Category Archives: Ubuntu Forums

Installing VICE 2.1 on Ubuntu 9.04

No surprises really, but VICE 2.1 will compile nicely in Ubuntu 9.04. And since I have the full Gnome suite installed, I decided to check it this time against the Gnome UI.

I don’t like Gnome, but the Gnome UI for VICE does have quite a few more options than the old xaw-based interface. :|

I’ll update the howto next, to show it works. That thread just gets older and older, all the time. …


Ubuntu LinuxI don’t intend to sound jaded or know-it-all, but it’s unusual that anything in the Linux world should surprise me. By that I mean that I have expectations for certain software and certain distros, and thus far in my relatively short experience with Linux, everything can be comfortably cubbyholed.

Ubuntu is full-featured but kind of slow. Fedora is the same, as are most of the other well-rounded distributions. Arch is fast, and lets you control your system down to the minute detail. Crux is brutally honest, as other source-based distros probably are. Ultralightweights like Slitaz, Puppy and Tiny Core are so bewilderingly fast as to defy logic.

That’s just what I’ve learned as life has gone on, and what I’ve come to expect. No harm in that. No danger in having expectations.

Except that occasionally somebody in that list above steps out of their box, and I’m left struggling to understand how it’s possible. This time, it’s Ubuntu that has me scratching my head, and questioning my personal belief system.

For some reason, through some sort of arcane technological magic, my Ubuntu 9.04 system boots in under a minute.

The hardware is this machine, the same one I have been using since early 2006 when I realized Linux was going to save me thousands of dollars in hardware upgrades demanded by Redmond. One gigahertz, a 7200rpm 60Gb system drive, 512Mb of PC133, a ground-level Nvidia card and a decent wireless card.

Up until now, I had a hard time getting Ubuntu to boot in under three minutes. In fact, about a year ago when I still had a 2Ghz machine, three minutes was still the best I could do. And the only way to get Gnome to finish loading any faster was to put together a custom kernel, and inject that into it’s electronic heart, like epinephrin.

So I have no explanation. I built a system with the desktop ISO, I installed the full Ubuntu Gnome suite, and I used ext4, just for a change.

Aha, maybe that’s it.

I had heard ext4 was yielding some speed increases, but I’d also heard the opposite — that it was dragging down older systems and making them unresponsive. The obvious corollary was that, like many things, ext4 was probably best on newer, higher-end hardware.

But this sub-one-minute-booting machine is nothing short of a shocker. I measured it three or four times, and every time it’s ducking in under the 1 minute mark.

And that’s when the drive light stops, not when the cursor appears. I dislike that the startup sound plays and the system appears ready before it actually can do anything — that’s an old Windows trick that doesn’t fool me — but I can’t find fault since it’s only another eight or nine seconds before the entire system is ready.

So there it is. Finally, an Ubuntu system that can put Gnome in my face in less than a minute from the Grub bootloader. Somebody out there deserves a gold smilie: :D

An Arch game machine

A long time ago I saw a screenshot where an enterprising Linux user had stranded three icons, via iDesk, smack in the center of the screen, with nothing else around and no particular wallpaper in place. I don’t recall much else in the way of the arrangement, but the icons were for his/her favorite games — the idea being, the machine was dedicated to just playing those three games, and everything else was on the periphery.

Not one to be outdone, I kind of put together the same thing on an Arch machine yesterday, using a few of the games I prefer within wbar, for an animated punch-and-run effect.

The wallpaper is the most “playful” I have on hand. Maybe next time something a little more sinister. :twisted:

Originally this was arranged with Openbox as the window manager, but I don’t think it’s actually necessary. If you trigger wbar from your .xinitrc file and let it run until killed, you should be able to pop most of these applications open without the need for a window manager. (P.S.: It works, although it’s a little … creaky at times. Windowed games — like FreeCiv — don’t behave right without a window manager. Just so you know. …)

So why do this? Well, I guess the most obvious reason is an offline machine for solo-play games. Things like Wormux or Warzone2100 could reside on a dedicated gaming machine, and not be used for anything else (like browsing or e-mail).

