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Anyone use an old linux OS on an old PC?

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First post, by ahendricks18

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Hey guys,
I was in study hall the other day and I decided to hop onto a PC. I was aimlessy browsing the web when I thought about putting an old linux distro on my pentium 133. I looked up slackware and downloaded slackware 4.0. There's even a dos emulator for it so I can run my old PC games (well, most of them, not windows games though) which is ok with me. I looked at some images on google of slackware 4.0 and it looks cooler than windows 9x IMHO. so I'm installing slackware right now on my pentium. I have a k6-2 I'll use for my windows games but I'm going linux on this one. So has anyone else had any luck installing old linux distros on their old computers? I'm somewhat new to linux, I've used linux before but not to the point where I can use the terminal fluently. Thanks for reading, -A

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Reply 1 of 62, by Scali

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I used to turn old PCs into home servers by running Linux or FreeBSD on them. Running FTP, Apache, mail and that sort of thing on them, hosting my own domain.
Had a 486dx2-66, Pentium 75, Pentium 150, Pentium Pro 200 and Pentium II 350 running as home server like that, over the years.
But a few years ago I decided to buy a cheap new system instead with a micro-ATX system, and 'modern' features like SATA and USB3.

http://scalibq.wordpress.com/just-keeping-it- … ro-programming/

Reply 2 of 62, by Malvineous

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My first home Linux server was a Pentium 100 I used to share my dial-up Internet connection between the PCs in my house. It was also using Slackware and worked perfectly well.

Only drawbacks about doing that these days is that it uses more power compared to a modern alternative (such a Linux-powered home router) which can cause your electricity bills to go up if you leave it running 24/7. It's also more effort to get storage into an older machine if you want to use it as a fileserver, whereas home routers tend to have USB ports you connect external hard drives to.

If you're interested in learning Linux it can be a great way to get started, although there are still drawbacks. Linux has changed considerably since Slackware 4.0, so for example if you spend time learning how to write firewall rules using ipchains, you won't gain much benefit since Linux has long ago switched to using iptables instead. Likewise if you run into difficulties with programs, the first response when asking for help on a Linux forum is usually "make sure you're running the latest version", which is pretty much impossible with a distro that old (too many things need to be upgraded to run the latest version of anything.)

Once you've figured out the basics, you might be better off downloading a Live USB version and booting that on your main PC. Then you can learn about the most current version of Linux, without affecting anything you have installed on your PC. Plus if you then want something that looks cool, you can always try out Compiz.

Reply 3 of 62, by mr_bigmouth_502

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I know a lot of prebaked distros don't do so well with older hardware, but I wonder how well something like Gentoo would fare.

My NEW(ish) desktop:
p8cqsw-2.png

Reply 4 of 62, by Malvineous

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On the OP's P133? It'd probably work, but I think you'd be compiling for weeks getting it up and running! It looks like the latest versions of Debian still support first generation Pentiums (not 486 though), so that could be an option for running the latest software.

Reply 5 of 62, by sunaiac

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Well you'd compile it on a modern system of course.
When I had Gentoo on my PS3, all got compiled on the Q6600 😁

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Reply 6 of 62, by rgart

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I have Fedora running on an older Macbook Pro - probably not what you'd call old. I settled on fedora after trying a couple of other distributions. I think a version of Slackware or Redhat similar in year to the hardware (or there abouts) its being installed on would be a great choice.

You can always split the partitian and install a simple boot manager like lilo so you can have a true copy of DOS and Linux on the same machine.

=My Cyrix 5x86 systems : 120MHz vs 133MHz=. =My 486DX2-66MHz=

Reply 7 of 62, by mr_bigmouth_502

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Malvineous wrote:

On the OP's P133? It'd probably work, but I think you'd be compiling for weeks getting it up and running! It looks like the latest versions of Debian still support first generation Pentiums (not 486 though), so that could be an option for running the latest software.

Call me a n00b, but how would you set it up so that it compiles specifically for the P133's hardware? If you used the correct CFLAGs and everything, would the final result still be the same as compiling it on the P133 itself?

My NEW(ish) desktop:
p8cqsw-2.png

Reply 8 of 62, by calvin

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Yeah, you tell it to compile with the same settings, and theoretically, (if the cross-compiler isn't broken - this is why a lot of things like OpenBSD prefer compiling on device, to ensure it works) you get the same output as if you did it natively.

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Reply 9 of 62, by Caluser2000

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Run Red Hat 7.3 on my HP slimline 200mmx as it picked up every piece of hardware. Got rid of all the Nautilus crap. Use Window Maker and a few light kde and Gnome 1.4 applications and Opera 8 something as it's browser which works well with Vogons. Started off with 32megs of ram and it now sport 256megs. My first real shot at using Linux long term as a desktop system. I'd tried a couple before that MuLinux on my 486, OpenLinux, RH6.2, Turbo Linux 6 and Coral Linux 1.2 on other P1 systems. Doing the basic cli stuff in the terminal isn't really that different on older distros.

Might eventually slap Xandros 2 Deluxe on the P200mmx because is seems to handle usb better than earlier RHs. Collecting old boxed Linux distros is a hobby of mine so have a few to select from and found you'd have better luck with something a few years newer than the system you're going to try it on and max out the ram.

You're better off running Dos games natively than in Linux on a Pentium 133.

I'd forgotten I'd ran Mandrake 6.1 on a 486 for a bit as well until the hdd died.

Last edited by Caluser2000 on 2015-10-28, 07:11. Edited 2 times in total.

