Getting 6.06.1 on 120Mhz Pentium 1.5Gb 48Mb

Rather than bog down the forums with yet another list of links to hardware tweaks and tricks, I’m just going to encapsulate what I did to get Turbo running with Ubuntu 6.06.1, and leave it at that. Most of the ideas I’ve gotten from other spots on the forums, and so me repeating all those ideas ad nauseum doesn’t do anything beneficial.

First, I pulled everything that wasn’t strictly necessary. I dropped the ISA SCSI card, modem and sound card (sound was only necessary in a sense), and put in an Intel PRO/100 PCI NIC. I had tried two other NICs, but for whatever reason Ubuntu couldn’t deal with them (I think that was due to the low-memory installation, and my omission of their drivers from the setup sequence).

Then I killdisked the drive and added a 16X CDROM and 16Mb more of memory. That pushed it from 32Mb, which is far too little for the installer program, to 48Mb, which put it in the acceptable range. It also kept the installer from crashing, like it warns you it will.

Turbo wouldn’t boot from CD, so I needed a copy of Smart Boot Manager to do the installation. It’s a very handy utility, and did the job more or less perfectly.

I booted into DSL 3.0.1 and formatted partitions to ext3 with dir_index. Some folks pointed out afterward that dir_index was the least of my worries, and it’s probably true: All the tweaks were having very little effect, since the hardware was so slow. But if I hadn’t done them, I’d always wonder if they would have helped. …

After the installation ended (hours later, I should add), I set the journal_data_writeback and noatime flags, which pretty much set the file system as ready.

Then I edited the repository list and dist-upgraded. I made the mistake of installing the 686 kernel, thinking that might help, but it didn’t. It caused an endless series of reboots at the kernel load point.

Turbo predated ACPI, and I got warnings on startup to that effect. I set the boot line to include noacpi and acpi=off, and it cured the error messages.

Next I installed sysv-rc-conf and removed every service that was the least bit suspect. USB, ALSA, different file systems — everything went out. Then I edited the rc0.d and rc6.d directories so those vacant services would be ignored at startup and shutdown.

Next I installed readahead configured it for the next boot. Then I installed prelink and preload and set /etc/default/prelink to read PRELINKING=yes before starting /etc/cron.daily/prelink.

I set the vm.swappiness to 100 and let it swap out to its heart’s delight. I disabled ipv6, although I don’t think it ever really came into play. Lastly, with everything in place and the system more or less ready for X, I reprofiled the boot and did a couple of test startups and shutdowns.

Start times were around 2:30 (that’s two minutes, 30 seconds), and shutdowns were under 20 seconds. Really, that’s not bad for a shutdown time.

The entire setup takes about three hours. I did it twice — once on Saturday and then again on Monday — and the second time was much smoother. (Saturday took longer because I had hardware issues that needed attention. That’s not the fault of the machine or Ubuntu, really.)

In retrospect, I should have just avoided X and XFCE. I installed them because the experiment would not have been complete without them, but to be honest, it was hardly a useful step. Without a mouse, XFCE just stared at me. And the startup time was nearly a minute from the startxfce4command to the desktop. So not only did it burden the machine, but it burdened the machine unnecessarily.

Ratpoison saved me from being mouseless, and saved me the task of buying a mouse or installing a PCI USB card. Ratpoison is unique, that’s for sure.

And that’s about it. Once it had been done and I put it up on the forum, I said the eulogy and called it the end of a wonderful life. I stripped the machine about an hour ago and set apart the pieces that are still useful. The rest will go to recycling.

Fair enough.

Edited: I seem to have some notes leftover from the 120Mhz machine, so I’ll put them here, in case I ever want to try that stunt again.

  1. Swiftfox doesn’t come in a Pentium flavor, and the Pentium II version yielded errors. Dillo is probably best, although Firefox worked well enough once installed.
  2. InitNG: I’ve never gotten it to install, and I certainly wasn’t going to wait an hour to see it not install again on Turbo. So I skipped that option.
  3. Autologin: Might have shaved a second or two off the start time, but to what end? It takes nearly three minutes to start up anyway. The time it takes to type a name and password are fractional by comparison.
  4. Tune for broadband: A possibility, but not really practical given the circumstances. It took a leap just to get Firefox going on Turbo; tweaking it for broadband wasn’t worth the time.
  5. HDparm: I’ve used this, but never seen any real benefit from it. So this time I skipped it.

The full list of packages I stripped out are (in a command line entry):

sudo aptitude remove –purge ubuntu-standard evms evms-ncurses hdparm lvm2 lvm-common mdadm ppp pppconfig pppoeconf rsync ubuntu-minimal alsa-base alsa-utils jfsutils pcmciautils reiser4progs reiserfsprogs usbutils vim wireless-tools wpasupplicant xfsprogs

I probably might have gotten away with more than that, but a lot of things are interlinked at the lower levels, and pulling one causes another one to squeal.

In the end, I don’t think it was really worth it. A lighter distro would have worked better and made Turbo work much more impressively. But it was important to try, and see the results.

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May 6, 2011
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