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raymac46

Your Worst Linux Machine

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raymac46

Did you ever have a machine that drove you nuts trying to run Linux? One that totally sucked at it? I did - and it was one that came running Linux out of the factory. 

Back in 2008, my daughter was interested in learning about Linux so I foolishly suggested she get a Dell Mini 12 netbook that had Linux preinstalled. She would have been better off with ASUS or Acer but I thought Dell could do it better. Big mistake.

About all the Mini 12 had going for it was a sleek design and a nice screen size. It was underpowered and with a slow hard drive. It came with the worst wifi adapter you could get for Linux - Broadcom. And it had the only Intel video adapter that never was designed for good Linux performance - GMA 500.

Dell had to design its own brain-dead custom Ubuntu distro for this machine to get all the reluctant hardware to fly. My daughter hated it and soon went back to Windows. I inherited it and soon discovered that after Dell discontinued it there was no upgrade path to anything that would have decent 3D video. Some Intel wizards developed a 2D solution that still works to this day although 3D Linux never was possible. Eventually I got AntiX to work with it, but by then its 32 bit Atom processor was pretty much toast.

Dell made some good Linux hardware before and some impressive Linux based machines later on - but this particular line of Mini 10 and Mini 12 machines was a total disaster. I never have been a Dell fanboi since.

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securitybreach

While I was very excited to get the one of the first linux mobile devices, it ended up being a letdown as Maemo development stopped and you could only run some linux applications on it. I still have the device sitting in a drawer with the charger. I customized it some and even had a recording of Linus telling your how Linux is pronounced as the boot up sound.

 

Quote

The Nokia N810 Internet tablet is an Internet appliance from Nokia, announced on 17 October 2007 at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. Despite Nokia's strong association with cellular products, the N810, like preceding tablets produced by Nokia, was not a phone, but instead allowed the user to browse the Internet and communicate using Wi-Fi networks or with a mobile phone via Bluetooth. It built on the hardware and software of the Nokia N800 with some features added and some removed.

The Nokia N810 featured the Maemo Linux distribution operating system based on Maemo 4.0, which featured MicroB (a Mozilla-based mobile browser), a GPS navigation application, new media player, and a refreshed interface.

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_N810

 

Quote

4.13 inches TFT resistive touchscreen, 65K colors
480 x 800 pixels
Internet Tablet OS 2008 edition (Maemo linux based off of Debian)
TI OMAP 2420 @ 400 MHz
Memory     Card slot     miniSD, up to 8 GB
128MB RAM, 256MB ROM, 2GB

 

300px-N810-open.jpg

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securitybreach

I second crappy Linux machine was the Asus EeePC 701 4G. One of the fist Laptops to come with Linux preinstalled:
 

Quote


Intel Celeron M 353 / 900 MHz
2 GB Ram 400MHz
800 x 480 (WVGA)
4GB SSD
802.11b/g
10/100 Ethernet
5200 mAh battery (2.8 hours)
Xandros distro

 

 

While I did use this machine for years as a secondary machine, it was really limited in what you could do on it. The machine was really cheaply built and had a horribly large bezel. Eventually, the screen stopped coming on and I gave it to Fran's husband Jim, who repurposed it inside his truck for some reason that I forgot.

 

DSC_5214.jpg

 

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V.T. Eric Layton
5 hours ago, raymac46 said:

Did you ever have a machine that drove you nuts trying to run Linux?

 

Indeed, YES!

 

I believe it was ericsbane03 (not sure, though). This was back in '06 or so. There were two hdds installed in this machine and I was dual-booting Win XP on hda (pre-SATA era) and installing multiple distros on hdb. I kept having issues with corrupted data and lock-ups on the hdb drive. This continued for a couple weeks. It was a brand new Seagate drive.

 

After much hair-pulling, reinstalling, screaming, gnashing of teeth, etc., totally blew a fuse one night and grabbed the tower off the desk and body-slammed it onto the floor. Of course, when I did this, all the peripherals that were connected to the tower also got dragged off the desk. Then, in a frenzy of madness, I stomped and danced all over the devices on the floor.

 

This has become known in legendary stories as The Night Eric Danced an Irish Jig on His Computer. I even created a meme about this episode. I think @securitybreach may even remember this. Here's the pic...

 

xjKe5JE.png

 

After numerous conversations with a Seagate engineer, it was decided that the unit was defective. DUH! Anyway, the engineer asked me to pack it up and ship it to him (at their expense) and they would give me a new one. They did, but I used it for a custom system that I was building for someone else and I bought a new WD for my rebuilt/new system. These were the ONLY Seagate drives I've ever owned/used. I stuck with Maxtor and WD after that.

 

Ah... fun memories. ;)

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securitybreach

Oh yeah, I remember well.

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ebrke
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Then, in a frenzy of madness, I stomped and danced all over the devices on the floor.

Oh yeah, I'll never forget that. I'm sure it wasn't funny at all to you, but at the time I kept breaking up every few minutes as I got different mental pictures of you dancing amid the electronic devastation!

