How to: Giving new life to very old (2004) 32bits computers

Forum Forums General Tips and Tricks How to: Giving new life to very old (2004) 32bits computers

  • This topic has 16 replies, 8 voices, and was last updated Nov 22-2:45 am by Brian Masinick.
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  • #68658
    Member
    PPC

      Long story short: long ago I gave my parents my old laptop- it was a very sturdy HP Pavilion, with a desktop size keyboard and a nice 16:9 screen. But it is a 32 bits single core, non pae (or so I think) that was born with 512mb of RAM and now has 1024mb. It came with Windows XP, that’s how old it is. At the time I gave it way, I tested the fasted distros I knew- antiX, lubuntu and Bodhi. My test was- opening a movie trailer in youtube, on all the distros- the smoother the play, the most useful the distro would be. Bodhi won, and got installed. Now I decided to update it to antiX 19.4 (to get an idea of how 21 will run on it). Bodhi is light, but antiX runs on less of 60mb of idle ram (in fluxbox-min desktop).
      I wanted to make the best use possible of this still 100% working and beautiful machine. This is how I achieved it:

      -Internet browsing: I kept firefox-esr, but it runs slow. I tried badwolf (it works fine when not using JS); Palemoon and Iceweasel. I prefer Palemoon (it even allows streaming youtube at 480p) but Iceweasel has better compatibility with more complex web sites- it even runs MS Office on-line (so, yes, you can run, via web browser, the latest MS Office, if you need to on a machine that would be old enough to vote if it was a person)
      -Streaming youtube: smplayer, set to play videos in MPV at 360p
      -Office Work: the default LibreOffice works great. If you need to, you can use Google and Microsoft on-line office tools.
      -Media player: mpv tries its best to play HD video on this old beast, but it can’t sync video and audio, CPU keeps peaking at 100% (no wonder there). I found something that could play full HD video in an extremely smooth way (and I mean, really, really smooth): I installed “xine” media player and it does wonders- it plays the the Dune .mov full HD trailer without any noticeable loss of video speed, even with the CPU maxing out at 100%- sometimes going old school is the best way to solve problems.
      -For pdfs/audio/viewing pictures- I kept the current antiX defaults (probably deadbeef would work too, for audio)
      -If I wanted to read e-books, I would probably go with Calibre.

      For all you folks with Window XP era computers, there you go, as long as you have at least 1 gig of RAM, you can still use the modern web, watch dvd’s and even hd video files, listen to music, work on documents, etc… You can do with half of that RAM, but browsing the modern web gets a bit more difficult…

      P.

      • This topic was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by PPC.
      #68664
      Member
      marcelocripe

        Thank you very much PPC for sharing these actions and checks you made with the laptop. These actions are associated with the actions of the other topic you created Watching Youtube in very old (even 32bits) pc’s (and in more recent ones-too) increase the usability of these computers and laptops making them useful for several years and while are working.

        – – – – –

        Muito obrigado PPC por compartilhar estas ações e verificações que você fez com o portátil. Estas ações associadas as ações do outro tópico que você criou Watching Youtube in very old (even 32bits) pc’s (and in more recent ones too) elevam a capacidade de utilização deste computadores e laptops tornando-os úteis por vários anos e enquanto estiverem funcionando.

        #68683
        Member
        andfree

          Thanks for your topics, PPC. AntiX & tips I found in this forum, in topics like yours or like this one, have helped me to keep alive several old 32bits computers, that their previous owners thought as useless. In most cases, replacing kernel with an older & more suitable one turned out to be critical. Both of the two laptops I use the recent years work fine thanks to 4.4 kernel, that is supported until February. I hope there will be a way to keep these kits functional afterwards, too

          • This reply was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by andfree.
          #70156
          Member
          blur13

            Great post!

            Are you able to get google docs working with a reasonable degree of responsiveness?

            #70198
            Member
            PPC

              Are you able to get google docs working with a reasonable degree of responsiveness?

              I just tested Google Docs- it’s “workable” using PaleMoon, but seems more “responsive” in SeaMonkey- in both browsers I tested opening a previous created simple .docx file and editing the text- typing as fast as I could, letters would appear almost instantly in the document, and I’m a fast typer (the only way that I got a delay was when I started just dragging quickly my fingers across the keyboard, typing geberish).
              (Note: on my tests there’s a slight delay if you, for example, have text formatted to be centered or to the right or to the left- maybe about half a second for the text to auto adjust on screen and the character you typed to appear)
              For using this on-line office suites I would recommend a device with at least 1gb of RAM, because just opening a document can use more that 512mb of RAM (less than 100mb for antiX and the rest for the browser and the web app)

              I would still advise using LibreOffice, but, if you really have to, test any on-line web office suit- at least Microsoft’s and Google’s word processors are perfectly usable in my 32 bits device, specially under SeaMonkey…

              P.

