Maybe it just takes three minutes

Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.

In an effort to help a friend with a video display issue on his laptop (annoying green line and color artifacts in AC3-encoded AVIs … if you know the answer, please chime in), I installed 64-bit Gnome Ubuntu on my Pavilion, along with some codecs and the proprietary driver for that Radeon XPress 200M. (Okay, and some themes and some other stuff.)

Start time: 3 minutes.

Which is abysmal, of course. And I haven’t done anything to knock it down, mostly because I didn’t want to tamper with too many settings while troubleshooting something else. In my meager experience, the closer you can stay to “stock” when trying to mimic behavior on another machine, the better.

But still … 3 minutes?! That’s terrible. That’s 450Mhz behavior. The first few times I started the machine, I assumed something was wrong and began whacking the CTRL+ALT+Backspace keys, trying to win back the GUI (I also get no splash screen). It was only after I turned it on once and walked away that I realized this was the way it was going to be.

Of course, I’m being facetious when I suggest that it just always takes three minutes to start any Gnome machine. I’ve heard of much, much shorter startups on machines far less powerful than this one. But when you’re used to a 22-second Grub-to-X with Arch64, something like this is terribly painful.

A couple of added notes: First, installing Crux on this same machine was a mixed blessing. Compile times were extremely short, which was lovely, but there was no acceptable video driver for it. Vesa can’t do 1280×800 apparently, and while the xf86 driver for ATI proved workable, it left terrible smears across the desktop.

I hastily attempted to use a package for the proprietary driver, but none would build for me. And the downloadable package from ATI caused the machine to seize up. So unless I was committed to a console-only 2Ghz AMD64 system, I was stuck. I’ll try again some time in the future; sometimes walking away from a problem helps solve it.

Additionally, my Thinkpad is churning through a Crux installation as I type, building ObConf from the port in the ryo-saeba collection (that port, by the way, lacks libglade and startup-notification as dependencies, and needs to be updated to the 2.0.3 version).

Start times to Openbox on that machine are in the neighborhood of 14 seconds. No really, I’m being quite honest. That’s with 16-bit color (24-bit is the same though), PCMCIA network, and so forth. I can prove it. I have video. :D

The downside is that it takes hours to compile anything. Firefox ran for close to three hours I think, and I had to start system updates last night before I went to bed. There is definitely a huge tradeoff for a machine of this ability. Start times and performances are amazing, but it’s an overnight compiler — that’s for sure.

And the last note is that Arch is back on my Inspiron. I need some of the software that Arch has, that I’m not willing to figure out myself in Crux (read: Zim, for the upcoming Hardy beta). I’ll be painfully honest and say it feels a little sluggish when compared to my last Crux build, but there’s very little to be done about that. If I’m addicted to speed (and I am), that’s just going to happen.

There. Now you are completely up to date on the digital life of K.Mandla. :roll:

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4 thoughts on “Maybe it just takes three minutes

  1. dawn

    Speaking about CRUX, I tried to install it on an old machine once but the memory — 55 Mb — wasn’t enough. (The machine is running Arch now). Do you know whether I can get it to do a “low memory” install?

  2. K.Mandla Post author

    I’m not sure. The lowest memory I’ve used it with was 192Mb, which is not sky-high, but certainly didn’t spit out any errors you might have to check the mailing lists to see if there are any suggestions. Let me know what you find out; I’ve been contemplating picking up that XPiCD I’ve wanted for a few months, but they don’t run with more than 48Mb, and not being able to run Crux would be a factor in my purchase, so to speak.

  3. Pingback: Flabbergasted « Motho ke motho ka botho

  4. Pingback: Surprised, and not surprised: Feather Linux at 150Mhz, 32Mb « Motho ke motho ka botho

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