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using Linux on limited 486s
Several weeks ago, someone posed the question of how Linux might help him
make use of old, donated 486s. He characterized them (as I recall) as having
8 mB RAM, 150 mB hard disks, old SVGA video, and sometimes NICs. We
discussed this question her for a few days. After discussion died back, I
continued to think about this, eventually concluding that the best thing to
attempt with cuch machines would be to make them limited. X-based
workstations -- a bit more than X Terminals, but only a bit.
To that end, I have been considering how to get a minimal machine with these
minimal Linux installation
minimal X, using the SVGA server
a GUI-based Web browser (this is the toughie)
a decent range of libraries
enough room left on the hard disk to fit some apps
I'm still testing out possibilities in my spare time, but I wanted to run
down the options I am looking at, so others can give me feedback on them and
suggest possibilities I've overlooked. The range of things I am trying is:
1. The XTerminal package from http://www.solucorp.qc.ca/xterminals/
(also described in the excellent "How I did it" site
http://www.silvervalley.k12.ca.us/chobbs/xterms/). Delaying me here is my
lack of t RH 5.2 CD to use to test this.
2. The XTerminal package from
http://www.menet.umn.edu/~kaszeta/unix/xterminal/index.html . I have the
same problem here as in #1.
3. The Linux Router Project (http://www.psychosis.com/linux-router/)
now has some sort of XTerminal package (at
4. The latest trinux also has some sort of XTerminal package
5. A minimum installation of Debian, plus a minimal X distribution
6. A minimum (A+X) Slackware 3.9 installation.
7. peanut Linux. a new, midsize distribution (50 meg tgz file) that
8. A pair of packages called tinyX, for which I've mislaid the
I am not trying small distributions and X packages that are designed to boot
from a DOS partition using loadlin, so this is why DragonLinux and ZipSlack.
for examples, are not on the list. At this point, I have to say I am
impressed with the number of candidates I've found ... the "cottage
industry" end of Linux development certainly is exploring this area
My test machine is a 486/40, with 32 mB of RAM, an NE2000 NIC, and old SVGA
card, and a variety of hard disks that I swap in and out.
I'd welcome any feedback that others have at this stage, either on the list
or privately (as you prefer). I'd especially welcome hearing from anyone who
actually uses such a minimal setup on a regular basis. If anyone knows a
***GUI-based*** Web server worth trying (please, no more suggestions of
lynx), please send them along -- trying to get Netscape to run on these slow
machines has, so far, been the showstopper.
I hope to have the testing done by the end of the month, and I'll plan to
report back when I do.
------------------------------------"Never tell me the odds!"---
Ray Olszewski -- Han Solo
Palo Alto, CA 94303-3603 firstname.lastname@example.org