Linux on older computers...

KGIII

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First, let me state that this is in 'off-topic' because it's not a question, nor is it a request for support or anything of that nature. Lacking a 'miscellaneous' or 'anything else' section that quite fits this thread.

A few days ago, I was kind of envious of the fun folks were having with getting Linux to run on older hardware. I have modern hardware, with far more resources than I'll ever really use. I replace/add new hardware often, and mostly just donate what's old to a worthy cause.

Down in my basement I had a Dell Dimension C521 gathering dust. So, I dug it out and attached it to a monitor. All the sites online indicate that it has a max of 4 GB of RAM, but I tossed in 8 GB and, sure enough, it booted. This was a good sign, so I tossed in an older HDD and installed Lubuntu 18.04 LTS on it. The CPU is just a Dual core AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+.

My Lubuntu install went off without a hitch. Everything worked and it was surprisingly fast, once everything was loaded. I decided to dig out a small SSD (I think it's just 120 GB Team Group SSD) and installed Lubuntu again. With a bit of tweaking, I got my startup time down to well under 30 seconds - slightly higher when I changed it to trim on boot. I know, I know...

I'm not sure why it takes 8 GB of RAM, and inxi seems to think it'd take 16 GB of RAM. I may have to test that, but I'm out of the right kind of RAM at the moment. I'll probably order some from NewEgg, just to sate my curiosity.

It's actually not a bad user experience. It's not bad at all. I attached an external drive with some .vdi files on it and, with some limitations, I can even run VirtualBox and have guest OSes that run - albeit not rapidly, but rapid enough to tinker. I've used it almost exclusively for a few days, just because I can. I have my usual browser sessions open, across two browsers and probably 50+ tabs. I have my text document session open, a couple of terminals, several instances of PCManFM, and even Thunderbird with a mail cache of a few GB in size - along with the calendar and tasks imported from my "Home" calendar.

It's a legitimately tolerable experience. There are even lighter distros that could be installed, but Lubuntu is running like a champ on it. I was even able to copy over my usual theme files and make it look identical to what I normally do. I suspect it'd run 20.04 just fine.

It's also in that special magic zone, where every bit of hardware is supported. It's not so old that the devices aren't already in the kernel. Literally, everything works. I tossed a wireless adapter (known to work with Linux out of the box) into a USB slot and that too works just fine. The default graphics work - but the resolution isn't right. So, I tossed in a GeForce 210 that was low-profile - but I'm sure xrandr would have done the trick. I just didn't feel like playing with it and had the card available.

It's actually not terrible. I did stop frequency scaling, setting it to 'performance' but I don't think that was actually necessary.

