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EasyOS 32-bit works on old Aspire 3681WXMi laptop

August 01, 2022 — BarryK

I posted yesterday, got 32-bit Easy to boot to desktop on my modern Lenovo desktop PC:

Today has been a pleasant experience. My old Acer Aspire 3681WXMi laptop has an Intel Celeron 32-bit CPU and only 512MB RAM. I bought it circa-2005. It has been in the closet for years.

I booted EasyOS on a USB-stick, and got a desktop, but lots of things broken. What I discovered is that it couldn't handle the "top level zram". I disabled that, went back to the old method of direct writes to the drive (that you can do via a checkbox via "save" icon on desktop), and everything came good.

Not enough RAM to juggle the extra requirement of the zram. The laptop has a swap-partition, which is required -- I checked and saw that it was being used.

Audio works, wi-fi works. Connected to the Internet, Firefox works and is surprisingly snappy. LibreOffice works, also surprisingly snappy. Really, this has given this old laptop a new lease of life.

Next up, I plan to put detection of RAM less than 1GB and automatically turn off "top level zram".

So, what are the lower-end specs that will work? I don't know if Easy will work lower than 512MB RAM, so set that as the minimum. The CPU needs to be 32-bit i686 -- 486/586 CPU is no good. The expansion bus needs to be PCI -- the predecessor is the ISA bus, and the kernel will not work with that.

I compiled the kernel, 5.15.57, for a single-core CPU, supporting 4GB RAM maximum. Also disabled EFI support in the kernel -- this is for BIOS computers only.

A potential shortcoming is Xorg does not have drivers for some old video cards, so it might have to fallback to the 'vesa' Xorg driver. The problem is that the source code for some old cards is not maintained and won't compile with recent Xorg and other libraries and headers. Anyway, my old laptop has Intel GPU and the Xorg 'intel' driver works.

Here are specs on the Acer Aspire 3681WXMi laptop:

I intend to release this 32-bit EasyOS in a day or two.   

Tags: easy