I must work harder: DSL at 150Mhz, 32Mb

This is not the first time I have used Damn Small Linux on the Mebius. Since June or so, when I bought it, I’ve used DSL as a sort of backup or interloper distro, usually for the purpose of installing others across USB.

But in fairness, I made a point of installing it directly to the hard drive, and the lesson learned is: I must work harder.

Usually any number of well-meaning but late-to-the-party visitors suggest DSL when I talk about distros that will work at 150Mhz, with 32Mb on board. It’s the obvious pick.

Probably in the same way any number of well-meaning but again late-to-the-party visitors will suggest Slitaz or Tiny Core or Puppy Linux or Debian. And I say thank you for the suggestions, but I’ve been down those roads.

There are no surprises with DSL. It’s been around as long, if not longer, than I can remember. I am only half saddened that it’s not actively developed any longer, since it’s just as usable now as it ever has been.

To be fair to DSL and to be fair to some of the other distros I’ve looked at lately, DSL did need a little prodding to get into fully usable condition.

Installation went fine, although I used only one “gigantic” 512Mb partition for both the system and home, and a teeny little 128Mb for swap. And a vast wilderness of about 7Gb beyond, unallocated.

The screen needed a little bit of tweaking, but the xsetup.sh script does all the work for you, so there wasn’t anything difficult in getting it to jump to the right size and right dimensions.

In total, the system uses only about 16 of the 29Mb available, which gives lots of space for applications or frills. Programs start snappy, with no swapping or lag, as I have had in the past with other systems.

Network is a little bit of a stumbling point for me; the wireless cards I usually rely on — and which I am sure have worked in the past — don’t seem to respond.

Wired ones however, for example ne2000-based cards, work great. If I string a cable to the router, it’s a champion in the true sense of the word.

Wireless is a bit tricky for some reason, in the 4.4.10 release. For the record, I’ve tried orinoco, rt61 and ath5k-based cards, with no luck. No major loss though; my router is only about a meter from the computer.

No, the real kick in the teeth is sound. Not only does DSL find the ISA sound card in this machine, but it configures it properly, sets the volume, and has it up and running even before the desktop appears. (I can hear a little speaker hiss when it comes online.)

And miracle of miracles: Playback is smooth and clean. No stuttering, no skipping, no lag — I’m using the same audio files that were more or less unplayable at any speed below 200Mhz with Crux, archlinux-i586, Debian. …

So obviously I’m doing something wrong. I have managed to wade through the jungle of setting up featherweight, custom-built desktops, and I can get sound working on a minimum of resources.

But DSL is still miles ahead of me in the grand scale of things. My own versions sound like someone singing through spinning fan blades. DSL sounds like the real deal (disregarding that speaker hiss I mentioned … that’s just a fact of 14-year-old laptop speakers šŸ™„ ).

So I can’t pat myself on the back just yet. If I can get things working right, in the same way DSL can, I’ll consider myself vaguely successful. But until that day … I will work harder. šŸ˜€

9 thoughts on “I must work harder: DSL at 150Mhz, 32Mb

  1. Calvin

    I’m gonna f00f you k.mandla!

    For science though, try compiling a little program to see what really happens when you do. Will Intel factories explode? Will it rain cats and dogs? idunno

  2. mrreality

    Ive run dsl live alot as a tool(usually for seeing the HW) -I how ever always seem to never get a successful install and as there forums seem kinda dead ,I have looked for a comprehensive How To for it with little success.
    Either Im blind or just keep missing it ,would you have one buy chance or a fellow reader?
    Thank you.

  3. hecatae

    is it possible to upgrade DSL (based on Debian Oldstable) to Debian Sid? – would it just take:
    1) changing the /etc/apt/sources.list entries from oldstable to unstable
    2) changing the /etc/apt/preferences from stable to unstable
    3) making sure that APT::ForceLoop Break=1; is in your /etc/apt/apt.conf file
    4) ping pong back and forth between apt-get dist-upgrade and apt-get -f install.

  4. anon

    It’s true Tiny Core, an in-ram distro, won’t run on 32mb ram. But if you ever come across one with 64mb or more ram, even with a slow cpu, it’s fun seeing it fly faster than a Win7 machine from this year šŸ˜‰

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      You know, Tiny Core will actually run on this machine, but it’s the graphics card and not the RAM that is the biggest impediment.

      Trident-series cards from the 1996-1997 era seem to have been built on VESA1.2, not the “newer” standard of VESA2.0. Which is all the stranger because my Fujitsu machine is a year older (at least) and has VESA2.0. Go figure. … šŸ™„

  5. Pingback: The trailing edge of the wave: The CTX EzBook 800 | Motho ke motho ka botho

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