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A founding member of the 286 appreciation society.
Apparently 32-bit is dead and nobody likes P4s.
Of course, as always, I'm open to correction...😉

Reply 10 of 62, by dr.zeissler

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I used Mandrake 7.3 on one of my old Retro-PC's. It's a nice distribution, but currently no Linux on any retro-PC.

Retro-Gamer 😀PowerMac 6100-66/Houdini 486/66 - G4 Cube 450/Rage128pro OS9.0.1 - Macintosh LC/Apple IIe Card OS6.0.8 - Acorn A4000 Archimedes - Unisys CWD 486/66 + Aztech Washington

Reply 11 of 62, by ynari

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Installing modern Unix on anything newer than a 486 is largely trivial, although restrictions on memory and support for old video cards may limit what can be done in X. I believe ISA has been dropped from some distributions too, which can cause issues for some systems.

The difficulties you'll experience are :

Memory. Even the most bare bones Unix these days will struggle on a 486 with 20MB, although interestingly non x86 architectures can be somewhat less memory hungry. It's actually more effective to run NT or OS/2, allowing for the fact they're not up to date with security patches..

Graphics : X has not stood still, and its drivers have to be re-written every time the preferred driver model changes. Probably not a problem on a pentium with careful card selection, more likely to be an issue on a 486 using ISA/VLB.

Booting : I can't remember when booting off CD and USB arrived (pentium ii and 4 respectively?), but for a 486 it will be necessary to use floppy, netbooting, manually written hard disk partitions or 'floppy that boots CD' type installation methods.

Disk partitioning : Large disk support is not a problem, provided the boot partition is located entirely within the bootable area recognised by the BIOS. On BSD, this will involve ensuring the root partition slice is entirely within the bootable area.

Speed : For x86, using pre-compiled software, it's not a huge problem. If for some reason compiling is required it becomes an issue. It took an entire week to compile X on an SGI O2 box I have - and that was reasonably fast for 1996.

Power : Once all the above has been resolved, your Unix box will be up and running. However, would it make more sensible to have a power sipping, quiet modern x86 or ARM system?

Anything earlier than a 486 will cause real issues. 286s and below do not feature the protected flat memory model required by any modern Unix. 386 support has been dropped by all Unixes I know of, so that the speedup provided by certain 486 instructions can be used.

Reply 12 of 62, by Malvineous

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ynari wrote:

286s and below do not feature the protected flat memory model required by any modern Unix.

Then the fun part is getting Linux running on one of these machines with ELKS!

Reply 13 of 62, by dr.zeissler

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Linux is shit, old or new version. There are always problems issues with drivers (video, audio) a
and the 3Dsupport is SHIT. why do I need to compile a new kernel in order to get 3Dsupport,
come on that's stupid. You have to move mountains to get 3D and then it's SLOW.

Linux = Shit

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Reply 14 of 62, by Scali

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ynari wrote:

Power : Once all the above has been resolved, your Unix box will be up and running. However, would it make more sensible to have a power sipping, quiet modern x86 or ARM system?

This seems to be a common misconception...
The most 'modern' x86 I've used was a PII-350, which only has a 21.5W TDP. For today's standards, that is actually extremely low (considering that the PII was a high-end solution at the time).
A Pentium 75 is only 8W, and earlier x86es are even lower still.
The same goes for many other components. For example, memory is clocked a lot higher these days, quite power-hungry, and needs heatsinks.
You can get savings with modern components though, mostly modern HDDs/SSDs and PSUs, which are more efficient than old ones. But other than that, old systems tend to be very efficient. Things started going crazy after the PII, with the GHz-race.

http://scalibq.wordpress.com/just-keeping-it- … ro-programming/

Reply 15 of 62, by dr.zeissler

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That's why I do not have any system with a P4. I am very satisfied with the PII-333.

Retro-Gamer 😀PowerMac 6100-66/Houdini 486/66 - G4 Cube 450/Rage128pro OS9.0.1 - Macintosh LC/Apple IIe Card OS6.0.8 - Acorn A4000 Archimedes - Unisys CWD 486/66 + Aztech Washington

Reply 16 of 62, by ynari

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Sure, but an ARM system is one heck of a lot faster than various old systems, mostly a lot more functional (if you want to run Linux/Android, not so much BSD due to the binary blobs for graphics), silent and very low power.

Reply 17 of 62, by Scali

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ynari wrote:

Sure, but an ARM system is one heck of a lot faster than various old systems

I don't think that's the point here 😀

http://scalibq.wordpress.com/just-keeping-it- … ro-programming/

Reply 18 of 62, by oerk

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dr.zeissler wrote:
Linux is shit, old or new version. There are always problems issues with drivers (video, audio) a and the 3Dsupport is SHIT. why […]
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Linux is shit, old or new version. There are always problems issues with drivers (video, audio) a
and the 3Dsupport is SHIT. why do I need to compile a new kernel in order to get 3Dsupport,
come on that's stupid. You have to move mountains to get 3D and then it's SLOW.

Linux = Shit

Well that's not a broad generalization at all, is it? 😵 And it has nothing to do with the initial question.

I quite happily use Linux as a desktop operating system, BTW, and am starting to prefer it over Windows.

Reply 19 of 62, by matze79

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I use Linux (Debian Etch) on my 5x86 (486), for Tasks who Windows is too old.
Latest 486 Kernel is 2.6.32, all above is broken.
I can run recent Software on it. (Updated Libaries)
Eg. SSH, FTP, HTTP/HTTPS Client, some time i also listen to Radio with it. (MP3).

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