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STX Linux: A second life for older hardware

By Marcel Gommans on June 02, 2006 (8:00:00 AM)

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Creator Michael "STIBS" Stibane calls STX Linux "a desktop Linux distribution especially targeted to older hardware." I tested version 1.0 of the Slackware 10.2-based distro on an old laptop with a 300MHz Celeron processor, 80MB of RAM, and a 4GB hard disk. I found this young distro for old hardware has promise.

Installation, using a text-based installer, is easy and fast. You have to select (and if necessary create) the partitions you want to use, after which STX installs all of its included packages on your system. There is no option to select individual packages. After that, you can install LILO, and you are ready.

While the installer found all my hardware, it failed to set up my PC Card network adapter. I found the solution on the STX forum (which is currently absent while the STX site undergoes a redesign). As it turns out, STX does not start PC Card services by default, because when you use old hardware, you do not want to run stuff you do not use. I was able to solve the problem by making /etc/rc.d/rc.pcmcia executable. I also needed to run alsaconf to get sound, but that was the only other glitch.

When the installer finishes, you are ready to start working with STX. STX's Equinox Desktop Environment (EDE) resembles that of Windows 98 or 2000. It is very light, but complete. In this early version, sometimes one of the icons moves to the upper left corner when I selected it, but that was the only minor glitch I discovered. I have one suggestion to improve version 2.0: I would stop using a separate menu for user-installed packages and combine the "programs" menu with "user programs." And it would be nice if you could remove a menu entry from the "programs" menu.

One unique and valuable tool is the beautiful and easy-to-use STX Control Centre, Michael Sheldon's tool for configuring an STX box. Here you can manage users, install software, configure your network, add a printer, or change your screen resolution.

STX comes with a nice set of packages that work well on older hardware. TextMaker provides a word processing application with good Microsoft compatibility. You can work on your spreadsheets with Gnumeric. Imendio Planner gives you project management capabilities. All these packages ran fine on my old laptop.

You can surf the Internet with the Mozilla browser, and check email with the Mozilla mail client. Chatzilla and Gaim provide chatting and instant messaging. Included are gFTP and the D4X download manager. You can browse a Windows network, and there even is a Web site composer available. XMMS and gxine let you play audio and video files, and Graveman lets you burn CDs and DVDs.

STX comes with a selection of simple games such as solitaire, Minesweeper, and Mah Jongg; don't expect spectacular 3-D games. In the graphics section you can find a PDF and an image viewer. The GIMP is available for editing photos, and Inkscape lets you create SVG drawings. STX provides XSane for using your scanner and flPhoto to connect with your digital camera.

All these packages except the GIMP run well on older hardware. The GIMP is included anyway because there is no good lightweight alternative. Altogether, it is a fine collection with which the average user can do all his computer activities.

Of course you can add packages, but you have to be careful; you can't simply add Slackware repositories and start slaptgetting stuff. STIBS advises getting the packages you really need from LinuxPackages and installing them using the local software option in the STX Control Centre. I tried downloading OpenOffice.org 2.0. It installed fine, but it was unusable on my system because it needed too many resources.

STX comes with USB hot-plug support; simply hook up your USB storage device and click on the icon.

Even though my laptop has only about 80MB of RAM and 128MB of swap space, I was able to run several programs at the same time without issues. Sometimes the applications need some time to start up, but after that you can work just fine.

STX is a young distribution with potential, but it has some clear room for improvement. I would prefer to be able to use repositories without breaking the operating system, for instance. But STX looks great and works well. The Windows look and feel makes it easy to use for people new to Linux. Upcoming features planned for a future version include a graphical installer.

STX development has slowed down because STIBS has found paid work, but there's no reason you can't give an old computer another chance with STX as it is.

Marcel Gommans is an IT manager from the Netherlands who discovered Linux more than six years ago.

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on STX Linux: A second life for older hardware

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Re:But Slackware already runs on old hardware

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on June 03, 2006 05:05 AM
Yes it does, but not everyone (meaning those that *aren't* very familiar with linux) is capable of or wants to go through the process of installing Slackware and then optimizing their install for light hardware.

STX gives you a nice light install without having to go through a Slackware install and delete what you don't want/need or installing just the bare minimum and building from there.

