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Breathing Life Into Older Computers 404

Posted by Hemos
from the arise-from-your-grave dept.
Aron writes "ASE Labs has written an article on using a light distribution of Linux, Damn Small Linux, to power an older computer. With Linux, older computers can be useful once again for many people. From the article: "The oldest computer I have is a Pentium 266 MMX laptop with 64MB of RAM. Most people would just consider this to be garbage and junk it, and if you brought this in for service where I work, I would agree with you. While this laptop might seem old and out-of-date now, it is small and light. I needed something I could easily carry around, so I figured I would see what I could salvage out of this dinosaur. Windows would have a hard time running on this low-spec laptop, but there are many distributions of Linux that will work exceptionally well.""
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Breathing Life Into Older Computers

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  • Get the PUPPY! (Score:5, Informative)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:14PM (#14130671)

    Not really news per se...most of us have known for a while now that Linux is a good strategy for reviving old systems that the latest M$ bloatware won't run on.

    I like the PUPPY [puppylinux.com] myself...give it a shot. ^_^
    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:35PM (#14130902) Journal
      Yea, I know what you mean.

      My old hardware can't handle Windows 3.1

      This Linux thing sounds interesting
    • by SatanicPuppy (611928) <Satanicpuppy@ g m a i l . c om> on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:35PM (#14130905) Journal
      As long as you've got harddrive space, most older distro's work fine on hardware down to 100mhz. I've got a number of 300mhz boxes running Red Hat 7.3, and they do fine as firewalls and low end FTP servers. Got an old BSD box running named that I don't even know the stats on, and I'm afraid to reboot it, for fear it'll never come back up.

      Fedora Core IV was the first distro that wouldn't run on my old PIII 700, so it got refurbed and passed off as a firewall to a friend of mine running FCII with no gui. I could have recompiled the kernel to support the old coppermine architecture, but it was worth the 120.00 dollars to me to upgrade to a much faster AMD processor.

      I'm all in favor of keeping the older boxes running and useful, but after a point you have to consider diminishing returns. Recompiling a kernel (and then recompiling it again to put in the junk I forgot the first time) on my home network would have taken more of my life than I was willing to spend on a hopelessly obsolecent box.
    • Re:Get the PUPPY! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hey! (33014) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:57PM (#14131089) Homepage Journal
      I like it too, but each has its place.

      Puppy is designed to be small, attractive and usable. A normal person might chafe slightly at not having his favorite application represented, but most day to day things will be adequately supported.

      DSL is designd to be small as possible, no trade-offs or nods towards sanity at all. A normal person will want to gouge his eyeballs out with a ball point pen after using it for any length of time.

      I'd say if you can run Puppy rather than DSL, do it. But DSL serves an important purpose when even Puppy is too big.
    • Hey, not sure why you got 'Funny' ... this weekend I found a truly cool thing to do with an old machine with a 425MB (yes, that's right, 1GB) hard drive.... Chubby Puppy installed slicker than excriment! Now I have the puppy machine (PII-300 256MB Ram, 425MB HD) up and running quite happily *AND* usefully!
    • Re:Get the PUPPY! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Pxtl (151020) on Monday November 28, 2005 @03:49PM (#14131645) Homepage
      Good call. People always push DSL as the "legacy box" linux distro - but that's not the best approach. First, DSL is focussed on small _size_ more than anything else. A new HDD is the easiest upgrade to do on a legacy box - at the vary least you can get it up to the 8Gig limit. Meanwhile, ease-of-use and functionality go out the window.

      Vector Linux is supposed to be the best for this, but it's a retail product - their free versions are full-featured modern distros a la Ubuntu, not lightweights. There's Buffalo, which is a free rerelease of Vector, but it is a small project.

      One recommendation I heard for saving an old box was to go with 'Drake. I know it sounds odd, but remember that Mandrake comes with lightweight WMs. Theoretically if you rip out enough extraneous stuff and boot X into Ice, you might go far that way.

      Remember: your competition is Win98 + Office2k. Win98 might've been unstable and outright dangerous, but it was lightyears ahead of DSL for ease-of-use and functionality.

      Of course, if you're one of those command line cowboys, then my comments are pointless, but so is this whole article - you don't need DSL or anything else, you can just hack your Gentoo in to fit the box.
  • by mekkab (133181) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:15PM (#14130682) Homepage Journal
    I've got a Toshiba Portege 233 that still has win98 on it; and its perfect for Outlook, Exceed (for X windows), Excel, and VPN software (and the occaisional web browsing).

    I've also got a Pentium 166 (198 MB ram) with the same set up.

    They're being phased out infavor of my Mac, but clean installs in windows with only a few applications on them can give you a long and happy life.

