Linux on my Toshiba Libretto 100CT – i

Posted 2006.10.22 0.00 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

Recently, I blew the dust off an old sub-mini laptop, and decided to fire it up and make it useful again. It’s a Toshiba Libretto, model 100CT. This ‘laptop’ was made in 1998 I think. I bought it as a factory refurb, probably in 1999. It’s just bigger than a VHS cassette box. It has a 7″ SVGA screen, a keyboard that you can touchtype on if you practice a bit, a Pentium MMX 166MHz processor, and a maximum of 64MB of Ram. It takes normal laptop hard drives. If you saw it, you might think it was an oversize PDA but it’s not. It’s a real computer.

I’ve had it running Linux before, RedHat 7 I believe, with the X desktop gui. However, that was then, this is now. What seemed like acceptable performance back then is now grindingly slow today. In order to get a Linux GUI running in any way that would be acceptable, I needed a small, light Linux, that had low overhead requirements.

Don’t get me wrong, command-line linux is great. I spend most of my time in a terminal window, and that’s always damn fast. The problem is, I also like surfing while I work, so I want a graphical browser, which means I need a GUI.

My first thought of course was Ubuntu, or more specifcically, Xubuntu. Xubuntu is a lighter version, based around the XFCE Desktop environment. It’s designed to work better on older or low-end machines. So I installed it and gave it a whirl.

Xubuntu worked fairly well, and has the benefits of being a very modern, actively developed distribution. It has all the technological and philosophical benefits of Ubuntu. However…it was still slow as molasses as a GUI solution for my old Libretto.

While reading a website with some Ubuntu tutorials, I found a mention of Damn Small Linux – a distro designed for systems with limited RAM and older slower resources.

Damn Small Linux is a mostly modern linux distro, that was designed to fit a complete usable GUI Desktop Linux onto a 50MB mini CD. It’s ideal for older systems, mini-systems, embedded systems, and so on.

Now, one of the problems with the Libretto is it’s so small, it has very limited options in certain ways. No built-in floppy drive. No CD drive. It has a proprietary external PCMCIA floppy that it can boot from, but mostly the only boot option is the internal hard drive. So to try out the Damn Small Linux CD, I had to make a new hard drive partition, copy the DSL iso file onto that partition, and then use grub to boot from the partition as if it were a CD. Anyhow, it worked and I gave it a try. I liked it. There’d be some minor issues, but it looked to be about 90% perfect.

In the next installment, I’ll cover how I got Damn Small Linux installed on its own hard drive; how I screwed it up and broke the My-DSL tools that managed all the customizations and personalizations; and how I solved most of those problems and got things 99% perfect.

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