              Edit: for some unfortunate reasons I’ve been using that 32bits laptop a lot recently, and I have to say that I barely notice any difference between using LO Writer and navigating the Web, most of the time (my main desktop is a quad core with 4Gb of RAM and a SSD drive)- to be perfectly honest, the only delay I get is when I’m opening any program, the web browser and LibreOffice take some seconds to load on the 32bits device (5-10 seconds) and open almost instantly on the desktop. Once the app is already running, I barely notice any difference. This really means that I can (and do) use a laptop from 2004 with antiX faster than many users with low end/mid range Windows 10 devices.

              I had to use a PC with Windows 10 for months, at work- it took longer to boot, longer to turn off, longer to open the browser-Google Chrome- and longer to open the spreadsheet-Excel- (for the first time, I guess after that both programs open faster because they got cashed) than performing equivalent tasks in my 32bits antiX laptop.

              • This reply was modified 2 years, 7 months ago by PPC.
              #70209
              Member
              blur13

                Thanks, I’ll give seamonkey a try then!

                I’m using an underpowered netbook from 2012. So far I’ve tried Google Docs with Firefox (slow), LibreWolf (a bit less slow), Chrome (better than FF), Midori (crashes), and BadWolf (crashes). LO takes a while to open, but once its up and running its way better than using Docs. Unfortunately I’m forced to use Docs for collaborative efforts.

                #70213
                Member
                blur13

                  “Update your browser to use Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Sites, Slides, and Forms
                  To use Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Sites, Slides, and Forms, you need to use a supported web browser.”

                  Thats what I got when trying to access google drive. Going straight to Docs works, but then a popup with “this version of firefox is not supported” appears. Tried opening a document. I wouldnt say its any better than LibreWolf or Chrome. My test is a bit more strenuous than yours as I’m opening up a somewhat complicated Doc with images, tables, advanced formatting etc.

                  Overall seamonkey seems like a snappy and responsive browser, so might try and use it for casual web browsing. Although, nothing really beats my favorite Links2 in graphics mode when it comes to browsing 😉

                  I think my conclusion is a bit different than yours. Using antix on an old netbook is amazing, if I dont have to interact with anyone else, and it’s just up to me what programs to use. I send emails using Alpine, i browse the web with Links2, I listen to music with Cmus, I use ncspot for spotify, send messages over telegram with Telegram-cli, watch HD videos in MPV (I can even HDMI connect it to my TV). Heck, I’ve even abandoned LO and do all my writing in Micro, just plain text. What breaks this productive flow is when others insist on using google docs, send messages using whatsapp or messenger. If you have to use a modern browser and bloated electron apps then, if you want to have a decent experience, you need a somewhat modern and capable computer.

                  #70234
                  Moderator
                  Brian Masinick

                    @PPC: regarding the use of old 32-bit hardware: I had TWO 32-bit laptops until 2018; I finally disposed them in 2018 just prior to selling property in Michigan (a northern state in the USA) and moving to a retirement community in South Carolina.

                    One was a Gateway 2000, a big, heavy 17″ laptop that I considered more of a portable desktop computer than a typical laptop and the other one was a Lenovo 3000 series laptop. When I got rid of them antiX was one of the few distributions that still had a 32 bit system available.

                    In some ways I miss them and others I am thankful that I was able to get a fast 64 bit system recently with NVME SSD. I was able to acquire a few other cast off computers when I arrived here including a nice Thinkpad X201 laptop. So now I have a few old 64 bit units and a fast new one; I’m happy~

                    --
                    Brian Masinick

                    #71378
                    Member
                    Girafenaine

                      Hello antiX folks,

                      I would like to share a trick that I found to give great improvement on such an old laptop. I have struggled to make something useable with a 2006 Fujitsu big laptop, thanks to antiX 32 bits. I use palemoon as a browser, and abiword instead of libreoffice.

