I was slightly disappointed with my installation of Damn Small Linux on the Compaq Presario 1240. Since Arch Linux didn’t work I decided to try another compact distribution called Slax. It’s based on Slackware and is designed to boot from usb sticks and such. I picked Slax Popcorn – the trimmed down version that uses Fluxbox instead of KDE.
The system booted just fine, and I experienced had no problems with the video. I’m guessing this was a DSL issue rather than hardware problem. The only things that didn’t work out of the box were sound and wifi. I already knew how to fix wifi, and sound probably wouldn’t be that hard to set up either so I wasn’t worried.
Slax is a pocket distro just like DSL – the Popcorn ISO weighs only 115 MB. But while DSL does offer some accommodations for users wishing to install the system on the HD, Slax remains 100% live distro. What does it mean? It means that it offers no mechanism to convert the system to a semi-normal linux environment. You can of course copy the files to the HD to speed up boot times, and free up your CD by issuing following commands once the system boots:
mount /dev/cdrom cd /mnt/hdc_cdrom ./make_disk.sh /dev/hda1
However every time you boot the system will return to it’s original state forgetting all your settings. You can permanently install software using the Slax modules but most of regular system settings have to be explicitly saved and restored at each boot. For example my ndiswrapper settings would dissapear between each boot so I would always have to copy the drivers from the USB stick into the home directory and do:
ndiswrapper -i ~/lsbcmnds.inf ndiswrapper -m modprobe ndiswrapper echo ndiswrapper >> /etc/modules iwconfig wlan0 ifconfig wlan0 up dhcpcd -d wlan0
What I really wanted was an actual full fledged linux install that would retain my settings without some special hax and tinkering. So Slax was not for me.
Before I trashed it I made some observations. Slax is a KDE based distro, and the Popcorn edition seems to be nothing more than a stripped down version of the original. It’s as if someone removed all the KDE packages out of the distro, and then slapped on Fluxbox, Firefox and Thunderbird on top of it.
I am a hard core Firefox user, but unfortunately this browser means death to old hardware. Popcorn did not ship with any alternatives. There is a Dillo module available but what I kinda really wanted was Kazehakase which has not been modularized yet. And building a gecko based browser on a system that is not persistent (ie looses information on reboot) is not my idea of fun.
So, Slax is out. That’s not to say it’s a bad distro. It is a very good lean Live desktop that I have successfully used in the past on older hardware. Not as old as this Presario though. It requires special attention.
So let’s summarize the developments in my search for a perfect old-hardware distro so far:
- Deli Linux was disqualified because it lacked ndiswrapper that I needed for my wifi card
- Arch Linux wouldn’t even boot complaining my CPU is to old for it’s kernel
- DSL worked but it had odd video issues, and persistence problems
- Slax with Fluxbox worked fine, but it was not designed to be a persistent installed distro (oh, and I never worked out the sound issues)
So I’m pretty much back to the drawing board. I was not 100% happy with any of the recommended “old hardware friendly” distributions. So, what now? Any suggestions?
I think I’m going to go back to what I know and love – Ubuntu. I’ll start with the “Text Only” install that can be run from the Alternate Install disk. Then I will slowly build it up from there, install X server, fluxbox, Kazehakase, Dillo whatever else seems a good idea. Since this will be a Feisty install, I should have a plethora of good packages to choose from.
[tags]compaq presario 1240, compaq, presario, old hardware, dsl, arch, slax, slax popcorn, dillo, fluxbox, kde, ubuntu[/tags]