ConnochaetOS 0.9.0 provided the most trouble free installations on the subjects that I have encountered. When attempting installs of modern Linux distributions on these old Compaqs, trouble is commonly found in three areas: sound, video, and pcmcia wifi. Wifi and sound worked “out of the box”; video came up 800×600 while 1024×768 is the desired resolution. It was simple and straight forward to put a properly set xorg.conf in /etc/X11. I have read that you can get a working xorg.conf file by doing “xorg -configure” and then perhaps editing the resulting file. But, since I had a working file, it was easiest to copy it over. I've found that the “Shell link” facility of mc is very convenient for pulling in files from other computers.
There are quite a few stumbling blocks (all addressed in the forum, I believe) to getting a ConnochaetOS install working well on a network. But the basic install is as smooth as I've seen. For my use, I needed to enable sshd, wicd, and cups daemons; that was a bit of a problem but the solutions are documented in the forum. I've previously used Ubuntu up to about 6.10 on these laptops. Since about 2006, Ubuntu has become too bloated to run in ~200mb. I am in the process of putting ConnochaetOS on 10-15 of these laptops. They make great internet terminals; I also use one as a print server and one as a remotely controlled music player. See: http://www.connochaetos.org/forum/topic.php?id=1573
A little background on this line of laptops: The 7400 and 7800 were improvements on the older 72xx and 73xx. The 72xx and 7400 have an external power brick while the 73xx and 7800 have built in power supplies. Therefore, the 73xx and 7800 are thicker and heavier than 72xx/7400. Batteries, power supplies, and drives are interchangeable between 72xx and 7400 and between 73xx and 7800 but not between 72xx/7400 and 73xx/7800. Optical and floppy drives from 72xx/7400 can be used in 73xx/7800 but do not fit tightly in the bays. The CDROM drives from all these models will generally not reliably read CDR media. That is, if you burn a CD you will not likely be able to install from it with the common drive. I have one CD burner drive that does read CDRs reliably and I use that drive for all my installs.
All the models have two memory slots that can take up to 128mb modules. The 7400 has no onboard memory while the 7800 has 32mb. Maximum addressable memory is 256mb so a 7800 with two 128mb modules has 32mb that is not addressable. For that reason, I tend to put 2 128mb modules in 7400s but only 1 128mb and 1 64mb in 7800s; with that configuration, total memory is 128+64+32.
The 7400s and 7800s were offered with processor speeds of 266mhz, 300mhz, 333mhz and 366mhz. There may be a few 400mhz floating around but they are rare. 72xx and 73xx came in 166mhz to 266mhz, as I recall. Working 72xx and 73xx are now very rare since leaking BIOS batteries killed many.
72xx and 73xx had no USB. 7400 and 7800 have single, non-bootable, USB ports.
As the number of desktop PCs and laptops with low-specs (especially low RAM) is pretty fast decreasing, I want to give a hint on the potential of ConnochaetOS usage in thin clients. Usually these machines have RAM < 512 MB, many different ports (USB, video, ethernet,…) but no hard disk. I bought an Igel 4210 winstra for very small money (12 € including shipping ) ) with the following specs :
What I did to get ConnochaetOS running on this machine :
first I removed the CF card and added the harddisk from my “late” Toshiba 4000 CDT laptop. It didn't boot with the “normal” initrd - image but gave an error “unable to determine major/minor numbers of root device xxx”. So I tried the fallback kernel and it worked for me. Now I run
mkinitcpio -g <new_initrd-image>
and moved the created image file into the boot directory and finally edited my menu.lst for grub accordingly. Now the thin client booted with the new “normal” initrd image.
The second (and so far the last) modification I did was the creation and modification of an /etc/xorg.conf file to be able to use a 1024×768 resolution instead of the automatically choosen 1280×1024. Don't worry – the 1280×1024 resolution works very good, but personally I prefer larger icons, fonts etc.) . Actually, I used also an extra line with
xrandr --output default -mode "1024x768"
in a $HOME/.icewm/startup file, which has the same effect. However, I'm not very happy with the fonts I got with this resolution and the openchrome video driver. So, I decided to test the fbdev driver instead. It gives better fonts, but has strage color effects on some applications (not so much with the browsers but with the PDF-viewers for example).
The driver setup and usage remains a playground for further improvement.
To summerize my experiences so far : The thin client runs pretty perfectly with ConnochaetOS. It is fanless (the main reason for the purchase) and has a power comsumption of less than 20 W. One should not expect too much from the graphics device but it is okay for usual non-multimedia usage. However, to tell the truth : I neither read the openchrome and Xorg wiki or man manpages, nor spent a lot of time on testing and hacking around… . The IGEL offers also an PCI slot; perhaps it is suitable for an additional graphics card, but I didn't test this.
For me this a one of the most promissing fields for low-specs GNU/Linux distris such as ConnochaetOS.