Category Archives: Crux Linux

Remembering the twins

I waited this long to recap the two Dell Latitude LMs I had as guests last month because I couldn’t find the pictures I took while I was poking and prodding. This doesn’t usually happen where I lose photos of something, but I did find one leftover on my camera, taken the day they left.

2014-11-13-84kbn-dsl

That at least proves it wasn’t a dream. :roll:

The picture, of course, shows the ironclad and eternally trustworthy DSL running in its most basic form on the prettier of the two machines, replete with a wireless network connection courtesy of an old WPC11v3 b-only card. That was not my most successful attempt — and I really wish I could find those other pictures :evil: — but DSL did at least tell me that the guts of the machine were working.

I don’t have a picture of DSL’s graphical desktop on that unit because I never got one. DSL isn’t picky when it comes to hardware, but I have seen more than one computer over the years that is less-than-visual. In this case, both the vesa and VGA attempts, in every variation, resulted in a scrambled video display.

Some of my other attempts were also less than successful, but a few bore fruit. I had better luck with early, early versions of Debian and Fedora, but some very bad experiences with … anything after 2002 or so (which thanks to this machine, did not come as a surprise). :\ And of course, I managed to get a blinking cursor on a Crux 2.4 installation, which I count as a flawless victory. :lol:

The biggest difficulty in working with these machines (I say “these,” but I did almost everything on the one you see in the picture) was twofold: First, these computers were not intended to boot from CD — only the primary hard drive or the floppy drive, of which I had none (and by that I mean the owner had none). Don’t even talk to me about a USB port. You know better than that. >:(

That’s a huge complication, but not something I haven’t had to work with before. I’m not above creating an entire system in an emulator, writing out the image file to a hard disk, and transplanting it physically into a target machine.

In that sense, these are great designs for that task. I’ve run into machines that were a bit curmudgeonly in that respect, but the drives on these laptops pull out of the front left corner like a drawer, connect firmly in a dedicated tray, and are more or less exchangeable in seconds. What’s more, there’s plenty of space in the tray for an IDE-to-whatever converter, which in my case was an SDHC adapter.

I did run into an additional mystery though, which constitutes Biggest Difficulty Part Two: a hesitance to boot from some systems, and I’m not sure why.

It may have been some sort of partitioning inconsistency, between the BIOS and the installation. Occasionally a system wouldn’t boot that I had written out via dd, but other times preinstalled or original installations wouldn’t boot either.

I don’t suspect hardware issues; instead, I suspect either (a) the old BIOS drive dimension limit, cropping up again decades after its relevancy, causing problems again in its passive-aggressive way of suggesting you should get a new computer, or (b) some misalignment between the way GRUB or LILO worked two decades ago, and what the BIOS expected.

I’ve seen machines — in fact, this EzBook 800 has it — that have a BIOS-switchable option for Windows-esque drive arrangements, with the other option as … “other.” :\ I know of one or two machines in my past that couldn’t boot an “other” system if the BIOS was set to Windows-ish, or vice versa. This old warrior was one of those.

I don’t have any way to document that, and I don’t know how or why it happens, but that’s my underlying suspicion. Since the BIOS in these Latitudes doesn’t have an option to switch, it was a crap shoot to see what will boot and what won’t.

Both of these issues, and their underlying problems, are magnified by the glacial pace of working at 133Mhz, and with the added time of swapping drives and bouncing between drive caddies. Plus, the constant risk of snapping or bending a 20-year-old pin array, or the natural brittleness of aging plastic. … I imagine even that caused a little hesitation on my part.

I can say with some honesty, if these were my personal machines, I’d probably be a little more aggressive in seeing what they were capable of. I tend to be a little antsy around other people’s computers though, for no other reason than general courtesy.

In any case, I gave them back a few weeks ago after giving each one a quick cleanup, and they returned to their home of record.

The irony of their departure is that the owner, when he came to pick them up, hinted that I might be able to keep them if I were inclined, and if my offer came within the range of what he thought they were worth.

