SUSE 10.1 on a low-spec machine

My laptop’s definitely not what you’d class as a high-performance machine by any modern standards. It’s got a celeron 400 processor, 128MB of ram and a 6gb hdd. This doesn’t leave much room for an operating system with all the bells and whistles - Windows XP is definitely off the list - I’ve been running Windows 2000 Professional on it for the past six months so I could do things like simple graphics editing of my photographs on the run, and coding in my spare time at work.

Since installing SUSE on my main desktop machine at home, and that I’m what some people would call an open source nut I decided to take the plunge and install Novell‘s latest offering: SUSE 10.1. Rather than using the stack-o'-cds install I went with the DVD install and for a ~2GB installed size it took over three hours to select what I wanted (KDE, base install and the laptop features) and install them.

Just to avoid a little confusion I’ll point this out right now - I’ll write this more like a mini-journal - writing things as they happen, rather than a proper article where all the findings are taken into account throughout the whole post.

Finalising the install it detected all my hardware successfully - including the built-in Toshiba softmodem and the Xircom 10mbit network card/modem combo thingy - which was nice to see. I got to the final part of the installer and it went to a black screen - it had been turning off the monitor after a set amount of time - and locked. Powering it on and off again got me to a graphical desktop and a working machine - huzzah.

It takes a little longer to start up than the previous windows install - something I’m used to with linux machines in general. The only time I’ve seen a faster startup was with a seriously stripped down setup running debian not long after the 2.6 kernel series was released. It seems that a lot of the automagical things that have been built into the linux startup in the past two or three years seriously slow down the process - something that I’m going to investigate optimising in the future - there has to be better ways to do things like this.

So far so good, it’s nothing special as far as speed is concerned, but KDE seems to be spritely to respond to opening windows and so forth - something that I was worried about considering the system’s specs. The K menu (like the windows start menu) takes a second or two to load - KDE loads the config each time you load the menu, so edits to the menu actually update on the fly, rather than GNOME‘s retarded need to restart the menu before updates take effect.

So, it’s time to work through the settings and kill off anything that’s going to slow down my machine. Anti-aliased fonts are really nice, but I think I’m going to turn that off - I can deal with a little “ugly” in the interests in a bit more “fast”. Icon animations are nice if you’re into the Fisher-Price school of interface design, another thing I don’t need when the cpu’s playing catch-up as it is. Goddamn this screen blanking thing is annoying - it doesn’t take into account mouse movements, needing a keypress before it realises that I’m sitting here trying to do something. The next item in KDE configurator was screensaver, disabling its four minute timeout will hopefully fix this. Nope, that wasn’t it - checking out the available themes and so forth, it’s gone blank again. Bah.

Desktop -> Window Behaviour -> Advanced gave me another hopeful speed boost - the ability to turn off animation during “shading” of a window - when you’re basically resizing it to just the titlebar. The “Moving” tab allowed me to turn off animated minimise/restore and also the KDE equivalent of “don’t show window contents on resize/move.”

Finally I’ve found the option that actually lets me delete things instead of sending them to the trash can in KDE - it’s hidden in KDE Components -> File Manager -> Behaviour. Tick the box that says “Show ‘Delete' context mnu entries which bypass the trashcan” and all will be well in the world again. The screen’s turned off again, I hope this isn’t going to be an ongoing thing…

Huzzah, another option to turn off display power management (there’s one in the KPowersave preferences that didn’t seem to do anything) under Peripherals -> Display -> Power Control. Dang, as soon as I hit apply to disable standby/suspend/power off after times, it went blank again - hopefully it was just a final “seeya” to that. Nope, did it again after looking at a few other things. Maybe turning off power management will fix it? Nope, there it goes again. Why are there three (so far) places to turn on and off display power management, but none of them seem to work? Gah.

I can’t seem to find anything on the internet about how to fix this, so it’s probably one of those “have to research for six months, then find the solution in a hidden hack or update” kind of things.

There’s a few basic games installed, which is nice - freeciv, frozen bubble and a couple of others - you have to have SOME sort of entertainment on your computer, and these are well-developed games from the OSS community.

People are turning up at work so I need to finish this off… and I’ve run out of things to try at the moment anyway - the last thing I have to say is that so far, it’s no worse than Windows 2000 to use, and there’s a bunch more things that can be done with it, so I’m happy 🙂