Best Debian solution for old AMD-K6(tm) 3D computer.

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Best Debian solution for old AMD-K6(tm) 3D computer.

Postby kedaha » 2010-07-18 11:48

What do you do with an old AMD-K6(tm) desktop computer? Rather than use Damn Small Linux, Puppy or other options, is it possible to get a resonably fast desktop system up and running with up-to-date software and even watch, for example, youtube videos with such low specifications as these: CPU: 450 MHz; RAM: 256 MiB; Graphic card: ATI 3D Rage II AGP (rev 7a); Sound card: C-Media Electronics Inc CM8538 (rev 10); Hard disk: 8 GiB IDE; Ethernet: D-Link RTL8139 (rev 10)?
I wanted to try squeeze+sid on this PC which was given to me by someone who was going to send it to the scrapheap but installation failed due to a problem caused by the UUIDs not getting recognized. However, I found an unofficial sidux live CD, installable to the hard drive, available here where I downloaded the icewm-sid-lite-iso It uses the Debian 2.6.26-1-486-kernel which is appropriate for AMD-K6. The default icewm desktop was much faster than LXDE.
A second solution (IMO better) I tried and which also directly uses Debian "testing" repositories is antix, and also has the appropriate 486 kernel. This "testing" antiX iso comes with no X and it says on the linked site that the the best way to get X is:
Code: Select all
# apt-get update
# apt-get install xorg

However, this did not work with the ATI 3D Rage II AGP when, after installing icewm desktop) after rebooting I got: NO SUPPORTED MODE H:46.3 KHz V:43.3 Hz. I was able to get X to work by doing:
Code: Select all
apt-get install firmware-linux
apt-get install xorg xserver-xorg

With a high-speed ADSL connection, Iceweasel works quite well but flash is too much for this machine but I was able to get get Youtube up and running with the no flash iceweasel + greasemonkey + gecko-mediaplayer combination described in this little Howto. Perhaps flash would also work if the memory were increased.
So my conclusion is that both the sidux and antix solution demonstrate that Debian squeeze+sid+icewm are, or will be, an ideal combination for this old computer.
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Re: Best Debian solution for old AMD-K6(tm) 3D computer.

Postby julian67 » 2010-07-18 16:58

More RAM isn't going to help with YouTube/Flash, as Flash's demands are mostly on the CPU.

What you can do is use a utility like youtube-dl, so you browse YouTube in the normal way but instead of playing a video you pass the url to youtube-dl which downloads the video for you and then you can play it with mplayer or similar.
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Re: Best Debian solution for old AMD-K6(tm) 3D computer.

Postby aspnair » 2010-07-18 17:27

I think K6-2 could handle 686 kernel, since it is equivalent to pentium II
http://www.cpu-world.com/CPUs/CPU.html
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Re: Best Debian solution for old AMD-K6(tm) 3D computer.

Postby kedaha » 2010-07-18 19:24

Thanks for your replies.
aspnair wrote:I think K6-2 could handle 686 kernel, since it is equivalent to pentium II
http://www.cpu-world.com/CPUs/CPU.html

It would be interesting to see if it could handle a higher kernel but I tried several 686 sos including a sidux-686 iso and Mepis but they wouldn't boot and returned the message:
Code: Select all
This kernel requires the following features not present on the CPU:
cmov
Unable to boot - please use a kernel appropriate to your CPU.

julian67 wrote:More RAM isn't going to help with YouTube/Flash, as Flash's demands are mostly on the CPU.
What you can do is use a utility like youtube-dl, so you browse YouTube in the normal way but instead of playing a video you pass the url to youtube-dl which downloads the video for you and then you can play it with mplayer or similar.

The greasemonkey + gecko-mediaplayer works quite well: the sound is perfect and one can view Youtube but only in low definition but I'll try youtube-dl as well.
I installed flashplugin non-free out of curiosity but it crashes iceweasel immediately. I also installed Opera and it is quite fast but although flash doesn't crash it, of course it doesn't play videos at all.
I notice that the AMD K6-2 "3D Now" ATI 3D Rage II AGP can support direct rendering so maybe it could even manage a few desktop effects with the proprietary driver.
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Re: Best Debian solution for old AMD-K6(tm) 3D computer.

Postby aspnair » 2010-07-19 02:36

That is correct. There are many references on net that amd k6-2 does not support cmov flags. Gentoo documentation uses 586 for that processor.
http://en.gentoo-wiki.com/wiki/Safe_Cflags/AMD
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Re: Best Debian solution for old AMD-K6(tm) 3D computer.

Postby kedaha » 2010-07-19 07:37

aspnair wrote:That is correct. There are many references on net that amd k6-2 does not support cmov flags. Gentoo documentation uses 586 for that processor.
http://en.gentoo-wiki.com/wiki/Safe_Cflags/AMD

Hmm, that being the case then the 586 should give it a boost.
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Re: Best Debian solution for old AMD-K6(tm) 3D computer.

