Vakkotaur (vakkotaur) wrote,

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Resurrecting caspian

After rebuilding JMaynard's old computer and then rebuilding what is/will become percheron I must have gotten into a get old hardware working again mood. A few years ago I out DeLi linux on a 90 MHz Pentium machine and was impressed with icewm, though getting things working was a bit involved.

DeLi was dormant or nearly so for some time. I had tried it a time or two since, without much luck. Now it is no more, at least under that name - though a fork to something named DeLicate has happened. I've not investigated that. The same person originally behind DeLi is still working on a lighter distribution aimed at older hardware. Now the lowest CPU is the Pentium (586) rather than the 486 and the base is a fairly recent version of Arch linux rather than an a rather old version of Slackware. He calls his distribution ConnochaetOS, named after the Latin for gnu, connochaetes. There is an emphasis on "free" (or "libre" since the world won't go along with the gnuista redefinition of what "free" means) that gets tiresome quickly. Fortunately that's about all that is problematic.

I've installed ConnochaetOS Linux (No, I will not add that silly prefix. It's Linux, damnit.) On the old Compaq Armada 7800, caspian. I haven't done a thing with wireless, nor do I intend to. The machine now lives in the kitchen, with a wired connection.

Being a low-end distribution, ConnochaetOS does need some adjusting, but still it gets much further along than many things I've tried. It installs. It boots. Unlike, DeLi it doesn't need to be told where to find the mouse. It finds the network. So far so good. It didn't get the video right and I had to find someone's xorg.conf file for the Armada and grab it to get 1024x768 (800x600 on the LCD is really ugly). Sound wasn't there, but alsaconf, alsamixer, and alsactrl store seem to have taken care of that. I've even had caspian playing streaming audio.[1] One thing did impress me: once audio was working, the "front panel" volume buttons on the laptop worked. I do not recall that ever being the case before, under any distribution. Getting static IP rather than using dhcp was an adventure, but I suspect that was more a confused network switch than anything.

The repository is limited, partly by sticking with low-impact programs, partly by the overzealous adherence to Stallmanite concepts of "free software" and partly by not having a huge following demanding/suggesting additions to the repository. I have no illusions about some of that changing. Fortunately, being Arch-based, one can grab an Arch package and get, say, Opera going despite definition nonsense. Getting the GUI editor geany (which probably could live in the connos repositories) meant compiling. Fortunately that was easily done, though rather time consuming on that old hardware. The hardest part was getting it to show up in the menu. The PATH had to have /usr/local/bin added to it and an icon image copied into a directory icewm expected.

The rest of things, now, is getting what programs beyond the very basics I expect I might use installed and configured, if they aren't already there (xchat and pidgin are part of the install).

Is it speedy? No. I tried loading the same page (weather forecast) on both caspian and my phone. Even with caspian getting a good head-start, the phone loaded the page first -- and both use the same network as the wireless access point is plugged into the same network switch in the kitchen as the laptop. But once loaded, I could see things better on the 13 inch screen than the roughly 2.5x4 inch phone display.

[1] Not having memorized any streams, I tried Goth radio that one place on Second Life[2] defaults to when there's no active DJ. It worked, but a couple songs in Every Day Is Halloween played and it was the end of the set, or felt like it. For those who don't know, bronxelf_ag001 ends all sets but one with some version of that song.

[2] I had to use belgian to get the stream URL. There is simply no way that a P-II (S3/ViRGE graphics if you were wondering) will run a Second Life client. Even the "text only" radegast needs mono, and that's not happening.

Tags: computers, laptop, linux
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