9w - an installer for old computers

Nio Wiklund nio.wiklund at gmail.com
Sat Mar 8 12:38:24 UTC 2014

[my text is at the end except the link]


2014-03-08 12:24, Ali Linx skrev:
> On 03/08/2014 01:30 AM, Nio Wiklund wrote:
>> 2014-03-07 01:53, Nio Wiklund skrev:
>>> Hi,
>>> We want to try a new kernel for Trusty Tahr, that is developed by
>>> PhillW. Many people help to build an Ubuntu based operating system
>>> around it, a system that should work on most computers (maybe except
>>> some of those brand new ones that cannot switch off UEFI).
>>> We have a wide variety of computers, but have not found any really old
>>> one without PAE capability. I'm not talking about Pentium M and Celeron
>>> M, I'm talking about CPUs before Pentium II:
>>> Pentium Pro, Pentium (i586), or Intel 486 or maybe the corresponding
>>> generation of AMD from 1993-1997.
>>> I have an old computer from 1998, and it has a Pentium II CPU at 400
>>> MHz, so it must be older. Check for a clock frequency at or below 200
>>> MHz.
>>> If you are a happy owner of such a jewel, please help us test that the
>>> non-pae kernel really works in a computer without PAE capability :-)
>>> Best regards
>>> Nio
>> Hi again,
>> After some [private] replies offering tests on old enough hardware, I
>> can report the following results:
>> You can try the installer (to find out if it boots and runs in text mode
>> with really low RAM). An older computer might need less RAM for drivers
>> than my IBM Thinkpad T42 with Pentium M CPU.
>> *The Debian installer, live in an iso file*
>> It starts in text mode and uses 18 MB RAM when idle  (and 22 MB in a
>> newer computer with AMD Athlon dual core 4400+), but I have problems
>> below 64 MB, set with the boot option (text is default)
>> mem=48M
>> in an old IBM Thinkpad T42 with Pentium M CPU.
>> it cannot unpack initramfs
>> *Ubuntu Trusty installed system with Phill's non-pae kernel*
>> The Ubuntu Trusty kernel needs more RAM, now after some
>> testing I would say at least 64 MB, but I have problems below 80 MB, set
>> with the boot options
>> text mem=64M
>> in the same old IBM Thinkpad T42 with Pentium M CPU.
>> When idling
>> free -m  # shows 38 MB RAM used
>> htop     # shows 39 MB RAM used
>> but it seems more RAM is needed at some stage of the boot process.
>> -o-
>> The really old computers available so far have too low RAM, except one,
>> with a Pentium Pro at 200 Mhz. It has 128 Megabytes of memory. The
>> computer was purchased on 1996.08.31. But it has a PAE flag and should
>> be PAE capable.
>> I'm starting to think, that most computers if not all, that are old
>> enough to lack PAE capability have too low RAM anyway for our new Ubuntu
>> flavour non-pae kernel.
>> The outstanding exceptions are Celeron M and Pentium M, that lack the
>> PAE flag, but in most cases have PAE capability.
> Further to my previous reply:
> https://lists.ubuntu.com/archives/lubuntu-users/2014-March/006876.html
> I have forgotten to mention that on this thread:
> http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1590614
> I manged to install - trying again to save you the trouble to go through
> all the posts of that long thread - Linux on such super old machine (P2
> with 64MB RAM and 4GB HDD) by:
> 1- Taking the HDD out - because the machine itself has nothing to be
> used to install Linux.
> 2- Plugged the HDD to another machine.
> 3- Linux installed - I wasted one month for this experiment because more
> than 50 different systems didn't work - check the thread.
> 4- Disconnected the HDD and put it back in.
> One month, ladies and gentlemen. Yes, I learned a lot and proved a lot
> but the real result wasn't helpful for a daily use. Why? because these
> machines can no longer serve while we are in 2014.
> I was shocked when I managed to connect to the Wireless Network and
> update the system. But that was the further I managed to go IIRC.
> See the thread if you wish:
> http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1590614
> If anyone still think I'm wrong, see the thread :)
> And first thing you do, check the date of that thread: October 8th, 2010
>> Best regards
>> Nio
> Thank you!

Hi everybody :-)

I see your points, I just want to explore things and find out myself.

*. 9w - an installer for old computers

So I uploaded a directory with an experimental installer and two sample
systems to install. The installer is based on a Debian system with an
i486 kernel, and it can install any kind of [free] operating system.
There are two sample systems which expand to 4 GB

Lubuntu Trusty non-pae built february 23  'Ltrusty-npae-feb23.iso'
Lubuntu Saucy PAE-for-Pentium-M  'LubuSaucy-pae2pm-4GB.iso'

9w comes as a hybrid ISO file, that works from CD/DVD and cloned from
USB. So it is simple to make install media for most old computers.

See this link


1. What computer will run at all, will be able to do some 'real work',
etc? It might be worth the effort just for the sake of knowledge.

2. What computers are the target for a non-pae Ubuntu kernel?

With the new fix in Trusty, [almost all] Pentium M and Celeron M will
work with standard 32-bit kernel and the very simple tweak to add the
boot option 'forcepae'.

If all pre-Pentium II computers are out of the question, how many
computers remain? For example: Are there motherboards, that are non-pae,
and are not helped by fake-PAE? Other problems?

I'm thinking of Jörn's reply:

-------- Ursprungligt meddelande --------
Ämne: Re: have you got a really old computer
Datum: Fri, 7 Mar 2014 22:48:24 +0100
Från: Joern <joern.schoenyan at web.de>
Till: Nio Wiklund <nio.wiklund at gmail.com>

There also some CPUs that aren't PAE capable but were likely shipped
with enough RAM, like some VIA ones, 1 or 2 versions of Pentium M with
1.2 GHz and the Transmeta Crusoe.


3. What computers are the target for ToriOS?

- Is Pentium 4 and 512 MB RAM the low limit?

Best regards

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