I declined politely, partly in fear of bringing more wayward laptops into the house on a permanent basis, but also because I know he feels the pair together, with the power supply and a Dell-branded PS/2 ball mouse (woohoo!), are worth close to US$100. I put them around a quarter of that, maybe a little more. I doubt we could come to compromise, even if he were a little more realistic.

But if I were to find one of these in the recycling dump, I wouldn’t pass it over. It would be almost impossible (by my cursory research) to find replacement parts now, and even if you did, you’d likely be paying incredibly inflated amounts for something worth a fraction of the price tag. So you’d have to find one complete, unadulterated and in pristine condition to really appreciate it.

There are better machines of this era to experiment with. But treading the 20-year-mark on hardware this old, perhaps this exhibit machine and its “scavengee” comrade are a good investment. Maybe his offer isn’t far off the mark after all. :|

(And in a worst-case scenario, it’s reassuring to think that Dell actually still has Windows drivers for machines of this pedigree. That, in itself, is amazing, even if the nightmare of running Windows 95 on those machines is only partially massaged by the thought of rehashing a few sessions of Age of Empires.)

Who knows? Junk — ahem, I mean, vintage computing is nothing if not an unpredictable hobby. :mrgreen:

Clearing out the bookmarks … again

I did it again: I collected a mass of bookmarks that I figure I’ll need at some time in the future. Maybe I used them and will again … and maybe not. Either way, they may still prove useful. I do refer back to this site when I can’t remember a page or a topic, you see. :roll:

So here we go again: More links for future reference.

  • I sometimes keep links to pages that have instructions for lightweight systems for old distributions; here’s one for Debian Lenny and one for Crux 2.7 (in the i686 flavor, which doesn’t really matter). That might seem counterintuitive, but I will fall back on old distros when working with old hardware, before making the leap to current flavors of Linux. For an example, peek here.
  • Along those same lines, I found a fairly coherent tutorial on how to install Exherbo. I had a link to another one, but apparently the author took it down. :( I have been wanting to spend a little more time with Gentoo (and possibly Exherbo) but I’m always attracted to the way Crux handles things. That being said, Crux dropped i586 support years ago, and hasn’t had i686 ISOs (unless they’re hiding) for a year or two at least. :( Story of my life. …
  • I use dd a lot, not just to blank drives or scramble the contents of files, but for other things too. To that end, a speed comparison at different block sizes is actually very useful. Of course, I’ve seen some posts on StackExchange that might offer different solutions.
  • Along those same lines, this page gave me a little insight on how to mount a specific partition in a disk image. It saved me a little time with a copy of an old 10Gb hard drive, since I didn’t have to write it back out to a drive to get at the files I wanted. On the downside, counting out all those offsets was a trick. I’m surprised Linux hasn’t thought up a more straightforward way to do that. …
  • I used to be real nit-picky about fonts, but these days I don’t really mind. I did find a good collection of font suggestions for Arch on Reddit, but I’m not the kind of person who installs two dozen font packages just to see a few extra characters in my terminal emulator. Now if we were talking about fonts for virtual consoles, I’d be much more interested. …
  • Since I’m in fix-it mode, here are a few pages about
    • installing python programs to different directories with pip, which is interesting because I’ve thought for a long time that there is no setup.py uninstall;
    • checking to see if directories exist with bash, which came in handy just a day or two ago;
    • how to install Arch from within an existing Linux installation, which I want to try sometime, just to see if it works; and
    • the difference between single brackets and double brackets to bash, which I never knew but explains why some of my long-ago scripts didn’t work as expected.
  • emacs fans would probably love to run just emacs on a Linux kernel with nothing else, and this post can tell you how. It reminds me of my long-ago attempt to trap Midnight Commander within a tty session, much like could be done a long time ago with rtorrent.
  • I should take the time to set up mutt with multiple GMail accounts, like this. I don’t dislike alpine, but I only keep it around because I’m too lazy to set things up. :\
  • From the Department of Ancient Awesomeness comes three flasbacks that just made me nod my head: one on the best distros of the year 2000, another of the best window managers of the year 2000, and perhaps best of all … a complaint from 2008 about how Firefox is utter bloat. The more things change, the more they stay the same. …
  • I watch the Debian systemd soap opera with only a little interest. I’ve been using Arch for quite some time now, and I have no complaints about the newcomer. All the same, if you’re wondering where you’ll stand when the revolution comes, raymii’s chart from earlier this month might be helpful for you, as might this systemd vs. sysvinit cheatsheet. Neither page will convince you one is better than another, but might help you understand how they each handle the startup task. Knowledge is power. :twisted:
  • You won’t hurt my feelings if you find some Linux know-how somewhere else; even I found this list of tech podcasts rather interesting. I don’t really get into podcasts much, but from time to time I will grab one and spin it up.
  • Finally, from the Completely Unrelated to Anything Else Department, here‘s an interesting project: An Android browser that displays web pages (believe it or not) by way of relaying the content through SMS messages. O_o Now I’ve seen everything.