Code:
sudo inxi -c 11 -ACdGMNSzm
System:    Host: kgiii-desktop-12 Kernel: 5.4.0-52-generic x86_64 bits: 64
           Desktop: LXDE (Openbox 3.6.1) Distro: Ubuntu 18.04.5 LTS
Machine:   Device: desktop System: Dell product: Dimension C521 serial: <filter>
           Mobo: Dell model: 0HY175 v: A03 serial: <filter>
           BIOS: Dell v: 1.1.11 date: 08/02/2007
CPU:       Dual core AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ (-MCP-) cache: 1024 KB
           clock speeds: max: 2000 MHz 1: 2000 MHz 2: 2000 MHz
Memory:    Used/Total: 5452.5/7961.5MB
           Array-1 capacity: 16 GB (est) devices: 4 EC: None
           Device-1: DIMM_4 size: 2 GB speed: 800 MT/s type: DDR2
           Device-2: DIMM_3 size: 2 GB speed: 800 MT/s type: DDR2
           Device-3: DIMM_2 size: 2 GB speed: 800 MT/s type: DDR2
           Device-4: DIMM_1 size: 2 GB speed: 800 MT/s type: DDR2
Graphics:  Card: NVIDIA GT218 [GeForce 210]
           Display Server: X.Org 1.19.6 drivers: nouveau (unloaded: modesetting,fbdev,vesa)
           Resolution: [email protected]
           OpenGL: renderer: NVA8 version: 3.3 Mesa 20.0.8
Audio:     Card-1 NVIDIA High Def. Audio Controller driver: snd_hda_intel
           Card-2 NVIDIA MCP51 High Def. Audio driver: snd_hda_intel
           Sound: Advanced Linux Sound Architecture v: k5.4.0-52-generic
Network:   Card-1: Broadcom and subsidiaries BCM4401-B0 100Base-TX driver: b44
           Card-2: Realtek RTL8192CU 802.11n WLAN Adapter driver: rtl8192cu
Drives:    HDD Total Size: 2136.0GB (62.8% used)
           ID-1: /dev/sda model: TEAM_T253X1120G size: 120.0GB
           ID-2: USB /dev/sdb model: 28AS size: 1000.2GB
           ID-3: USB /dev/sdc model: 2_in_1_Micro size: 15.5GB
           ID-4: USB /dev/sdd model: 28AS size: 1000.2GB
           Optical-1: /dev/sr0 model: Optiarc DVD RW AD-5290S+
           dev-links: cdrom,cdrw,dvd,dvdrw
           Features: speed: 48x multisession: yes audio: yes dvd: yes rw: cd-r,cd-rw,dvd-r
EDIT: I should point out that the many external drives were how I moved stuff over and was me using VM images to test to see if VirtualBox even worked passably on such a system. Those wouldn't normally be attached.

This is after adding trim back to boot, and I think there was a kernel update with this current boot:

Code:
systemd-analyze
Startup finished in 7.810s (kernel) + 19.149s (userspace) = 26.960s
graphical.target reached after 6.759s in userspace
It's a legitimately usable system on a computer you could probably buy for $50, along with some old 15" monitor. Granted, the RAM and SSD will add a few bucks. I just happened to have extras in my parts bins. RAM and an SSD might add up to another $125 or so. If you don't mind refurb, you can probably find DDR2-800 for next to nothing - but you'll want to test it.

Still, it's an old computer that has new life. A quick search indicates that the C521 went on sale sometime before November of 2006.

I have a room in my basement that I call 'my lab'. Down there, I have things like a TRS-80 III and other older computers. As this one is more than a decade-and-a-half old, I think it deserves to be placed down with the rest. It has been an interesting project and quite enjoyable. It is much, much more usable than I'd have expected. I even have a period-correct keyboard and mouse to add to it.
 


KGIII

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I need to find a 32 bit computer. I'm running ToriOS in VirtualBox - on the above old computer, and it's still REALLY quick to start and use. Well, loading a browser is slow - but faster than I'd expect. It's a pretty bloated browser, because I installed the 32 bit version of Vivaldi.

I think I might have a 32 bit laptop somewhere in the basement.
 

wizardfromoz

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Sounds good, mate :)

...just because I can.
...works for me. People ask why I run so many Linux (56 at the moment, down from my usual 80 to 100 while I reorganise), and I say

"...just because I can."

:)
 

f33dm3bits

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I'm in the same boat as you @KGIII I replaced my old Desktop system 1,5 ago with a new laptop and this year I replaced that laptop with a brand new Desktop system. The oldest hardware I've had was around 7-8 years old I think and Linux was still running fine on it. I won't be replacing my current hardware for a while but will be following this topic :)
 
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KGIII

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"...just because I can."
LOL I am using that old computer right this very minute. In my normal activities, I don't notice much of a difference between this and my newer hardare. The thing is, this is an ancient computer. I did put in some RAM and an SSD, and I'm positive those made a huge difference.

around 7-8 years old
I love the 'lightweight' distros on modern hardware. I'm a big Lubuntu fan, though I'm not happy with the move to LXQt - though I know and understand why they did so.

I buy new kit frequently, probably too frequently. Or at least more often than I really need to. I'm often chasing performance, only to never actually use it. On my newest computer, I doubt that all cores have ever peaked at 100% for more than a second or two. I've yet to use it for anything even remotely taxing.