And most Linux games I come across are well within the reach of a 1Ghz machine with a 64Mb graphics card, even when running at full resolution. Something in the Pentium 4 range with a proper video card would be a rock star.

This is such a blatant and pitifully obvious application for an outdated computer that I’m tempted to call it a “case in point.” But at the same time it’s such a blatant and pitifully obvious application for an outdated computer that it’s hardly instructive. Sad to think that it takes me so long to actually do these things though. ;)

Qimo does it right

With everyone and their grandmother trying out Qimo, I suppose my assessment isn’t novel, or really even necessary. I can only say I had the ISO downloaded about a week ago, but finally gave it a turn a day or two ago.

Nicely done, and that’s really all that can be said. If you want a replete, smooth, good-looking desktop prearranged with small people in mind, I can think of no better option. Low maintenance, high usability and visually attractive. I’m probably a little outside the target demographic, but if I was still in the single-digit age bracket, I’d probably think it was a winner.

Qimo does a couple of things right from my perspective though, that probably wouldn’t be immediately evident to the average 5-year-old. For one thing, using Ubuntu is a no-brainer. It’s so complete and so zero-effort that anything else (outside of another heavyweight distro) would be counterintuitive.

And by extension, using Xubuntu as the background system does (I will admit) reduce the overall system demands slightly, meaning that old 1.4Ghz Pentium III you have in the closet can handle it without sweating … too much. The picture you see there is the Inspiron running Qimo at 1Ghz, and performance is acceptable.

I also like that there are actually two accounts installed when you start it, one for “Qimo,” and one for an administrator. Qimo (the user) has access to most all the software installed in a generic Xubuntu system (that I can tell), but has almost no privileges beyond that. Games and accessories? Yes. System management and sudo? No.

On the other hand, there’s an “administrator” account built into the system that gets a default-ish Xubuntu desktop on login. So you’re not so much installing Qimo as a complete and new system, as installing Xubuntu with the added pleasure of Qimo for the little people.

And this is probably the wisest way to do it. Set up the machine with one master account to serve as “administrator,” give it a standard Ubuntu deviant as the desktop, and keep the standard “Qimo” account for people who are new to the planet. It might seem obvious, but at the same time, it’s smart.

About the only difficulty I have with Qimo is something I’ve mentioned already — it’s based on Xubuntu. That in itself is not a bad thing, but what it means is that your initial impulse to dash down to the cellar, drag up the old Pentium II and holler at the kids, “I’ve got one for you!” … well, it’s not misguided, but it might be premature.

I’ve detailed my disappointments with Xubuntu elsewhere, and I stand by those assessments. I haven’t actually put Qimo on a Pentium II, but I expect performance would be sub-par. I think I would have been happier if Qimo had been based purely on XFCE, with a few added packages to round out the administrator’s desktop. It would open up and entirely different bracket of hardware to Qimo.

As it is though, I get the feeling that something slower than the 1Ghz machine I playtested this on … would end up suffering. “Suffering” is a relative term that is best determined by you, but from my angle, there is a lot more potential with something lighter than Xubuntu.

The only other thing I would criticise is the use of Ubiquity cued from the boot menu as a method for installing: It hinges too heavily on Ubuntu’s success in establishing a graphical environment to put Qimo on the drive. I’ve found myself in a nifty Catch 22 in past days trying to put Qimo on the K6-2, because of the fact that Ubuntu goes two different directions simultaneously — 24-bit depth but incomplete framebuffer support — and ends up scuttling my small sliver of the technological spectrum.

That’s not really Qimo’s fault though; that issue lies with Ubuntu. I will combine both of those points and say that a text-based installer and a lighter framework would keep me happier. But my allegiance lies with antique hardware, and that’s not necessarily what Qimo is intended to satisfy.

