Linux on a low-end laptop

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Joined: Apr 22 2004
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I was given a Compaq Presario 1625 last week, and am looking for a flavor of Linux that will work well with it. The only issues so far are a 'slow' processor and 128MB RAM.

K6 266mhz
Apparently NO L2 cache (HP claims 512k, but no hardware reporting software can find it)
128MB RAM (supposedly 96MB is the max this model can handle)
6GB hard disk
??-speed CD-ROM drive
PC Card 10/100 NIC
NeoMagic video
dual-scan (I believe they call it HPA) 800x600 LCD panel

I have fluxbuntu on it right now, but it requires a rite of initiation to boot correctly. Until you invoke GRUB and select the linux distribution, the screen is garbled. After selecting Linux from the bootloader, the video stays garbled for a little longer, then it starts to work properly.

I have also tried DSL, but the video is garbled. Ubuntu is slooooow, and didn't install successfully.

Any other suggestions for distributions to try?

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eeun's picture
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DSL has a few video options a

DSL has a few video options available at the boot prompt. Did you try them?

Puppy Linux is another small distro that seems to be well-liked.

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Jon
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That little of RAM will make

That little of RAM will make Ubuntu slow, at least in the default Gnome install.

For DSL, you can try a basic "fb800x600" on the boot: line. That will force the video to frame buffer only 800x600 mode. I've got a Toshiba Tecra 8000 (P2 300) with NeoMagic video and DSL works fine on it.

EDIT: And if it does have a full 128MB RAM, you can run DSL from RAM by adding toram to the boot: line too. I usually do "dsl dma toram" or "fb1024x768 dma toram" and it works much faster than having to wait for the CD to spin up and down all the time.

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Joined: Sep 16 2004
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I've run slackware based dist

I've run slackware based distro's on similiar machines, worked pretty well when using a simpler window system. mine only had 40 megs of ram though(32 meg card with 8 megs onboard, needed a special card to use 2 ram cardS), so just about everything ran slow.

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Depends what you want

I've usually installed Slackware on underpowered machines like that. It's one of the few distributions left that still uses a 2.4 kernel, which runs well out of the box on older machines like that, and it's easy to strip it down to save RAM. Last year I gave away a cute little Toshiba Portege with similar specs to your box, and it ran Slackware 10 with XFCE just fine. (The only real problem is finding a good web browser that tolerates running in 96 MB of RAM. Firefox sort of sucks under those circumstances.)

As for the garbled screen display on boot, you might want to modify your grub configuration file. Removing the "splash" argument from the loader lines in /boot/grub/menu.1st should keep the kernel from trying to display pretty VESA graphics which are obviously not working correctly.

(One reason I keep a soft spot in my heart for Slackware is they still default to LILO as the default boot loader. I've never liked Grub.)

--Peace

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Joined: Apr 22 2004
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Re: That little of RAM will make

Jon wrote:

EDIT: And if it does have a full 128MB RAM, you can run DSL from RAM by adding toram to the boot: line too. I usually do "dsl dma toram" or "fb1024x768 dma toram" and it works much faster than having to wait for the CD to spin up and down all the time.

Surprisingly, it does have 128MB of ram. Most sites that sell memory claim it has a non-removable base memory of 32MB, but mine has 2 memory slots with 64MB in each one.

DSL works OK with the fb800x600 and the non-default window manager.

Puppy Linux works but does not see the network PC Card.

Knoppix works well, but shows a few errors after booting. On larger screens Konqueror has a bad habit of resetting the window size even if you maximized it before.

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Joined: Apr 22 2004
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Too good to be true....

Well, it's dead Jim. Smile

After reading that DSL and Puppy Linux install to the hard drive as Debian, I installed that to the computer.

A few strange things happened - clock didn't advance, garbled video on occasion, and the mouse not working forced me to power it off. Afterwards I get a series of beep codes and no video.

One long beep followed by three short ones, repeated twice.

Oh well.

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Jon
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Is that one of those silly Co

Is that one of those silly Compaq models with a system partition on the HDD instead of a BIOS on the mobo? Did that get wiped during the install, and thus might have caused some issues?

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I am not in this world to live up to other people's expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine. - Fritz Perls

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Joined: Apr 22 2004
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Nope

It has a BIOS. What's strange is that since the debian install was not finished, I took the laptop in the car and let it run on the way to work. It finished the install shortly before I got to the office, so I powered the laptop off, waited until I got in the office, then turned it on again.

Once it was logged in, three errors came up, then the mouse died. I then went to another console and tried to sudo shutdown. Not taking the root password I assigned, I had no choice than to turn it off. That was the last time it worked.

When I got the laptop I took the original 3.2GB hard disk out and installed a 6GB. It ran fine with Windows 98 SE before I installed Linux.

I'm going to go to the local flea market mall tomorrow and see if I can find another laptop to tinker with. I know of one there, but it's a Pentium 120. Smile

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It's ALIVE!!!

Well, after buying two older laptops that promptly died when I got them home (notice a pattern? Smile) and buying a third one online, I got it working again. Apparently one of the two SODIMM modules died.

I'm now down to 64MB and Windows 98 for the moment. None of the memory modules from the other 2 laptops work in this one.

The third one should arrive within the next few days - a CTX EzBook 700 with a P200 processor, 16MB RAM, and a 1.6GB hard disk. I remember buying one of these new with a P150 in it for $999 when Egghead Computers was closing all of their retail stores. This one was $35 including shipping. Smile

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Jon
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If you need more RAM I've got

If you need more RAM I've got a few 32MB and 64MB PC-100 SO-DIMMs.

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I am not in this world to live up to other people's expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine. - Fritz Perls

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Joined: Apr 22 2004
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Thanks for the offer

I may have to wait a bit on that. The Presario has been a bit flaky lately.

The EzBook is here. While it had a rough trip (thanks USPS!), everything works except the left and right arrow keys. The memory is of an older type than what the other laptops use unfortunately. It also came with a nice univeral laptop power supply.

On a better note I have another working laptop. Woohoo! It's an NEC Versa 2780MT with:
- mobile P233MMX processor
- 64MB RAM
- 2GB HD
- floppy and CD-ROM built-in
- actual L2 cache (faster than the Presario was!)
- 800x600 active matrix lcd panel (MUCH better than dual-scan!)

Other than that the video is similar to the Compaq and the CTX laptops. One thing this one does not do is boot from CD. Fortunately I found a floppy disk image to boot from CD, so it's running DSL with the same settings used on the Presario. Very nice!

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Jon
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For older machines that won't

For older machines that won't boot from a CD, a program like Smart Boot Manager is good.

http://btmgr.sourceforge.net/about.html

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I am not in this world to live up to other people's expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine. - Fritz Perls