And now I’ve listed everything. If those are at all useful to you, please bookmark them in your own system. Hold on to them for about four months, and then yell “I gotta do something about these bookmarks!” and offload them to your own blog. It seems to work for me. … ;)

The trailing edge of the wave: The CTX EzBook 800

For as many times as I’ve introduced old laptops on this blog, you’d think I’d have a formula or a template page tucked away somewhere.

But I don’t, and here we are again with another underdog to report. I hope it’s not too dull for you; if it’s any consolation, I have three or four other laptops that I haven’t bothered to mention, because I imagine it to be terribly boring for you.

This one though, I feel is noteworthy. Not because it’s a cherished acquisition, like this one is, but because it’s such a curmudgeon that I have a feeling someone, somewhere down the line — probably me — will need information about it in the future. So I put it here, to avoid slogging through all the quirks again. And because that’s what this site was originally for. ;)

2014-08-06-ezbook-800-bootup

This is a CTX EzBook 800, the top-of-the-line model for EzBooks of 15 years ago. It’s a pure K6 machine, meaning it lacks a lot — and I mean a lot — of the requisites that most people saw in the computers of a decade ago, let alone now.

I got this as a castoff from a friend, who is also a bit of a technophile and prefers to work with out-of-date machines for a number of reasons. My friend is primarily a Windows person though, and I have a feeling this was such an underperformer that he was glad to see it go. I know he considered putting Linux on it and even asked a few questions online, but was out of his depth and didn’t see much future in it.

Apparently he paid about $1 in an online auction for it, plus the cost of a new power adapter. Not bad.

This is not my first EzBook, and that was one of the reasons I agreed to adopt it. I have had 700 and 700E models in the past, and if I remember right, that 700E was one of my first test runs with Linux. It didn’t go well, but I lacked the experience then to make it work.

And it seems that I still lack some experience now, given my rather lackluster success at getting the 800 version to sing along. Not that I have terrifically high expectations, but I do have a reputation to preserve. :???:

Here’s a rundown on the guts, and I can explain the implications later.

00:00.0 Host bridge: Integrated Technology Express, Inc. IT8330G (rev 03)
00:10.0 VGA compatible controller: Neomagic Corporation NM2160 [MagicGraph 128XD] (rev 01) (prog-if 00 [VGA controller])
00:12.0 ISA bridge: Integrated Technology Express, Inc. IT8330G (rev c1)
00:12.1 IDE interface: Integrated Technology Express, Inc. IT8330G (rev 11) (prog-if 0a [SecP PriP])
00:12.2 USB Controller: Integrated Technology Express, Inc. Unknown device 1234 (rev 03) (prog-if 10 [OHCI])
00:18.0 CardBus bridge: Texas Instruments PCI1131 (rev 01)
00:18.1 CardBus bridge: Texas Instruments PCI1131 (rev 01)

The hard drive is a Fujitsu MHD2032AT, and the optical drive is a TEAC CD-220EA. My friend maxed out the memory at 128Mb, which complements the 300Mhz K6 quite nicely. I’ve had good success with NeoMagic cards (better than the Tridents, that’s for sure >:( ), and having USB ports on a machine this old makes it an absolute treasure. Phoenix made the BIOS, which is important because the USB ports and a few other things are enabled or disabled through that.

