What Can you Use?

For: Mepis Linux

by: je.saist

This guide was basically built to answer two questions. The first question, can you actually run a modern Operating System on "legacy" hardware. Hardware parts that are 7 or 8 years old. The second question is, what is the better value over time. For example, users who bought Athlon64 processors back in 2003 are seeing performance boosts up to or beyond 20% in certain tasks when running Linux in 64bits. Well, we are going to take a look at two identically clocked systems, with identical amounts of ram, and identical graphics cards, and see how well they perform.

This is one of the first, if only guides, to use video.  Now, given that I only have a limited amount of server space for Mepisguides.com to begin with, and because I really don't want CBlue having a heart attack over bandwith usage, the videos are hosted through YouTube.  Unfortantly, this means that the video has been web-compressed by YouTube.  However, along with each video there is a link to FileCloud.com, where I've placed the original Video files.

Now, I'll be hoenst. I have not actually gotten my Plextor PX-TV402U, PowerColor Theater Pro 550, or an older Happhauge WinTV USB capturing Video under Linux.  So, these videos were capped using ATi's Radeon 9800 All-in-Wonder under WinNT 5.0 using ATi's proprietary MultiMedia Center 9.08, captured in VGA resolution AVI, then compressed into MPEG4 using ATi's Avivo on a Radeon x1800 XT, again, under WinNT 5.0.  ATi does not yet make these programs available to Linux users, however I for one would gladly plunk down some cash to have Linux Binaries made available.

Alright, lets meet our systems.  We have one from AMD, and one from Intel. Backing the AMD Processor is Asus's P5A Motherboard, which uses an Ali Chipset, with a 30gig Drive from Samsung.  Backing the Intel Processor is Gateway's E-3200 NLX Chasis and it's own motherboard. It's hard-drive is a 60gig from Seagate.

The AMD system is represented by the AMD K6-2 500mhz processor, with a cache of 64k. It was released back in 1998.

Our Memory is set at 384 megs of Ram, (128*3), the most that this board can accept.  The memory is PC100 from Mushkin.

Our Intel System is represented by the 500mhz Katmai. It has a cache size of 512kb, but was released about a year after the K6-2 was out, in 1999.

The intel system is equipped with 384megs of ram as well. Disconcertingly though, the Disk Cache is is at 64%, against the K6-2's 41%

Like the AMD system, it's memory also comes from Mushkin.

The Graphics card in use is the Radeon 7000 AIW. As we can see in the screen shot below Mepis also sees the Gateway's Onboard Rage Pro graphics adapter. We will not be using that.  The Radeon R100 is used in both systems, attempting to keep things equal.

So, why a Radeon Card anyways, it was released in 2000, a year after the Intel Katmai, and 2 years after the K6-2.  Couple of reasons. The first is that I needed a card whose TV-Out worked under Linux without any fuss. The second is that I needed a card that would fit both the K6-2's standard ATX chassis, and the NLX Server Chassis of the Gateway E-3200. While most AGP cards will not physically fit into the Gateway E-3200, a PCI card will.

Alright, onto the videos. There are 3 different sets, for a total of 6 videos.  Mepis Linux was set to a resolution of 800x600.  The capture resolution by the graphics card was set to 640*480.  The result is that there is some image degredation. It is not your eyes or your monitor if something seems "off".  As mentioned before, the source videos were then converted using Avivo to a more friendly MPEG4 compression.  YouTube further compressed the files, however I am not sure by what method.

The First Scenario is to actually boot the system. The recording was started, then the systems were immediatly switched on. No, there is nothing wrong when the screen goes blank in each video. For some reason when running over a TV connection, the Mepis Splash Screen is not shown. Once the systems reach the login screen, the video is ended.

1: Pentium 3 KatMai Boot : File Cloud Download

2: K6-2 Boot  :  File Cloud Download

The Second test is to load the included FireFox browser up.

3: Pentium3 Katmai FireFox : File Cloud Download

4: K6-2 FireFox : File Cloud Download

The 3rd Scenario is to load the SwiftFox Browser optomized for each platform.

5: Pentium3 Katmai with Katmai Optimized SwiftFox : File Cloud Download

6: K6-2 with K6-2 Optimized SwiftFox : File Cloud Download

The Pentium3 is honestly, the better lasting of the two processors. It just feels smoother overall. So, if you did buy a computer back in 1999, and you got the Pentium3, you should be good to go with the latest Mepis Operating System.  If you got a K6-2, the Operating System is still usable, but the experience is somewhat like using Windows. Sort of Jerky and not really intuitive.  That being said, using a lighter weight desktop like IceWM or FluxBox will go a long way towards making life bearable with the K6-2.

After these videos were captured, it was pointed out that I really hadn't shown the OS in use.  Yes, I had shown the programs loading, but programs loading isn't all there is towards using a computer. So, these next videos return to the Pentium3 system.  

The forth scenario suggested is what is Synaptic like? So, I'm going to show, in real time, reloading the apt-repositories, finding w32codecs and Kaffeine in Synaptic, and then installing the programs.

7: Pentium3 with Synaptic : File Cloud Download

The fifth scenario is to use Kaffeine to play an AudioCD. Yes, I chose that tune for a reason.

8: Pentium3 with AudioCD : File Cloud Download

The Sixth Scenario is going back to FireFox and browsing around this time. Hi Mookie!  This movie also has the conversion quality lowered for space reasons.

9: Pentium3 with FireFox and Tabs : File Cloud Download

The Seventh Scenario, and final video I took is also the largest and longest. This the average use clip. OpenOffice, SwiftFox, Kaffeine, and some Sluggy.  However, due to the large size of the source file, it has an extremely low set quality, the lowest Avivo would take. I should also note that YouTube has cut about 20 seconds off the end of this video...

10: Pentium3 with Everything. : File Cloud Download

So, there we go.  Is hardware from 7-8 years ago fully usable with a modern Linux desktop operating system. I think the answer is, yes. It is.

oh, and btw, the websites I showed in the videos that you probably don't have bookmarks for:

Dominic Deegan

Sluggy Freelance


You an also get Mushkin Memory from Newegg. 128meg PC100 weighs in around $16