    • by Otter (3800) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:23PM (#14130765) Journal
      Yeah, people talk about old Pentiums like they're cuneiform tablets. What do they think ran on the Pentium 266 originally, DOS?

      It will run Win98 happily, or (with a bit of extra RAM, perhaps) any Linux distribution with the services turned off should be fine, if you use WindowMaker or Fluxbox. You don't need to mess with boutique Linuxes for something like this. (Personally, I'd just throw on Red Hat 5.2..)

      • Really all that matters is the memory. If you can upgrade your old Pentium box to 256 megs of memory then it will run Fedora just fine. Indeed, on machines with lots of memory newer versions of Linux, KDE, glibc etc. are often faster than the old versions, at the expense of being a lot slower when RAM is limited. (Hence all the marketing telling you that version X+1 of a program is always faster than version X.)

        Personally, I'd stay with Fedora (or other mainstream distribution) even with only 64 megabyte
      • I have an embedded box with far less horsepower than this that boots OpenBSD from a flash card and is a firewall. We used to have a few machines around with sub-100MHz SPARC32 CPUs in them that ran NetBSD, WindowMaker and Opera quite happily. Back when I was an undergrad we had a single P133 (with 256MB of RAM, as I recall) driving 7 dumb X terminals - many of which would run Netscape or StarOffice - and it was fast enough that everyone in the room could play xblast...

        When people start telling you a P2 i

      • I have 3 older boxes on 98SE. One thing I have noticed; for average apps, in most non-video intense useage (games), Wi98 running on a Pentium, Pentium 2, or even a lowly K6-2 consistently out performs a XP running box at twice their speed. The operaitng system overhead seems to take up most of the extra horsepower.
        I know I know.. heresey. and XP is a far more more secure operating system then 98; no where NEAR as prone to viruses, worms, Zombiefication, or poorly written code causing crashes --the
    • by rbochan (827946) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:34PM (#14130884) Homepage
      Not just for VPN. I use older hardware every single day.

      I've been in the process of doing a writeup that I'll be submitting to the Debian Administration [debian-adm...ration.org] website.
      The laptop I have is an old Dell Latitude CP M233XT circa 1997. It's got a Pentium II 233 MHz processor, 128 meg ram, and the original 3G drive is now a 4.1G hard drive swapped out from a dead HP Omnibook 4100.

      I won't rehash the entire article in this post, but suffice it to say, it's the laptop that I use for my business every day. It runs Debian (Sarge) and a customized KDE setup. No complaints as far as usability goes. Things take a bit longer to start up than on my P-III 850 at home, but it's nothing I can't deal with. OpenOffice.org is the real pig on the machine, but that's to be expected.

      • by MsGeek (162936)
        Everyone forgets that you can run as lean or as fat as you want to under Debian. Theoretically Sarge will still work on a 386...perhaps Strongbad has Debian under the hood of his Lappy 486? The Net Install disk is smaller than Puppy, smaller even than DSL if my memory serves me right. You don't have to run GNOME or KDE with it...hell, you don't even have to run X if you really want to run lean! Try IceWM as your window manager and make sure the GTK and QT libs are installed so you can run GTK and/or KDE app
    • by Anonymous Coward
      but i think the problem is you're running win98, an undeniably out-dated operating system. if you run linux, everything is up-to-date and still being supported. even the 2.4 kernel is still maintained (which is what DSL uses i think). so there really isn't a comparison here.
    • by Reziac (43301) * on Monday November 28, 2005 @03:08PM (#14131220) Homepage Journal
      My #2 everyday machine is a lowly P233/128mb RAM; it has Win95 and an assload of large apps (Corel Office 8, CorelDraw 8, Photoshop 5.5, assorted internet apps, etc.) It runs well even with heavy multitasking, works fine for everything expected of it, and *never* crashes. You couldn't pry this machine outta my hands with a crowbar. :) -- At one time it had RH6 on it, and KDE was usable (tho sluggish) but Gnome was like watching paint dry :(

      The oldest machine here that still has a Real Job is a P120/64mb/Win95 in a luggable case, mainly used to leech off a friend's cable modem. It's perfectly competent for that simple task.

      I've just rehabbed a stack of P150/32mb/Win95 boxen, to give to a teacher who has no funds for PCs in her classrooms. They're good enough for the simple apps she uses there.

      There's no reason one HAS to install the latest and greatest on every machine. Let old systems run the stuff that was current in their day (whether Windows, linux, or whatever), and remain both useful and performing adequately to their tasks. Every job doesn't need a P4-3GHz screamer.

      Hell, for years I did all my internet stuff on a 486... after all, a dialup machine doesn't need to be any faster than the modem!