There are some critical points in there, if you’re fighting with a similar machine or one from this era. Please bear with me, and I’ll work through them slowly.

My friend said he could get no modern version of Linux to work on it, and even though I suggested both Slackware and Debian, he still claimed no success. I can attest to that now: Both Debian 7.x and Slackware 14 ran into problems either locating the CDROM or hard drive, or both. You can add these to that list:

  1. Alpine Linux 2.7 for x86, which boots and will configure itself to the live CLI environment, but can’t find the hard drive.
  2. Puppy Linux, slacko in the non-PAE version, which spit out errors demanding a CPU with cmov.
  3. TinyCore, in its newest version, which reached text mode but couldn’t find the hard drive or CDROM.

In most cases, those were dealbreaker attempts, because the live or installation environment couldn’t find hardware I would need to move forward. Here are some others that fell flat, but for slightly different reasons.

  1. Crux Linux 2.7, which was the last i586 rendition. Refused to boot past connecting to the CDROM and ended in the jaws of the mythical “can’t access tty; job control turned off” error.
  2. Debian 5.1, which installed but boots into a soft lockup and seems content to spend eternity reporting its hopelessly frozen state at 90-second intervals.
  3. *buntu versions after 6.10, which usually didn’t get so far as Debian 5.1, and reported no hard drive or no CDROM or both.
  4. Slitaz, the 4.0 release, which booted into text mode and would allow me to install, but locked on boot.

Just out of curiosity, I also tried:

  1. ReactOS 0.3.16, the live rendition, which amazingly worked better on that machine than any other I’ve tried in recent years. I reached a Windows-esque blue desktop and a brief show of some wallpaper, but then it hung and became unresponsive. That may have been a low-memory complication.
  2. FreeDOS 1.1, which took an exceptionally long time to install, and would boot with the assistance of the installation CD. From there it would need the obvious additions of useful software and perhaps a graphical desktop.
  3. Clonezilla in recent 486 versions couldn’t find the hard drive, which is only important because it means any system I build on there will have to be dd’d off via USB1.1 for backups. :shock: Oh well, it’s not the first time. …

The real plot twists come here:

  • Ubuntu 6.06.1 and Xubuntu 6.06, both of which would find the hard drive and CD drive, and install over the course of an hour or so. The resulting desktop was forced into 800×600 (on a 1024×768 screen), and was marginally useful. I tried hand-editing the xorg.conf file but only managed to bork the display so badly as to require starting over. No network access through the PCMCIA port, which sounds familiar.
  • DSL 4.4.10 would of course work, but I ran aground again with the system freeze on wireless insert bug, which I blame on the 2.4 kernels. I used to suspect the PCMCIA-to-CardBus switchover for that, but it seems even CardBus PC cards inserted into a CardBus bridge will trigger it. My only orinoco-based card just doesn’t respond with DSL. :(
  • Crux 2.4 for the i586, which includes kernel 2.6.23.9 by default but could have a newer one implanted. Booted, found CDROM, found hard drive, and installed without major incident.

For me, what is at issue here is the evolution of PC hardware away from ISA-based components to the standards which are more common now. Along with that, there was the shift away from the old kernel support for PATA hard drives to the newer SATA-style code. Add to that an ATAPI CD drive, and it’s easy to see why some distros just didn’t work, and others worked reasonably well.

You can almost pick out a month and year when the trailing edge of the wave fell away. This machine seems to have ridden the far edge of that crest, and as a result finds itself drifting on the other side. :sad:

My proof for this is in the kernel configuration for Crux 2.4, where the old-style ATA options are enabled and all the drives are found. That should correspond to the mid-2000s versions of Ubuntu, where the last support for those same drives is found. After 6.10 or so, the machine falls off again.

I can’t account for Lenny’s soft lockups though, and I don’t see much help online for that particular issue. I tried the old noacpi gimmicks from a decade ago, but whatever plagued the 5.x versions of Lenny persists.

