Wednesday, March 5, 2008

PII 300 128MB Revisited

As you may have read from my previous blog, I tried installing several different versions of Ubuntu on a Windows 98-era laptop with little success.

Well, I went on vacation and came back fresh, and decided to have a go at it again, this time with more flexibility. Since I had actually enjoyed the experience of gOS 2.0 except for a lot of the broken links, I decided to try Enlightenment (e17) on it's own, IceWM, and XFCE4, show them to my friend, and let him decide which he felt most comfortable with.

I could have gone with an server disk and a minimal CLI system to start with, but I didn't have a current server disk, so I got a net install disk
(of hardy) which weighs in at 9.5MB. That way, my ISP wouldn't get any angrier at me than it already was for the ~500GB of bandwidth I used last month. I only had to download the most recent packages available.

I did a basic installation with a command line interface only, then added icewm-experimental. IceWM is an extremely light desktop, meaning it doesn't do anything for you either. I used it five years ago for thin clients. It loaded really quickly on the old machine and changing it to an XP theme made it look familiar for my friend.

I also added and installed that. It looks pretty and still is quite snappy on the machine.

Finally, I installed XFCE4 from the repos. I figured that I would show the three to my friend, starting with the lightest and fastest, going to the slowest, then let him choose. Since he had limited needs for the computer, he only wanted a browser, MSN chat, and some word processing. I chose Opera from the repos for the browser. It has the lowest memory requirements of any full-featured browser. Since he wanted to do web cam (translated: web sex) via MSN, I gave him aMSN. The Logitec camera worked out of the box with it. Abiword, while not feature-full, was the only real choice for word processors given the system.

I also decided that he might want to play some music or video later, so I installed VLC and Audacious. Audacious is a fork of Beep Media Player, which is an offshoot of XMMS. Beep wasn't available in the repos, so I went with Audacious. It didn't, however, work. I couldn't get it to actually start playing any file, including .wav files. VLC, however, will play both video and sound files, so I just took off Audacity.

When he looked it over, he liked IceWM because of the XP theme. When he looked at e17, he didn't really feel any different about it. XFCE4 failed to start up the session for some reason. It didn't matter. We decided on IceWM, but when he said that he might want to use a USB key later, I got a little worried about automount. I figured e17 would be more likely to have some of that functionality, so I sold him on it.

I took the laptop back, re-themed it to 23oz, set up the bottom shelf with quick launchers and a window list so that he didn't get lost, removed IceWM and XFCE, tested it, and gave it back to him.

I realized too late that I really should have taken another video. It looks sharp, works about as quickly as my Sempron 2800+ with 1GB running straight Ubuntu, and was completely free.

The other two lappies weren't able to be fixed, but I added a USB Ethernet adapter to the one with the broken LAN. I'll install a system similar to my friends on the good one, switch out the hard disks, and repeat.

Two laptops for free. What the hell?


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