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Retro OSes for retro computers

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Reply 240 of 263, by Demetrio

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appiah4 wrote on 2023-06-05, 07:19:

I had a lot of trouble getting the tinycore image to boot on my socket 7 platforms, now that I have seen someone actually manage to do that it's a project on my list..

Which release did you use?

I did the installation 2 years ago IIRC; this the kernel version (don't know if they upgraded it):

tc@box:~$ uname -a
Linux box 5.15.10-tinycore #622 SMP Tue Dec 21 16:51:09 UTC 2021 i586 GNU/Linux

I also attached a text file with the steps I followed to install Tiny Core Linux: it worked for me, but you can check on a VM for confirmation.
The instructions will avoid out of memory errors, cause only the required packages will be installed while the system is booted in RAM (live CD).

Live does not boot on less than 64MB of RAM, but maybe the system will work with less if the process is done on a PC with more memory, with the HDD moved temporary there, and then the HDD is moved back to the original PC.

Note: the steps are relative to a dual boot installation with Windows 95. You can skip it if you want.

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Reply 241 of 263, by amigopi

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bobsmith wrote on 2023-05-03, 14:06:

Interesting desktop environment to look at for Linux nerds with older PCs (not to say it only works on older PCs)
https://www.trinitydesktop.org/
Fork of KDE 3.5 that is maintained to this day, has old school themes and lots more for a retro experience. Packaged on all major distros (Debian, Fedora, SUSE, Arch, Gentoo).

Ran across this myself when googling lightweight Linux distros and I have a somewhat serious plan to try and install Q4OS Trinity on my Pentium III machine. I just first need to image the machine's disk as it is now in case something goes awry; I don't want to have to do yet another reinstall of Win 98 now that I finally got it working as I want it to. 😁

Cool thread btw, a pleasure to read. Got me thinking of also giving OS/2 a go; we had Warp installed (alongside Win 3.1) on our Aptiva back in the 90s, but I can't remember ever doing all that much with it. Then again, I was 10 or 11 at the time.

Into the eyes of nature, into the arms of God, into the mouth of indifference, into the eyes of nature...

Reply 242 of 263, by amigopi

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So, yeah, Q4OS Trinity running from an SSD on a P3-733 with 512 megs of RAM and 3.5 gigs of swap: it's somewhat usable, but it ain't pleasurable. Everything I tried seems to work, but nothing is snappy, not the way Windows 98 is; instead it's kind of like using an Atari ST with just one floppy drive.

Then again, I'm sure it'll prove to be a great secondary OS. It's got GParted, for one, and it can (with the Pale Moon browser) actually go online and browse the modern web much better than, say, RetroZilla on the Win 98.

As for the time it took to set up, it took me about 1 hour to install the OS itself and roughly another 20 minutes for the basic desktop profile to download and install at first launch; haven't timed it afterwards but it takes somewhere in the region of 2 to 3 minutes to start up. And yeah, it happily installed alongside Win 98, which it also autodetected and added to the boot menu, which is nice.

Into the eyes of nature, into the arms of God, into the mouth of indifference, into the eyes of nature...

Reply 243 of 263, by bobsmith

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amigopi wrote on 2023-06-12, 21:23:

So, yeah, Q4OS Trinity running from an SSD on a P3-733 with 512 megs of RAM and 3.5 gigs of swap: it's somewhat usable, but it ain't pleasurable. Everything I tried seems to work, but nothing is snappy, not the way Windows 98 is; instead it's kind of like using an Atari ST with just one floppy drive.

Then again, I'm sure it'll prove to be a great secondary OS. It's got GParted, for one, and it can (with the Pale Moon browser) actually go online and browse the modern web much better than, say, RetroZilla on the Win 98.

As for the time it took to set up, it took me about 1 hour to install the OS itself and roughly another 20 minutes for the basic desktop profile to download and install at first launch; haven't timed it afterwards but it takes somewhere in the region of 2 to 3 minutes to start up. And yeah, it happily installed alongside Win 98, which it also autodetected and added to the boot menu, which is nice.

Part of the blame here can be attributed to Q4OS being based off Debian, and Debian being Debian. I wonder how PCLinuxOS would run which is a still-maintained fork of Mandrake. I guarantee you most of the slowdowns there are attributed to things like GTK 3, GVFS and other junk that modern applications make you use.

