More notes from 100Mhz

My free time has been sparse of late, but in the few moments I have, I’ve learned a few more things about my 100Mhz laptop. Most of them are worth reminding myself of later, or mentioning to anyone else using a modern distro on antique hardware.

First, for all practical purposes, around 99 percent of the kernel configuration can be turned off, and that’s because the hardware just doesn’t exist to require it. So things like SCSI protocols and USB tweaks can all be disabled. In fact, you want them disabled, because they take up time to compile and take up space in memory.

The caveat is that there are things that definitely shouldn’t be turned on — thinks like Processor type and features :: MTRR support :: x86 PAT support, which I’m fairly confident was triggering a kernel panic at boot. Disabling it brought the machine back, which is proof enough for me that it was to blame.

So far I’ve stuck with console applications out of the opt repository, mostly because I’m having a hard time getting the X system to upgrade to current on a full-fledged Crux system, and I don’t want to complicate my troubleshooting on this old machine by knowing the graphics system might not be working in the first place. One crisis at a time, please.

And transplanting the drive into the Inspiron seems like it’s going to be the standard course of action. As an example, I sometimes torture myself and compile something small on it, and generally everything takes about two hours — things like mc or elinks or irssi. Anything more than that is a transplantation.

And to be honest, the time it takes to yank the drive, carefully free it from the tray, open the modular shell, carefully connect it, boot to a live CD, chroot into the system, compile the package, exit, shutdown, open the shell, carefully free the drive then return it to the tray and reboot is still less than it takes to compile at 100Mhz.

Video-wise, I’m still not sure what’s going on. I don’t think the system can handle VESA graphics, because anything framebuffer oriented leaves me with a dead screen. And dmesg seems to report vga16 as the preferred graphics mode. I can get distinctly different text-mode displays, but they all frame within the same area, so really the text is just scrunched, and not filling the full screen. If anyone has a suggestion, I’m willing to try.

And X is, again, not something I’m working on right now, because I don’t trust my Crux systems with a fresh version of X. Even now I’m typing using 7.3 off the 2.4 CD, because they all end up whacked.

Lastly, audio is still uncharted territory because I’m not fully sure what audio hardware is in here. Slitaz couldn’t tell me all the good stuff for audio, but I think it might be strictly SoundBlaster16 based. I’m saving that for a rainy day. Or a Christmas holiday.

I have sound fully disabled in my kernel, just for saving compilation time, but if it’s true the hardware is something antique, it might not matter. I’ll see what I can do to detect it (will it even show up in lspci, dmesg, etc., if it’s disabled at the kernel level?) and configure it later.

In total, I’m having a blast with this little thing. I surf news sites and manage my torrent downloads with it (I have NFS set up and it’s feeding my battered-Thinkpad-turned-rtorrent-slave). If you’re patient and enjoy experimenting, having something old and odd like this is a true joy. Find one and start playing. 😉


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