Tuning for very little RAM

Charlie Kester corky1951 at comcast.net
Wed Jan 6 17:21:09 UTC 2010

On Wed 06 Jan 2010 at 04:25:31 PST Bill Moran wrote:
>In response to Da Rock <freebsd-questions at herveybayaustralia.com.au>:
>> Its been a while- work's has been keeping me very busy for months now.
>> I have revived an old laptop which has very little RAM, and it is
>> absolutely hammering the swap.
>> I'm trying to set it up as a demo for some skeptics with no money, so I
>> need email, internet (with plugins), openoffice, acrobat, and wine.
>> Aside from all that though, for the academics of it how can I help this
>> situation? The laptop has around 100MB RAM, with 16k free, and has a new
>> install of FreeBSD 8.0.
>The most obvious thing to do is reduce the number of running programs.
>Go through /etc/ttys, for example, and disable all but one or two consoles,
>and edit /etc/rc.conf to disable anything that you don't need on the
>system (possible sendmail, syslog?, etc)

The other most obvious thing to do is to look at the apps you're running
and see if there are more lightweight alternatives.

If I had to run a machine like that, I'd probably want to avoid X
Windows altogther and go console-only.  But it sounds like your
"skeptics" won't let you do that.

Assuming you have to use X, you'll want to avoid heavyweight desktop
environments like KDE or Gnome.  I like tiled window managers like musca
or dwm myself, but your skeptics will probably want a more traditional
window manager (aka MS-Windows clone) like xfce or openbox.

When you say "internet (with plugins)" I think you mean Firefox.  If
this isn't a hard and fast requirement, take a look at some of the more
lightweight browsers like Midori, Kazehakase or Arora.  (I'd recommend
even more lightweight alternatives like surf or elinks, but I don't
think your skeptics will approve.)

Same for OpenOffice.  There are alternatives to each of the apps in the
OpenOffice suite that might not have all the same bells and whistles,
but will run in much less RAM.   

For some ideas on which apps to try, look at the apps bundled in some of
the Linux distros that target small machines.
http://bengross.com/smallunix.html has a good list of these distros.

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