      • Hell, for years I did all my internet stuff on a 486... after all, a dialup machine doesn't need to be any faster than the modem!

        I've found that's not really the case. Web pages have gotten compicated enough that and old CPU takes more time to render the page than the modem takes to bring in the data. My parents for several years had a 160MHz PowerPC 603ev Mac clone, and I could notice the difference on how much worse it was than any of the various laptop's I'd use when I was visitng, all via dialup: P

  • by nizo (81281) * on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:15PM (#14130685) Homepage Journal
    I have an old pentium laptop running damnsmalllinux at home with a cheap wireless card I picked up off of ebay. Now I can sit on the couch and connect into my main machine and run whatever I want (firefox, gimp, whatever) and display it back to my laptop. Luckily damnsmalllinux can install with a boot floppy (since the laptop couldn't boot off of CD). Another nice distro is monkey linux [hiedu.cz]. If you have to install via floppy on a really really old machine, this one is worth looking at. If you are going to buy an old laptop, try to get one with a bootable CD, or at the very least a floppy and CD, since installing via any other method on old hardware is torture (though slackware with a zip/ls120 drive isn't too bad).
    • I'm glad that running apps remotely works that well for you over wireless but even over 100mbit ethernet it's not something I like to do.

      I use Win98 on my P133 laptop with 40MB of RAM because the HD is so fucked up that it's not even worth formatting and reinstalling for fear that the fucker might just completely fall apart.

      I mostly use putty to my on-going screen sessions and IE on it. It served as my machine machine from 12/96 to 7/99 with Linux and then as an MP3 server for the stereo from 2000 to 2002
    • On a similar note, I've always wondered why some bright spark doesn't do a tiny linux distro that simply boots up X with bare networking and remote desktop services (like RDP, VNC, X, et cetera). With this in mind, you could get the distro down to a few megs.
      • by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot...kadin@@@xoxy...net> on Monday November 28, 2005 @03:58PM (#14131737) Homepage Journal
        I've thought the same thing. I find it hard to believe that somebody, somewhere, hasn't already done it -- it seems like an obvious step to take if you wanted to run a bunch of thin clients without much disk storage.

        For everything you hear about using old hardware as thin x-server clients to run applications remotely (which comes up pretty often here on /.) there aren't -- at least to my knowledge -- very many easy to use distros that let you do it out of the box. If somebody can prove me wrong on this I'd be pleased, since I've always been interested in playing around with thin-client stuff, but it's seemed rather daunting to get into.

        If somebody felt like putting together a bootable distro, suitable for low-end or old hardware, that would fit on a business-card CD or inexpensive USB flash drive, and do nothing but let the machine work as an x-server over a secure connection and run remote applications, I think there's a definite demand for it (especially if it had a matching "thick" server/x-client distro).
  • Red Hat 8 on P90.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I got RH 8 on a p90 with 32M Ram. No desktop or anything else graphical, but it is able to run Apache and Samba. It was a coll little server.
    • I have a similar machine; 12-year old Pentium/90 that I originally installed Red Hat 5.2 on. Since then, I've turned it into a firewall/router using smoothwall [smoothwall.org]. Dead simple to install and maintain.

    • I got RH 8 on a p90 with 32M Ram. No desktop or anything else graphical, but it is able to run Apache and Samba. It was a coll little server.

      Here is an even slower Pentium running a snapshot of OpenBSD running Subversion, Apache httpd, OpenVPN and a few other services. OpenBSD is great to run on older machine, and the base install is not as bloated as some Linux distros are.

      $ dmesg
      OpenBSD 3.8-current (GENERIC) #256: Fri Nov 18 11:41:21 MST 2005
      deraadt@i386.openbsd.org:/usr/src/sys/arch/i386/co mpi

      • cpu0: Intel Pentium (P54C) ("GenuineIntel" 586-class) 79 MHz

        Got me beat

        cat /proc/cpuinfo
        processor : 0
        vendor_id : GenuineIntel
        cpu family : 5
        model : 2
        model name : Pentium 75 - 200
        stepping : 6
        cpu MHz : 119.754


        and 45136 kB of memory, it's a Samba server with a private web server and gnump3 server. Haven't had a problem with it and does it's job quitely. Going on 60 days uptime since the last power outage.

        And to top it off, I wen't psycho and installed gentoo from

    • In 2000, I did Slackware 3.4 (I think ... can't remember) on an ancient Toshiba 486-33 laptop with 8 MB of RAM, 200 MB of hard disk, and a 640x480 black-and-white screen. I used Slackware because it was the only package for which a base system (kernel + network) could be installed by floppy, which ended up being about twenty disks. Then I set up PLIP to transfer X Windows, GCC, and LaTeX, which all fit, amazingly enough.

