Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Installing TinyMe Linux in Spanish on OLD Laptops

A Spanish Linux distribution on OLD laptops (PII with 128 Mb Ram or less)

Goal: To convert donated old laptops into a machine that can be used by University students in Honduras.

Hardware used:
Dell Inspiron 7000 (the brick)
PII 366 MHz, 128 Mb Ram

Base distribution: TinyMe 2008.0
After trying several base distributions including DSL, Vector, Ubuntu lite, Fluxbuntu, Puppy and more, I settled on TinyMe as the distribution that works more intuitively for uninitiated computer users with a decent base of pre-installed apps. None of the versions that were fast and intuitive enough had Spanish language as a real option. Trisquel mini -2.1 (currently in beta) had wonderfull Spanish language support, but was juat a bit too slow on computers with less than 128 Mb RAM. It is based on Xubuntu and I have installed it on an old PII with 256 Mb RAM on which it is sufficiently zippy.

Preparing the Hard drive: Ranish on SystemRescueCD 1.1.5, then manual setup
Because of prior linux installations on the computer, I was not successful in writing the operating system to the hard disk at first. So I wiped the hard drive using Ranish partition manager on the SystemRescueCD.

Installing: TinyME 2008.0 CD
I installed using English and most defaults (as Spanish language support is not included anyway). I partitioned the CD with ext3 mounted to root (/). I saved 300 MB (more than necessary) back for a linux swap partition.

Updating: Caution here
In my first and failed attempts, I tried to update everything, then upgrade and update everything. I even went to terminal and used the following commands repeatedly until everything was up to date: sudo apt-get clean, apt-get autoclean, apt-get update, apt-get upgrade, apt-get dist-upgrade. Each time either the system hung after rebooting or was very glitchy. Thus I learned constraint.

Setup network configuration using PCLinux Control Center network setup utility. No problems.

Language Packages:
Open Synaptic package manager & reload package information.
Search for locales-es and install. This also insalls locales & updates locales-en.
Install Aspell-es. This is the spell checker dictionary used by Abiword.

Changing Language:
Using the PCLinuxControl center(PCC)/Language & Region change language to Spanish.
In PCC/Hardware/keyboard layout change keyboard to Spanish.
Logout & back in for changes to take effect.

More Updates:
Audacious player was broken, so here is an attempt to fix it.
Using Symantec, update the audacious package, audacious-bin is marked for uninstallation
audacious-codes -- this is a metapackage and installes a bunch of individual packages and uninstalls some. This will also allow WMA and other playback.
Audacious was not working correctly, so I'll try another.
Install mpc & xfce4-mpc-plugin. This installs and updates various other packets.
MPC hung on a file download.... so moving on
Reinstall main Audacious package.....
Still does not work

Install a few games:
atomix - simple puzzle game
freciv - great game with code based on Civ2
Dosbox - My thinking... hey these old dos games shouldn't need too much memory
The following games for dosbox
sim farm (package dosbox-sim farm), constructor, ocean trader, warcraft
Atomix and freeciv work beautifully, but the dos box games do not work. Not interested enough to try and solve the problem so I will uninstall. Freeciv is even fully translated into Spanish!
At this point, I figure I have enough decent games to start with. Of course there is never enough from the perspective of a High School student, but the principle purpose of the laptop is for studies anyway.
Working games: FreeCiv, Atomix, Fifteen, Gweled.
After playing with the sound/music configuration (below) then rebooting, the Dosbox games are now working. They are working well. This adds Simfarm, Ocean Trader, Constructor and Warcraft as working games.
For fun, I am installing a few more dosbox games: Mario Teaches Typing, Stone Aage, Pinball World, Wild Science Arcade and Winter Challenge.

Installing some games and other applications produces an error that '/etc/xdg/menus/' does not exits. This has not caused any problems other than a required reboot for the menu to work correctly and I assume it is from TinyMe having a different menu system than expected.

Music Again: AlsaPlayer
Figuring music is pretty important to the high school & university students who will use this o computer. Tried installing cactus jukebox. I keep running into problems downloading the "libjack0" package, which was the same failed package when installing MPC. I installed the development version, but nothing changed.
I then tried installing Alsaplayer. This requires me to install the packages alsaplayer, libalsaplayer1 and for language support, alsaplayer-i10n.
Alsaplayer works great, but does not seem to have Spanish support or I cannot find the setting to change the language. I find out, however, that my sound card is not working.

Sound card:
Tried running alsaconf. This comes up with a sound card driver that does not work.
Upgrade alsaconf, for configuring sound cards. This also upgrades a few other packages.
remove Audacity and all its plugins. I verified that cactus jukebox was not installed.
After reboot everything worked like a charm! I now have the programs for sound: Alsaplayer, Asunder, Aumix

Spreadsheet: Gnumeric
There was no spreadsheet installed by default with TinyMe, so I installed Gnumeric.
I had to try a couple times for all the files to download, then I received an installation error about menu settings. However, when the computer came up, Gnumeric worked like a charm.

DVD Player: VLC
The computer comes with a dvd player, so why not try to install one of the smallest DVD player out there. Packages VLC and vlc-plugin-dvdnav -- come with various prerequisites.

Programs not installed:
Other small programs I would like to try on very old systems, but did not this time are:
Gnome Baker - a CD/DVD burning application
Geany - a lightweight development environment

Summary: Pleased
This old brick works pretty snappy. RAM usage is typically 40 to full with 0 to 50 MB swap used. CPU maxes out on Dosbox games, application starts and installs.
Used 1.04 GB Hard disk space.

Spanish language support is limited to individual applications, but I did not expect more. Fully updating & upgrading fixes this but breaks TinyMe. Perhaps this will be better in the future.

Applications installed is sufficient for a standard student.

Applications Installed:
Office - ePDFViewer, Gnumeric, Abiword
Audio/Video - Alsaplayer, Asunder, Aumix, VLC
Game - Atomix, Fifteen, Gweled, Freeciv, and Doxbox games ( Constructor, Ocean Trader, SimFarm, Warcraft, Mario Teaches Typing, Stone Aage, Pinball World, Wild Science Arcade and Winter Challenge)
For Graphics, settings, Network, accessories and System Tools categories, TinyMe already had great applications pre-loaded.