My newest Linux desktop is 7 years old oh well i like old desktop computers.
Well, at least you generally won't need to screw around with UEFI and all your hardware will work out of the box. As I'm seeing now, I can do everything I would do on a daily basis with this old computer. I'll probably use it for a week and then stuff it back down in the basement where I'll sometimes SSH into it and update it. I should probably set VNC up on it.
 

Nelson Muntz

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I give the family the brand new computers because they're the Windows 10 users.

I get the old desktops to use for Linux and that's cool cause like you said they will work out of the box.

We are always upgrading at the base and I can always grab discarded desktops without hard drives for a few bucks at the employee sales every year.


I like the lightweight Linux distros also and Lubuntu 20.04 LXQT is OK.

PCLinuxOS Community edition LXQT and SparkyLinux LXQT are great choices and both are semi-rolling distros.
 

KGIII

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Lubuntu 20.04 LXQT is OK.
I may just bite the bullet and get used to LXQt.

Right now, I made a new VM (earlier today) and chose a .vdi for an old Slackel install. It has been in the update process for hours. It's still moving, it's just that slow - for some reason. I am not sure why and I have spent no effort finding out. It has to be 5 or 6 hours and it is only 80% done.

Every other VM that I loaded did just fine, so I suspect that it's not the hardware that's the problem.

I'm actually pretty surprised how usable the computer is. Even now, CPU pegged at 100% and 75% of RAM, it's usable. It wouldn't even be at 100% CPU if I stopped streaming video.

For the record, I've stopped streaming video and it makes no difference on the updating progress.
 

KGIII

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This helped me to learn the LXQT ways.
Yeah, I hang out on their discourse site. LOL I scraped their entire 20.04 manual with HTTrack. I didn't even ask permission. 'Snot my fault that they don't make it available for download on the site!
 

Nelson Muntz

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It is well written and I don't think they care if it gets copied more exposure for Lubuntu 20.04 LXQT.

I slum several Linux forums without creating a user account because I belong to way to many forums now where I no longer participate.
 

KGIII

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I slum several Linux forums without creating a user account ...
I generally make an account, even if just to 'protect' my username. There's a KGIII on a lot of tech forums!

I use the name across multiple sites and it'd really suck for someone to take a disliking for me and have them go around using my username to make me look bad.

More than once have I forgotten I already had an account and tried to sign up again. I usually use complex passwords, so it often entails a password reset to get back in. I even have a 'public' email address that I use for these sorts of things. At this point, I'm so used to filtering my email that I don't mind the massive number of emails that I get daily.
 

Nelson Muntz

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Here's a 12 year old computer that I stuffed in a Core 2 Duo processor and 4.0 GB of DDR2 memory and a 40 GB hard drive from a laptop.

Installed PCLinuxOS LXQT Community version and it runs like a champion.