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V.T. Eric Layton
1 hour ago, ebrke said:

I'm sure it wasn't funny at all to you

 

Actually, while the smoke was still rising from the pile on the floor and little electronic components were screaming their last gasps, I was standing outside having a smoke and laughing almost to the point of peeing my pants. Sometimes, you just have to laugh. :hysterical:

 

1 hour ago, ebrke said:

I kept breaking up every few minutes as I got different mental pictures of you dancing amid the electronic devastation!

 

HAHAHA! I'm laughing now just thinking about it actually. I'm known for my patience. You need patience when working on electronic equipment, which was my career from my teenage years on, but sometimes you just lose it. You can do that with your own stuff, but not with customer's equipment. My remedy for that was to just walk away from the bench and go out in the parking lot at work and smoke and pace back and forth till my head cleared.

 

It's funny, though, that's what's needed often in many situations... just a bit of distance. I do that when stumped on crossword puzzles sometimes; just set the thing down and walk away. Usually, when I come back the answer I was looking for just magically pops into my head.

 

Wish I could figure out how to use that mojo to pick winning lottery numbers. ;)

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securitybreach

It's the same thing as when you spend all night trying to figure out something ad then you go to sleep and wake up with you "ah ha" moment. That's also where the phrase "sleep on it" comes from.

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goretsky

Hello,

 

I remember trying to install Linux on Pentium-based systems (P133-P166) back in the mid-1990s.  It was always a matter of frustration that something didn't work; a network card or a video card or somesuch.  Driver support from hardware manufacturers back then was much worse than it is now.  When I finally did get one working with network connectivity and a GUI, it was something of an anticlimax.

 

In the mid-2000s, I worked for an embedded systems company.  They made a variety of VoIP telephony gear (PBXes, Ethernet switches, handsets, etc.) that all ran some version of Linux, all on custom-designed PowerPC-based boards, with a few MIPS processors on the lowest-end handsets.  Supporting them was not particularly fun.  A lot of the issues were largely self-inflicted ones, with improper hardware design and validation.  I was very glad to go back to a software company in the security space in 2005 after that experience.

 

Regards,

 

Aryeh Goretsky

 

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raymac46

The oldest and ugliest laptop I ever installed Linux on was a junk Fujitsu Lifebook 765Tx with a Pentium 166. It had no USB, CD-ROM, wifi or Ethernet. Originally it ran Windows 95 and connected with an internal dial-up modem. I think it had about 128 MB of RAM.

I was able to get an Ethernet PCMCIA card, and installed Deli Linux by a basic 2 floppy method to get a terminal. I was then able to download the rest of the packages to get a GUI from the Internet. This was in 2008 or so.

This system was basically useless but I had fun and learned something from it.

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Hedon James

My worst was probably my first.  I had an old Dell Dimension 2400 laying around that just didn't cut it anymore.  It ran, and everything worked fine, but it was SOOOO SLOW that it was just frustrating to even use.

 

https://www.cnet.com/products/dell-dimension-2400-for-home-celeron-2-40ghz-256mb-40gb-d24l1/specs/

 

I had bumped the RAM up to 1GB, thinking that would help; and maybe it did, but it didn't solve the problem.  So I shelved that machine out of frustration and was going to donate it to charity, or something.  And then I discovered linux, which promised to "breathe new life into old hardware".  I also learned how to burn LiveCDs, and downloaded several distro ISOs to burn, trying to determine which was the right fit for me.  I had no one to show me the ropes, no mentors, and I certainly wasn't aware of any internet forums for guidance or assistance.  Just old fashioned determination, persistence in locating information, and some luck in getting the answers I needed.  When I successfully booted my first LiveCD, it was GAME ON!

 

Eventually, I settled on Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackaloupe?) and tested the live session extensively before installation, even installing additional programs in live session....I had my system completely fleshed out and working great in live session and I noted the live session ran better than the previously installed WinXP.  (Looking back, WinXP was probably getting choked by the memory hogs of Norton, and later McAfeee, constantly running in background; periodically taking over with a scan and bringing the system to a grinding halt in place until completed.  And I was still using Internet Explorer, as I didn't know of any programs other than disks I could purchase at Staples. There was probably undetected malware, despite my best efforts.)  And if an installation was gonna run better than a live session, this linux stuff was gonna work for me just fine?!!!!

 

That's when the real linux experience began.  Despite extensive live-testing over several days, the computer would periodically "lock up" with a screen freeze.  I had chosen Ubuntu as "my distro" based on its large user-community and forums.  I learned quickly about ctl-alt-REISUB, which at least unfroze the system and rebooted.  And all was good...until the next time; which could be minutes, hours, or days later.  Just couldn't isolate the trigger.  Long story short...based on the help of total strangers on the Ubuntu forum, learned my issue was almost certainly due to a GPU driver for my system,  i915(?), which was known to be buggy.  Since it was built-in, wasn't much I could do.  It was suggested that hardware was NOT a good fit for Linux, despite my mostly positive experiences other than the GPU.  Learned I could buy an after-market "video card" and install in the machine.  I knew you could upgrade RAM, but video cards too?  Okay, I'll give it a shot.  Deciding on AMD to avoid potential Intel issues, and proprietary nVidia issues (MS was proprietary and "bad", therefore nVidia was to be avoided also).  Found a cheap AMD card, new on e-bay, that the seller confirmed would work in a Dell Dimension 2400, and Ubuntu forum folks assured was linux friendly.  Ordered it, popped it in, switched the VGA cable to the new card, and Ubuntu 9.04 started right up, ran better than WinXP EVER did, and stayed running without interruption for weeks at a time, until a new kernel got installed during updates.

