[If you don’t know who or what these (*) are check the Glossary page.]
Dellbert* is a rescue computer. My guess is that he’s about 14 years old. By today’s standards, he doesn’t have much computing horsepower. The thing that intrigues us about machines like Dellbert is that they’re free. Most of the folks who know us here at The Robotic Frog (TRF) know that we like tinkering with computers. A couple of times a year someone offers us an old computer that they just want to get rid of. It was fun collecting them until they came up on MsRoboFrog’s* radar. MsRoboFrog doesn’t appreciate our treasures (junk) as much as we do. We’ve negotiated a loose treaty with HER, the conditions of which are that when we bring a machine home, we get rid of a machine. We don’t think SHE knows about Dellbert and Old Blue yet, but in the spirit of upholding our agreement, we got rid of a couple of dead computers that we raided for parts.
Initially, Dellbert had 128 MB of RAM. We had no problem loading Debian 6.0.5 (XFCE GUI), Debian Testing (XFCE GUI), and Ubuntu 12.04 Server (LXDE GUI) even with this limited amount of memory. Interestingly, we were not able to get Lubuntu to load. Go figure. The distributions would load, but things were sluggish and there was a lot of disk swapping. Where things really came to a grinding halt was when we tried to get a browser working. Knowing that we were extremely short of memory, we decided to stick to lightweight browsers.
Our favorite lightweight browser is Midori. Midori wouldn’t run at all (even with 384 MB). Next, we tried Arora. At least Arora tried to run, but there was so much disk swapping that Dellbert was effectively locked up. Time for something really light. Our third try was Dillo. Dillo ran very well. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that we’re used to, but it was acceptable. As we searched the Internet for lightweight Linux browsers, we came across one article that surprised us. The article recommended Firefox. We assumed (you know what that gets you) that Firefox was a heavyweight. We simply hadn’t considered it, so we gave it a try. Firefox performed very well…and that’s the browser we’re using with Dellbert.
Memory, memory, memory!
Last time I told you that we raided an old, blue Candy-Mac for a couple of memory boards that…to our surprise…worked perfectly with Dellbert. Dellbert now has 384 MB of RAM (random access memory). Did it make a difference? You bet it did! Most of the disk swapping is gone and everything works faster. If you’re going to play with an old computer and you want to do one thing that will make a big difference…add memory!
The purpose of our two rescue computers is to determine whether old computers are of any practical use today. We’re using Debian 6.0.5 on Dellbert because it’s rock-solid and there aren’t a lot of updates. We’ve set up a LAMP (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP) server to experiment with hosting a web site. More about that another time. We’re working our way through a book on HTML and using Dellbert as our test-dummy. It’s surprising how well Dellbert is performing. We’ll give you a peek once we figure out what we’re doing.