For now I give a wholehearted, giant, cartoon-sized thumbs-up to Qimo, for keeping very small computer users happy, and keeping some otherwise outdated machines in circulation. And for giving me an idea or two of what to do with this K6-2. ;)

mdev and Xvesa for ultralight systems

If you remember Blice of the Ubuntu Forums as the author of fttps, the command-line download manager, you might be interested in keeping an eye on his notes at

These days he’s been carving away at system start times and overall system requirements by relying on mdev instead of udev, and building Xvesa independent of the full X arsenal.

The net effect, to hear him describe it, is quite exciting. Those changes, coupled with some hard-wiring of the system startup (mostly compiling the startup scripts, if I understand it correctly), is resulting in some extremely lightweight systems that boot in single-digit start times with memory profiles under 16Mb. And those are Openbox-plus systems, not my ultra-slim Awesome systems.

If you’re the owner of an old machine (sigh … or a netbook owner, I guess :roll: ) you might want to take a closer look. Most of it sounds no more difficult than compiling a few programs and building a few scripts, and I can vouch for his helpfulness if you run into a problem.

And think how much you could do by relying only on Xvesa, instead of all of X? It would almost be like a personal version of SliTaz. Hmm. This makes me want to get out the Pentium again. … :|

Don’t let this happen to you

You should be careful: If you start using Linux on your old computers, you might run the risk of never buying another one.

If you read about my experience at 100Mhz, you probably already think me a nut for being amenable to the idea of downgrading all the way to a Pentium with 16Mb. But now it seems that in a roll call for machines and their ages, there are a few more lunatics out there. Like hrod beraht, who runs Arch and evilwm on a 9-year-old Athlon and sees no need for a new machine.

So be careful. Don’t let Linux fool you. You need a new computer every couple of years to be part of the in-crowd, a productive member of society and to gratify your biological instict as a predator. So go on out there and buy, buy, buy!

And send me your old one. You know you’re just going to throw it away anyway. I’ll take care of it for you. … :twisted:

This is not Gnome

Ubuntu LinuxEvery now and again, even I am taken by surprise by a screenshot. It’s not often, but kerry_s‘s work with JWM, tricking it out to give it a Mist-ish Gnome look in grey, did it this time.

You’ll have to sign in to the forums to see the images there, but I don’t think he’d mind if I reproduced them here.


Amazing work. It’s a pity the real Gnome doesn’t look as good as that, and run on the same hair’s breadth of memory.

On the passing of Other OS Talk

Ubuntu LinuxI feel the need to shake my head for a few seconds, in note of the passing of the Other OS Talk forum, and its nested subforums on the Ubuntu Forums.

I’m not staff any more, so I don’t feel like I need to restrain my opinions if they differ from those of the administration. It was rare that I didn’t agree with the consensus anyway, but this is one of those times I probably would have spoken out in opposition.

The goal, as I understand it, was to simplify the forum structure a little bit; that I can only surmise given bapoumba’s note here. If that’s the case, I’m all for it.

The ‘forums are the largest Linux support venue on the Internet, and one of the largest English-based Internet forums in existence (so I was told). Even the venerable, which does a pretty good job encompassing the entire Linux experience, is not as sizable as UF or growing as fast as UF (again, so I was told). And the +/- 30 people who keep it running on a volunteer basis are doing an amazing job.

So the need to streamline is understandable. Still, Other OS Talk was really the first and last place I would stop in for questions or chit-chat. I always thought it admirable that the forums gave Ubuntu users a place to chat about things they wanted to try in other operating systems … or for that matter, gave Windows users a place to ask questions of people they knew and trusted.

But it’s closed now. You can still read the contents of course, but Other OS Talk and all its subarenas are read-only. Cross-distro questions can be asked in the same places where you ask Ubuntu questions, and tagged with the “Other_OS” tag when you ask it.

So in reality, I guess it’s still the same. It doesn’t feel the same as peeking in on the Ubuntu-gone-Arch contingent’s plans to take over the world, or listening to the Debian purists philosophize from their digital mountaintop. I kind of liked that. But it’s done. No need to go on wasting breath.

