Suddenly things make sense

CRUX LinuxI’ve been a bit flustered by my ancient laptop recently, mostly because an extra 32Mb stick of PC66 doesn’t seem to be recognized by the system — BIOS or otherwise. I tried inserting another chip — a little faster one — in the hopes of at least triggering an error, but nothing happened. And I see no BIOS options. And I see no dip switches. And that might mean things are now might be as good as they’ll get.

That would be sad, because there’s a lot of potential there, but without enough memory to scrape by, it’s difficult to do anything beyond the console. I still have the option of a larger, faster hard drive (which I intend to pursue), but unless there’s another memory brace buried somewhere in the guts of the machine, I think the easily accessible one is broke.

So I’m in a situation where graphical systems are laggy because there’s not much memory, and extra-laggy because the paging to the drive is so darned slow. Icons, menus and program selection can take 10 to 20 seconds at a time because of all the caching and refreshing that needs done. Little things like turning off antialiasing, and using only console applications lighten the load enough, but anything with menus or scrolling or whatnot takes forever to manage and use.

What I really need is to focus on console-based applications and ignore anything graphical, find a window manager that doesn’t drag at 100Mhz, that can duck in under the wire at 16Mb and still look good without requiring glossy titlebars and stuff like that.

If only there was something like that. If only there was … if only … if only. …

And suddenly everything makes sense. A long time ago I spun past awesome, trying to figure out what the appeal was. Now I know. Yes, this is still a graphical system, so it’s not any faster than, say, Openbox in starting up. It still causes some rather hefty disk-thrashing on general use, and yes, it’s about as heavy as IceWM, if htop is to be believed.

But this is ultra-cool. This is a 100Mhz machine with a sweet desktop presence, system monitors, chat windows, you name it, everything running from the keyboard (which is a good thing, because moving the mouse can trigger more disk access … I have no idea why) and nothing graphical to slow it down.

Technically that’s the old version of awesome — 2.3.4 or something, out of the Crux 2.4 repos. Xorg 7.4, the updated version or the version that comes with Crux 2.5, won’t work on this machine because it fails to recognize the video card. And building the newest version from a 2.5 port is a bit time-consuming, when I could just be using the machine.

So far I’ve put Openbox on this, as well as full and light versions of IceWM, and if you want to count the original system, Windows 95. But this is by far the coolest, geekiest, technophiliac-est way to go, for a machine of this caliber. :mrgreen:

P.S.: Thanks to urukrama for keeping my 100Mhz experiment from looking like the bottom of a birdcage.

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14 thoughts on “Suddenly things make sense

  1. Onyros

    Awesome, you finally bent to “dark side” :P

    And you know what? Forget about the 3.0 branch, if you want to keep it simple and as low mem usage as it get, stay with the 2.0 branch. I keep using that old version as well, but I got stuck on an even older version (Wooden Worse rc4, which had features intended for v2.3, yet was a 2.2 rc, the result of a mixup), which has no dealbreaker bugs and has a memory usage of 4MB.

    Reply
  2. IceBrain

    Awesome is awesome :P Right now it’s my WM of choice, but I prefer the v3. It uses about 10MB, but I like the extra flexibility of the Lua configuration script.
    On the other hand, I have upgraded v3.0 to 3.1 (Helicopter :P) and my config file crashes awesome :|

    Reply
  3. Armor Nick

    What about ratpoison? I don’t know about awesome, but ratpoison is said to be the fastest of all window managers.

    Reply
  4. Sam Weston

    Funnily enough I switched to awesome yesterday. I’m really liking it so far and it’s VERY fast on my machine. However I’m having a bit of trouble remembering the endless keyboard shortcuts, but that will come with time. I also really like the tagging thing which is a great alternative to workspaces, if a bit confusing at first.

    Reply
  5. T. Lindsay

    Hopefully my past experiences with revamping older machines (desktops mostly, mind you) will help you use that extra 32M memory. Sometimes I’ve had success with replacing the memory with the largest piece being installed in the first bank (bank 0), and then working my way to lower density pieces as I install in the remaining slot(s).
    Is the piece in question double-sided (memory chips on both sides)? Then you may need to leave memory out of bank 1 or bank 2, then progress further up. Of course, most laptops have only 2 slots.
    Some laptops also have some memory soldered on board, which makes it impossible to try the more dense memory first. (But you could try the opposite tack …)
    Hope this helps

    Reply
  6. urukrama

    I use Awesome nearly exclusively on one of my older laptops for the exact same reasons you mentioned.

    I’m glad that post of mine was of some help. :-)

    Reply
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