Ubuntu with 256Mb … not so smart

Ubuntu LinuxClonezilla makes things too easy for me, really. Being able to snap between installations in a matter of minutes takes all the challenge out of the two or three hours — or two or three days, depending on the distribution — of reinstalling a system.

In the days since that memory chip failed, I put Ubuntu back on the Inspiron. I don’t know why I was surprised, but the performance fell off considerably between now and when that chip was (semi-)working.

No shock there, really. With only half the memory available, Ubuntu suddenly began swapping for the least of program startups. Gnome Text Editor? Grind, grind, grind. Starting up Firefox? Grind, grind, grind. Showing icons in the drop-down menus? Grind, grind, grind.

Well, maybe not that last one. But the system monitor confirms it: Even after a cold power-up, memory usage sits at 160Mb, and anything beyond full idle suddenly drags in even more. I’m sure every system is different, but for me, that’s what I have to live with.

But I shouldn’t complain; Gnome is not my domain, and I am only a cursory visitor therein. Complaining because someone else decides to run their system differently from what I suggest is somewhat rude — like inviting yourself over for dinner, and then complaining that the food is too salty.

Still, it’s hard for me to compare that to my Thinkpad, which is running ten applications at the same time, one of them being a ripped DVD out of my collection, and using only 37Mb of memory.

Or against this new laptop, the Pentium, which is admittedly swapping out 21Mb of space, but consuming only another 6Mb on top of that. And that’s with Xorg 7.3 and four instances of bash all making it happen.

In the mean time, I’ll keep waiting for my new memory chip to arrive. And probably switching out this installation within the next few hours, to avoid the lag. Thank goodness for Clonezilla. 🙂


8 thoughts on “Ubuntu with 256Mb … not so smart

  1. Luca

    What do you use for ripping DVDs under Linux? Under OS X I used Handbrake, however under Linux this doesn’t seem to be as good.

    I am very jealous of your minimal install on your new laptop; I think I am going to have to try my own over the next few days!

    1. armornick

      Try searching the Arch wiki. It’s really one of the best resources for Linux programs I have ever seen. Especially the lightweight and terminal apps.

  2. Stan

    For a minimalistic Ubuntu-based distro, have you revisited CrunchBang lately?


    384MB of RAM here and it uses ~170 normally, and ext4 makes the system boot up in ~20 seconds. I’m really impressed, actually.

    1. Stan

      (when I say ~170 MB normal use, that’s with Firefox running; 70 MB after startup, and +100 for Firefox.)

  3. MK

    I wonder why use old hardware, other then experimenting? It seems there is a lot of cheap and quite modern hardware, working out of the box with any Linux distro out there.
    It doesn’t seem to be practical to invest in something old, possibly broken, and invest money to fix and hours of time to configure and compile. I am not objecting to any of this, simply asking why out of curiousity.
    Do you think Ubuntu should be trying to work with older hardware?

    1. mulenmar

      A good question, MK, to which I’ll presume to ask another: Why waste what can be made to work, if it’s so “old” that people will practically give it to you free and if you have the time, knowledge, and interest?

      I can’t speak for K. Mandla, other than to say “Read his older blog entries,” but personally I like to mess with older hardware because:

      * It’s usually much cheaper, so if it breaks irreparably it’s not a big deal.

      * I learn stuff in the process.

      * Other computer-oriented folk are intrigued to some degree that I get the same job done that they do with such “outmoded” machinery.

      * It’s fun. 😛

    2. K.Mandla Post author

      Part of this might help answer.


      But also part of it is the challenge, part of it is a learning experience, part of it is proving to people that a machine they consider to be garbage can outperform the new one they bought. Part of it is reminding people that slow, sluggish memory-hog systems in Linux or Windows are not necessarily status quo. Part is gleefully boasting that I haven’t spent money on a new computer in a very long time, part of it is taking someone else’s scraps and turning them into a rock star. And part of it is just for the fun of it.

      Reminding Ubuntu that it is performing poorly on machines that were strong candidates four years ago is part of that, because progress isn’t always for the better. It is possible to make changes and additions that alienate an entire group of machines and it doesn’t necessarily serve anyone to say, “Ubuntu is great, but can’t work on a machine that’s only four or five years old. Sorry, buy a new one.” That’s the Windows way.

      But I’m sort of rambling. So I’ll stop. I don’t know if I answered your question or not. 😐


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