PIII : ASUS CUSL2-C, Pentium III @ 733MHz (Coppermine), Voodoo3 3000 AGP, 384 MB SDR, Audigy 2 ZS,
C2D : ASUS P5Q, Core 2 Duo E8400 @ 3GHz (Wolfdale), Radeon HD 5750, 4GB DDR2-1066, 256GB SSD

Reply 244 of 263, by Demetrio

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Don't know if this fits into the thread, because the OS is the opposite of retro 😁

I actually installed Arch Linux on my Pentium 4 Prescott build, with 1GB of DDR2 RAM and a GeForce 7800GT 256MB.

I used the LXDE Desktop Environment, as it was presented as lightweight, for older computers.

It surprisingly runs great, considering the hardware 🙂

Here the best lightweight browser I found

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Watching football game highlights (YouTube webapp is too heavy for this machine 😁)

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Don't have the screenshot, but it also runs Telegram Desktop pretty good.

Reply 245 of 263, by lolo799

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Demetrio wrote on 2023-06-18, 13:05:

Don't know if this fits into the thread, because the OS is the opposite of retro 😁

I actually installed Arch Linux on my Pentium 4 Prescott build, with 1GB of DDR2 RAM and a GeForce 7800GT 256MB.

Let's say it fits!
What version of Arch are you using?

PCMCIA Sound, Storage & Graphics

Reply 246 of 263, by Demetrio

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lolo799 wrote on 2023-06-20, 08:59:
Demetrio wrote on 2023-06-18, 13:05:

Don't know if this fits into the thread, because the OS is the opposite of retro 😁

I actually installed Arch Linux on my Pentium 4 Prescott build, with 1GB of DDR2 RAM and a GeForce 7800GT 256MB.

Let's say it fits!
What version of Arch are you using?

Arch is a rolling-release distro, so it doesn't have a version.

Whenever I upgrade with

pacman -Syu

I always get the latest packages / linux kernel 🙂

Now I have the 6.x kernel.

Reply 247 of 263, by tauro

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Demetrio wrote on 2023-06-18, 13:05:
Don't know if this fits into the thread, because the OS is the opposite of retro 😁 […]
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Don't know if this fits into the thread, because the OS is the opposite of retro 😁

I actually installed Arch Linux on my Pentium 4 Prescott build, with 1GB of DDR2 RAM and a GeForce 7800GT 256MB.

I used the LXDE Desktop Environment, as it was presented as lightweight, for older computers.

It surprisingly runs great, considering the hardware 🙂

Many people would think a P4 is very retro. I think it's barely retro, but it actually is considering it's 20+ years old.

I recommend you to install an additional ram module of the same size.
Most motherboards from that era can run in dual channel, which improves system speed a little (10-15%)
By the way, what's your motherboard? Is it S478 or S775?

Arch is OK, but it has systemd which adds bloat.
I'd try Artix if you like Arch (no systemd, properly more retro and streamlined).

Demetrio wrote on 2023-06-18, 13:05:

Watching football game highlights (YouTube webapp is too heavy for this machine 😁)
Don't have the screenshot, but it also runs Telegram Desktop pretty good.

Are you using mpv to watch calcio?
Probably a newer video card with H264 support and the proper drivers would be a game changer. The cheap G210 is up to the task!

Reply 248 of 263, by Demetrio

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tauro wrote on 2023-07-02, 01:04:

I recommend you to install an additional ram module of the same size.
Most motherboards from that era can run in dual channel, which improves system speed a little (10-15%)

Yeah, I actually have two 512MB sticks in dual channel. My target period was 2005 so I don't think I'll upgrade 😅

tauro wrote on 2023-07-02, 01:04:

By the way, what's your motherboard? Is it S478 or S775?

ASUS P5LD2 SE, so S775.

tauro wrote on 2023-07-02, 01:04:

Arch is OK, but it has systemd which adds bloat.
I'd try Artix if you like Arch (no systemd, properly more retro and streamlined).

You're right. In the end, I didn't put too much thinking on performance: I was just curious if the P4 could run a RR distro, with the latest kernel / packages.

tauro wrote on 2023-07-02, 01:04:

Are you using mpv to watch calcio?
Probably a newer video card with H264 support and the proper drivers would be a game changer. The cheap G210 is up to the task!

