Success! IceWM 1.2.36 and Xorg 7.3 at 100Mhz/16Mb

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

This isn’t my first time to put a working Linux graphical system on a true Pentium, but it is the first time I’ve done it on less than 16Mb.

That’s the old Xorg version 7.3 off the Crux 2.4 CD, along with IceWM and the bulk of the WinClassic2 theme I stole from my Thinkpad setup (it was just quicker to copy it all across the network, than to start fresh 😉 ). As you can see in the image, the desktop is using under 7Mb of memory, out of the 12Mb or so that’s left. (Plus a teeny bit of cache.)

Performance isn’t that bad really. I remember the Ubuntu systems I built on Pentiums a couple of years ago, and they were hideously slow — three-minute boot times, clunky desktops and so forth.

But this is relatively quick, although I might be looking at it through rose-colored glasses. Startup to the console login is about 35 seconds, with X taking almost as much time to reach the desktop. I’m sure some of that is due to swapping, since I really don’t think X can get going on less than 12Mb of memory. Once it’s up it might shed some unnecessary files, but I’m guessing loading all its libraries and crap are a good deal more than 12Mb. 🙄

Right now the software array is mostly CLI-based, with xterm as the host. I’m hunting down some GTK1.2 applications to see how it fares with those, but of course the time it takes to compile them, even on the 1Ghz host, is a factor.

(Just for giggles, I downloaded the GTK1.2 version of Firefox 2 from, but that’s compiled for i686, and of course it wouldn’t work. And who am I kidding? Firefox on 16Mb? Ha!)

And best of all, that column of blue pixels has started working again. Joy! :mrgreen:


19 thoughts on “Success! IceWM 1.2.36 and Xorg 7.3 at 100Mhz/16Mb

  1. tanguyronce upon atime

    Congratulations! I look forward to reading about the future escapades of this latest addition to your hardware collection (until you find a slower machine with less ram. you know there’s one out there somewhere.)

  2. K.Mandla Post author

    James: Actually, the only flags are

    -O2 -march=pentium -pipe -fomit-frame-pointer

    for both CFLAGS and CXXFLAGS. I was going to try to speed-tweak it, but I decided to shoot for a stable system before a whacked-out one. 😉

    Kurt Kraut: This is Crux, the 2.4 installation CD. I believe there’s a 2.5 in the works, but things move slowly between Crux releases. 😉

    tanguyronce …: Thanks. If I could get something slower that was in decent condition, you can bet I’d at least try it. :mrgreen:

  3. matero

    maybe you could try to compile with -Os instead of -O2
    less memory used could be better in this little pentium than a more optimized and larger code.

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  5. niw3

    Wow, that’s great!

    I was considering installing a Linux distro on a PC/104 single board computer. It has 64MB RAM and 32MB ROM. I can connect a USB disk for more disk space. The CPU is 468 compatible and works at 133 MHz. Ideal for DOS/Embedded Linuces but I wonder how the graphical desktop performance will be. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

  6. deflated

    Your WinClassic2 theme looks different to the ones I have found on the internet. Do you mind sharing yours? Thanks in advance.

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