 

So that was probably the worst linux machine for me.  However, ironically, this linux experience was no more painful than a typical Windows troubleshooting experience.  And when I fixed it, it STAYED FIXED!  Linux for me from that point forward...  That became my personal daily driver and I started looking for software programs to replace my work programs and eventually put together a "proof of concept" machine that I could use in daily work operations, with about 95% functionality.  When I discovered Virtualbox and ran WinXP in a VM, I was able to install 2-3 "windows-only" holdouts that I simply cannot replace with linux substitutes.  I simply fire up VB, run the windows-only software, and suspend the VM when finished; no different than running any other program on my OS and closing out when complete.  This made linux 100% viable for me.

 

Now my entire household is linux only "on the rails", with Win VMs only on the machines that need it.  You folks know the rest...

 

The lesson of this whole story.....even my worst linux machine STILL led to the complete adoption of linux in my household!

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securitybreach

Nice :thumbsup:

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ebrke
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It's funny, though, that's what's needed often in many situations... just a bit of distance

And that distance can be incredibly hard to achieve sometimes. I remember more than once being stuck on a programming problem, going over and over it like a mouse on a wheel, unable to give up and walk away for a while even though that's the ONLY way you're going achieve a breakthrough and get past your problem.

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raymac46

My first Linux machine was the classic Dell Dimension 4100. Intel all the way on the processor and chipset. Audio, video and Ethernet were all on plug-in cards. I think the video (Nvidia) was AGP if I remember correctly. The plugins were all bog standard so Linux just ran out of the box. It was only when I started down the wifi rabbit hole that I had any problems.

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abarbarian

I must be lucky as all the pc's I have tried linux on have worked, can't say the same about all the distros I have tried though. :hysterical:

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saturnian

I had one pc that I picked up from a thrift store that didn't run anything all that well. Old piece of junk, really. I ran Mepis on it and I got along ok with that. I had pretty good luck with Mepis on crappy hardware.

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abarbarian
On 4/28/2020 at 12:14 PM, saturnian said:

I had one pc that I picked up from a thrift store that didn't run anything all that well. Old piece of junk, really. I ran Mepis on it and I got along ok with that. I had pretty good luck with Mepis on crappy hardware.

 

That was an interesting distro. I tried the Simply Mepis and antix briefly and am now a fan boi of MX.

 

 

Quote

 

History

MEPIS was designed as an alternative to SUSE Linux, Red Hat Linux, and Mandriva Linux (formerly Mandrake) which, in the creator Warren Woodford's opinion, were too difficult for the average user. MEPIS's first official release was on May 10, 2003.

In 2006, MEPIS made a transition from using Debian packages to using Ubuntu packages.[1] SimplyMEPIS 6.0, released in July 2006, was the first version of MEPIS to incorporate the Ubuntu packages and repositories.

SimplyMEPIS 7.0 discontinued the use of Ubuntu binary packages in favor of a combination of MEPIS packaged binaries based on Debian and Ubuntu source code, combined with a Debian stable OS core and extra packages from Debian package pools.[2]

Major releases occurred about six months to one year apart until 2013, based mostly on Warren's availability to produce the next version.

Variants

SimplyMEPIS, designed for everyday desktop and laptop computing. The default desktop environment is KDE-based, although Gnome and/or other GUI-environments can be installed. SimplyMEPIS 11.0 is based on Debian 6 and includes Linux 2.6.36.4, KDE 4.5.1 and LibreOffice 3.3.2, with other applications available from Debian and the MEPIS Community. It was released on May 5, 2011.[3] Development halted during beta testing of Mepis 12.

antiX, a fast and lightweight[4] distribution, was originally based on MEPIS for x86 systems in an environment suitable for old computers. It's now based on Debian Stable.

MX Linux, a midweight distribution[5] developed in collaboration between antiX and former MEPIS communities which is based on Debian Stable.

 

 

😎

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raymac46

I tried SimplyMEPIS early on in my distro hopping days. It looked really nice but I had a couple of problems with it.

  • It featured KDE and I never have liked that desktop. At least I didn't before Plasma.
  • The maintenance and new release schedule was a little spotty.

When AntiX came out I was eager to try it on some old netbooks and it worked great.

MX-Linux gives the whole package - medium weight, Xfce, nice design, Debian stable base, MEPIS tools. It is a real winner.

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securitybreach

Nice Ray :thumbsup:

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