      I had grand visions of on-the-go computing with cheap hardware, but it was so slow and
  • Damn Small Linux (Score:5, Insightful)

    by carcosa30 (235579) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:15PM (#14130691)
    Damn Small Linux would probably run just fine on it. I was running Linux on a 233 AMD, back in 99 or so, and it ran much nicer than my Celly 450.

    If you need a windowing system, try fluxbox. Its use of tabs make it much more powerful than other equivalent WMs.

    I don't see why this is such a big question. Hasn't it already been done to death here and elsewhere?

    If nothing else, you could use it as an X terminal to a much more powerful machine. I have a 700mhz Vaio that I'm using for that purpose.
  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:16PM (#14130700) Homepage Journal
    This is actually a distribution that I think will find many fans. I have so much hardware I'd like to donate to my church or local teen center but I know wouldn't run WinXP.

    Personally, I've been looking for a throw-away cheap laptop so I can word process on-the-go. My previous model was a Sony VAIO model (PCG-N505VX I believe) with no CD or DVD (useless for me), a gorgeous display, and it was thinner than any laptop I'd ever seen. The processor was a P2-333 I believe, and it did everything I needed it to do (it was the first PC I had with Firewire built in).

    Unfortunately, I dropped it once too many times, and it's $sys$. I hate Sony now, but I am desperate to find a similar laptop. I'd gladly install a thin version of Linux, but I am worried about driver support on some of these old notebooks. For me, video driver support is REALLY important (I need fast video as I do tend to swap between windows at incredible speed).

    Currently I perform almost all my writing and editing on my Pocket PC Phone with an external keyboard, but it isn't keeping up with my volume. I may go find a used N505VX as the form factor was perfect, and searching the web shows numerous people with successful Linux installs on this unit. I was holding off on replacing my portable because I didn't want to screw with Linux and I knew it was my only real option.

    The article is now in my bookmarks, I've been banging my head trying to find a deposit of information on using Linux with ancient hardware. Having a preassembled distro is a huge plus, I hate wasting time tinkering with any production-quality machine.

    Why not buy a new unit? Honestly, money isn't the problem. For me, the new laptops are way overburdened with hardware and features that I would NEVER need. I have yet to see a new SMALL monitor on a thin minimalist laptop that works as well as my old N505 did, as brightly as it did, with battery life as good as it had.

    I can definitely agree that Windows XP wouldn't run well on the laptop, yet my Win2K install was pretty decent (I needed a ton of RAM though, and the article is aimed at 64MB dinosaurs).
    • Check out the Gateway 3350 laptop. It's going on six years old at this point, but until I got my 12" PowerBook G4 it was the best portable computer I'd ever used.

      I've used a couple tiny Vaios in the past, but the 3350 was better. Gorgeous screen and the best laptop keyboard of all time. It's smaller than a 8x11 sheet of paper, about .5" thin, and ~3-4lbs without the AC adapter. I ran Win2k with Office2k and they all worked as sweetly as you could want.

      You can probably find one for ~$200 on eBay. Mine still
    • This is actually a distribution that I think will find many fans. I have so much hardware I'd like to donate to my church or local teen center but I know wouldn't run WinXP.

      You might find that your local church group will be upset by software named Damn Small Linux... Just a little heads up. :-)

  • by mccalli (323026) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:17PM (#14130703) Homepage
    The oldest computer I have is a Pentium 266 MMX laptop with 64MB of RAM

    I have a Compaq P100 laptop. I set up a dual-boot for Debian and FreeDOS, and it now spends its days as a slave to my C64 [64hdd.com], bypassing the notoriously slow 1541 snaildrive [wikipedia.org].

    Cheers,
    Ian

  • by zaft (597194) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:17PM (#14130708) Homepage
    I run NetBSD on a 368DX40 with 16 MB of RAM. It runs fine -- a bit slow, of course, but quite serviceable for a server.
    • 386SX/16 (Score:2, Funny)

      by vlakkies (107642)
      I may take the record here: I'm running Debian on a Dell 316LT. That is a 16 MHz 386SX laptop with 8MB of RAM and a 120 MB hard drive and a 10BaseT ethernet card that I needed to grind the end off to make it fit.

      It doesn't really run Linux, it is more like a walk.
  • My parents only recently upgraded their 166MHz PII with 64MB memory that was running Windows NT 4.0 exceptionally well. It worked fine for browsing the web, etc, albeit being a little slow on large flash animations
  • Only one problem... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gpinzone (531794)
    Can I load this ultra-light version of Linux onto my old computer with 64 MB of RAM and then run Open Office and Firefox at blazing speed? I don't think this is going to make my applications magicaly need less CPU/RAM.
    • Of course not; trying to make older computers perform as well as modern ones at tasks suited to the modern ones is ridiculous. The point, as I understand it, is to recognize which tasks older machines can perform well and avoid wasting resources by letting them handle those tasks.

