Win 98 beats Linux.

I spent quite a while in the mid-90s with Linux as my primary desktop. Why? Because it got the job done — it worked well on the rather odd i386 based machine I had and it did everything I needed in the internet oriented business I was in. Linux always seemed to be able to take an otherwise throwaway box and turn it into something useful.

I fired up an old IBM thinkpad for the first time this evening. Windows 98 refused to do that network thing (though it did the last time it was powered up). Fine. Whatever. Wrestling ancient MSFT operating systems is not something I have the patience for.

Might as well grab a Linux Live CD and try to make this thing useful.

First, I tried Ubuntu. It seems popular and the last time I tried it on this machine, it worked.

Not so much anymore. “Your system has too little RAM, entering low memory mode.”. Yeah — it only has 64MB. Nothing compared to modern systems, but Linux used to be really good at taking even more comparatively ancient systems and making ’em useful. Ubuntu basically dropped me at a terminal prompt with no clues as to what to to do next.

OK. Fine. A google search for a Live CD list revealed FrozenTech’s Live CD List.

Sure — I grabbed the first one. SLAX, killbill edition. KillBill includes stuff that might run some of the ancient windows crap still on the laptop.

Yeah — that god awful yellow screenshot is actually what the desktop looks like! Why, exactly, does the Linux community feel it necessary to bitch about the Windows UI while simultaneous copying the look and feel and then turning around and slapping a bright yellow coat of paint on top?

I mean — sure — I get the movie reference. It is actually quite well done for what it is. But a SCREAMINGLY BRIGHT YELLOW BACKGROUND is not pleasant to stare at.

As soon as I touched the mouse (well, the angry red knobby thing in the middle of the keyboard), the CD drive started chugging away. I can’t actually tell if the OS is going to launch something. Maybe so, maybe not.

At this point, Win98 is still more functional and useful on this laptop. The local install of Ubuntu doesn’t do any kind of windows in an obvious fashion and SLAX seems to be highly focused on exercising the system’s drive(s).

While none of ’em can communicate with the network — though, sadly, both Ubuntu and Win98 could the last time I booted them — at least Win98 actually pretends to interact with the user.

Update: Woot! 30 minutes after writing this, SLAX has presented me with “Soundserver — the KDE Crash Handler”. Of course, the system is thrashing so badly that interaction is impossible, but I’m happy to see that the system can draw a window on screen more than a half hour after first boot.

Sigh. And this is supposed to be a relatively minimalistic Linux, at that.

Maybe I should go find a distro from 8 years ago.

6 Responses to “Win 98 beats Linux.”

  1. Joe says:

    The BSD operating systems are still minimal and make good use of old hardware. Why not give those a try? OpenBSD for minimalism and security, and FreeBSD for performance, more driver support and a bigger ports tree.

  2. Jason Clark says:

    Have you tried Xubuntu? It’s Ubuntu with the XFCE window manager, designed to have lower resource requirements than other distros. According to the Release Notes for 6.06, You can’t run the Live CD with only 64M, but you should be able to run an installed system with 64M. YMMV- I haven’t tested Xubuntu with such a shallow memory footprint, but I’ve otherwise had good luck with Ubuntu and Xubuntu.

    If you really just want to boot from a live cd, any way you can create a 128M – 256M partition for a linux swap space? Might help performance.

  3. anon says:

    You tried this:

  4. Travis Cripps says:

    I second the recommendation to try DSL.

  5. Ryan Brown says:

    We didn’t have full GUI’s available via a live CD 8 years ago. Install debian or somesuch to the hard drive if you only have 64mb of RAM…

  6. bbum says:

    No — but we had full GUIs on hard drives much smaller than a CDROM that ran on systems with 64MB or less.   The Ubuntu Alternative download isn’t really a live CD and the whole experience with it sucked.

    Likewise, the SLAX KillBill edition was painful — bad design combined with crappy UE.  Though, to give it credit, the über-tiny version of it works somewhat.

    I’ll give DamnSmall a try.

Leave a Reply

Line and paragraph breaks automatic.
XHTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>