But all is not lost. If I absolutely gut Crux’s 2.6.23.9 kernel, I can compile it in about 45 minutes at 300Mhz, and best of all, I can boot to a graphical desktop with blackbox, which comes by default. (Now you understand my recent affection for blackbox. ;) )

In fact, short of getting a CardBus network adapter to respond, the entire machine works fine.

And depending on how CDs I’m willing to burn, I could conceivably hopscotch my way up from 2007 to circa 2011. The bulk of those packages is precompiled and available on the ISOs, with the exception of the contrib ports. And I have time these days to babysit it, as it churns away at the code.

There’s a little voice in my head that keeps telling me to yank the hard drive and install it externally, and then replace it. Usually there’s another little voice right after that one though, that says I’m too clumsy to get the case open on this without cracking or scratching the body somehow, and it’s too pretty as it is.. And of course, there are no service manuals online any more. … :(

So while all is not lost, this is definitely on the verge of falling through the cracks. And let’s be clear: I have no aspirations of bringing this machine into the 21st century, or for that matter, playing a YouTube video with it. Those days are over, friends. We have the Internet to blame for that.

I can’t deny it’s a terrific challenge though, and I am enjoying smacking my head against the screen for hours on end. But it does feel good when I stop. ;)

Looking over Crux again

It’s been a while since I installed Crux on any machine in the house, and even longer since I put it on anything faster than about 150Mhz.

Just for old time’s sake, and to make sure I hadn’t lost my touch, and to see what would happen, I put it on the 2.5Ghz Celeron the other day, and did some system updates overnight. The end result:

That’s an 8-year-old machine jumping from Grub to the X desktop in just over 9 seconds. I don’t underconfigure my systems, so everything is working there — sound, network and what have you.

I also didn’t overconfigure it: CFLAGS are only -O2 and the recommended settings for a Pentium 4 Celeron, as per the Gentoo wiki.

So why so fast? No good reason … except for the one I mentioned a while ago, when I made the same pitch.

If you recall a speed jump when you moved from something gluttonous and bloated, like Ubuntu, to something sparse and clean, like Arch … well, you’ll see the same improvement when you move to something skeletal and streamlined.

To illustrate the point:

The same system, same hardware, same filesystem, but more than 20 seconds for Arch to start just to the console — and that’s with the network daemon backgrounded so it doesn’t hang while it contacts the router.

Of course, the day-to-day speed improvement comes at the cost of building up a system from scratch (more or less), and like a lot of my Crux systems, this one quickly went southward when I started tweaking it.

Plus, it took me two or three attempts just to get the kernel working, and another one or two to get the graphics system functional.

Personally, I consider that to be a good thing — I’ve learned a lot from Crux, and I can always stand to learn some more. I learn my making mistakes and figuring out how to solve them, or at least circumvent them.

So while I don’t use this much for faster, heavier machines, I still rely on it — sometimes too much — for low-end hardware and extra slow systems.

Because if it can trim Grub-to-X to under 10 seconds at 2.5Ghz, imagine what it can do for 150Mhz. :twisted:

P.S.: Sorry about the sideways videos. I thought YouTube let you rotate a video after posting it, but it appears that I am wrong. :|

A comfortable arrangement: Musca and screen

I’ve mentioned a few times in the past that there is a clear advantage to nesting window managers and/or terminal multiplexers on the same “desktop.”

Oftentimes that’s just because they work better together. For example, meshing dvtm and screen gives you the chance to keep three or four applications in a block, in one window. Neither by itself can do that, really.

Lately I find myself doing the same thing in Musca on the Mebius, where I have individual programs assigned to the Mod4 key plus a number.

Mod4 plus 9 triggers screen, which opens all the same programs in the places I expect them, same as on my terminal-only systems. And I still have the option to open things individually, if that’s what I’m after.

It might sound odd, but the real reason for that is screen’s copy-and-paste sequence. After you get used to moving text around with screen, the old way of click-and-drag is rather cumbersome.

Plus, I spend most of my time in screen, so I can usually work the keystrokes faster than reminding myself how to bounce between applications in Musca, all the while clicking and dragging.

So there it is again: something else that’s easier done via keyboard than by mouse. The list keeps growing. … :)

First time in a long time

A rather large change took place here over the last day or two: For the first time in a couple of years, no machine in the house is running Crux.