I stream the video data with yt-dlp and send it as input to mplayer.

I believe the CPU is the bottleneck for the YouTube webapp: maybe it's because a lot of modern web pages are bloated with heavy assets and JavaScript (considering frameworks too) so it just can't keep up.

In fact Telegram is lighter and runs pretty well, while Discord, which has a lot more animations for example, runs like crap 😁

Reply 249 of 263, by tauro

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Nice motherboard!
I'd add at least 1 GB more, but if you can, go for 4 GB.
You could even run a Core 2 Duo in case you want to go fast and furious.
I have played h264 at 360p (-f 18 using yt-dlp) on a Pentium III and it works fine so you probably could play 480p with a Pentium 4.

Reply 250 of 263, by appiah4

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My S775 Win98/Linux dual boot PC has Antix 19.3 installed and it works smooth as butter with 2GB RAM.

Maybe I should update it to Antix 22 though. Another project.. 😎

Last edited by appiah4 on 2023-08-18, 10:27. Edited 1 time in total.

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 251 of 263, by TechieDude

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ioncannon wrote on 2023-01-24, 15:44:

Anyone remember a homebrew OS in the 2000s called StormOS? All trace of it is gone but was a cool project someone had.

I've heard about it, you can find it on archiveos.org. From what I know, it was originally based on Nexenta Core Platform 2.0 and basically combined Debian with Solaris.

Reply 252 of 263, by appleiiguy

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Here is OpenStep 4.2 running on a PIII 1.4ghz

This is using a Aha-2940UW scsi card
(pro tip don't use partition sizes over 4gb & I havent had good luck using drives over 40gb)

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Installation media here https://fsck.technology/software/NeXT/OpenSte … OpenStep%204.2/

Partial Hardware compatibility list http://www.rhapsodyos.org/hardware/os-ns_guid … s_guides_1.html

Reply 253 of 263, by appiah4

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I never used OpenStep but Windowmaker (an Openstep clone) was my preferred WM on Redhat 5-6 1998-2000.. Lovely UI.

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 255 of 263, by deltapi

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I actually was maintaining my own private builds of the Linux Kernel in those days, including a big O scheduler, AGPART support, USB support, and some other fiddly bits. IIRC, I was using a MSI Super Socket7 board with a K6-2/400 and a Voodoo 3 3000 AGP.
I also had a P166 (nonMMX) in a cardboard box with a quantum bigfoot hdd in a box under my desk running NT 4.

I really wish I'd been able to hold on to more of that hardware from that era.

Reply 256 of 263, by tauro

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deltapi wrote on 2024-02-09, 22:50:

I actually was maintaining my own private builds of the Linux Kernel in those days, including a big O scheduler, AGPART support, USB support, and some other fiddly bits. IIRC, I was using a MSI Super Socket7 board with a K6-2/400 and a Voodoo 3 3000 AGP.
I also had a P166 (nonMMX) in a cardboard box with a quantum bigfoot hdd in a box under my desk running NT 4.

I really wish I'd been able to hold on to more of that hardware from that era.

Nice memories!

It would be very cool if there was an up-to-date distro targeting 586 systems, and maybe another one for 486 since it's still supported. With all useless things for that kind of computers not compiled in the kernel.

It will need a very basic UI, icewm maybe. And most useful programs such as LibreOffice would probably need some heavy tweaking to run at acceptable speeds, if they can run at all with that little amount of ram.

Ram is going to be the main constraint.

Reply 257 of 263, by Jo22

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tauro wrote on 2024-02-10, 15:47:

It will need a very basic UI, icewm maybe. And most useful programs such as LibreOffice would probably need some heavy tweaking to run at acceptable speeds, if they can run at all with that little amount of ram.

TWM is also an option. It's so old it's not being bloated yet.
It's also professional looking (like CDE or Motif), not a cheap KDE clone.

Personally, I can't express how much I have an aversion against Linux Mint and other KDE/Windows wannabes.

I liked KDE v3, though. It tried to be as user-friendly as Windows XP, which for once was a good aim. It didn't try to mimic Windows 95 GUI, like others did.

Even Breadbox Ensemble switched from Motif to using Windows 95 style (as a default), which I didn't see as an improvement but a step backwards.

tauro wrote on 2024-02-10, 15:47:

Ram is going to be the main constraint.

