Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.
Slowly, slowly, things start to get better. This time I built up a stripped Ubuntu command-line installation on the Sotec, then added xorg, IceWM and a few GTK2 applications, to keep me in business.
(That, by the way, is the most excellent WinClassic theme for IceWM, adjusted only slightly to my own tastes. Note that the Tahoma font is not part of the msttcorefonts package. I found that … somewhere … while I was … surfing. Yeah, that’s it. … )
Startup time is around 1:10, which isn’t much worse than a pure command-line system (I tweaked the base installation to get it to move a little faster, and compiled an autologin executable. Don’t hold that against me. For my Xubuntu and Ubuntu experiments I set the session manager to autologin too).
Startup is fast, but shutting down is a different story. I have to spawn a terminal and issue the shutdown command, then type a password. I’ll be honest here and say that the entire process pushes the shutdown time to almost 25 seconds. I guess if I wanted, I could alter the sudoers file to give myself permission to shutdown without a password, and maybe make an alias for the entire command. But to be honest, it doesn’t interest me enough.
And of course, I had to hand-edit the xorg.conf file to fix the screen depth.
Kazehakase starts in just over six seconds, which is worse than I had hoped for. But I rationalize by saying I installed the Flash plugin, whereas I didn’t in Ubuntu and Xubuntu. However, once it’s up and running, it loads and renders fairly fast. There is some lag, but mostly when I skim up or down pages. That I blame on the hardware, particularly the video subsystem.
Xfe — which is really the lightest file manager I can find, short of a console-based file manager — starts in under two seconds. xterm spawns in 1.3 seconds, but there’s a lag of about 0.4 seconds before the shell prompt appears. That seems to happen on all the machines I build, regardless of the system or the emulator.
The downside to those applications is that both are far outdated in Feisty. I know, it’s been less than six months since Feisty blossomed, but really: Kazehakase is version 0.4.2, which shipped with a form submission bug. And Xfe, which is 0.88 in Feisty, has already matured to version 1.0+, and has options which make it immensely more attractive than this version.
My network card hasn’t given me any trouble since I left the Gnome setup, which leads me to believe that something in Gnome was interfering with it. While it’s nothing I can pin down — and I’m not the least bit interested in troubleshooting something Gnome-driven — it’s probably worth remembering.
So what was the point of all this? I guess mostly for my own gratification. I wanted to be able to say “Yes, you can install Ubuntu on a very old machine and still get performance, plus usability, and without unnecessary bloat.”
Now a system like this is faster, but much less newb-friendly. Little things like automounting and volume control still need attention. And a login manager would probably be a good idea. No doubt someone will want a screensaver (yuck!). There are no desktop icons, and something needs to handle wallpaper.
But most of those issues can be handled without too much stress. iDesk is an option for the desktop icons. ivman, if I remember right, can automount for us without tipping the bloat scale. Qingy is in the Gutsy repos, so in another month, that could be an option. And there are plenty of console programs that can pick up the slack too.
Building a system like this gives you a lot more control over what goes into the machine. And if you can control what goes in, what comes out will be much more impressive.
Next stop: An experiment.