      A laptop that's intended to be used solely for non-graphical word-processing (obviously for a fancy document you'll want more resources) doesn't need blazing specs to be able to run vi or nano. A machine intended to be a home files
  • When I had my own P133 with a whopping 32 megs of RAM back in 1997, Windows ran just fine on it. My upgrade to Win98 on my next machine (a P300) was even better...so much so that I can still use that machine if my others go down. While I'm sure DSL or another distro are great for those boxes, older versions of Windows have never given me any problems either.
    • Windows have never given me any problems either.
      They don't give any problems to virus/spyware/etc writers, eigther.
      • Bah. I've run Windows for almost 10 years, and in that time, I've never had a virus or worm or piece of software running that I didn't put there. An unsecured linux system can be just as much of a problem if you're not careful.
    • Wow. My P266, 32 MB, 4.1 GB HD system croaked when I tried to move it from Win95 to Win98. FAT32 confused the hell out of my BIOS. That system went from crashing every couple of weeks to crashing a few times a month, though. I think it was boosting the RAM to 256MB that did that, rather than the OS change. Win9x just was never stable for me (even running the OEM installed versions.)
      • Before XP on my current machines, I'd never run anything as stable as my win98 SP2 installs. I'd have weeks of uptime, used them as house servers, never really any problems. Sometimes good hardware makes the difference...and with windows, a few weird programs can make it run funny.
  • by Ricardo Dias Marques (200514) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:20PM (#14130737)

    Talking about light Linux distributions: there is a list of so-called tiny Linux distributions in the Open Directory Project [dmoz.org] web site (aka DMOZ).

    The list is available at:

    Open Directory - Computers: Software: Operating Systems: Linux: Distributions: Tiny
    http://dmoz.org/Computers/Software/Operating_Syste ms/Linux/Distributions/Tiny/ [dmoz.org]

  • Debian runs fine. A bunch of services, 24/7 server with shell accounts, mail, www, ftp and a bunch others. Upgrade from 16 to 24MB RAM gave it a new lease of life. Upgrade from 2GB to 20GB drive - another. And thanks to low power CPU, I just slapped an Athlon radiator on it instead of the original 486 one, then removed the fan. The drive is silent, the cooler in the PSU is dead already, so the machine is exceptionally quiet.
    Recently I bought a serial terminal, an original 80-column amber screen Wyse, and pu
    • One more thing... To get mom from hanging over my shoulder and requesting "find that, check this", I bought her a computer. A Pentium 160 MMX. The old 2GB drive went to it, 64M RAM, an old 17" monitor, SoundBlaster16 ISA, network card, whatever spares I found. And now considerations... She's computer-illiterate. I need to teach her from scratch. I can get a nice easy user-friendly Linux desktop manager, but most of them require at least twice-thrice as much in hardware. Or I can get her a lightweight one...
  • I have exactly the same laptop. It's not a toshiba, is it? Why DSL though? I run gentoo on it. It runs great. Compile time wasn't bad, as I have a few other machines to distcc it with. And I can run X on it. Although, I recommend using FVWM for the window manager. It's hella lightweight, and highly configurable. The only downside is I haven't got standby/hibernation working yet. But, since it's so old, I threw in a second battery. So I get about 5 hours of constant use out of it.
    • Sorry, second page of the article just loaded. They're running X as well. But I've got WIFI working. Which may just be because of the card. I'm still not sure why DSL? The greivences they mention are solved by other distros(including, but not limited to gentoo).
  • Slashdotted (Score:4, Informative)

    by Krast0r (843081) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:22PM (#14130759) Homepage Journal
    Site seems to be down - or at least running slow. Here is the Coral Cache link:

    http://www.aselabs.com.nyud.net:8090/ [nyud.net]
  • Hehehe... I guess it depends on what you define as "old". I have a dual P II 450 with 768 Megs of RAM that I consider to be standard "entry level". I bought it in 1997/98 and it's been serving me well as an application server with Linux for quite a few years. This is the way computing is SUPPOSED to work. None of this stupid disposable crap. I am currently running RH 9 on it with all the latest apps like Firefox, OpenOffice 2.0, VNC4, etc... It performs at least as fast as a P4 1 Ghz system running Wi
    • It performs at least as fast as a P4 1 Ghz system running Windows XP Pro.