And now I have to say it: Drop Other OS Talk but keep Community Cafe Games?! :shock: :mrgreen:

P.S.: It looks like Mike is willing to field a discussion on the issue in the next forum council meeting. I might be willing to attend, but I would feel somewhat guilty, being an off-again-on-again community participant. … :|

How can it all fit?

Sixteen megabytes is a pitful amount of memory, and I sometimes have to remind myself of that. I have grown too accustomed to thinking of that in terms of a “workable” amount of space, and it’s not. Even by my standards, it’s far less than what is practical, usable or functional.

And yet these Awesome-based console-application systems are regularly using up less than half of the 12Mb htop says I have left to use, and there’s no sign of it demanding more space any time soon. What’s the story? How does it all fit in under 16Mb?

I don’t know. It’s got to be one of those Russian dolls things. Just in the way of explanation, here’s a “baseline” system, freshly booted and with nothing but two instances of urxvt running (and yes, that is how sparse a Crux system runs. If you want to avoid all those sputtering little do-nothings in your htop report, start using Crux. It returns your hardware to you).

A lowly 5Mb of memory consumed, plus a few more in swap. I should mention that my swappiness is set to 60, but I don’t know if that will really make much difference when there’s only 16Mb to work with in the first place.

Now let’s add a little to the workload. Here’s calcurse, which I mentioned a day ago as a fantastic replacement for the GTK-based Osmo, if you’re inclined to go console.

It hardly makes a dent. Memory consumption went from 5Mb to 6Mb, which means the space consumed by calcurse is probably less than a full megabyte. Even the swap space usage is the same. But that’s probably only to be expected, since calcurse is not exactly a intense or vivacious application. Unless you’re adding to it, there’s not a lot to expect of it. It could probably easily float along on a Commodore 64, with a few modifications.

Let’s up the ante. Here’s alpine, in the middle of a valid and live e-mail polling session. In other words, not fake e-mails to myself.

That’s more like it. Six megabytes consumed, and this time swap space has to give up two more megabytes to keep the system from imploding! Ha! Now we’re really eating up resources!

Maybe. That’s still only a grand total of 3Mb over what the freshly booted system needed, and unless alpine is actively sending or receiving e-mails, there’s not a lot it really does. Something that requires constant effort might show a real drain on memory. Here’s irssi.

Not as bad as I thought, even with irssi’s constant relay between me and Freenode. Only 6Mb live memory used, and up to 9Mb of swap needed, and that’s with both #archlinux and #crux open at the same time. I suppose if I really wanted smoke to come out of the floppy drive, I should have jumped into #ubuntu too. That place is a mess. :shock:

After that though, I don’t know how much more I can tax this machine. Here’s snownews, which, like alpine, isn’t really very demanding so long as it’s not checking its feeds.

Not even twitching. And that swap space use, now, might even be cached programs that I already started. I don’t know, but I have a feeling looking at swap now isn’t much of an indicator of system demand.

Here’s Charm; Python might bog this down a bit. It’s a little slow to start (relatively speaking, of course), and that I blame on its Python underbelly. Prepare to be disappointed. …

At last, finally, I break the 7Mb mark. I still haven’t crested at two-thirds of the available memory, but at least now I can say I use more than half of the 12Mb I have on hand. And unused memory is wasted memory … or so the gurus say. Good thing I’m not a guru. :roll:

All right. I’m going for broke. I’m going to make this thing sweat if it’s the last thing I do. I shall force it to show a picture of itself, and in some sort of twisted backronymatic befuddlement, I will finally break 10Mb of usage. Here’s feh, displaying one of these screenshots on the host.

Survey says … no. No worse than anything else, really. It’s slow and I can blame that on the time it takes to scale down a photo to half its size, but it’s not exactly eating up my memory or causing rampant disk-swapping. I’m almost disappointed at this point.

Here’s mc, performing damage control, in a manner of speaking.

Still no singular chomp on my memory — that too seems to only take up a single megabyte. About the only thing I have left that might be a system demand is a browser, and I’m starting to worry that it won’t be very impressive. Here’s elinks, after signing into the Ubuntu Forums.