As far as it being "redundant" compared to the "real deal", then you can say the same of, Ubuntu, Mepis, Mandriva, Damn Small Linux, Knoppix, Vector, CentOS, etc, etc, etc. When you get down to it, all those (in fact most these days) distros are just derivitives of an even older one. Slackware it's self started life as a patch set for SLS linux remember<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:D

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Re:But Slackware already runs on old hardware

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on June 04, 2006 12:09 AM
lol vlsimpson<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... my 66 y/o dad got it installed on his box with very little (I mean nada of shell) Linux knowledge and very little help by me (once or twice as I remember). If that would be possible w/ Slack<nobr> <wbr></nobr>...<nobr> <wbr></nobr>;-)

Marcel, thx for the article<nobr> <wbr></nobr>...<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/me waves

STIBS

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Re:But Slackware already runs on old hardware

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on June 05, 2006 11:09 PM
I think if the STX Linux is easier to install than Slackware (I've tried installing slackware and it can be frustrating) then STX Linux serves a real world purpose for getting older hardware to a point of usability again. While I enjoy technology and learning, I would like to see Linux start to shine as an operating system for all. I get tired of hearing people complain because someone is expected to know the ins and outs of the system. I think that Linux in general has serious potential for widespread open desktop use, and it would be nice to see the end of bigotry and bickering about issues concerning Linus use. I will try this TSX Distro and see how easy it is to use for a newcomer. I think that if STX Linux is an intuitive, easy to use product, but yet provides the tools for a power user (CMD line access, compiling, etc..) then it serves a valid purpose and the developer should be praised for his/her efforts and not flammed, slammed, or criticized.

Thanks to all the developers that make intuititive open source computing possible.

John Rogers

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Re:But Slackware already runs on old hardware

Posted by: Administrator on June 03, 2006 05:28 AM

Point taken and acknowledged. (I knew I was gonna get slagged, just not
from which direction.)

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Re: alsa configuration

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on June 03, 2006 09:52 AM
alsa is *not* a glitch. it is the *way* sound is set up if you use the drivers supplied by the kernel period. As a result, I'm wondering about your level of capability with linux as you didn't know that.

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Re: alsa configuration

Posted by: Administrator on June 04, 2006 04:41 AM
I know all about alsa. And I do not consider it a glitch (although it could have been part of the installation). But an article never gets published exactly the way we writers put it on paper. The editors do a great job improving the quality. But when you change a text, sometimes the meaning of the edited text slightly differs from the original phrase.

Marcel Gommans

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DSL is a good alternative

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on June 06, 2006 01:29 PM
As a slackware addicted I tried it on a pentium 100 with 32 megs of ram, but I found DamnSmallLinux more usable on that kind of hardware: also firefox can run with no sweat<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:D

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Slax as another good alternative

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 12, 2006 01:10 PM
For those who are looking for ease of use in a LiveCD other than DSL, Slax Popcorn edition offers another Slackware based option aimed at older hardware. For an autostart version tweaked toward low-end hardware usability, check out the 120MB<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.iso file and support notes for SimpleSlax at <a href="http://scattershot.wickedtribe.org/" title="wickedtribe.org">http://scattershot.wickedtribe.org/</a wickedtribe.org>

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But Slackware already runs on old hardware

Posted by: Administrator on June 03, 2006 04:54 AM

I am not attempting to denigrate the effort the developer expended
putting this system together but Slackware itself runs quite well on old
hardware.



I've been running slackware-current on a 486 with 28 megs of ram and a
120mhz laptop with 65 megs ram for quite sometime.



I have X Window System running on the 486 with wmaker as window manager.
Yes, it is slow to startup but once it gets going, I can run GNU Emacs, the
dillo webbrowser and a couple of xterms no problem. Response is a little
sluggish but not intolerable.



The laptop was a rescue job with a 500meg harddrive. No X but I have
Apache, PHP and mysql installed and am quite happy piddling around with that
in console mode. I'm posting this comment from lynx on the laptop this
moment. And before someone tells me to get some new hardware, feel free to
send me a big pile of cash and I'll be happy to oblige. (I'm kidding, it
doesn't have to be a big pile.)



I can appreciate the work that goes into such an endeavour (I've tried my
hand at Linux From Scratch) but distributions such as this are redundant
considering the Real Deal(TM) is more than up to the task.

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