Tips for Improving Performance on Ancient Kit

Forum Forums General Tips and Tricks Tips for Improving Performance on Ancient Kit

  • This topic has 0 replies, 1 voice, and was last updated Nov 5-7:17 am by SamK.
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    This is rescued from the defunct antiX forum for the benefit of new users who cannot access that old forum and others who might not have seen the original topic. That post was written to help a user who wanted to run antiX on an ancient system that had very limited hardware.

    Original post dated Wed May 11, 2016
    Author SamK

    With antique kit it is still possible to get a usable and useful system. There are usually two main limiting factors, the capability of the system and the way in which it is used. If you keep these in mind it is surprising what can be achieved.

    The following is a non exhaustive list of ways to optimise performance. They are general things to consider and the balance between them will probably differ machine to machine.

    Things to think about at a system level

    • Run antiX installed in the conventional way to hard disk. It makes better use of physical RAM than running live from CD or USB. On old kit with slow USB ports disk read/write is often faster than USB read/write
    • Check the BIOS to see if it is possible to adjust the amount of RAM shared with the video card/chip. Setting this to the lowest value you prefer can often free up more RAM for your system to use for other tasks
    • Use one or more swap areas. Combining a disk based swap with a zram one can produce a worthwhile increase in performance. Additionally, adjusting the way in swap space is used can make a difference to the system responsiveness. This post might be a starting point: ZRAM Swap Activation
    • Switch off all services you will not use e.g. CUPS if printing is not required. Think also about disabling WICD services and configure networking via Ceni. Bluetooth might not be needed etc… These will release memory for other tasks. They are just ways of making best use of limited system resources
    • Try an older antiX kernel, they can be better suited to older kit. The 3.7.10-antix kernel works well on older systems

    Things to think about at a user level

    • Use a lightweight desktop. Any of those shipped with antiX are excellent in their use of resources
    • Use lightweight apps. Most of the apps shipped with antiX are fine, but some may place a heavy load on the system and quickly degrade performance. If you think about it, partnering a lightweight OS with heavyweight apps on old kit, is an obvious mismatch that will lead to disappointment. An inappropriate choice of web browser can be major culprit in exceeding the capability of your kit
    • Make best use of the available system resources by closing apps you have finished using
    • Consider slightly modifying the way you perform you daily tasks. This can have a big impact on the performance of your system. Try to avoid using the kit in the way you would use more modern powerful kit. For example loading up a heavyweight web browser to watch a Youtube video is not the only way to view it. Small changes in operator habits can pay big dividends
    • Monitor the way in which your system uses its resources. Conky can be useful, but note it takes a small amount of RAM and is usually covered by other windows so is not easily seen. Try the CPU and network monitors in the taskbar of IceWM as alternatives that are always on view.

      Be realistic in your expectations. antiX partnered with lightweight apps, combined with sensible use, can produce worthwhile results. It will never produce performance to equal a new modern powerful system, but you might be surprised at what can achieved. Incidentally a lot of enjoyment can be gained along the way.

      Just to give a tiny bit of perspective, here the following laptop is in daily use for non demanding uses. Because of its age, it is also regularly rebuilt as a test bench to provide a reference point of what antiX can do. It was manufactured in approx 1997,

    • 384MB RAM
    • single Celeron CPU 1295Mhz
    • 2 swap areas (swapfile + zram) totalling 727MB
    • kernel 3.7.10-antiX.8-486-smp

      By todays standards this antique kit has a very low spec. It is still capable of displaying a Youtube video with the window opened to fit the screen width. It plays completely smoothly without any form of juddering or jerkiness and sound and vision are in sync. All with approx 50% CPU load. Not too shabby for an antique. It was done with this video from dolphin_oracle, and shown in Streamlight which ships with antiX.

      Thu May 12, 2016 12:42 pm #40
      Quote masinick
      @SamK: Great suggestions for getting good mileage out of older systems. I had a pretty old desktop system, a Dell Dimension 4100 that served me really well from 2001-2009.

      The systems I have now range from 2007 to current vintage, so I don’t have as many needs to reduce system usage, but on the old Dell I used to use over half of the techniques that you suggest. What I can tell you and others is that antiX has worked really well across a broad range of systems and releases. By default you give up a small amount of conveniences compared to the big, fancy, resource grabbing systems and their powerful, good looking applications, but you seldom give up the ability to do a thing, even with the standard tools and applications – and if you are missing something, you can simply install it, and that’s the real value of the antiX infrastructure – it’s light by default, but very flexible and extensible, just the way that I like it!

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