Archive for the ‘Installfest’ Category.


CPU's and Monitors, lined up for Frankenfest

CPUs and Monitors for the Frankenfest

It was Kevin’s idea.

At a PBLUG meeting held at Nova Southeastern’s North County campus in Palm Beach Gardens, he suggested it. Frankenfest?  What’s a Frankenfest?  Kevin explained it’s when people bring whatever computers or computer parts they have laying around to an event where you (those attending the event) build whatever you can from what you have.

Kevin had a motive.  He had a garage full of computers and parts, and his wife was not happy about it, but he couldn’t bring himself to just pitch them.

Of course we were intrigued by the idea.  Especially me.  I kept the idea alive by continually bringing it up to the group.  They, of course, took the bait, being Linux geeks.  We ended up with a plan, of sorts. We needed to do something with all the computers we were sure to build.  Laura came up with a group that would like to give away the computer systems to needy families for Christmas.  We needed a place to do it.  My library had fortuitously cancelled all programming for December, under the impression they would be closing, so a very large meeting room was available to us almost any Saturday that month (actually, almost any day in December would have been available, but Saturdays worked best for everyone).  We needed a Linux distro to install.  I suggested Kubuntu because I like KDE and Ubuntu seemed mainstream enough to be easy for the ultimate recipients to find books or help.

Resource: cables

Cables, anyone?

So we did it.  The Frankenfest was today.  We spent two hours sorting and testing what we had. We spent the next 4 hours trying to load Kubuntu on the best machines we had, since I had created a Kubuntu cheatsheet to give to the ultimate recipients.  We started with 7 candidates, from Pentium III’s to a 2.16 MHz box.  We ended up with three successful installs, two with Linux Mint on them, and one with Kubuntu.  Travelin’ Rob had brought the Linux Mint because it runs on anything, and he likes it.  He also promised to do a Linux Mint cheat sheet to give to the foundation to include with these systems they will be distributing.

We almost had one more Linux Mint box, but the install ultimately failed, probably because we tried to put a 160GB hard drive on an older machine that couldn’t recognize bigger hard drives.  One of the better machines we had didn’t like our RAM upgrade attempt, and didn’t seem to know how to operate without the three centuries worth of dust we removed.  As much as we’d like to think of ourselves as computer geeks, we’re really just linux geeks, and have lapses in hardware sense from time to time.  I had spent most of the last week getting screenshots of Kubuntu on my virtual machine, thinking that it would work exactly the same on a real machine.

Resource line 2: speakers and keyboards

Speakers, keyboards, and mice

But ultimately, I guess it was a “success.”  Three families will be getting awesome computer systems. Kevin cleared out his garage. We got everything cleared out by the time the library closed.  I finally learned everyone’s names.

Someone (Travelin’ Rob?) suggested we do it again.  I said, “Yeah, once a year wouldn’t be too painful.”  Someone else suggested we let one of the local stations know, because they would cover it and advertise it if they just knew in advance.  We actually had people walking in and asking if we were taking computer donations.  I looked around at the 20+ computers in various stages of usability, and said “No, thanks.”  I can imagine what a little advance advertising would do.  Of course, since Kevin’s now got his garage cleaned out, it might be interesting to see what we’d get from people dropping by to drop off their computers.

Yeah, I guess I’m hopeless.

Software Freedom Day 2007!

In between conferences and other fun stuff, I was persuaded to organize another Software Freedom Day locally. Last year’s event highlighted some of the disconnect between expectations and reality among the visitors. The expectation seemed to be that Linux could resurrect any machine: “Here’s my computer. It’s 18 years old, and I used to use DOS on it. Help me put Linux on it so I can use it again.” Needless to say, we were totally unprepared for that. But I have since found that there are a lot of people out there who think buying a computer should be a once in a lifetime event. Well, maybe I exaggerate, but not much! I think I’d better dust off the dinosaur distros for this year’s event, just in case.

