When “fast” is less than 600Mhz

It’s been an interesting downshift, sending off the 1Ghz Inspiron and relying more heavily on the Thinkpad. It’s running Crux against the framebuffer these days, and as much as I’d like to deny it, there are times when I prefer a graphical environment to my rather nutty text-only adventures. And there are times when they’re almost necessary.

Like double-checking posts to this blog, and adding links that are just too long or convoluted to use a text browser for. Generally speaking, when I post things with Charm that require a link (like the word “Charm” there), I post without the link and add it after, in a graphical browser. I don’t really have to, but it cuts down on the margin of error over typing it manually.

The best solution I have to that problem, believe it or not, is Slitaz. I know, I know: You’re probably weary of hearing me yammer on endlessly about Slitaz, but if it didn’t solve so many problems for me, I wouldn’t mention as a solution so many times.

This time it’s quick access to a graphical interface, like I need for checking how the site looks to 99 percent of the people who visit it. I can reboot to the live environment (192Mb is more than enough) and be back online with a GUI in a minute or two. Check, edit, add links, and send the machine down to return to the console.

I’ve tried running Slitaz continually, but like I mentioned last week, I am too accustomed to the speed and convenience of the text-only environment, and a GUI just feels clunky. If you find that hard to believe … well, try it.

So outside of jumping between Slitaz and the console environment, music and entertainment (read: my ripped DVD collection) are the remaining chores for the Thinkpad. There are some oddball tasks too — it’s quicker and easier, for example, to install EasyTag in Slitaz than it is to compile a new console-based OGG file renamer, and get it going with all the dependencies. Call me lazy, but that’s the route I took.

Of course, that does mean that the Pentium handles most of the dirty work. Chatting, e-mail, blogging, personal calendar, to-do list, even the odd game or two. And although it’s a bit sluggish because it pages out to disk almost all the time, I can often do simple Web surfing on this machine too.

In fact, about the only thing missing between these two machines, that I had with the Inspiron, is a DVD player-slash-CD writer. Right now I have nothing that will burn an ISO to disk, for example. (And only days away from the Ubuntu 9.10 release! Gasp!) It’s not a terrifically critical thing, but should the occasion arise that requires a write to CD, I’ll have to tote the ISO to work, and mooch off the machines there.

Which is not an impossibility, and I am not too proud to do. But until I stumble across my dream machine, this ragamuffin little combination of vastly underpowered computers seems to be keeping me in business.


6 thoughts on “When “fast” is less than 600Mhz

  1. JoshMiller

    I’ve always preferred the GUI. And I’ve used the command line, a lot. I grew up with DOS and the Commodore 64. I still use the command line for some tasks.

    I guess it would be more accurate to say I prefer a hybrid. While I mostly use Windows, I know a crap ton of Keyboard shortcuts that make things much faster, almost as fast as using the command line.

    It drives me nuts to be watching someone use the GUI without using shortcuts actually. I want to scream “Why are you navigating through those menus?! Just push Window Key+Whatever or Control+alt+Letter.”

    I remember once in college though in my controls class, I don’t remember what we were doing but we had an older machine and I brought up the DOS window and went to town. These weren’t computer engineers or anything but they were in a pretty high level mechanical Engineering class, so they are pretty technology minded and smart. But they were all impressed at all of the things I could do on the command prompt.

    Still, I prefer the GUI. Everything looks prettier. If I want to jump back to an earlier part of whatever I’m typing it’s easier to navigate with the mouse.

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      Yes, I do. The problem is that on an 800×600 screen, links get wrapped or obscured regardless, so screen’s copy-paste is only partially helpful.

      Compared to a right-click-copy-link action, I’m afraid it’s just easier and more convenient to use the GUI. 😦

  2. zowki

    I often see in your screenshots that you can run mplayer within screen? How do you do that? Screen never lets me run framebuffer programs like fbi, screen, links-g, etc…

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      I’ve had a couple people ask that question. For some of them, ordering mplayer to use the framebuffer output device seemed to work. Try

      mplayer -vo fbdev filename.ext

      Of course, I am using Crux with a customized kernel and a customized mplayer build, so it’s possible that the options I am relying on don’t exist in other distros. Check to see how your versions are built, and if there is any incompatibility. When I get back from vacation, I’ll try to chase this a little more.

  3. Calvin

    Meh, 9.10 is the start of adding even more useless crap. Ekiga was removed, but it adds featured that only benefits people who use social networkers or WINE or Compiz and that crap. Thank god I finished my 9.04 downloads. For XFCE, 9.10 is still decent, but 9.04 should be used for GNOME.



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