I know, I’ve said this before but … I think I’m in love.
Just about the only downside to working with a source-based distro on a machine as old as … well, as old as the last century, is the fact that almost everything requires a large amount of time, a large amount of discipline and a meticulous attention to detail.
I’m not trying to flatter myself, I’m actually grieving over the effort in putting Crux — as I like it — on a 586 machine when ConnochaetOS does such a great job with almost no effort at all.
And honestly, as someone who migrated from Ubuntu to Arch to Crux, this is my ideal answer to the issue of running a lightweight system on a terrifically out-of-date machine.
I’ve wanted Arch to run on sub-Pentium IIs for years now, and I rejoice everyone puts together a i586 branch. Lowarch led the pack a while back, followed by a few independent efforts, and most recently the dearly departed archlinux-i586.org.
So yes, this may be just the latest in a long string of attempts to keep an i586-based version of Arch moving. And yes, this may be just the latest in my long string of excited attempts to keep my i586 machine moving with Arch.
But this comes off the slow dissipation of the DeLi Linux project, and might be able to carry momentum for a while. There are a lot of factors at work though.
Regardless, it’s still very exciting to watch a 150Mhz machine come to life and dash through the Arch startup sequence. The thrill of that might always outlast an Arch-for-i586 project.
I should mention a few caveats.
First, as best I can tell ConnochaetOS is still in its early stages. The package list is very sparse. Installing from the ISO is going to give you Fluxbox and a few options, and not much more. No vim. No emacs. Only nano.
So if you’re looking for the entire Arch Linux suite plus AUR …well, it’s not quite ready yet. Of course, with Arch, you’re only a few moments away from building whatever package you want, and stepping slowly through dependencies that way.
(Note that you’ll have to download the Arch PKGBUILD and install files from the Arch website, then edit the PKGBUILD to allow the i586 architecture to build. And even then it might need some tightening up.)
Next, I should mention that I installed to a virtual machine and copied across USB with
dd, as is the case for most of the distros I test these days. I have a feeling that the ConnochaetOS ISO would boot alright, but I saw no reason to tempt fate. It’s just as easy the other way, and probably faster.
Finally, performance is very nearly what I get from Crux, with a few small concessions. I carve up rc.conf and inittab as a matter of course, and as you can see, I went through the work of building Musca and dmenu-xft, just because.
Occasionally though, I get some rough spots where ConnochaetOS seems to be dragging through something. I am accustomed to using my Crux build of Musca so I have a feel for its relative speed, and at times ConnochaetOS seems to be thinking very, very hard about something very, very important.
Of course that wouldn’t be any different from any other machine that I’ve seen run both Crux and Arch though: Crux is a good step faster than Arch for me, and probably because so much of it is whittled down to nothing.
So I don’t fault ConnochaetOS for inheriting the (infinitesimally minor) shortcoming of its progenitor. Because on the whole, this is really great stuff.
It found my network card, configured it and connected to my wireless network without prodding — and without wireless-tools (which is possible with an orinoco-cs-driven card. Believe it or not).
It managed to make the transition between the emulator and the actual system without losing track of the hard drive, although I did hope for that when I picked the /dev/kernel drive assignment option at installation.
Video-wise, I did have to build my own xorg.conf file and adjust it to avoid the fbdev and trident drivers, and go with vesa. And I need to check to see if this will handle the tridentfb module, like archlinux-i586.org could.
In the sound department … I’m going to take my time, mostly because alsa-lib is in the repos, but alsa-utils isn’t. And there are a few other things I’d like to be in place before I force it to sing.
What I’ve personally built I’ll put out there on the Internet somewhere, and if you want to use it to get your own system up and running, be my guest. And I see that the ConnochaetOS team is soliciting software suggestions, within criteria.
In the mean time, I’m interested in playing with this a little more, and maybe even merging this with the carcass of archlinux-i586.org, which might have a few useful packages that ConnochaetOS, at this point, doesn’t.
Sound crazy? It might. All in the name of science, of course.