Here’s our announcement:

  • The Palm Beach County Linux User Group is proud to announce its second SoftwareFreedom Day/Installfest as part of SoftwareFreedom Day 2007, the biggest international celebration and outreach event for Software Freedom globally, with hundreds of teams from all around the world participating. This year the Palm Beach County Linux User Group will be hosting the event at the North County Regional Library, 11303 Campus Drive, in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, from 10:00 AM to 12:00 P.M. on September 15, 2007. Google Map location is here.

    As part of the SoftwareFreedom Day celebration, the Palm Beach County Linux User Group will be giving away CD’s with free and open source software for Windows and Macintosh computers, including programs for graphics editing, browsing, word processing, anti-virus, e-mail, web editing, and games. Free CD’s of the popular Ubuntu Linux operating system will be available, as well as demonstrations of Linux, and assistance installing Ubuntu on personal computers. Monitors will be provided for those bringing a CPU to install Linux on.

    Stop by for giveaways, demonstrations, and to learn about Linux, a free and open source operating system available for any type of computer.

Unlike last year, we will probably get some curious people just from those passing by, on their way into the library. I wonder how many other libraries are venues for Software Freedom Day? It seemed like a natural to me (although it wasn’t my idea), since libraries are also in the business of open access, freedom, and making materials available for free (but for a limited time!). What’s really amazing to me is the sheer numbers of places all over the globe that are doing this.

More Dinosaur Linux options!

As I started unpacking the downloads to try one out, I went back to the sites from the last post to get install instructions, and came across some links for more distros:

  • BasicLinux: There is a DOS version that boots from DOS and requires only 3MB of RAM, and a floppy disk version (requires 2 disks) that requires 12 MB of RAM.
  • Giotto: This is no longer “supported”, but is available from its ftp download site. Development stopped in 2004, and moved to a newer distro, Ariane, which works on newer machines. Giotto, however, requires only a 486 processor and 16 MB of RAM. It looks like it requires some knowledge or experience, so I’d recommend checking out the Introduction and Installation files on the site (also available in the Docs2 folder).
  • AlfaLinux: A slackware version that runs on 486 machines with 8 MB of RAM (12 MB recommended. The basic caveat here is that Slackware is not for novices!

Linux Distros for dinosaurs

The Palm Beach County Linux User Group ran an InstallFest on Software Freedom Day, which was September 26 this year. The most successful marketing effort was to other computer user groups in the county, and several people from the Boca Raton Computer Society, in the south part of the county, and the PCRams, in the north part of the county, showed up. But a few of them brought some really old laptop computers which, amazingly, still worked! Unfortunately, I didn’t have any distros we could put on machines that old. The lowest memory one that I had on hand was XUbuntu, which requires at least 36MB of RAM. I think one of the laptops had 8MB of RAM, and another didn’t even have 1MB.

The dust has settled now, and I’ve been looking for something that will make an older machine more than just a print server. (I also happen to have an old Compaq which has only 32MB of RAM, so the search is somewhat self-serving). I came up with 5 possibilities (from combing through a search of minimalist distros on

  • DeLi Linux (from the website): a Linux Distribution for old computers, from 486 to Pentium MMX 166 or so. It’s focused on desktop usage. It includes email clients, graphical web browser, an office package with word processor and spreadsheet, and so on. A full install, including XOrg and development tools, needs not more than 350 MB of harddisk space.
  • University Linux (from the website): easily installed on almost any PC having 8 MBytes of free drive space and at least 8 MBytes of RAM. No hard disk partitioning is needed: University Linux can be placed on any DOS, Windows 3.1, Win98/95 or Windows ME machine without modification. With University Linux you can quickly create a dedicated TCP/IP server for your entire PC network.
  • SmoothWall Express (from the website): intended for use by anyone from a home user to a systems administrator. It can run on almost any PC from a 486 upwards, which becomes a dedicated firewall appliance (the SmoothWall box).
  • Freesco (from the website): Minimum install requires a 386sx 16 with 8mb of ram. 16+mb of ram is recommended for enabling servers. Basically turns an old machine into a fancy router.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be trying them out on my Compaq. I don’t have anything older to test them out on, but I may be able to hook up with another guinea pig! 🙂