      P4 was never manufactured as a 1 ghz.
    • I don't think that what you're describing is an argument for/against either Windows or Linux. That machine is still quite a beast, especially compared to all of my machines at my business (all Pentium 2's of some kind, 256-512MB RAM, running Windows 2000 very happily). Of course, in my experience, any Linux that I've tried on all of those machines all run as slow as mud.
  • Here's a similar story of using old hardware with NetBSD:

    http://www.onlamp.com/pub/a/bsd/2005/05/05/hardwar e_rescue.html [onlamp.com]
  • jealous, dammit! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Namronorman (901664) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:24PM (#14130773)
    I'm so jealous! I only have a 486 Laptop with 8mb RAM. Actually, it's quite fun to bring older computers to life so you can experiment with them in ways you'd be afraid to on a newer computer you use constantly.

    Most people would just consider this to be garbage and junk it, and if you brought this in for service where I work, I would agree with you.

    I think it's kind of lame when people just discard computers, there's a lot you could do with them aside from throwing them in the dumpster. You could take them to a GoodWill/Habitat For Humanity/Whatever, recycle them, or even use them for something trivial. There are still a lot of people out there who don't have a computer.
  • I used to run my personal firewall and internet services on a AMD 5x86, [pcguide.com] AKA a fast 486. I think mine was running at 200MHz, although it may have been 166 - can't remember for sure.

    It worked just fine, and would have continued to do so, but I decided to consolidate and move my services and firewall onto my main Linux workstation. It just didn't make enough sense to maintain and power a separate box for tasks that could easily be done with spare CPU cycles.

    I still have the old chip and motherboard, though -

  • by afidel (530433)
    Setup DOS to run on it. Get the networking card to run on it and then install the Citrix DOS client. Then point it at either a Linux box running an RDP server or some sort or point it at a Windows XP box with Remote Desktop turned on. Won't do you a lot of good without a network connection, but with one you will have the full power of your desktop system. X desktop is possible, but it's less secure (requiress SSH hacks) and is slower.
  • Vector (Score:5, Informative)

    by RailGunner (554645) * on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:26PM (#14130801) Journal
    Based on slackware, optimized for older hardware, and there's also a SOHO edition with KDE (standard edition has IceWM or Fluxbox, but SOHO is heavier...).

    http://www.vectorlinux.com/ [vectorlinux.com]

    Minimum Requirements: 125 MB Hard Drive, 16 MB RAM.

  • by aquarian (134728) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:27PM (#14130813)
    I had a great system about 4 years ago with the Mandrake or Redhat du jour (I can't remember which) on a P133 w/ 64MB. With KDE it was impossibly slow, but it ran great with IceWM -- better than Win98, which was also installed. It was solid as a rock, too.
    • Just try installing any of these on 200MB harddrive, with X and networking in working order. And preferably kernel sources + development tools to compile the kernel. Good luck.
    • by RevMike (632002)
      I'm running a Cyrix 266 machine with 192M Ram. I'm using fairly stock Debian Sarge on it. IceWM works like a dream. I didn't have room in my office for it so it sits in my basement. I have a windows box I use for work on my desk, and I just use vnc for all my personal work.
    • WindowMaker also runs very well on slower machines. And you are right, unless you have very small (under 300MB) harddisk and under 32MB of RAM there is no need to use special Linux distros, eg. Debian Linux runs nicely on old 166MHz pentium, though I must admit that Firefox takes awhile to start up.

      Older machines can be used with Windows also. For example Windows 98 on 233MHz pentium with 64MB of RAM is rather nice and allows you to play all those old classic games like Master of Magic/Orion, Ultima Underwo
  • Old laptops (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jav1231 (539129) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:34PM (#14130882)
    This would be great if there was considerable WiFi support for Linux. This is especially true for older laptops. It just seems like if you buy an off-the-shelf WiFi card you have a 90% chance of not getting it to work consistently if you own it. It's odd because you'll find thousands of posts about how if you had just bought the v.2.9 of that same card with a S/N ending in an even number you'd have a slew of driver options thanks to a guy named Sven in Sweden who's reversed engineered that card and posted his driver on the net under the Creative Commons License. Look, the only reason to have a laptop is portability. When I had my old Toshiba, Dell, and Thinkpad laptops (MMX266's and such) I ALWAYS had to give up either Wifi, decent Video, or sound. Seems you could pick any 2.
    Let the responses regarding Sven's support for every WiFi card on earth (as long as it's Oronoco) follow!
    • Re:Old laptops (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Neph (5010) on Monday November 28, 2005 @03:06PM (#14131193) Homepage
      You're correct that native Linux support for WiFi NICs is limited, but fortunately, you don't need native support if the laptop is ix86. ndiswrapper [sourceforge.net] will allow your Linux kernel to use a Windows driver for virtually any NIC [sourceforge.net] you care to name. I use it myself for a card with a Broadcom chipset, works like a charm.
    • I picked up a few cheap, no-name 802.11g usb wireless NICs from Fry's a few months ago. I did not plan ahead to get one that was known to be linux compatible. Well, they both work fine in linux, as does any other card i've ever thrown at it, except for the d-link pcmcia 802.11b with their speedboost crap.

