Installing Slax Popcorn on Compaq Presario 1240

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:

  1. Deli Linux was disqualified because it lacked ndiswrapper that I needed for my wifi card
  2. Arch Linux wouldn’t even boot complaining my CPU is to old for it’s kernel
  3. DSL worked but it had odd video issues, and persistence problems
  4. 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]

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13 Responses to Installing Slax Popcorn on Compaq Presario 1240

  1. jambarama UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Have you thought about fluxbuntu? It hasn’t had an official release yet, but it has some pretty stable betas out there.

    If you’d rather not fiddle with betas, there is also always Xubuntu, which isn’t too resource intensive once you decrapify it (that is what I’m on right now). Plus you can slap Fluxbox on Xubuntu (or any of the other *buntu), and Kazehakase with just an apt-get command.

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  2. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Hey, fluxbuntu may actually be worth checking out. Thanks!

    Also, Xubuntu could be an alternative but from what I read it is not as fast or lean as they advertise it.

    Reply  |  Quote
  3. jambarama UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Yeah xubuntu isn’t much lighter than ubuntu. If you decrapify it, get rid of a bunch of unnecessary daemons & software (the metapackage “xfce-desktop” is full of crap) it really isn’t bad, but for now they’ve firmly positioned themselves in the “jack of all trades king of none” area.

    The default install isn’t very fast or very featured, but if you like you can get neato stuff like awn, avant, compiz-fusion, and all the window decorations to work as easy as ubuntu.

    But if you are careful about power consumption, or speed, you can get rid of an awful lot of stuff an still have a functional desktop. First thing I did was install ude/uwm (the other lightweight window managers–flwm, icewm, lwm, jwm, tinywm, fluxbox, windowmaker, work without a hitch too).

    I only used the live version of fluxbuntu, but n2 really impressed me.

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  4. K.Mandla JAPAN Kazehakase Linux says:

    I’d agree — Slax is fun and works wonders sometimes, but until it gets past the “just a Live distro” angle, it’s only a curiosity to me.

    That being said, if you have a machine that will boot from USB and you want to use a teeny Linux distro that’s easy to customize, Slax works great. I used to run it off a 256Mb USB key on a P4 machine in my old office. It was perfect since I could customize the live environment by dropping modules on to the flash drive, and never have to wait for CD access, or reburn them.

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  5. hernan CHILE Opera Windows says:

    Boot Slax from your hard drive (installing Slax)
    If you want to install Slax on your hard drive, make sure you have a Linux partition which is free. Then go to the “Home” icon on your KDE desktop. Select the “Slax-Install” program, and fill in all the nessacary information. Make sure you select the right hard drive partition, you probably don’t want to install Slax over another operating system you have. It installs LILO with it, which means that the install could make Windows, (or other operating systems installed on the drive) unbootable. So you should only do this if you know how to use and edit LILO.
    copy and paste from http://www.geocities.com/slaxfansite/#boot

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  6. Pete UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I have tried almost all the “lightweight” distributions on my Omnibook 4150 (Pentium II 400 with 128mb ram) and i have found that the only distro that live up to the hype is MEPIS-AntiX.

    MEPIS-Antix is a version of MEPIS that uses the Fluxbox Window manager. There are Kernel changes that MEPIS has made, that make it a better choice than Ubunbu. The install is also easy from the liveCD or Install CD. All my hardware was detected including my broadcom wireless PCMCIA card!

    Once installed, its a simple APT-GET to install from the MEPIS repo’s.

    MEPIS-AntiX also includes conkey, feh, and firefox.

    I just added wifi-radar and PCManFM. (Thunar is good, but seems to install more SH*t than nessesary.

    Well, hope this helps, and I am eagerly waiting to try Fluxbuntu (Release), but I feel MEPIS-Antix will still be a better product.

    Reply  |  Quote
  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Thanks for the tip Pete. I did try Fluxbuntu recently and it was ok – not great. I will definitely give MEPIS-Antix a look. :)

    Reply  |  Quote
  8. Gene Venable UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Puppy Linux 3.01, the latest, works great for me and the setup of my Broadcom 4318 Wireless was relatively easy. I have a Dell Latitude D400.

    It didn’t install completely automatically, but after I went thru the Connect software, I found that I needed just a line or two from the Puppy Wiki, wireless section, about manual installation, to make everything jake. And it was easy to create a text script that put in a few commands so now it’s all automatic. The module needed was automatically selected by Puppy, so I didn’t have to download or reconfigure anything, just issue the correct iwconfig settings.

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  9. Sally MALAYSIA Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Puppy is better than DSL on my old Deskpro, esp. in terms of graphical interfaces – but I believe this is why DSL uses damn small RAM. :) I’m gonna try SLAX in a short moment. ;)

    P/S: I’m using The World Browser, not the real IE.

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  10. remaras UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I also have tried several different Linux distributions on an old Dell Inspiron laptop. I had an issue with DSL loosing use of my touch pad and Puppy, although I do appreciate it did not fit the bill because of connectivity issues. I am currently running Tiny Me a pint sized distribution of PC Linux. Although not perfect it runs well on 128MB of RAM, recognizes my USB drives and has no connectivity problems.

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  11. bd3 UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Try using Puppy Linux. Version 4.12 works fine on my old Compaq 5220 and IBM thinkpad. It found all the hardware including sound on both machines and wifi on the Thinkpad.

    It’s a good solid lite Linux.

    Reply  |  Quote
  12. Roger SPAIN Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    dreamlinux 3.5,based in debian linux lenny,included wicd manager wifi,the best…sorry for my inglish

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  13. nelson PHILIPPINES K-Meleon Windows says:

    Try going to slax.org and search slax on harddisk (or similar) lzm file. If you run this module within slax, it will create an iso that you can burn to cd as your boot selector. The menu then will include options that will retain your bookmarks, files etc.

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