Fluxbuntu 7.10 RC on 450Mhz K6-2, 256Mb

Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.

I’m prejudiced. I admit it in the first sentence. Ubuntu was the origin of my Linux history, and I’m still partial to it.

Compound that with the fact that, for about a year, there have been very few viable, lightweight versions of Ubuntu that targeted outdated hardware. To me, this was a huge gap in the Ubuntu community that called for something comprehensive and well-rounded, but light and speedy. That’s a tall order.

So I approach Fluxbuntu with a mix of hope and over-familiarity, and that might shine through because I really, really like it.

Most of the screenshots I’ve seen thus far are all the same, and mine are no better. Of course, changing it very much wouldn’t suggest it was Fluxbuntu. 😉

The desktop theme and wallpaper are some of the nicest I’ve seen in Fluxbox, or any *buntu, really. For once, a default Fluxbox desktop that doesn’t make me feel like I’m trapped in a Saturday afternoon sci-fi double-feature rerun on Channel 54. Most Fluxbox setups look unnecessarily sci-fi-ish, to the point where it has become a turnoff. I don’t really need another exploding 3D tetrahedron rendered in #3465a4 against black, thank you. It’s been done.

But this is very approachable and very calm. It’s something you could install for your mother and she wouldn’t be scrambling to figure out how to change the wallpaper. And the window theme, icon theme and GTK theme match perfectly. The boot splash is unique too. A nifty stopwatch counts backward, and the sweep of the second hand reveals the Fluxbuntu logo. Nice touch.

But looks aren’t everything, as someone said in a pub somewhere, late on a Saturday night. Installation took about 1 1/2 hours, which is longer than a command-line installation on this system, but shorter than the default Xubuntu 7.04 or Ubuntu 7.04 installation.

Start times, for some weird reason, are terrible. Three minutes, 54 seconds to the login manager (which is SLiM, by the way) — almost a minute worse than a full Ubuntu 7.04 installation. And that’s not the first run, it’s a fifth or sixth run.

The default partition setup is the same as the default Ubuntu version — ext3 plus a 256Mb wedge of swap. I can’t say if that is to blame for the slow boot, but it’s a bit frightening. Something is going on, if it’s slower than Gnome. 😯

It’s also possible that my video card — an ancient 2Mb Silicon Motion Lynx — has a hard time keeping that boot splash running. I don’t know if that’s the culprit, but I do know that knocking “quiet” and “splash” off the kernel boot line drops the start time to 1:40. Of course, there are lots of ways to speed it up, too. 😉

Other programs start snappy too. Uxterm needs less than three seconds to appear. Kazehakase is loading in under 12 seconds (compare that to more than 20 seconds for Firefox on this machine, usually.) Rox starts so quickly I can’t time it. Shutdown is in 23 seconds, which includes the time it takes me to fat-finger my password in.

I still have some minor issues, most of which I can trace back to Ubuntu. The default color depth is 24, just like Ubuntu, and that causes a black frame effect on this machine. I don’t know if it’s an option (since it might involve repackaging something crucial like xorg), but if this is targeted at early machines, 16 might be a better default.

I also get a weird triple-cursor effect under Gutsy, and the ubiquitous tty screen of death. Both of those are core Gutsy issues for me, so I don’t blame Fluxbuntu for them.

I get some strange USB icons on the desktop, which I think is the known issue described on the Fluxbuntu download page. I also noticed that Fluxbuntu polls the floppy drive on startup; that might be related or not. Usually Ubuntu doesn’t, and /etc/fstab shows it flagged as noauto, so perhaps ivman or something else is doing that. No harm no foul, I say.

I see there’s still some Gnome in it — I see its droppings in my home directory, like a dog that needs housebreaking. I’m guessing, but looking over the applications list, that might be residue from gksu. Can’t help anything there.

Also, I’m not sure who’s running the wallpaper — if it’s rox-filer or fbsetbg — so my initial lunge to change the backdrop needed a little caution. That might be a turnoff for some folks who want to immediately reapply that exploding 3D tetrahedron. 🙄

And there are a few minor theme points I would suggest. A cleaner default font for uxterm would be cool. The root account has no GTK theme set, so opening Synaptic gives the ugly Raleigh style. GTK1.2 apps are the same — XMMS has those enormous characters and terrible GTK theme. Perhaps a Fluxbuntu GTK1.2 theme would spare us the horror.