      I think your problem is more of a "I clicked on it and it didn't work. I give up" problem.

      Do or do not, there is no try.
      • "I think your problem is more of a "I clicked on it and it didn't work. I give up" problem."
        Hardly. I've been using Linux for many years, actually. I'll admit that I currently do not use it on a laptop, so I'm not as up on the wifi support. I can tell you that up until recently, Orinoco was about the only thing that was broadly supported. Almost no Linksys was supported and only certain Belkin's. Now my issue started with the problem with Prism2 support. One distro would work and another would not. Using t
    • Let the responses regarding Sven's support for every WiFi card on earth (as long as it's Oronoco) follow!

      You can use ndis wrappers, but this is a simple alternative that works better for old laptops:

      1. Bring old laptop to a good computer store.
      2. Tell clerk you want to buy a wifi card that works with your laptop and will need to test them.
      3. If clerk refuses your request or tells you you have to buy a card first, go back to step 1.
      4. Ask if the store has normal and open wifi. A really good store will. If so, af
  • I have to totally disagree with the premise here. Windows 2000 runs *Just fine* on my K62-200
  • Like many readers here, I used to run Linux on machines with much lower specs than these. I ran X (with Netscape), irc, and irc bot, an FTP site, and a web site off a Pentium 60 with 24MB memory and a 540MB hard drive, only a third of which was partitioned for Linux. Nothing has happened in the intervening decade to make this computer run less well than it ever did. You can still do all those things you used to do. Why couldn't you?

    Similarly, this computer still works great with Windows NT 3.51, or Wind
  • Windows would have a hard time running on this low-spec laptop, but there are many distributions of Linux that will work exceptionally well.

    OK, I've used DSL. It is OK, and small (around a 50 meg ISO). But it's based on Knoppix and is intended to be run as a Live CD, not installed onto a system. Plus DSL has not been updated in quite some time, so it's pretty old by Linux standards and is missing a lot of fixes. Still, it's GUI can be a resource hog and it demands at least as much in the way of resources

  • by xtal (49134) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:35PM (#14130908)
    For awhile I had a lot of machines running various flavours of *BSD and *NIX, however I realized I was throwing a lot of money away keeping them on for any length of time. This isn't as much of an issue with a 486 system as it is with the early pentiums, but it's something to think about.

    I keep my boxes around for routers. Toss smoothwall or openbsd on, put in some network cards, and away you go. Compactflash-IDE adapters solve the hard drive problem nicely. The linksys boxes are nice, but they don't have the flexibility, and running snort in all it's wonder is pretty cool.

    With mini ITX boards down in the sub-$100 territory, requiring only RAM with everything else onboard.. and power consumption way down there.. it's much more economical and environmentally friendly to use one of those.

    YMMV, of course.
  • Dual Pentium/133 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NerveGas (168686) on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:48PM (#14131006)

        I have an old DEC server with dual P-133s in it, and 96 megs of RAM. Back in the day, it must have been extremely expensive. About six years ago, I picked it up for $40. Right now it's my home router running Linux, but in the past I've installed Windows 2000 on it, and it was pretty usable.

        Seeing that even maxing out my 6 megabit line doesn't get the load on the machine above 0.05, I keep thinking about doing something a bit more demanding with it, but in reality, I'll probably just be lazy and let it sit there. It's nice and quiet, passive heat sinks and everything.

    steve
  • Laptop screens (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RevMike (632002) <revMike AT gmail DOT com> on Monday November 28, 2005 @02:50PM (#14131030) Journal
    At least in the laptop world, one problem is that many older laptops have low resolution screens. 640x480 is not comfortable anymore no matter what window manager you use.

  •     One of these days, I'll put more effort into looking for a cheap laptop - it doesn't even need a battery, as long as it has a working display, power supply, and keyboard. I'm going to rip it apart, mount the LCD in a frame, and build it into my wall. But I see how much people want for something like a Pentium 166 laptop, and I think that they're out of their minds.

