Building a text-based Linux or FreeBSD box

I am thiking to start an experiment soon. Install Slackware or FreeBSD on an old machine. The machine is an AMD K6-2 400 Mhz with 64 MBs of RAM and 1.7 GB hdd.

The idea would be to not install X at all in it, or at least install X with only Fluxbox in it and a few very lightweight GTK 1.2 or tcl/tk, fltk, Fox or Athena-widget apps. Unfortunately, running modern DEs or apps require at least 128 MBs of RAM. If you have less than 128 MB of RAM it would be a really ugly experience overall with Gnome/KDE/XFce (I run Arch Linux and Gnome on a PII-333/128 laptop and boy it’s slow and swaps like hell even if most services are disabled).

Sure, a 400 Mhz machine is able to run X and even run Gnome 2.10 pretty well. However, not with only 64 MBs of RAM and 1.7 GB disk. For really old machines, I am sure that a command-line/Curses interface should be adequate.

There are many nice text-mode apps that would be able to offer a useful computing experience. Besides, the best unix apps, are all text-mode anyway.
For example, the setup would have 5 virtual screens:
1: the main work console
2: eLinks or w3m for web browsing
3. Pine for email
4. CenterICQ for 5 of the most popular IM protocols
5. a curses interface for mp3 playback playing on the background

It wouldn’t be a great experience in terms of “modern experience”, but it should be usable and I would like to taste it for a day or two.

The reason I want to do that, is because such an interface/setup is the only thing one can do if he owns a machine that’s less than 133 Mhz, has 32 MBs of RAM or less, and has less than 1 GB of disk. I am sure there are some honchos who would say that “I am running X with icewm on a P75 just fine”, but let’s be real here. Linux and its apps are not as lightweight as they used to be in 1996 and this kind of setup I described above might be the only realistic chance for some people in developing countries (that choose to not pirate Win95).

I am aware of the DamnSmallLinux btw, but its developer told me that his goal is filesize, not the ability to run on old computers.

Comments are closed as this blog post is now archived.

Lines, paragraphs break automatically. HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

The URI to TrackBack this blog entry is this. And here is the RSS 2.0 for comments on this post.