatsrule^ on April 10 2008,17:52
Hmm.. I'm not sure if it applies to hd-installs, but those nousb, etc. are used to reduce startup time.

DMA for hdd's is used to speed up drive access instead of running in pio mode.  In general, enable it unless your drive has problems with it.  You could look it up if you want a more in-depth explanation.

If you just want to test it out if it's already running, you could execute
Code Sample
hdparm -d1 /dev/hda
where hda is your hard drive.  You'll probably need to run that with root privileges.

Posted by curaga on April 10 2008,18:03
It does apply, HD installs use the same init scripts, just skip the initrd.

DMA is definitely worth it, it can speed your HD access up to a factor of 5.

There is an automatic lowram check to disable Dillo on boot, maybe that disables dfm also.

The next thing to do would be to switch to Xchips, to gain faster X startup, lower ram usage, better graphics, friends, success, wealth, and other miraculous things that come with accelerated graphics :;):

Posted by bulldozer on April 11 2008,17:36
I enabled dma by changing the boot option from 'nodma' to 'dma' but running
Code Sample
hdparm -d1 /dev/hda
tells me it fails to turn on dma, perhaps this hardware is just too old for dma?

I switched to the Xchips server, there is a little improvement, thanks for the suggestion.

I got a Prism I wireless card working, using the orinoco_cs module, but it does not seem to support scanning,
Code Sample
iwlist eth0 ap
Code Sample
iwlist eth0 scan
result in 'not supported' messages. Is there a better way, or a GUI for looking for wireless networks?
If not, it may not be a problem: The card associates with the strongest signal on its own. This happens on boot up and then the card gets DHCP and everything just works (as long as there is no encryption, but there wouldn't be at a coffee shop).
How do I do a full restart of PCMCIA to get the card to go through the same routine it does at boot time and get DHCP?

Posted by lucky13 on April 11 2008,18:28
1. Wireless tools/wireless extensions isn't fully implemented in 2.4 kernel. Hence you have limited functionality.
2. It doesn't connect to the strongest signal if you specify an ESSID in your iwconfig.
3. You don't have to restart PCMCIA, just kill pump and restart it. It helps, though, to properly set up iwconfig so you connect to your own ESSID with whatever security (!) you use.

Posted by bulldozer on April 14 2008,21:03
Yes, but this is someone elses laptop that is computer literate but not so much so. I will probably make a script for him to use at home, but he mainly wants to connect when away from home, like at a coffee shop or on UIUC's campus with no security (web authentication w/ VPN optional)

By the way lucky13, I set up the gold bling JWM theme you made. Its brighter and looks nice on the small, dim DSTN LCD on the libretto.

Posted by lucky13 on April 14 2008,21:18
Cool. That must be the classiest Libretto in Illinois. :-)
Posted by bulldozer on April 14 2008,21:32
Quote (lucky13 @ April 14 2008,17:18)
Cool. That must be the classiest Libretto in Illinois. :-)

For now, at least until I get a libretto 110 for myself. 233MHz, 64MB RAM... It might even be able to keep up with my usage patterns...

The funny thing is that the only 110 I've seen on Ebay was ~$200. Thats half the cost of an Asus EEE, and honestly I'd rather have an EEE in that kind of market, the libretto would be nice if they were going for the same price as similar spec'd machines: practically free.

This topic should probably end here since I've basically gotten the libretto working pretty nice and I'm going to return it to the owner soon. I'm going to open a new topic in the appropriate category to troubleshoot another Toshiba I have that won't complete an HDD install.

Thanks again DSL people!

Posted by lucky13 on April 14 2008,22:21
Keep looking around. I don't know what you have in the way of used computer shops, but we have a few around here (Austin) that often have old laptops and even Librettos for under $100. I've also seen Librettos for $40-50 on craigslist.
Posted by curaga on April 15 2008,09:35
Wow.. /me wants one, the Librettos in here north are few, rare, and often costing over 100 euros..
Posted by lucky13 on April 15 2008,11:48
Just as an example, here's a 70ct in Anderson, IN, still listed ($75). Fairly complete, comes with dock, power supply, extra (dead) battery, PCMCIA floppy, Win98se.
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