[Coco] OT Linux/m68k Was: Re: Sloppy decoding
jcewy at swbell.net
Tue Oct 31 00:22:19 EST 2006
I have 2 Quadra 840av's, 1 Quadra 660av, about 4 Q700s, a Q630, a
Performa 630, several Mac IIci's, a IIcx, and a couple Mac IIs. I
really, really have too many computers. That's just the 68K Macs, not
including the ones that would have no hope of running Linux.
I have Debian installed on 1 840av, had it installed on the other, but
it needs to be reinstalled, have recently installed it on the Q630, and
installed it once on one of the Q700s and installed Debian 2.2 on one of
the IIci's once. I really need to try NetBSD on one sometime.
X works pretty well on these machines, with a few glitches. Of course,
it isn't especially fast by today's standards. Gnome, and especially
KDE are pretty much useless. XFCE is almost usable on the Quadra 630,
but just a little too sluggish for daily use. I'm ditching that in
favor of Fluxbox, XTDesktop, and other stuff like what DSLinux
(http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/) uses -- though that brings up a
technical issue I'll get to shortly. My Q840av has ICEwm installed on
it, which is really not bad at all, though DSLinux has gotten me
accustomed to the spare functionality of Fluxbox. That's quite snappy.
A few years ago the framebuffer device didn't know how to change the
resolution and color depth for most of these Macs and you had to set
that in MacOS. But current framebuffers have more of that
functionality. (Progress on the Emile bootloader means you can almost
get by without MacOS now on these machines.)
The biggest problem I've had in X (aside from the general bloat and
slowness, and the fact that the Debian installer doesn't generate a good
XF86Config-4 file for Macs) is that, at least since Debian 3.0 (Woody)
(I don't remember this problem on 2.2 (Potato), but that was a while
ago) I get no key repeat in X. It's really odd. In the console I can
hold down a key and it'll fill the screen with wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.
But in X there is no repeat, even when the XF86Config-4 file is set with
explicit values for key repeat. Hold down a key and you get a single
letter, never more. The other little glitch is that when you hit Caps
Lock, Caps Lock comes on, but you have to hit it two or three more times
for it to return to normal.
Now, when I tried out XFCE on my Quadra 630, I could enable key repeat
in XFCE, and it was somehow provided by the window manager, or some
other part of the XFCE environment. But when I decided XFCE was too
slow for everyday work and switched to Fluxbox, my key repeat got
uninstalled with it. Not quite sure yet how I'm going to resolve this.
I just got some VRAM that I intend to put in a Q700. Unfortunately, as
you probably know, the Q700 uses 30-pin SIMMs for main memory, and
16-meg 30-pin SIMMs are like the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker -- perhaps not
extinct, but not likely to come my way any time soon. So the ones I
have all have 20M RAM, which probably isn't enough to run X + any
significant applications without swapping quite a bit. But what I
intend to do is see if I can make one into an X terminal for another 68K
Mac. 'top' says that xfree86 sometimes consumes up to 20% of the CPU
cycles on the 40MHz '040 in my Q840av. Add the window manager on top of
that and it becomes a significant load on the system. If I could
offload some of that work onto a Q700 and run the apps on a machine with
a faster '040 and more RAM I think I can boost overall performance
somewhat. I found a place where I could get Mac VRAM SIMMs for about $3
apiece (with about half-again as much for shipping...), so now I can
bring it up to 2M VRAM, which should make it a decent X terminal.
As for applications, I've found that Dillo is a nice little web
browser. I've built a patched version from source that is like what
comes with DSLinux, which adds support for frames and tabs.
Mozilla-based browsers do run on m68k, but are very slow to load, and
the ones that use the XML rendering engine to do the GUI have a
painfully slow interface, though once they have caught up with your
typing and digested the URL, pages load in finite amounts of time (at
least over my DSL connection). With sufficient RAM (e.g. the 128M I
have in my Q840av) one can browse around with Dillo in one workspace,
and Firefox in another. When you run into a page that Dillo can't render
properly, you can copy the URL and paste it into Firefox to see how it
really should look.
Sylpheed works well as an email app.
Rox-filer is a pretty good GUI file manager, but gmc, which has been
removed from current stable Debian, is even lighter and faster, but
still has good drag-and-drop functionality. I've used the Thunar
filemanager from XFCE on Xubuntu on PPC and x86 systems, but its
predecessor xfe seemed a bit slow to load up on my Q630. I've tried
Endeavour II on DSLinux, but haven't checked it out on m68k yet.
I like GQview for an image file viewer, though later versions are
starting to get a little bloated. The GUI in 2.0 is more sluggish than
that of 1.0, but it does allow you to pre-load the next image, which
seems to improve display times.
Ted is a good rich text editor, and SIAG Office is a mini-office suite
that is very usable on my Q840av. Haven't checked it out on the others
yet, but I don't see why it wouldn't work on them as well. It has a
word processor (Pathetic Writer -- which is actually very good, not
pathetic at all) a spreadsheet (SIAG, or Scheme In A Grid), an animation
program, a file manager, an animation program, et cetera. PW takes a
while to start up, but once running can keep up with my typing, which is
my main criterion for whether a word processor is actually usable or
not. Early versions of AbiWord were pretty good, but later versions
have become very slow. Even on a Pentium 133, in both Windows and
Linux, current versions of it have a problem with single-line scrolling
when you get to the end of a page being extremely slow. By contrast,
OpenOffice.org 2.0 on the same machine takes quite a while to load up,
but once running works well.
If I ever quit playing and experimenting with these things I'd like to
use a 68K machine to learn Lua, which is a lightweight script language
that generally runs much faster than Perl or Python. DSLinux uses Lua
with FLTK for its GUI administration and configuration tools
specifically because it's small and fast. So it should work reasonably
well on 68K Macs.
My overall verdict is that a stripped-down version of Debian, modeled
after DSLinux, with hand-selected applications, could be useful on 68K
Macs, but installation will have to be easier, administration tools need
to be developed in or ported to Lua/FLTK or something similar, and the
problems with the keyboard under X need to be worked out.
What's your experience with NetBSD?
Kevin Diggs wrote:
> Joel Ewy wrote:
>> I'm still doing "inadvisable" things with Linux, like installing it on
>> 68K Macs.
> What kind of 68k mac? I have a Quadra 700 with NetBSD on it. What is
> the state of X on whatever machine you have?
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