And my hunch was more or less correct, even if there is such a small margin for error with this machine that the slightest bit of excess baggage tips it from functional to failure.
This particular version of TinyFlux was branded as specific to the i586 and used kernel 2.6.18.x, with a smattering of software that — while technically out of date now — is still very useful. Provided your hardware can keep up, of course.
I installed this the same way I worked with Slitaz, by running the ISO through Qemu and writing to a disk file, then using
dd to write the disk image to the flash card over USB1.1. Not the quickest way, but it does work.
Startup went fine, but the network and video were botched — the latter I automatically blamed on the video card’s inability to work with the standard vesa driver that most distros use these days.
It was a different problem this time though: TinyFlux, in its installation procedure, had written out the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file to point at the cirrus driver, which it was correct in doing … under the emulator.
So switching to the actual hardware meant the wrong driver was in use. A quick hand-edit of the configuration file, substituting the “trident” driver for the “cirrus” put it back on its feet.
Networking was likewise easily solved, just by inserting the yenta-socket module. After that, the orinoco-cs module is automatically inserted, and TinyFlux’s network discovery and configuration put me online.
Like Slitaz though, TinyFlux is quite sluggish at this level. A clean and fresh system rides around 16Mb of 29Mb available — which is quite good for a fully graphical system — but almost instantly the machine begins to rely on swap space.
Opening the Fluxbox right-click menu causes swapping. Moving the arrow through the menu causes swapping. Clicking the selection causes swapping. And after that it only gets worse.
Opening Netscape Navigator to its home page takes more than 20 minutes, and that’s with absolutely nothing else running. It’s about 10 minutes before the toolbar appears, two more to see the page area painted, and much much more before the home page at wikidot.com appears.
And all that time, the drive light is unflinchingly lit.
Dillo and some other lighter alternatives are on here, and I can say that with only one of those running, you can do much more in less time. Honestly I didn’t expect Navigator to actually do anything at 150Mhz.
But to be honest, it’s more than just slow processor and limited memory. I’m getting a lot of graphical artifacts on the desktop. There are small, miniature corrupted windows tiled along the bottom.
A lot of the styles and wallpaper are probably too intense for the machine to keep up. The entire desktop seems a bit overwhelmed at times. Glossy buttons and rollover effects are redrawn visibly.
And like I said, responsiveness deteriorates quickly after the system starts up.
That being said, and as I mentioned two years ago, it’s definitely not ugly. It’s a good looking Fluxbox desktop with enough shortcuts and menu options to keep the most rabid Fluxbox fan sedated.
So yes, I like it, I just wish it could work a little more cleanly at this level. It’s a lot of fun to see a full-fledged distro come to life on a 12-year-old computer, but beyond the starting desktop, there’s not a lot I can get done.
And yes I say that knowing that this machine is still further below the practical threshold for this particular distro. Give me a 10-year-old K6-2 with 128Mb of memory, and this would be one of the first things I would suggest for it.
As it stands though, I shall continue searching. My hunch wasn’t wrong, it was just a little off the mark.