Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.
This is workspace four of my Openbox on Gutsy arrangement.
That’s a rtorrent, htop, cplay, Midnight Commander, alsamixer and a spare urxvt terminal running all at the same time. I have command of my entire music collection, automatic torrent downloading and seeding, dual-pane file management, volume control and terminal access to my machine all on one workspace, with no clutter or hidden windows.
Best of all, the total footprint is around 7 percent of my available memory, or less than 35Mb for everything, and under 2 percent of my processor load. (The overall memory load is high in that picture because of the other programs I’m running — like Swiftfox, which is eating close to 100Mb alone.)
It’s probably not a fair comparison, but if I convert that system load backward to represent outdated hardware, that falls within the range of a Pentium MMX machine — something like an old Thinkpad 760XD, which I remember drooling over a decade ago. A blazing-fast 166Mhz processor, an overwhelming 48Mb of memory and a spacious 3Gb hard drive standard.
With such a lightweight setup, imagine what you can do. You could configure rtorrent to watch a networked folder on your main box for *.torrent files , then download or seed locally — or to another location like a USB drive. You download the torrent off Jamendo, it downloads the actual music, and cues it up to play. Then you plug in multimedia speakers, or even run an audio line into a full-size stereo, and get perfect sound quality.
At the same time, you could keep a chat client running, just in case something big happens out there in the world, and you need to contact someone about it. Or keep an eye on an e-mail account. Or keep an address book, appointment calendar, a to-do list and notes to yourself. Or run it as a dedicated download accelerator. Imagine a 166Mhz machine with a decent megabit card, downloading the Feisty ISO at over 900Kbps, with a real-time graphical traffic meter, while you’re off doing other things on your newer computer.
And it doesn’t even need Openbox to do all that. If you can’t make it run the X desktop without struggling, install twin and get all of the above with no heavy graphical interface, and you can still drag “windows” around, just for fun.
So no more excuses. If you have an old Thinkpad 760XD in the closet, get it out and put it back to work. No, it won’t be a candidate to run VDrift, but it can do everything else while you’re busy playing on another machine.