My ancient Compaq Presario is gone. You know which one I’m talking about, right? It was the machine that used to run the Nethack server and then was turned into a very lightweight laptop running Hardy with Ratpoison. Well, it died on me recently. Cause of death? Old age I presume.
The damn thing simply stopped charging one day. Either the AC adapter gave way or the internal power supply went to the big data center in the sky. Either way, the battery juice ran out and the laptop is now just a paperweight. I could buy a new power supply, but frankly, I don’t think it’s worth it. The machine was ancient and in a less than perfect condition (cracks, scratches, dead pixels, etc…). There is just no point in investing any money into it.
The good news is that I found an even older, and slower computer to replace it – a Texas Instruments Extensa Scholar ESS2:
Next to this baby, the Compaq looks like a speed demon. The Extensa is equipped with 133 MHz CPU, sports a whopping 16 MB RAM and has an impressive 1.3 GB hard drive. This thing is ancient beyond words! It is also in much worse condition than the Compaq. Both batteries on this system are dead. The main battery is the size of a a small club, and I’m pretty sure it could be used as a deadly bashing weapon in a pinch. But I’m not worried about that – I can just keep it plugged into AC at all times. What is worse is that the CMOS battery is fried as well. This means I can’t change any BIOS settings such as, for example, the boot order. Or rather, I can change them but they don’t stick.
This effectively means I can’t boot the machine from a CD to install linux. Fortunately the laptop came with an external floppy disk that is the first boot device. So I could use a floppy boot loader of some sort that would punt me off to the CD drive and allow for CD based installation. Slackware ships with the right tool for this. It’s called sbootmgr.dsk. Just create a bootable floppy with that image with RAWRITE, pop it into the drive and you will be presented with a nifty boot menu. The only problem is that I no longer own a computer with an operational floppy drive. The Compaq had one, but it is dead. I actually had to locate an old computer at work, and create this boot disk there.
The question now, is what to do with this machine? I want to install linux on it, but I’m not sure if Ubuntu will actually run on this thing. Any recommendations for super-light linux distros that would be good for this machine? I will probably run it X-less, or with a very light window manager such as ratpoison.
Here are few caveats:
- The laptop does not have any USB ports
- It has no network card of any kind
- It does have a PCIMCIA, but…
- I do not have any PCIMCIA ethernet cards at home
- I only have the Linksys WPC54G ver 1.2 Wifi card
- My Wifi is WPA encrypted
No matter which distro I choose, I will need to figure out how to get that damn Linksys card working. Some distros make it easier than others. I believe newer releases of Ubuntu might actually support it out of the box. In the past however I always had to use nidswrapper for it.
Perhaps I should get myself one of those more widely supported wifi cards for my experiments with these ancient machines. Anyway, what OS would you put on it given the above parameters. Keep in mind that the machine only has 16MB of RAM and 1 GB of HD to work with.