No luck there either. elinks tends to “hover” for a while, instead of opening pages very fast, but I wonder how much of that is elinks stripping out the visual garbage and stuffing it into /dev/null, and how much is just slow processor speed. The ‘forums are notoriously slow for me (it’s the design scheme), so elinks pausing for a second or two or three is only what I expect. (The Arch forums, by comparison, load exceptionally fast for me on a “normal” machine … well, on this machine too, I guess.)

But there’s not much of a drag on the system that I can blame on elinks. It might be slow, that might be the page, and it might be the processor. But it doesn’t seem to be anything I can say is because of low memory.

One last ace up my sleeve: cmatrix. This little monster has got to cause some sort of dent.

Bah. I give up. It’s taking up processor time, but not memory. The experiment is a failure, gentlemen. No one program is taking up much more than 1Mb at a time, and in that case there’s not much point in trying to find one program that will eat memory to a considerable degree.

I’ll go the opposite direction and open three or four at a time, and see what I get. Here’s snownews spawning elinks, with alpine, irssi and htop all running in their own rxvt-unicode instances. That will multiply the demands of rxvt-unicode several times over, and stack on a grand total of five applications. This should be good.

Well, I suppose that’s an “improvement,” in one way. Seventeen megabytes of swap consumed is definitely a high mark, but standing memory is still only requiring 7Mb. Since this is running freely and without paging, I can only assume that the bulk of what’s needed to do this can be done without disk access.

I suppose there’s something to be learned in this: That even if I dive into the guts of this machine, find the other memory bracket, install the 32Mb chip and successfully reassemble the thing, it might not lead to much of anything at all. As it stands now a running, active system doesn’t seem to need more than the 12Mb I have available, with a bit of swap space as insurance.

And going straight to console might speed things up a little bit because it takes less effort to display these applications in the native video environment, instead of under X. But the run speed isn’t going to improve drastically if I’m not ever paging out to the drive as a consequence of normal use.

The moral of the story: I have a lot to learn. But I knew that three years ago, when I put an Ubuntu CD in the drive and restarted my laptop. You just never stop being a newb.

Build up, don’t tear down

I found a nifty link to some more speedup tips for Arch. In fact, there’s a whole thread here that talks about ways to make Arch boot in a half or a third of the time it takes normally. If you use Arch and you’re not one of those people who runs a machine 24-7, you might find them interesting.

My own speedup tips for Arch are scattered around this blog, with most of them under the Howtos page, but all of them a couple of years old already. I still use Arch, but I don’t bother tweaking it for speed any more. My philosophy toward it has changed a bit.

I left Arch for Crux when I realized I was falling into the same habit I had begun a year before, when I started carving down Ubuntu in hopes of speeding it up. The problem is that both times, my perspective was a little off-kilter.

For my own part, building a system up from scratch is always faster than tearing out parts of another one. I don’t think I’m stepping too far out on the limb when I say that; it’s common knowledge that a Linux system crafted from the ground-up is going to outperform anything that was torn down.

It’s true for Ubuntu — a command-line system with desired packages added on top is going to run faster, probably, than one that was cut down from the complete version. The same thing is true for Arch: When I started recompiling entire systems with different CFLAGS, or building custom kernels, or carving out the default init scripts, I realized that it was time to look for a different brand.

Making Ubuntu into Arch isn’t any more promising, to me, than making Arch into Crux. The work you go through trimming away at Arch is sidestepped completely with Crux, and for some people that’s ideal. It’s true, it’s the difference between an intermediate distro and an advanced one, but if you’re doing all those things in Arch, then you’re ready.

If that sounds like you, I would recommend considering something that gives you more ground-level control, in such a way that you’re not taking extra time slimming things down when you could be building up from a pure core. And if performance is your goal, then the results will be very gratifying. After all, a 16-second boot in Arch is a grand thing on a dual core, but I get those numbers from a 550Mhz Celeron, just as a matter of course.

Think about it. If you want to ask questions, there are a few of us Crux experimenters floating around here, in addition to the standard Crux IRC and mailing lists. And what we don’t know we can research together. It’s part of the learning process. ;)