It’s true. I’ve backed up the year-old system on this Pentium and begun transferring everything to Debian.

Why? Partly for a change of pace, but partly because I fell flat four or five times in a row getting Crux 2.7 installed.

A half-dozen non-booting kernels, two or three applications with missing libraries, and I’m a bit weary of trying to keep up with configuration changes.

Of course, the hardware only makes things more complicated. Each attempt needs a swap of the CF card, and each failure requires a swap back.

At this point I’m willing to experiment with something that doesn’t require as much maintenance. Debian is always satisfying, and even if it is a little slower, it should take less effort … and time.

So … where to next? ;)

A comparison of text-based browsers

Enough mamby-pamby housekeeping posts. It’s time to put some meat on the table.

I’m going to borrow an idea for a post from persea, who suggested taking a look at the running weight of several browsers — specifically text-only browsers — for a comparison.

Because in the same way that all graphical browsers are not equal, all text-based browsers are not equal. And if you are working on a machine with little overhead, that can be important.

Like everything else I discuss here, your preference for one particular program or another is paramount. My goal is not to prosletyze, but rather to take a somewhat-unbiased snaphot, for educational purposes.

Our guinea pigs today come in six flavors, and some of these hearken back so far into the history of online computing that I swear it’s 1988 again:

elinks links
lynx netrik
retawq w3m

I’m concerned strictly with text-based interfaces here, so things like links2 and the image support patch for w3m are out of the contest. Sorry, wait for the next contest. ;)

Our judges today will be the python memory script from summer a year ago. Because this is all done in the name of science, of course. :twisted:

Let’s get started. First, elinks, by virtue of starting with an E. This is done in alphabetical order, you know.

I should say up front that elinks is what I prefer on a day to day basis, and if that skews the results or my presentation, I’ll apologize up front.

But my perspective on the issue says I shouldn’t have to. I like elinks because it pushes hard to mimic the features and behavior of run-of-the-mill graphical browsers.

So it has tabs, an on-board download manager, a replete bookmarking and history system, more options than you can shake a stick at, and a vicious array of configuration settings.

So yes, I’m partial to the first on one the list, but that’s just life. To be fair, it’s a bit heavy and can be quite sluggish at times.

It’s a tradeoff for me though: Yes, it can take a while longer to load a page. But I get more goodies with elinks than with some other browsers.

Next up is links — straight links, with no added fillips. I built this one myself, stripping out things like support for X11, Javascript and so forth.

elinks and links are obvious cousins; even the menus and line-drawing options are the same. I’ve never tried to cram the options or settings for one into the system of the other, and I doubt it would work.

On the other hand, learning one is easy if you know the other, and considering that links recoups some speed when compared with its relative, it might be worth learning one, to know both.

links has a few other progeny you should be aware of: links-hacked drags some features into the links corpus, while links2 is an offshoot that makes the leap to graphical arenas. Albeit framebuffer driven and somewhat basic.

Next is lynx, which is an obvious pun but a clever name. Lynx does a lot of the things elinks does, and does a fairly quick and clean job doing it.

I found only one options page and it is very easy to navigate. In fact, one of the things I liked best about lynx was it’s flat approach to configuration. Everything is right there, and easy to control.

That being said, lynx probably has the most configuration options at the command line of all the six listed here. Looking over the --help list, it seems like just about anything can be turned on or off … even turning things on or off.

Number Four on the list is netrik, and one I admit I hadn’t used before today. netrik is very light and very sparse, and many of the features or frills that others have, netrik seems to avoid.

Which is most likely a good thing, because the ultimate feel of netrik is more of a pager and less of a browser. (Bonus points for using the names of three pagers in a sentence about pagers.)

If you’re not into pagers or think I’m talking about the beepy thing on your belt, you might have a hard time understanding that. Let me put it into different terms.

If you can imagine a browser that just spits out the text of a page and lets to step through the information little by little … that’s what netrik feels like.

