First, I have admitted that I am struck by how much I can get done with a machine running at this slow a speed and with such bottom-of-the-barrel specifications. But the flip side of that is that I am also impressed with how much of the workload is easily and efficiently managed by this array of console applications.
I’ll explain. This machine has an 800×600 screen. The Thinkpad also has an 800×600 screen, but as a general rule it’s quite crowded. I rely a lot on Alt-Tab switching between Sylpheed, Zim, Osmo and so forth, as well as the music player, file manager and maybe even Leafpad.
And it’s rare that I browse the Internet on that machine. I have chopped down Firefox to managable size or used Kazehakase on it in the past, but the video card is nothing special, and generally speaking it has a hard time keeping up.
On the other hand, this machine can surf the Web with elinks, manage e-mail with alpine, arrange files with mc, post to this blog with Charm … you know what I mean. And you can probably see where I’m going with it.
I’m considering moving that entire system to an Awesome installation using terminal programs, rather than sticking with GTK2-based stuff. And at 550Mhz, it’s a comparative screamer to this one. Just thinking about the relative speed throws me into a reverie. Awesome 2.3.4, plus cplay with the mplayer hack, plus mc, alpine, elinks, calcurse, the Terminus font, transparent urxvt terminals, Charm and an editor. …
And the flip side of that (can you have three flip sides?) is that I am realizing that the GTK1.2 remix of Ubuntu might have been a step toward a dead end.
After all, almost nothing in the way of software on that machine is receiving updates — the bulk is no longer maintained or even developed, because of course, GTK1.2 is so far gone into obsoletia. That’s part of the reason it works, but it also means there’s nothing there that will get better.
(Part of that was by design, by the way. I knew full well that I wouldn’t, for example, have to release updates to that ISO if no software ever received any real attention. I am heartless, am I not? )
On the other hand, the same core system with Awesome, plus the array of console applications I have mentioned, would be a far greater and more powerful system for low, low-end machines. If I can get the same kinds of things done on a true Pentium with only 16Mb of memory, anything bracketed by that ISO would probably perform even better by foregoing an outdated toolkit and relying on a tiled window manager and terminal applications.
And it would give an exceptionally old computer — like this one — the alternative of working strictly from the tty and losing no function at all. A few terminal windows would keep the same system alive and working at the same level (albeit a little … differently) as it would in the graphical mode.
So what’s that all mean? Is there an Ubuntu Awesome-Plus-Console-Apps-Plus-Terminus-Font Remix in the future? I don’t know. I might be taking on another project that I just don’t have the time to properly manage. So if you beat me to it, I won’t be offended.
But yes, I’ll probably give it a try. We’ll see.