        Sticking a nice 19" LCD in the wall would be even nicer, but lots more money as well.

    steve
  • FWIW, I have a Pentium 120 with 48 megs of RAM that I have set up to dual boot Win98 and Linux. Both of them run acceptably fast. I wouldn't try running XP and Photoshop on the poor old thing, but then I wouldn't try running X, Enlightenment, and the GIMP on it, either. I have a much nicer and more recent laptop now that I got as a desktop replacement, but I still carry the old one around because it's perfectly adequate for email and word processing (Word 97), and it wouldn't be a great loss if it got stole
  • Much as I like the idea of putting some of my old junk to good use as storage and print servers etc. It makes no economic sense at all. You can buy new computers, standalone network drives, network printer interfaces etc. for very little these days.

    Frankly, I'd rather just dump the old hardware. The HDDs are probably about to burn out, the PSU is likely on it's last legs. The CPU is probably suffering from gradual heat-death. IMHO it's a false economy.

    Ok - so it was an $900 computer 5 years ago - but you
    • by Chris Tyler (2180) on Monday November 28, 2005 @03:17PM (#14131300) Homepage
      It's not necessarily true that older=unreliable. Many older systems don't need fans (fewer moving parts to break), and are over-engineered to a remarkable degree - I have PSUs from the 80's that operated 24x7 for a decade and a half and are still servicable (though not presently in use). More recent boxes burn through their fans and PSUs in a couple of years.

      For a long time I ran a 20 MHz 80386 with 8MB RAM as my firewall+SMTP+DNS server. Worked fine on a broadband connection, 24x7 for 5 years, in a dusty basement, and moved a *lot* of data; I only took it out of service when I moved. (Of course, it took over two days to compile the kernel for it in the first place, but that's another story). If I took a 'current' box I'll bet it would die in those conditions in 18 months.
  • I have DamnSmallLinux on some older PC's at my work. In addition I have it on an Iomega mini USB key so I can boot DamnSmallLinux off the key or even run DamnSmallLinux under Windows using QEMU [bellard.free.fr]. I guess those options require a more up-to-date PC since older PC's 1) don't boot from a USB key and 2) would run dogslow under QEMU.

    For a newer Mini-ITX that runs DamnSmallLinux, check out the DamnSmallMachine [damnsmalllinux.org].

  • Anyone try to revive their Tandy 1000 TL/2? I tried a few years back with Minux, but believe there was a hardware support issue, or something like that... Anyway.

    Phil

  • I have had success with Damn small linux, feather linux, and ubuntu.

    My favorite was ubuntu. I simply did a "server" install-- no gui at first. I then apt-getted X11 and ICEWM and whatever else I needed. This works fine on a old p2 laptop, 300MHz w/96 Meg of ram. I can comfortably use firefox too.

    On a more powerful machine (p2 400MHz, 196M ram), I was able to use ubuntu server install with xfce.

    Unfortunately, Gnome and KDE seem to hog as many resources as I throw at them.
  • This seems to be a perfect thread for this question.

    I have an old Pentium 133 Sitting in my basement, and I want to run a SMAUG based mud off of it using Linux, however I would like the Linux distro to be as stripped as possible to allow full function of the MUD but take the least amount of space on the hard drive and memory.

    I've looked at DSL and Slackware, and they seem by default to add stuff that you don't really need for a text based game, such as X windows and other unwanted programming language suppo
  • by l3v1 (787564)
    I call BS. He - writer - says Windows would have a hard time on that 266mmx+64mb ram laptop. I - and several others - have used win95 and win98 and even winme and yes, even winnt4 on lower spec machines (read 133mmx+32mb ram). So yes, I call BS on that.

    That said, and me being strongly on the linux side, I couldn't agree more on the subject of linux's ability to power a system now considered by most people as useless junk, and to turn many-years-old granny machines into usable pieces of hardware. Hell, I r
  • Old? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arcade (16638) on Monday November 28, 2005 @03:06PM (#14131197) Homepage
    I don't get this. I consider anything that is ATX based acceptable fast. I've mostly scrapped my AT based machines, as it's quite hard to find replacement components these days.

    A P266, if I remember correctly, was never produced as an AT product. Thus, for my use, it's acceptable fast.

    I do have to add that I've scrapped (or are scrapping) most of my older hardware. The only reason for that, though, is power consumption. I don't see why I should use a P100 when I can have a mini-itx machine with a hell of a lot more raw power -- using the same or less watts.

  • Well to get in on the geek-fest of old computers, I have an old Compaq Laptop, which I think is a 386 (it might be a 486), with its nice monochrome monitor (all like 8" of it) and tiny keyboard, and little rollerball. It has a hard drive that is at least a couple of hundred MBs and maybe 16 MB of memory, if I am lucky, more likely only 8 MB. I will definitely update this once I am home and can check for sure. It came with Windows 3.1 and thanks to some update disks and a PCMCIA floppy is running Windows

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