Thursday, March 10, 2011

Puppy in 2011 on a laptop in 1999 — I’m sticking with Debian

I pulled out the Compaq Armada 7770dmt, circa 1999, with 144 MB RAM (fully loaded), a speedy 233 MHz Pentium II CPU and the original 3 GB hard drive, the latter component of which I haven’t seen since I opened up the bay for the first and last time when I purchased this laptop in, I believe, 2007 for $15.

I had my CDs ready and loaded up Quirky and Wary — two of the latest Pups. As in the past, loading a live environment — even a Puppy environment — from CD on a 12-year-old laptop can take more than a little time. I was unsuccessful with the Xorg driver while running Wary. A reboot to use the Vesa driver was successful in getting an 800×600 display.

Even though my Orninco Wavelan Silver PCMCIA 802.11b wireless card has worked in the past with Puppy (and works now with Debian Squeeze), I couldn’t load up the orinoco_cs driver and get it to recognize the NIC. Not good. I never had trouble loading up the Orinoco driver with older Puppies. I’ll have to find some of those old discs and see how this worked in the Puppy 2.x/3.x/4.x days. Maybe a bit of Googling will shed some light.

Once I got the whole thing loaded up (sans networking; I do have a wired PCMCIA interface that I didn’t try) the Wary desktop wasn’t all that fast. It was certainly no faster than Debian Squeeze, even with the Xfce desktop, generally considered slower than the window manager in Puppy/Wary, which I believe is Joe’s Window Manager (aka JWM).

Just to check this out, I booted back into Debian Squeeze, started X from the console (no GDM/XDM on this install) and am now using Iceweasel to revise this entry. It’s going rather well, I would say.

And I haven’t yet reinstalled the Opera web browser, which brings an added measure of speed to this aging platform.

If you already forgot what you read up top, we’re talking a 233 MHz CPU and only 144 MB of RAM. My long-gone desktop Pentium II system has a 333 MHz CPU and 256 MB of RAM. You can find systems like this (desktops) in half the garages in the U.S., long ago removed from service but neither junked nor recycled. You can pluck one of them out of virtual (and literal) obscurity, load up either a live CD like Puppy or TinyCore, or in my case install Debian, and have a nice, working machine.

I can easily see using this Compaq for writing, “light” web use … and writing. That’s pretty much what I do anyway.

And with Debian Squeeze still “young,” as the project’s Stable release, I have about two years to go before I have to think about a new OS for this old computer.

If/when I find my spare 8 GB IDE laptop drive, I will pull this drive and do a fresh install (or three) to see if that has the magic Grub 2 touch (Grub 2 being the main thing not working after the Lenny-to-Squeeze upgrade.