Home > Linux > VectorLinux 4 against all odds VectorLinux 4 against all odds Eugenia Loli 2003-10-25 Linux 16 Comments The Slackware-based VectorLinux receives a review from MadPenguin. Read it here. About The Author Eugenia Loli Ex-programmer, ex-editor in chief at OSNews.com, now a visual artist/filmmaker. Follow me on Twitter @EugeniaLoli 16 Comments 2003-10-25 8:15 pm got a new life with Vector Linux, hooked up to a solar panel high up in the mountains . 2003-10-25 9:50 pm got a new life courtesy of Vector. It’s an old Compaq laptop that came with Windows 3.11, a 486 no less without a CD drive. I managed to do an NFS install and with a little research got every part of it up and running on Vector Linux 1.8. Nice to know that there are distros still out there for the old, obsolete hardware! And the Canucks at Vector are some nice folks. 2003-10-25 11:16 pm Now they should benchmark the same tests against Redhat9. That I would like to see. 2003-10-26 12:51 am I have been very happy with VL, it’s the only OS (other than FreeBSD 5.1) that installed on my Presario 906US laptop without major issues. Very fast, very simple. The only big drawback for the long-term is package management/dependency issues, they really need to work this out IMHO. Just my .02 2003-10-26 2:07 am I’m glad to see good reviews. I only joined Vector late in the 4.0 release candidate stage, but I can tell you these guys worked their tails off. With the solid base of VL 4.0, our next release should be incredible. Several of the problems listed in the review are easily solved by using the “vasm” configuration tool as we clearly state prior to logging in. Things like the cdrom, X configuration, mouse and more are easily setup. Several of the small problems the reviewer mentioned are being fixed right now. I was compiling part of the new installer when I found this article. New GUI based settings panels, packaging improvements and kernel tweaks are just around the corner. Any system from a 486 up through dual Xeons should run as efficiently as possible. Our own KDE 3.1.4 packages (amongst others) have been uploaded to our testing branch and are tweaked to run very fast, even on older hardware. The app menu integration should be done very soon. We take suggestions very seriously and have an unbelievable support forum. If you are new to Linux or just ready for a change, check it out. http://www.vectorlinux.com Mutiny 2003-10-26 2:57 am Hi. You wrote: Our own KDE 3.1.4 packages (amongst others) have been uploaded to our testing branch and are tweaked to run very fast, even on older hardware. The app menu integration should be done very soon. You have me curious now. How can you make it quicker than on other distros. Is it techniques like prelinking. Another thing, does Vector have swaret installed by default, and would it allow me to update to KDE3.2 if and when those packages become available? 2003-10-26 3:23 am Mostly it is careful CPU optimizations. The version reviewed was compiled for i386! Our next release will run on i486 or higher, however unlike the current version, it will auto select an i586 kernel for newer machines and all apps are optimized for i686 or higher. Prelinking will also be used on the next CD release. The overall speed of VL is mostly the fact that we test on slow machines and tweak it until it runs well. If you set up your own OS, then start tweaking everything so that you have a better selection of applications and minimal needed services you get fairly close to what a stock VL install is. Much of it is what we leave out. VL 4.0 doesn’t come with swaret installed, but it is available in our packages. You will need bc as a dependency though. You can get this from Slackware 9.0 but I am not certain if we have it on our server at the moment. I’m not overly impressed with swaret, so we are making our own package manager for the future. Usage of swaret is a little tough for what it actually does. IMHO, if you can use swaret, you can probably do your own dependency tracking. Mutiny 2003-10-26 4:11 am Thanks for the reply. I have a AMD k6-2 450Mhz with 384MB RAM and 4MB PCI Matrox Millenium II. So it will run good on these specs? Also you wrote… Our next release will run on i486 or higher, however unlike the current version, it will auto select an i586 kernel for newer machines and all apps are optimized for i686 or higher. Prelinking will also be used on the next CD release. So does this mean the kernel is the only thing that makes this distro work for older hardware say a 486? I am a bit confused with the i686 for apps. Does this mean it will still work with old hardware (i486) but won’t take advantage of the optimizations that only an i686 CPU can? 2003-10-26 4:45 am Vector should run great on those specs. KDE might be a little laggy, but still better than most other Linux based systems. One of our other lightweight WM’s might be a better choice. I can see how this CPU business would be confusing. When you compile apps, you can choose both what the minimum CPU and optimal CPU will be. We target a minimum of i486, so that it will run on 486’s or higher. Then we optimize the instructions in such a way that they fit the cache and execution units in newer CPU’s better. This allows use on older systems while giving you better use of the features in newer CPU’s. The kernel gets similar treatments, but there are specific features that only work on Pentium (i586) or higher CPU’s, such as SMP for use on dual CPU or Hyperthreading on newer P4’s. Therefore, in the next release I am checking for 486 CPU’s and using a special 486 kernel, if not, the default i586 kernel with the updated features is used. The kernel will be functionally identical as far as the OS knows, but performance on newer CPU’s will be much better than if it was compiled for an older CPU. As long as your CPU meets or exceeds the minimum requirements of all the apps and the kernel, everything will work fine. This seems like the best compromise until we finally stop supporting i486. Mutiny 2003-10-26 4:54 am I may have misled you about KDE on your system. I think KDE will run fine on your system, but another window manager such as IceWM or XFCE would make you think you just upgraded your system. Even if you use another window manager you can still run all the KDE applications. Mutiny 2003-10-26 5:09 am KDE on my system is okay. What usually bothers me (regardless of distro) is that it takes a while for apps to launch. I do not understand why if Linux stores almost everything in RAM, that if I close a KDE app window and then relaunch it, the app does not appear almost instantly. That really bothers me because I have been led to believe it has been cached. But that is not a Vector Linux problem, I think it is a KDE on older hardware problem, anything above 1GHz and KDE is much faster, almost like Win2k. 2003-10-26 5:16 am Also I forgot to mention an interest behaviour I noticed with KDE. If I am stressing my CPU in some way (compressing or untarring a huge file) KDE launches its app quicker than when the CPU is not stressed at all. Funny that. It might have something to with the kernel. About the Vector Linux kernel is it using some of those special patches that make things feel more responsive. eg. Con Kovilas patches. Where can I get this info. 2003-10-26 5:23 am Part of the launch problem is that KDE is built alot like most Win32 apps in that it relies on many small libraries that are reused over and over to build bigger applications. This is great for development, but as you say launch times suffer. The reason they seem slow to launch is that every time an application is opened, even if all the libraries are cached in ram, the OS has to look at the app to find out what libraries it needs, check to see if any are cached, or load them from disk. Faster CPU’s can do the library listing footwork quicker. Prelinking the libraries does the work of listing the libraries once and writes it down so that it is available nearly instantly each time you open the app in the future. Regardless of what distro you use, you might want to look for a how-to on prelinking. It can be done without recompiling the whole system and it really isn’t that hard, even for non-programmers. In fact, I think I saw a how-to here on OSNews a few weeks back. Mutiny 2003-10-26 5:29 am Not sure what is going on with the CPU load thing, but it could be something with the scheduler. I remember on the Amiga that if you moved the mouse around, some apps would actually run faster due to an odd bug/feature of the scheduler. The current VL kernel, as reviewed, is a completely stock Linus kernel built for i386. I plan to apply a few patches in the future if they prove stable enough. Alot of this information is not documented. But if you visit the Vector Linux forums we’re always happy to brag about it. Mutiny 2003-10-26 6:07 am Thanks for the informative replies. 😀 2003-10-26 2:36 pm Does Vector Linux support USB keyboards well? Slackware 9.0 according to some sources has problems on some computers with them.