A thousand words, 10Mb

I had to take a photo of this, because a screenshot probably wouldn’t be convincing.


You can run a machine without swap, although most systems scream in agony if you try it. That’s the Pentium running everything in only 10Mb of space — X, htop, Musca, an emulator daemon, and even elinks.

How’s performance? Completely unusable. But fun to look at, even if it does make me scream in agony if I try it. 😀


17 thoughts on “A thousand words, 10Mb

  1. the_englishman

    Sir Mandla, I’m confused by swap. Everyone told me to make it double my RAM. So (as a beginner) I did just that. I noticed that my system rarely, if ever, used it. I now run Puppy Linux on my laptop with 1 gig RAM and just 47 mb of Swap, and according to htop, it still never gets used.

    What’s the deal? Is it simply because I running a lightweight distro on a (relatively speaking) high memory laptop?

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      Short answer, yes.

      Long answer, yes, in a way. Speaking strictly from experience and with no technical qualifications whatsoever, your dependency on swap is a function of how much memory you use versus how much you have.

      That might sound like an oversimplification, but essentially if your workload is far below the amount of memory you have, then swap becomes pointless. On the other hand, if your workload will take up more space than you have available, then swap becomes crucial.

      The best example I can give is the machine above: Because it has only 16Mb to work with, it relies on swap to keep things functioning. If I turn off swap, the system freezes to almost nothing, because every operation has to be handled without any extra work space, and eventually it will just lock and require a hard reboot.

      On the other hand, this same system with another 16Mb of memory would never touch swap, just because it never exceeds 18Mb or so total, between kernel and user applications. So the sad part of the example is, with only a sliver more of resources, I could have a system functioning at full speed without any need to thrash away at the hard drive.

      Was that any help?

  2. yoshi314

    impressive. is that with standard mainline kernel, or with some special patches (like linux-tiny ) ?

    i wonder how much ram difference would XIP filesystem make here.

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      That is a personalized version of vanilla I’ve never tried any patches to the kernel, although I suppose it’s about time I did. … :mrgreen:

  3. mrreality13

    thanx again -the swap issue was one i wanted to ask too –
    btw what brand of camera is that that pict look’s great

  4. Shae

    Heh, swap is a unfortunate side effect of a time when memory was super expensive and hard drives were just expensive. Ironically, that has switched around with the new solid state disks people are pushing, but that is another story.

    On the other hand, it is actually rather cool to see anything running on a Pentium with 12mb of RAM, but that is the geek in me. I know that you could not do the same thing with even Windows XP. Could the Windows kernel even fit in 12mb of ram?

    1. anon

      Windows NT will barely tolerate the thing, it likes more memory. (It is possible to get 5.1 running on 8MB though.)

      Windows 3.x and the 4.x kernels with happily boot on those thinga, except for 4.9 and maybe 4.1 if you get overboard.

      (I always prefer reffering to Windoze versions by vrsion.)

  5. Pingback: vm.overcommit_memory and _ratio « Motho ke motho ka botho

  6. digit

    love it.

    i was refered to this blog after mentioning one of my old laptops (133mhz, 16mb, 1gb, deli-linux) in a thread on ubuntu forums.

    only recently heard about musca, and have yet to give her a go on any of my numerous machines and opperating systems, but been reading up (even skim read all the source code, which i’ve rarely done) and intend to check it out.

    i’m defo heading strong toward “the light”.

    14 processes!!!!?! awesome. it really bothers me on my o the distros i use numbers not only well over 100 but often over 200 too!

    only tinycore and the core version of slitaz have i ever seen in such a ballpark. ^_^

    thnx for sharing this. a true inspiration.

    i’m luvin openbox too much at the moment, kinda like a rebound affair after my romance with tiling window managers just whimpered and faded away. tiling wm’s are miles ahead of mere stacking-only. tilings with their own stacking modes anyways.

    and why bother with “decorations”. what a pile of fluff to steal processing power you want for what you want to do. i like to stick ardently, further and further as i age with open source software, to this principle, even with high spec machines.

    transparency? fine, that confers a functional boon. fire and snow and spinning cubes? i dont see it. if you can get a box to b kitted out to surf the web in under 10mb, then that shows how much value every mb more thereafter aught to be capable of conferring.

    its innovations n tweaks, real man in shed stuff, like this, that amplifies the evolutionary momentum.

    well done you for putting the bits together and showing what can be done. 🙂

  7. Pingback: the quest for the lightest window manager.

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