Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.
Yes, finally, after about five more attempts and with still more hurdles to clear, I have a working CRUX Linux system on the ugly little laptop. And performance is incredible.
That’s Blackbox with Firefox — not my favorite suite, but easier to set up in the short term. I have a lot to learn about CRUX, but right now it’s looking very promising. Boot times are magical — under 20 seconds to a login prompt, and under 30 to a desktop.
Even Firefox, the bloated pig, starts up in about four or five seconds faster than it does in other distros. xterm windows spring into existence as if they were already lurking behind the screen. emelfm2, once I compiled it, ran in seconds, and Leafpad starts in less than two.
There’s no lag whatsoever when I drag windows around, and I can stretch and resize things to my heart’s content. It’s like a brand new machine, as spunky and speedy as it was back in 1997. It’s amazing the results you get when you move away from prepackaged distros.
Of course, that’s the catch. This was probably the hairiest installation I’ve ever done — and that includes a swipe at Gentoo a year and a half ago. I had to recompile the kernel about six times before I got all the necessary components for a network, video and just a bootup. If I had known at the start that it would take that much effort. …
No, this is a long walk from Ubuntu. I wouldn’t even suggest this unless you know how to compile a kernel, partition a drive, chroot, configure grub or lilo, manually configure a network, manually configure X … everything. And then, you better know how to fix something if you get it wrong. There are plenty of opportunities for a busted system, and I had seven or eight of them myself.
Luckily the CRUX installation disc behaves the same way as the Arch installation disc — it’s basically a live CD that boots to a command line with root privileges. Which means, when things do go wrong, you don’t have to reinstall the entire show just to fix something. Of course, that’s technically always the case, but I think you know what I mean.
But the fact of the matter is, the results are worth it. This machine literally flies with CRUX on it. And if you’ve gotten into the nitty-gritty of Arch, then CRUX is probably well within your reach. The same style and structure are in them both — Arch has ABS, and CRUX has ports; Arch has PKGBUILDs, CRUX has Pkgfiles; Arch has makepkg, CRUX has pkgmk.
(That’s where the irony lies, in my case. I just made the comment about wanting to try more compiled distros, and I get one that needs an entire source tree to install software — and my lovely router doesn’t like rsync. Sigh.)
In any case, CRUX — like Lowarch, and Arch really — is a fantastic option for an old machine. There are 2.3 installation CDs for i586s too, which is critical if you’re like me and trying to make an old K6-2 a viable piece of equipment.
Just make sure you have plenty of time, and know the inside of your machine really well. It’s a big undertaking, particularly at slower speeds, but it’s worth it when you’re done.