Code:
[[email protected] ~]$ inxi -Fxz
System:    Kernel: 5.9.4-pclos1 x86_64 bits: 64 compiler: gcc v: 10.2.0 Desktop: LXQt 0.16.1 Distro: PCLinuxOS 2020 
Machine:   Type: Desktop System: HP-Pavilion product: GG750AV-ABA a6100y v: N/A serial: <filter> 
           Mobo: ASUSTeK model: Lancaster v: 1.xx serial: <filter> BIOS: American Megatrends v: 5.19 date: 03/04/2008 
CPU:       Info: Dual Core model: Intel Core2 4400 bits: 64 type: MCP arch: Core Merom rev: 2 L2 cache: 2048 KiB 
           flags: lm nx pae sse sse2 sse3 ssse3 bogomips: 8000 
           Speed: 1200 MHz min/max: 1200/2000 MHz Core speeds (MHz): 1: 1200 2: 1200 
Graphics:  Device-1: Intel 82945G/GZ Integrated Graphics vendor: Hewlett-Packard driver: i915 v: kernel bus ID: 00:02.0 
           Display: server: X.Org 1.20.8 driver: intel,v4l resolution: 1280x800~75Hz 
           OpenGL: renderer: Mesa DRI Intel 945G v: 1.4 Mesa 20.2.2 direct render: Yes 
Audio:     Device-1: Intel NM10/ICH7 Family High Definition Audio vendor: Hewlett-Packard driver: snd_hda_intel v: kernel 
           bus ID: 00:1b.0 
           Sound Server: ALSA v: k5.9.4-pclos1 
Network:   Device-1: Realtek RTL810xE PCI Express Fast Ethernet vendor: Hewlett-Packard driver: r8169 v: kernel port: e800 
           bus ID: 02:00.0 
           IF: eth0 state: up speed: 100 Mbps duplex: full mac: <filter> 
Drives:    Local Storage: total: 37.26 GiB used: 7.38 GiB (19.8%) 
           ID-1: /dev/sda vendor: Hitachi model: HTS541040G9SA00 size: 37.26 GiB 
Partition: ID-1: / size: 32.49 GiB used: 7.38 GiB (22.7%) fs: ext4 dev: /dev/sda1 
Swap:      ID-1: swap-1 type: partition size: 4.00 GiB used: 0 KiB (0.0%) dev: /dev/sda5                                      
Sensors:   System Temperatures: cpu: 34.0 C mobo: N/A                                                                         
           Fan Speeds (RPM): N/A                                                                                              
Info:      Processes: 164 Uptime: 7h 16m Memory: 3.17 GiB used: 733.1 MiB (22.6%) Init: SysVinit runlevel: 5 Compilers:       
           gcc: 10.2.0 clang: 10.0.1 Packages: 1706 Shell: Bash v: 4.4.23 inxi: 3.1.08                                        
[[email protected] ~]$
 

Nelson Muntz

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KGIII

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LOL I have a PCLinux VM that I play with now and then. I've never tried it on bare metal. I should keep an older computer around just for that task.

And, yeah, I know (assume) it does everything, I'm more curious about how quickly. I suspect it'd choke on a couple dozen browser tabs, or at least slow to a crawl. Then again, I was very surprised how well Lubuntu ran on a computer not much newer than that one.
 

Nelson Muntz

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And, yeah, I know (assume) it does everything, I'm more curious about how quickly. I suspect it'd choke on a couple dozen browser tabs, or at least slow to a crawl.
I can run several open tabs at one time without complaints on my computer posted in post # 13.

I don't load my browsers up with a lot of extensions like I see a lot of users seem to install and then complain about how slow the browser is etc.

Only extensions I use are Ublock Origin and DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials and run my browser inside of Firejail and nothing else.

To many extensions running in your browser just loads it down and slows everything down from my experience.

Then again, I was very surprised how well Lubuntu ran on a computer not much newer than that one.
Never underestimate the speed of lightweight Linux distros as they are designed and tweaked to run on low powered computers.

Lubuntu 20.04 LXQT has always been an excellent performer on any computer I've used it on.

I like the lightweight Linux distros because all of my computers are 7 to 12 years old.

It's all about picking the right Linux distro for the computer you're going to use and it's hardware.
 

KGIII

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Lubuntu 20.04 LXQT has always been an excellent performer on any computer I've used it on.
I just can't get into LXQt. I love LXDE. It's my favorite DE, followed by Cinnamon or MATE.

I may move to Cinnamon after support for 18.04 ends.
 

f33dm3bits

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My mediacenter is the lowest spec machine I have running, does it count as low spec? :)
 
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KGIII

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My mediacenter is the lowest spec machine I have running, does it count as low spec? :)
Well, it is quad core... So, I'd say 'not really, but close enough'.

Now I kinda wish I'd kept some of my older computers. I kinda want to play Limbo Linux, a game I just invented, to see how low you can go with a modern Linux distro - without cheating and using something like Tiny Core or DSL.

In my imagination, Limbo Linux is a pretty fun game.

I could virtualize it. I'm fairly adept with VirtualBox. You can limit CPU and RAM, the former being a percentage and the latter being a specific number.

Tempting...
 
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