Always was. *nix OSes in general are all memory hogs.

They want to consume all RAM first for themself, then reluctantly give it back on demand.

Unix originally was designed as an power user OS, made for mainframes, using a time-sharing and resource sharing model (multiple users).

An overkill memory expansion is about "okay" for Linux/*nix, thus.

A separate swap partition or even better, a separate swap HDD is strongly recommended.
The virtual memory is being used all the time, so if the HDD is very busy, the OS stalls.

As I wrote earlier, *nix is a memory hog, by design.

Linux, too, despite it being a POSIX style thing with a taste for obsolete hardware standards.

It rather gives the user some swap memory than physical RAM. It wants it all for itself.
Let's remember, everything is a file. The user too.

I remember, back in the 90s/early 2000s, Linux users still routinely looked for "good hardware" (non-USB, non-Plug&Play).
Which in practice meant 486 era hardware found on dumpsters (SCSI controllers, SCSI CD-ROM drives , non-WinModems, non-GDI Printers etc).

Edit: Linux also had a font problem, I think. The selection of fonts needed for wordprocessing was very limited.
By contrast, Windows 3.0 had Adobe TypeManager and scalable vector fonts since 1990/1991.

But anyway, the standard printer of the typical Linux user was TTY/text-only, anyway.
So it didn't matter. WYSIWYG was far away.

Edit: The swap partition thing was no joke.
If memory is low, installing a small, quick CF card or DOM on another IDE channel might be worth a thought.

On another IDE channel, because of simultaneous operation.
Two IDE devices on same channel can't talk same time.

While that's also true for parallel ISA bus in theory, the bus itself has a lower latency.
There are no microcontrollers involved that must make out who's in charge right now.

Edit: Ideally, the CD-ROM drive is on a "third channel" and thus not shard with the HDDs.
Since this is difficult to accomplish, an SCSI based solution might be worth a try.
The CD-ROM interface of an SB16 or PAS16 could be used, for example. It's slow, but fast enough for a CD-ROM drive.
If each device has its own channel, everyone's happy.

Edit: If memory serves, kernel 2.4 used to be the last Linux kernel to (fully) support legacy hardware (ISA stuff, mainly).
I remember this, because back in the 2000s people did recommend not to use kernel 2.6.
That was when XFree86 was still a common X11 display server.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 258 of 263, by tauro

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Wow! I wasn't familiar with all those old Window Managers.
So it could be one of those too as long as it doesn't look too ancient and it's useful. CDE doesn't look bad. I'm not sure if there's much of a difference regarding memory usage. The problem begins once you open the first program 🤣

Regarding KDE... I've never been a fan but its graphical attractiveness is useful to bring people over to the GNU/Linux freedom land.

GNOME 2 was it for me. Simple desktop metaphor without any fluff and it just worked.

But since we're talking about a modern distro for a very old system (Pre-PII), then all main alternatives such as Gnome, KDE, XFCE, etc, are completely out of the question. Newer GTK/QT versions are going to be unusable.

If you depend on a SWAP partition on a 486/586 then... it's not going to be a nice experience. I'm thinking it's not going to be practical with <128 MB.

Jo22 wrote on 2024-02-10, 17:28:

Edit: If memory serves, kernel 2.4 used to be the last Linux kernel to (fully) support legacy hardware (ISA stuff, mainly).
I remember this, because back in the 2000s people did recommend not to use kernel 2.6.
That was when XFree86 was still a common X11 display server.

Probably legacy hardware such as ISA video cards (especially Hercules/CGA/EGA).

I have successfully installed ISA sound cards such as SB16 on modernish distros and it still worked! I think it was kernel 3.4 or so, running Debian.

There's another problem regarding late 90s/early 2000s GPUs because support for some video cards has been removed from recent X.org and some modules can't be compiled with today's libraries.

Reply 259 of 263, by gdjacobs

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Jo22 wrote on 2024-02-10, 17:28:

TWM is also an option. It's so old it's not being bloated yet.
It's also professional looking (like CDE or Motif), not a cheap KDE clone.

FVWM is visually much closer to the Motif window manager (as found either in IRIX or CDE builds), and TWM is actually more resource demanding.

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