Funny: It sounds like something Apple would bundle up in their latest gadget, fete as a major innovation and win kudos from fanboys everywhere. Oh wait, they already did that.

retawq is next, and probably the best thing I can mention about retawq is that it is so small and so light that one of my favorite distributions that I don’t use — ttylinux — keeps it on board as its sole application.

retawq is a speed demon even when compared to the other five in this list, and while it doesn’t do a lot of the fun stuff (or necessary stuff) that most people probably want, it’s hard to find something to complain about.

You can see in the screenshot that retawq, like netrik, stumbles a little when it comes to specialized characters, but it doesn’t impede the main function — getting in and around the web.

So personally I’m willing to forgive that teeny speck of inconsistency and rank this one alongside its predecessor as a very very light solution to the task.

Last but not least is w3m, and with this entry we’re back among top-rung feature-filled text-based browser applications. w3m comes by default in a lot of Linux distributions.

And for that reason, is usually (in my experience anyway) the one text-based browser everyone seems to know about. The sad part of that popularity is people are usually trying to fix something when they’re using it.

So it sometimes rides the ignominy of a failed X session, or comes to the rescue when something video-ish goes kaput. And it might be that it bears a little of the ill-will of those adventures.

Be that as it may, w3m makes it easy to browse — and this time I mean browse, not just page — in an easy fashion. A simple combination of arrow and tab keys will have you surfing in no time.

And with that, this quick rundown is finished. I can tell you a lot more about elinks (and probably, by extension links) than the others; if you’re more familiar with one of the other four, please share.

Now for the moment of truth: How they size up against one another. Just to be clear:

  • The host machine was this one, with a custom installation of Crux 2.6,
  • w3m and lynx were the default versions built from the Crux ports repository,
  • elinks was a custom version bumped to the prerelease beta,
  • I adjusted the Pkgfile for links to remove graphic support, and
  • retawq and netrik were converted from AUR PKGBUILDs.

Here’s what our judge had to say about the experience:

 Private  +   Shared  =  RAM used	Program 

104.0 KiB +  35.5 KiB = 139.5 KiB	init
160.0 KiB +  20.5 KiB = 180.5 KiB	dhcpcd
476.0 KiB + 128.5 KiB = 604.5 KiB	retawq
540.0 KiB +  93.0 KiB = 633.0 KiB	netrik
356.0 KiB + 280.5 KiB = 636.5 KiB	udevd (3)
752.0 KiB + 205.0 KiB = 957.0 KiB	screen-4.0.3 (2)
844.0 KiB + 178.0 KiB =   1.0 MiB	ssh
  1.5 MiB + 100.5 KiB =   1.6 MiB	links
  1.6 MiB + 178.0 KiB =   1.8 MiB	w3m
  2.1 MiB + 141.5 KiB =   2.2 MiB	elinks
  2.0 MiB + 172.5 KiB =   2.2 MiB	lynx
  3.1 MiB + 998.0 KiB =   4.1 MiB	bash (10)
---------------------------------
                         15.9 MiB
=================================

 Private  +   Shared  =  RAM used	Program 

retawq is the clear winner when it comes to running with a light profile, although it’s keeping ahead of netrik only by a tiny fragment.

Meanwhile, the four browsers with more options and features are definitely riding higher on the list than those two. links and w3m have the middle ground for a megabyte-and-a-half plus-or-minus.

And the two I would probably suggest, just by virtue of usability and familiarity take the upper end of the spectrum, with a massive 2.2Mb consumed, for one page of the Web.

Speed is relative, but at 120Mhz, there is a distinct difference between the pace of retawq versus the pace of elinks. Particularly with larger, heavier pages like Wikipedia, where elinks can take a minute or two to render a single entry.

So as you might imagine, memory profile tends to mirror speed and performance, in my opinion.

And there you have it. My advice would probably be to keep a high-end browser and a low-end browser on hand, and use a tool suited to the job.

That decision should of course be tempered against the hardware you’re using.

And now, purely as torture for anyone who has read this far, I give you the obvious and clear winner over all others in this category:

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the worst possible browsing experience with a minimum of resources:

curl kmandla.wordpress.com | dehtml -p -s | less

Happy surfing. :mrgreen: