Success! IceWM 1.2.36 and Xorg 7.3 at 100Mhz/16Mb

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

This isn’t my first time to put a working Linux graphical system on a true Pentium, but it is the first time I’ve done it on less than 16Mb.

That’s the old Xorg version 7.3 off the Crux 2.4 CD, along with IceWM and the bulk of the WinClassic2 theme I stole from my Thinkpad setup (it was just quicker to copy it all across the network, than to start fresh ;) ). As you can see in the image, the desktop is using under 7Mb of memory, out of the 12Mb or so that’s left. (Plus a teeny bit of cache.)

Performance isn’t that bad really. I remember the Ubuntu systems I built on Pentiums a couple of years ago, and they were hideously slow — three-minute boot times, clunky desktops and so forth.

But this is relatively quick, although I might be looking at it through rose-colored glasses. Startup to the console login is about 35 seconds, with X taking almost as much time to reach the desktop. I’m sure some of that is due to swapping, since I really don’t think X can get going on less than 12Mb of memory. Once it’s up it might shed some unnecessary files, but I’m guessing loading all its libraries and crap are a good deal more than 12Mb. :roll:

Right now the software array is mostly CLI-based, with xterm as the host. I’m hunting down some GTK1.2 applications to see how it fares with those, but of course the time it takes to compile them, even on the 1Ghz host, is a factor.

(Just for giggles, I downloaded the GTK1.2 version of Firefox 2 from, but that’s compiled for i686, and of course it wouldn’t work. And who am I kidding? Firefox on 16Mb? Ha!)

And best of all, that column of blue pixels has started working again. Joy! :mrgreen:

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18 Responses to “Success! IceWM 1.2.36 and Xorg 7.3 at 100Mhz/16Mb”

  1. 1 James 2008/11/24 at 10:15 AM

    Wow, nice. How/what options did you use to compile X11?

  2. 2 Kurt Kraut 2008/11/24 at 10:16 AM

    With what did linux distribution you started building this up ?

  3. 3 tanguyronce upon atime 2008/11/24 at 5:34 PM

    Congratulations! I look forward to reading about the future escapades of this latest addition to your hardware collection (until you find a slower machine with less ram. you know there’s one out there somewhere.)

  4. 4 K.Mandla 2008/11/24 at 10:49 PM

    James: Actually, the only flags are

    -O2 -march=pentium -pipe -fomit-frame-pointer

    for both CFLAGS and CXXFLAGS. I was going to try to speed-tweak it, but I decided to shoot for a stable system before a whacked-out one. ;)

    Kurt Kraut: This is Crux, the 2.4 installation CD. I believe there’s a 2.5 in the works, but things move slowly between Crux releases. ;)

    tanguyronce …: Thanks. If I could get something slower that was in decent condition, you can bet I’d at least try it. :mrgreen:

  5. 5 matero 2008/11/24 at 11:19 PM

    maybe you could try to compile with -Os instead of -O2
    less memory used could be better in this little pentium than a more optimized and larger code.

  6. 7 K.Mandla 2008/11/25 at 7:37 AM

    If I can get the sound working, THAT will be crazy. ;)

  7. 9 vitorios 2008/11/25 at 7:18 PM

    Great work!

  8. 10 niw3 2008/11/29 at 10:41 PM

    Wow, that’s great!

    I was considering installing a Linux distro on a PC/104 single board computer. It has 64MB RAM and 32MB ROM. I can connect a USB disk for more disk space. The CPU is 468 compatible and works at 133 MHz. Ideal for DOS/Embedded Linuces but I wonder how the graphical desktop performance will be. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

  9. 11 deflated 2008/11/29 at 10:56 PM

    Your WinClassic2 theme looks different to the ones I have found on the internet. Do you mind sharing yours? Thanks in advance.

  10. 12 James 2008/12/01 at 7:31 AM

    I think he’s patched IceWM so the launcher buttons aren’t beveled.

  11. 13 K.Mandla 2008/12/01 at 7:55 AM

    Hmm. I haven’t patched anything, unless 1.2.36 handles things differently than other versions in other distros.

    Check the WinClassic2 theme on When I started with this rendition, I used the stock theme there, and corrected what I thought to be wrong.

  1. 1 Some minor improvements « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2008/11/27 at 9:50 AM
  2. 2 Working with VESA 1.2 « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2009/04/20 at 11:07 AM
  3. 3 Putting the Pentium back to work « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2009/08/03 at 9:35 AM
  4. 4 A Windows XP-ish Debian at 120Mhz « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2010/01/24 at 8:22 AM
  5. 5 X and Openbox in 12Mb « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2010/08/13 at 9:07 AM

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Visit the Wiki!

Some recent desktops

May 6, 2011
Musca 0.9.24 on Crux Linux
150Mhz Pentium 96Mb 8Gb CF

May 14, 2011
IceWM 1.2.37 and Arch Linux
L2300 core duo 3Gb 320Gb

Some recent games

Apr. 21, 2011
Oolite on Xubuntu 11.04
L2300 core duo 3Gb 320Gb

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