And while we’re on the subject, how about a default XMMS theme? Something … green, perhaps? 😉

Aside from those terribly minor points, there’s very little I can fault. It sets itself up like *buntu should — network and all. Everything just works (omigosh, I said it 😯 ). And really — if the best I can do is offer theme advice, it must be pretty darn good.

In short, this is something that has been needed for a long time — a cool and clean Ubuntu derivative that’s at once lightweight and comprehensive. If you’re a past Ubuntu user and you have a 500Mhz machine in the closet, this is what you’d want on it. I would recommend this over Xubuntu for anyone in the sub-1Ghz range, any day of the week.

Try it. You’ll like it.

26 thoughts on “Fluxbuntu 7.10 RC on 450Mhz K6-2, 256Mb

  1. Erik

    I can’t really understand what all the fuss is about whenever there is yet another buntu which is supposedly aimed for the slower systems out there. Not to long ago I had a few pentium 1 computers around the place that needed an OS, so I installed slackware and with fluxbox as wm they ran like a dream.
    That was just about an hour work, so why is it every time someone `tweaks` a distro full of bloat to boot on an older box it is considered world news 😡

  2. pasquale

    Thanks for this article 🙂 i will try it over xubuntu in my 256mb ram old pc (it has amd 1800+, but is really slow in ubuntu 7.04 😦 i’ll try fluxubuntu then? 🙂 or xubuntu? 😀 ) or slackware like Erik??

  3. K.Mandla Post author

    Erik, Erik, Erik. You’ve missed the point. It’s a Fluxbox-based Ubuntu distro that doesn’t need any tweaks to get started. Putting this together with Ubuntu took only 1 1/2 hours of my life. Why would I trade that for Slackware-plus? 😈

  4. anticapitalista

    I wouldn’t say that the criticisms you make are ‘terribly minor’ points. For a distro that claims to be light and fast for old boxes with low RAM, there are major problems with fluxbuntu as it is.

    I tried fluxbuntu in VirtualBox set to 128MB RAM and it took absolutely ages to install, well over 2 hours. (not impressed)

    I also had the same problems as K.Mandla ie boot up was very slow, well over 3 minutes.(again not impressed)

    Once into the desktop, apps worked very well and fast (impressed)

    Fluxbuntu does look very nice and it has a nice, pleasant and consistent theme. (impressed)

    Overall, once it is actually on your box/VirtualBox and to desktop, it works very nicely. But getting it on an old box is………… a bit painful.

    I prefer my own distro 🙂

  5. reviewlinux

    Excellent article, great to see some actual timings of startups. Personally, any distro that targets the older PC’s is probably “World News” I mean how many times have we heard about the sub $100 laptop. Here we have a distribution that as the reviewer states can function fine on an older desktop. Heah no need for a laptop to get the rest of the world into a computer. Use up all that old technology first. Fluxubuntu is on my list to take a look at. On a side note I have had a working, usuable copy of Xubuntu 6.06 working fine on a P2 300 celly.. 🙂

    Great Review…

  6. Marf

    I go to the site and if I try to get it, they say “Please sign up” I click the login/create account and all is there is a login. How do you create account on the site?

  7. ikaruga

    Jeez, a 3 minute boot time? Here in the states (not sure where you’re based), light distros are usually used to get old laptops working again. Think, wordprocessing on the commute to work on the train. But a 3 minute boot time defeats the whole purpose… You’re better off with PuppyLinux, MyDSL, or Wolvix (haven’t tried that one though). With a 450 mhz w/ 128 mb, I can get a 15 sec boot time with Puppy! And I can still do all that I need to do…I even run a LAMP server. Heck… if all you need is a “glorified typewriter”, Win 98 + OpenOffice + FireFox will do the trick.

  8. Thelemech

    I installed Ubuntu(7.02) on a Pentium 2 400Mhz 320 Mb Ram 8 Mb Vid Card
    ..and it ran exceptionally well, considering the age of the equipment.

  9. mrisi

    I also have a k6-2 machine, and boy oh boy is it PICKY with distro’s! I want to run something like Fluxbuntu or maybe something small and xfce-based like ZenWalk, but it either reboots when I try to load the image, refuses to see the hard drive or is too old for the kernel (as is the case for Arch, for example).

    What can I do?! It’s got 450mHz and 256mb RAM.

