Some minor improvements

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

I’ve been rather busy this week, but in the few hours between tasks I managed to make some minor improvements to that 100Mhz laptop running Crux and IceWM.

Most notably, I ditched the pseudo-Windows look and went with a much more sparse version built on the icewm-lite configuration flag. Results are, of course, a lot like the look I used in the Ubuntu GTK1.2 Remix.

I wanted to use the Mist engine for GTK1, but the only sourcecode I could find for it was on the Ubuntu repositories, and for some reason that version demands GTK2 before it will compile. And I lack the skill right now to carve out that requirement. 😐

Regardless, I also am starting IceWM manually, rather than allowing icewm-session to handle most of the desktop. Adding exec icewm-session to .xinitrc was triggering icewm-bg and icewm-tray, which is normal.

But it also let those processes continue to run while the system is up. And when Dillo takes up a third of your processing power just idling, the last thing I need is a wallpaper manager and a system tray manager (which I don’t use now). So I changed .xinitrc to exec icewm and set the background color with xsetroot -solid "#00203F". It’s easier on the entire system this way.

I should also probably note that my rendition of IceWM-lite turns off just about all of the (few) graphical frills IceWM offers. It’s not that they can’t be done, it’s just that doing them takes more effort than I’d like.

I’ve taken out most of the console-based applications I was using before I worked out the video issues, and replaced them with GTK1 versions. To date the software array is Dillo, emelFM, Beaver, gPS and XTerm, with scrot as a snapshot feature. The system is networked to my torrent slave, so I can dump torrents there or transfer files between other laptops. That’s kind of important, since it doesn’t have USB ports and floppy drives are … so like, 1980s, man.

Performance, to be precise, is acceptable — not spectacular, but acceptable. Startup is 33 seconds from Grub to the console prompt, and it’s another 18 seconds before IceWM is up and in control. Altogether that’s not bad — 51 seconds is a better boot than some modern systems running Ubuntu.

Of course, the ugly truth is that a 100Mhz system is still a 100Mhz system. Dillo takes around eight seconds to start, and like I said, even when it’s idling can take a third of the processor for itself. Other programs like Beaver and emelFM are likewise sluggish to start.

But to be honest, I blame a lot of that on the low memory overhead. No matter what I start or do or run, I have to use a little bit of swap for it. Swap use, according to free -m is never more than double-digits, but knowing that it has to thrash away at that space regardless of the task … well, it’s a little frustrating.

I do have my ear to the ground on a compatible memory stick, but it might be a while before I can actually acquire it.

Sound is still the sticking point. I have a kernel that ignores sound completely and until I have a day or two to experiment, I don’t think I care to chase it. ISA sound seems a bit archaic, and with no real experience to report in that arena, I have to start from scratch.

But on the whole, I’m delighted. It’s quick, it’s functional and most of all it’s a challenge. 😈

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