                      Display was quite slow, and it was much more responsive with the following tweak :

                      add in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d a (new) file xorg.conf, with following lines :

                      Section "Device"
                         Identifier  "Intel Graphics"
                         Driver      "intel"
                         Option      "AccelMethod" "uxa"  #could also use the default "sna"
                      #   Option      "TearFree"     "true"
                      EndSection

                      The two points behind this :
                      – old intel graphics card are well driven by the “old” intel driver (modesetting is now the default driver for intel cards and works well), this conf file forces intel driver to be used
                      – old intel graphics card don’t even know about the “sna” default acceleration method – so that’s no acceleration for them at all. By switching to the old “uxa” acceleration method, you get something much smoother. I remember having tested that with the test command “gtkperf” (measure of time to display some test 2D structures), with time greatly reduced (something like 3 or 4 times faster).

                      I hope that could help other to make live old laptops with antiX !

                      If some other test that configuration with same success, it could be made easier in antiX (default conf when a very old intel graphics card is detected ? switch to be found in antiX control center ?)

                      Girafenaine
                      ----
                      Antix 19 - Fluxbox - Live USB stick and frugal / MX 19 - Fluxbox - Dell XPS 7590

                      #71379
                      Member
                      seaken64

                        Thank you @PPC. I have many of these old Pentium 4 systems. I’d be curious if you have success with antiX-21.

                        I am about to start installing antiX-21 on some of these. I currently have it installed on a P-III with 512MB RAM.

                        I recently installed MX-21-XFCE w/ FluxBox added. Running FluxBox I am getting similar results to what you shared here. On my system I have 3GB of RAM and a 3.2GHz P4HT. I can use Google Workspace but there is a little lag. After short delay to load up it does function fairly good. You just have to wait a little bit for the screen to update. I’m using Chromium for this.

                        HD TV (1080i and 720p) does not work well at all. But it will stream 480p just fine.

                        LibreOffice and Abiword work fine. Internet radio and DVD work, although trying to go full screen on DVD doesn’t work. This machine only has the old integrated Intel graphics so that is limited. It would be better with a discrete graphics card.

                        But, all-in-all I think this old machine could substitute for an every day office computer in a pinch. Not so good for personal entertainment, but office apps and browsing most websites works fine. I browse with FFESR, Chromium, SeaMonkey, Palemoon, and Otter-Browser.

                        Thanks again for sharing.

                        Seaken64

                        #71380
                        Member
                        seaken64

                          @Girafenaine, thanks for that tip. I will try it out on some old Intel systems.

                          Seaken64

                          #71418
                          Member
                          Girafenaine

                            Hello @seaken64, you’re welcome. I am curious about the results you could find with it.

                            Two more things :

                            – I have just tried with a Thinkpad X201, somewhat newer (2009 ? 2010 ?). Here results with gtkperf (all tests) are :
                            more than 8s with (default) modesetting driver
                            more than 6s with intel driver, uxa acceleration method
                            more than 4s with intel driver, sna acceleration method
                            Of course the result of such a test is not a good way to assess every day use. But as a first conclusion we can see that there are some differences for gtk displaying with display driver. And second conclusion, on a X201, sna is better than uxa.

                            – On antiX21 (and Debian 11) you cannot find gtkperf package in the repositories anymore. Probably too old a tool to be kept… but you can find the buster package here : http://packages.debian.org/buster/gtkperf. All dependances are met in a antiX 21 install, so you just need to install the package (with gdebi for example, or sudo dpkg -i package-path)

                            Girafenaine
                            ----
                            Antix 19 - Fluxbox - Live USB stick and frugal / MX 19 - Fluxbox - Dell XPS 7590

                            #71429
                            Moderator
                            Brian Masinick

                              Machine: Type: Laptop System: LENOVO product: 3249CTO v: ThinkPad X201 serial:
                              Mobo: LENOVO model: 3249CTO serial: BIOS: LENOVO v: 6QET66WW (1.36 ) date: 05/31/2011

                              --
                              Brian Masinick

                              #71431
                              Moderator
                              Brian Masinick

                                My X201 runs very well with antiX 21 runit.

                                No significant delay or limitations at all.

                                --
                                Brian Masinick

                                #71432
                                Moderator
                                caprea

                                  @Girafenaine, I like the idea of a switcher somewhere in menu or control-centre, MX uses one I believe.
                                  I also prefer the intel driver on an old lenovo T60 and a not so old T440 (2013). It’s the only way to get rid of screentearing. Because for me the “Option “TearFree” “true””line does not work together with the modesetting driver.
                                  I could not discover any advantages with the modesetting driver.

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