Postby dbbolton » 2010-08-04 11:08

I have a 300 MHz K6-2 machine. I ran Gentoo on it for awhile, using some pretty typical CFLAGS from the wiki link above plus some others specific to the CPU (I'll get a list the next time it's hooked up). Then I installed Debian lenny and upgraded to squeeze. I didn't really notice a decrease in performance, so I stuck with Debian.

I ran X with dwm, but about the only X application I ran on it was rxvt-unicode (I still prefer dwm to any console multiplexor). I used lynx as a web browser, so flash was totally out of the equation.
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Re: Best Debian solution for old AMD-K6(tm) 3D computer.

Postby secipolla » 2010-08-05 02:21

Maybe it was the firmware-linux package that made the difference for you since xserver-xorg is a required dependency of xorg.
In my installation when I tried antiX-core alpha1 I'm quite sure I didn't install xorg but only xserver-xorg and maybe something else I found I needed, I did it so at the time because I didn't want to install that big libgl1-mesa-dri package.
Flash needs a lot of CPU and maybe the video card (specially lack of VRAM) may be a bottleneck as well (just a wild guess).

As an extra, in that installation of mine I set it up with JWM. From those 'Windows like' desktops it's the lightest and quickest I've seen. At least for me it's just somewhat complicated to customize the menu but then maybe one just has to be used with it.
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Re: Best Debian solution for old AMD-K6(tm) 3D computer.

Postby kedaha » 2010-08-06 08:39

Thanks dbbolton and secipolla for your suggestions. JWM certainly looks like a good option.
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Re: Best Debian solution for old AMD-K6(tm) 3D computer.

Postby secipolla » 2010-08-06 15:00

If I remember well, I edited /etc/menu-methods/jwm directly so updating the menu wouldn't affect my settings. Also I think menumaker supports a jwm menu as well (it can also be used to create an applications file that is then included in the menu - in place of Debian's menu, for example).
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Re: Best Debian solution for old AMD-K6(tm) 3D computer.

Postby patrick295767 » 2010-08-28 13:54

I am downloading this one :
http://www.mepisimo.com/antix/Testing/a ... update.iso

I gonna do try to make an usb pendrive bootable:
Code: Select all
   mkdosfs /dev/sda1

to create one. Take care that you use the correct device name for your USB stick. The mkdosfs command is contained in the dosfstools Debian package.

To put SYSLINUX onto the partition, install the syslinux and mtools packages on your system, and type
    syslinux /dev/sda1

Again, take care that you use the correct device name. The partition must not be mounted when starting SYSLINUX. This procedure writes a boot sector to the partition and creates the file ldlinux.sys which contains the boot loader code.

Note: Although the Debian syslinux package does not officially depend on mtools, it definitely needs mtools to write to the FAT file system.

Mount the USB memory stick (mount /dev/sda1 /mnt), choose a Debian installer subdirectory as explained above and copy the following files to the stick:
vmlinuz - the Debian installer kernel
initrd.gz - the initial ramdisk image
the SYSLINUX configuration file (see below)
optionally a Debian ISO image


But why DEBIAN is not made for i486 computers , such as old AMD?

It could be great to have debian for most achitectures
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Re: Best Debian solution for old AMD-K6(tm) 3D computer.

Postby BioTube » 2010-08-29 00:06

Debian still ships 486 kernels.
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Re: Best Debian solution for old AMD-K6(tm) 3D computer.

Postby kedaha » 2010-09-21 08:07

BioTube wrote:Debian still ships 486 kernels.


I can confirm this.
I got back to this the old AMD-K6 PC and installed a recent debian-testing-i386-netinst.iso which resulted in a 2.6.32-5-486 kernel. I also replaced the old ATI 3D Rage II AGP (rev 7a) graphic card with an nvidia NV34 [GeForce FX 5500] AGP graphic card.
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Re: Best Debian solution for old AMD-K6(tm) 3D computer.

Postby cynwulf » 2010-09-21 13:34

K6/K6-2/K6-2+/K6-III/K6-III+ are all considered i586 class (i.e. the same generation as Pentium and Pentium MMX). They lack cmov and are not i686. The first AMD i686 equivalent was the original Athlon (K7). So yes, the 486 kernel is the best option.
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Re: Best Debian solution for old AMD-K6(tm) 3D computer.

Postby kedaha » 2010-11-11 07:15

cynwulf wrote:K6/K6-2/K6-2+/K6-III/K6-III+ are all considered i586 class (i.e. the same generation as Pentium and Pentium MMX). They lack cmov and are not i686. The first AMD i686 equivalent was the original Athlon (K7). So yes, the 486 kernel is the best option.

They certainly do lack cmov.
The story continues. I didn't like the noise made by the original 8 GiB IDE (I don't like the noise from the power supply fan either but that's next on the TODO list) so I inserted a new 160 GiB IDE hard drive and decided to give refracta oct162010.iso a whirl:
I didn't get very far:
Code: Select all
Loading /live/vmlinuz..........................
Loading /live/initrd.img........................................................
................................................................ready.
Tis kernel requires the following features not present on the CPU:
cmov
Unable to boot = please use a kernel appropriate for your CPU.

Oh well, back to Squeeze.
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