Three mediocre attempts

In the space of a few hours this morning I managed to put two or three more distros through the proverbial 150Mhz meat grinder. Results were mixed this time.

Sadly, my rush to install Alpine Linux on my Mebius failed catastrophically, with neither the CD booting nor an emulated system written across USB (in this fashion).

It’s not a kernel panic, it’s a full stop, with no boot action or CD access … sometimes for as long as 20 minutes, or until I get tired of waiting. No juice.

I’m not sure why. If I had to guess, I would suspect some sort of hardware conflict, even though I was fairly certain that I read on the site that Alpine was i586-friendly.

After all a lot of embedded machines are 586-based … or so I had thought. I have a tendency to imagine things though, so perhaps I dreamed I saw “5-8-6” on the site. 😯

It could be almost anything though, and I have too many distros to check to chase after nonbooting CDs for one or another. C’est la vie, I suppose I should say. Or perhaps, “Not everything works every time.

And that would be very true.

V7/x86 was another somewhat fruitless effort, although this one was picked strictly out of curiosity and education, not out of any hope of actually adopting it as a working distro.

Really, a Unix 7 port for the PC is worth looking at, even if it’s probably not practical as a full and daily operating system. (Says the person who uses a Pentium for everyday tasks. … Yes, the irony isn’t lost on me. 🙄 )

This time both the floppy versions and emulated systems proved too knuckle-whitening. The floppies wouldn’t boot, and the CD image in Qemu seemed to want a partition arrangement I couldn’t satisfy.

(If someone can cue me in on a “type 114” partition, like the installation file suggests, I would appreciate it. I’ll try the ptdisk utility too, at some point. 😉 )

I suppose I could break down and burn a CD of the installation ISO and possibly get it going that way, but I think I’ll wait a little bit. After all, it was only done as a lark, in the name of science.

And curiously, some knob put together a GTK1.2-only version of Ubuntu Linux a few years ago, and I thought I should run it through its paces at 150Mhz.

Out of fairness, I am particularly harsh. 👿 After all, this is amateurish, incomplete and impractical really, even if it did work (mostly) on the first try.

Thirty-two megabytes of memory is probably too little to be functional for this; running more than one application at a time causes swapping and slowdowns.

On top of that, the processor is probably too slow for the core Ubuntu workload. Even after a fresh boot, the system is sluggish to start programs and slow to read from disk.

And on top of that, there is the issue of the trident driver, which doesn’t work well with that video card. The vesa driver worked fine though, which is why you get a screenshot at all.

Screen redraws are slow though, and programs take four or five seconds longer than natural to open. Closing them causes hiccups too, while X adjusts itself to the sudden change.

Networking was up on the first attempt with an orinoco-driven wireless card though, which is the way things should be. And I guess there is a somewhat usable array of programs here.

It definitely could use some refinement though, and considering even just the kernel is a couple of years old, while most of the software is two or three or five years older than that. At least.

So yeah, it worked, much of it without heavy configuration, but it’s still just a curiosity. Not really useful. 👿

And that’s about all. I have a short list of other distros to try, as well as some that are aimed at faster, newer machines again. Stay tuned. 🙂

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