I finally set up an autologin on the ugly little laptop, so I could properly time the boot from Grub to the desktop.
CRUX Linux with a minimal setup of Openbox 3.4.4 on a 4200rpm hard drive using only ext2 partitions starts in 25 seconds, and that includes Internet access, 1024×768 video at 16-bit color depth (the video card can’t do 24-bit), sound, USB mouse and touchpad support and most other amenities. That’s a custom 126.96.36.199 compilation, with everything stripped out and only the essentials built directly into the kernel. Kernel size is 1.4Mb, and the leftover modules take up only 412Kb.
Now, since I don’t expect anyone to believe a 25-second boot on a K6-2, I made a video of it. I had planned on posting it on YouTube, but it stretched to bizarre dimensions, and looks quite ridiculous. Instead, I’ve put the rotated clip here on Mediafire.
(YouTube junkies will still get their fix though. Click freely:
This is really my first shot at making a movie and embedding it, so this was quite an effort. And I don’t know much about YouTube: Why was the video stretched to such stupid proportions? Or is that just on my screen? Is there a way to correct that?)
In any case you can time it yourself: The Grub menu drops away at 24 seconds, and X is up at 49 seconds. The cellphone in the picture is there just so you don’t think there’s any trick photography involved. I didn’t bump up the frame rate or feed the output from a dual core into the LCD — it’s real.
Even more real is that hideous whine in the background — that’s the siren song of a 4200rpm hard drive. They can put a man on the moon, but they can’t shut up a hard drive.
Firefox is still a disappointment though. The bloated toad takes 15 or 16 seconds to finally appear, which is miserable for any program. I’ll give it one tiny sliver of leeway, though: I think it was a little faster when I didn’t have extensions installed.
Technically, yes, this is cheating. Just about every piece of software on that machine is compiled specifically for the K6-2, and what little isn’t comes off the i586 version of CRUX 2.3. So even the precompiled libraries and other software are tuned closer to the K6-2.
There are two lessons I learned here: First, recompilation is simply the best solution for out-of-date hardware for me. I could tweak and pull Ubuntu until I was blue in the face and I never would get a 25-second Grub-to-X … unless I recompiled it all, and then it probably still wouldn’t be as fast. Even Lowarch wasn’t this fast. Nothing beats carving out the guts at the lowest level, and rebuilding from scratch.
And second, you don’t need a $2000 dual core laptop to surf the Internet and send e-mail, if you can decipher CRUX. Ah, but that’s the catch. …