  10. K.Mandla Post author

    I feel your pain. 🙂 My best performance was still with Lowarch, even though that distro is dead in the water. It’s daunting to work with an old machine like that and have to rely on core packages that are a year old, but until somebody comes up with another 486-happy distro. …

    Aside from that, I’d start with something that works and build up from there. I’ve tried enough distros on this ugly laptop to know that they’re all hit or miss, and no matter what strong points a distro has, there are enough downsides to make it … not … quite … right. 😐

    If you find anything you can’t live without, let me know what it is. Until then, I’m going to keep recompiling until I find the golden mean. 😉

  11. JPascal

    Very nice review, that lead me to install Fluxbuntu on a Thinkpad 240x bought in 2000 (PIII 500, RAM 196Mb, 10″ 800×600 display). Running Fluxbuntu on it makes it the perfect Internet PC for a quick home use. It boots in about one minute if you remove the quiet splash option from Grub – IMO a kind of credible alternative to an eeePC…

    This Thinkpad also runs on a Silicon Motion Lynx graphic card, and I also have this triple-cursor effect you’re mentioning. ANy hint on how to get rid of it?

  12. JPascal

    Ooops – I just found the answer for the triple cursor: add the following line to the Lynx device section, in /etc/X11/xorg.conf:
    option “HWCursor” “false”

    Hope this can help someone…

  13. gtcaz

    This has been the only distro I’ve tried that reliably detects my WiFi card and works out of the box for my ancient iSeries 2611 Thinkpad. Only problems are, as you mention, the super-long boot times and no sound (yet!). Also, Kazehakase was way slower than the Firefox build I installed via apt-get. Still trying some other options, but at least I’ve got a working system with wifi, and that’s key. I do find customizing Rox a bit opaque so far, and some things (video) seem slower than I think they should be.

  14. gtcaz

    Fixed some of the frustrating slowness by replacing the default terminal app with mrxvt. Aterm was also fast, but I liked the tabs and other features of mrxvt.

  15. gtcaz

    Oh, and I take it back that sound isn’t working; turns out it’s working great. I’m streaming Groove Salad aacPlus using VLC while playing this, all on

  16. A.ferr

    Nice review, thanks. I’ve got a painfully slow PII 333Mhz (256 Mb ram) here and I am going to try your setup. I’ve also got a 400 Mhz PII (256 Mb ram again) running very well a Xubuntu 7.10. DSL IMO is also worth a look, but it can be more painful to get up and running.

  17. Victor

    Back in the days i used to run a K6-350 / 64MB and it was fast with Linux. I think I used FVWM and KDE 1.0. It was state-of-art computing.

    Why is so difficult today to ran a lightweight distro on this kind of systems?

  18. Scholarship

    Hello K.mandla, now I’m using PuppyLinux for my daily activity. I’ll migrate to Fluxbuntu.
    My PC specs :
    Linux puppypc #1 Sun Sep 9 02:29:54 GMT-8 2007 i686 Intel(R) Celeron(R) CPU 1.70GHz GenuineIntel GNU/Linux. RAM: 256 MB. HDD 2.1 GB. CDRW Samsung 52x.
    These are my questions :
    1. Can fluxbuntu run frugal install on HD ? Like knoppix with persistent home directory or puppy with pup_save.2fs.
    2. With 2.1 GB HDD, What can I do with Fluxbuntu to optimize my daily activities ?
    3. I plan to use Fluxbuntu for longterm and use it for my mobile OS. Is Fluxbuntu good for me for these ?
    4. Before using Puppy Linux now, I removed Ubuntu from my PC because it was very slow for my PC. And I do not like to reconfigured, customize, etc, to make it fast. Can Fluxbuntu run faster than Puppy Linux ?

    I’m sorry, if my questions make you sad. Regards and Thanks.
    From : LinuxUser

  19. FredW

    To Scholarship
    1. No frugal install. Fluxbuntu expects a parition at least a gig in size to install sto.
    2. Use the Speed Up Gutsy Guide https://kmandla.wordpress.com/2007/10/20/howto-set-up-gutsy-for-speed/ and use “lite” applications wherever possible. Kazehakase instead of firefox. Abiword and Gnumeric instead of Openoffice.
    3. Yes, because it is Ubuntu based it has good wireless support.
    4. No. It is going to run slower than puppy. Depending on your hardware and how fluxbuntu is configured it may not be that much slower. But the amount of software available for fluxbuntu is much greater than what is available for puppy.

    I would say if you are happy with Puppy, stick with it. However if there is software you want to run and puppy does not have it. Then I would try fluxbuntu.

  20. Al O'Nerd

    Many thanks to JPascal, He just solved me the Triple cursor problem I had on my Panasonic Toughbook CF-M34 (PIII 400Mhz, 192Mb RAM, 60Gb HD) since I upgraded from Slackware 10.2 to Slackware 12, Thank you very much!

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