Need advice

Bill Schmitt (SW) software at
Sat Sep 11 02:37:10 PDT 2004

I'm a newbie to FreeBSD, and I like what I've seen so far. I've been 
trying it on a machine I have here to get an idea of the plusses and 
minuses of using it as a basic desktop system. I could use a little 
advice to guide me in the process.

I'm working with Version 4.10 now, simply because at the time I 
downloaded it, the 5 release kept locking up in the middle of the 
detection process. Also, my configuration seems to indicate that I 
should be using XFree86, too, and a lot of the comments here have stated 
that 5 will begin the use of xorg. However, xorg doesn't seem to support 
the graphics adapter on the machine I'm working with (though, tweaking 
XFree86 has been a bit of a challenge!).

The machine I'm working with is a Gateway with a 300MHz PII that had 
otherwise been retired. It started with 32MB of memory which I replaced 
with a single 128MB chip. The motherboard has a built-in graphics 
adapter that was put out by a company called Mpact, which doesn't appear 
on any support list I've been able to find. Apparently the company was 
acquired by somebody, who was then acquired by somebody else (ATI, I 
believe) which then retired the processor. Because of that, when it 
didn't work right away I didn't put too much effort into it. Instead, I 
added a Diamond Stealth 2001 I had with the Arklogic 2000pv chip set and 
2MB of DRAM (from another retired machine) and used xf86cfg to create a 
configuration file that disabled the onboard adapter and worked with the 
Stealth adapter. While I'm not done tweaking it, I have managed to bring 
up xfce at 800x600 in a low color mode, so far. I intend to try out the 
various desktops and Window managers I've seen documented but chose xfce 
to start because the comments here have generally indicated that it's a 
good choice for a light, speedy, environment to begin. I did a full 
install of FreeBSD, beginning with a minimal system from a CD, then 
switching to FTP to continue, which seems to give me more options to 
choose from. I used xf86cfg to get to the point where I can where I can 
use xstart to bring up xfce with the a basic desktop on it. First, I got 
it working with the basic VESA driver, and then with the ARK driver. 
However, While I don't expect the machine to be a speed demon, it still 
seems quite slow in comparison to the MS Windows versions (95 and ME) 
that had previously been on the machine (I did a completely clean 
install, so there are no Windows components, or anything else, left on 
the drive).

Considering all of that, my questions are:
- Am I being unrealistic in choosing a machine with a 300MHz processor?
- If I add another 128MB of memory, should I expect to see a dramatic 
- Could the graphics adapter itself be the bottleneck?
- If I picked up a newer graphics adapter that was supported by xorg, 
would a switch to 5.x and/or xorg be expected to pick up the speed a bit?

Thanks to anyone who might help fill in the blanks.


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