Case in point: rtorrent slave at 100Mhz 16Mb 810Mb

You might have guessed from the last post about patching rtorrent against gcc 4.3.2, that I put Crux on the 100Mhz laptop again, and I’m giving it a run as an rtorrent slave with the same arrangement as my beat-up Thinkpad.

This is one of my four remaining test cases for outdated hardware — extremely outdated hardware — that I have been mulling over in the past few days. This time I decided to forgo the graphical environment completely and stay in a console arena, to remove as much unnecessary overhead and see how rtorrent behaves with itself as its only obstacle.

I thought perhaps the processor wouldn’t be able to keep up with that much “work,” or perhaps 16Mb would be impractical for the demands of rtorrent, even as light as it is. But according to top, the CPU is floating at around 47 percent usage and RAM is only a third filled, as it manages the Archlinux 2008.06 FTP ISO. More torrents, of course, might mean more work, but at this point a single torrent is enough for a test case.

Network speeds across the Corega FEther II PCC-TXD PCMCIA card are actually quite good — I’m peaking at around 240kbps on the down, a fraction on the up. Although that’s not a true indicator of the card’s capability, I’m satisfied that the card, the RAM and the processor are not to blame for weak download speeds.

No, the real problem I have with this arrangement is not the processor, the network card or the sparse RAM. Luckily, or maybe unluckily, the biggest impediment seems to be that hard drive. It’s too small, too slow and too noisy. With only 810Mb to work with, it’s barely enough space for the system files, let alone anything I would want to download.

And access times are hideous. Hash checks are five- to six-minute affairs, and that’s only for 138Mb or so for the Arch ISO. And the noise that leaks out of it makes it completely impractical for running overnight; the racket would keep the entire building awake.

But it works, and my original “hypothesis” of an extremely low-end machine serving as a round-the-clock torrent slave seems more practical than ever now. Putting a machine into service like this keeps it out of a landfill, power consumption is low on a laptop, and the net price for a machine like this is well under $100, plus or minus.

I probably won’t let this take over from my current torrent slave just yet, mostly because I have other plans for this machine and the busted screen on the Thinkpad is what keeps it bound as an indentured servant. But with a little luck, and if necessary, I am confident a machine like this can handle the workload.

13 thoughts on “Case in point: rtorrent slave at 100Mhz 16Mb 810Mb

  1. Pingback: Howto: Use rtorrent like a pro « Motho ke motho ka botho

  2. IceBrain

    What about using a compact flash card? I bet you could find a 8 or 16GB card very cheap, and that would be fast, noiseless and power efficient.

    I was planning to do a torrent machine on a cheap system with an AMD K6 that I find online, but the motherboard “died” on me while I was testing it 😐
    Besides, that was a little power hungry for my taste, maybe I’ll get a VIA motherboard or a cheap laptop.

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      It should work. If you’re not afraid of the “limited read-write” hype that usually surrounds storage like that, I don’t see why not. Put one together and tell us how it went. πŸ™‚

      1. Tinpan

        You are so right. I’ve been using rtorrent on an Apple TV for more than a year. Its 1ghz cpu and 256mb ram are more than enough to run in the background. Do you know if any way to safeguard privacy by using blacklists or proxies with rtorrent?


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  5. marco

    I guess you can push the memory footprint more down if you use Tiny Core Linux* and rtorrent.


    1. K.Mandla Post author

      I should probably try that, but I thought the minimum memory for Tiny Core was strictly 32Mb. I may have confused it with another system.

  6. Karsten

    on a 100$ price scale check the sheeva plug, low power (propably less then your tp), 1,2ghz arm cpu, 512 mb ram and gb eth plus sd slot/usb connector

    mine is running as home server and audio multimedia center

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