Running Ubuntu 9.04 With Older Hardware
Phoronix: Running Ubuntu 9.04 With Older Hardware
At Phoronix we have tested out Ubuntu 9.04 quite extensively with a variety of different hardware and have delivered numerous benchmarks, but we had not looked closely at running the Jaunty Jackalope with older hardware. In this article though we have done just that and carried out a number of Ubuntu 9.04 tests using an older VIA-based PC.
Older computers are certainly still usable with many Linux distributions. I have a machine that is roughly in the same class as the one tested (PIII 1.0B, 256 MB PC100, VIA VT8601/VT82C686B chipset) running Debian Lenny as my file server and it runs very nicely. The 256 MB RAM is a little constraining if I were to run a full-fat desktop environment like KDE4 or Gnome and then try to run OpenOffice.org 3.0 and Evolution in the background, but it can run XFCE and most GUI programs just fine. Right now, it runs in headless mode since it's a print/NFS/Samba server and it uses a whopping 38 MB of RAM.
Interesting article. I'm tempted to try this out on my Via Epia-M ITX board, which is currently doing "nettop" duty in my family room running XP. However, with Atom ITX boards and s 2 gig stick of RAM going for under $100, these old VIA boards are largely irrelevant as anything but a file/print server. If I load up a new OS on this system, I'll upgrade the hardware for a cost less than my monthly cable/broadband bill.
Interesting, but why do you run Gnome in this test? Gnome or KDE is not suitable for old computers. Also netbooks like the Asus Eee PCs will benifit from using something simpler. So why not test with XFCE4 and dwm as well?
Originally Posted by phoronix
There's lots of systems with these specs out there.
A lot of "working poor" and "single mom" families have boxes like these, often received as a hand-me-down from a family with newer systems for all their kids, when a new purchase bumps all their previous systems one step down the chain. They often still run Win'98 or (often "non-legit") XP, which the kids use for their homework (and share with the whole household). I know some of them; getting together $50 to buy such a box at a swap meet or garage sale is a significant expense.
I'm glad to see a "tech-press" article acknowledge what "older hardware" may really mean in real-world scenarios, where the user isn't in an IT-related job, or a gamer, but someone who may actually have to make do with the kind of gear that vendors pretend doesn't even exist anymore.
Personally I prefer to use Debian for 'older' hardware.
My IT department was in the process of recycling some old laptops. Basically just throwing them away, but in the proper manner.
So they called my workmates and told them that they had some old laptops that they were getting rid of. Told them that they may be able to find one or two out of the mess.
Out of probably 10 laptops we ended up with 8 working ones. They are fantastic and reliable, but are just old and too old to really be that useful in a business environment. But as knock around machines and 'suck sluts' (dedicated machines for downloading stuff from the internet) they work well.
I was able to snag a couple of them. Currently I am typing this on 1.13 ghz Pentium3 laptop with 512MB of RAM and a 40GB harddrive. One of the nicer ones.
I installed Debian Lenny 5.01 on it using the 'standard system' and 'laptop' package groups... no GUI or anything.
I then upgraded it to Debian Unstable and installed LXDE desktop. Just did a:
apt-get install LXDE
Then I installed Midori and Epiphany-browser browsers (in Debian packages epiphany is a game, while epiphany-browser is the browser). I installed some creature comforts in the form of:
'network-manager' 'network-manager-gnome' and then network-manager openvpn and pptp plugins. Then I got rid of the eth0 entries in /etc/network/interfaces so that NM was allowed to work properly.
I added on gnome-power-manager, which I stuck gnome-power-manager.desktop file in my ~/.config/autostart file and removed this line out of it:
So that it would launch in LXDE.
I installed mplayer, ffmpeg, and w32codecs from the Debian-multimedia.org repostory (installed debian-multimedia-keyring so that it doesn't complain all the time).
I installed pmount so that I can mount USB devices without becoming root.
I added ralink-firmware packages and a script to /etc/pm-utils/sleep.d that unloads and loads the rt61pci module when the laptop goes to sleep and wakes up.
Installed clive. Clive can be used to pull the flash videos from many popular websites.
And a few other minor tweaks like that.
So what that gets me is a desktop using the most modern version of the Gecko rendering engine out of Mozilla, but in a browser that uses 2/3 amount of RAM; which is Epiphany.
Network-manager allows me to latch onto any network effortlessly.
Gnome-power-manager takes care of battery management. It controls the policy so that the machine automatically goes to sleep when I close the lid on battery power and wakes up and hibernates when it gets close to draining the battery.
I get a decent desktop with LXDE. It has the same basic level of usability as Windows 98 or Windows 95 and uses about the same resources, but is MASSIVELY more stable and bug-free, not to mention much much much more secure.
I get the kick-ass mplayer (which I have the keyboard controls pretty much memorized) and can play pretty much any form of media on the net.
Suspend works perfectly. It worked out of the box except for the wireless add-on card.. the sleep.d script fixed that.
Hibernate works perfectly.
It boots up quick.
After just booting up and with a terminal open the system runs at 50-70MB of memory used and that is even with network-manager and gnome-power-manager running.
Clive allows me to download and play videos at full playback without the overhead and poor performance of flash.
Even with this browser open I am still using less then a hundred megs of ram....
~$ free -m
total used free shared buffers cached
Mem: 503 235 267 0 40 101
-/+ buffers/cache: 93 409
Swap: 1474 0 1474
Right now this system is faster then the original OS that was installed on it and is more usable and has better performance then if I used a old version of Linux like Redhat 8.0 or whatever.
Yes, but they get more out of the system if they run xfce4 as opposed to gnome. xfce4 is very userfriendly IMO. So it is more suited to do these tests with a recommended user environment
Originally Posted by Bernard Swiss
for older systems i really like vector linux.
I have a little bit better box than the Via based PC. Mine is an Athlon 2600+ with 1 GB of 333 MHz ram. A friend has an Intel box with 2.6 gig P4 and 256 MB of ram. We both installed Ubuntu 9.04 and our boot times are 64 and 67 seconds. I reinstalled Xubuntu 9.04 and now it boots in 55 seconds. (Both boxes are dual booting. I count from when the power button is pushed until the last panel applet installs. Mine was a new install. The other was an upgrade from 8.10)
Originally Posted by phoronix
Why would these boxes be so much slower? Would I learn something from running bootchart? (I would have done that already but I need to get to a broadband connection.)
Well, for one thing, bootchart only counts from the point linux kernel is loaded. So if you have a slow bios taking 10s just to get to grub, plus a 3-10s timeout there, well that explains some things.