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Advice for miniature live system


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#1 MedEvil

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Posted 29 December 2006 - 08:37 PM

Hi everyone!

I come from the dark ages of live systems and lived quite happily there until now! :P

I send a friend, who lives... let's just say in an area where boxes with 'decent' computing power are a sight seldom seen (read never! :P ), one of my loved DOS Boot-CDs.
Everything worked fine for him except that, he kept having problems downloading drivers, cause more and more manufactures homepages don't work without JavaScript. :P

So i thought, maybe it's time after all to move on to something windowly? :P

I would love to build him a new live system, which should have the following features and would like to get your suggestions. I thought it would be way smarter to ask you profis which OS to use, as to invest lot's of time, just to find out that it can't be done with the one i choose.

Feature the new live system should have:
- run on 'every' computer not just a specific one
- use least amount of resources (slow CPU, little or less RAM :P maybe with temporary creating and using a swapfile?) (Space on CD doesn't matter, as long as it still fits on a CD. :P )
- be able to network (LAN and MODEM)
- a browser with JavaScript support has to be available (I think all Windows versions have that.)
- screen resolution of at least 800x600x16 (high color) has to be possible, true color would be even better
- has to be able to handle VGA as well

OK, i can see everyone asking, what exactly is a slow CPU and little RAM?
If the live system needs a Pentium class CPU and at least 32MB to work, it's allready way to big.

Thanks for your help
MedEvil


PS Hope i chose the right thread for my question, if not feel free to move it.
PPS: If this is the completely wrong forum, tell me where to go and i'm out of your hair! :P

#2 wendy

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 07:46 AM

Many operating systems will give a "live cd-rom" boot, such as OS/2, Windows 9x, &c. You can get BartPE to run with minimal resources. I ran it on a machine with 64 MB ram, for instance.

For lesser power: try Windows NT4. It doesn't boot live from a cdrom, but it runs in quite small space.

Windows 9x is the best shot here. It is a good comprimise between compatability with modern software and limited resources. An 98lite-version of 98SE can run quite nicely in 16 MB, and there are useful instructions on how to cull Windows 98 for running on a cdrom.

Some of the older Linuxen will also fit the bill. The newer ones tend to assume more resources than what ye be suggesting.

#3 asiekierka

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 11:02 AM

About Windows 98: I have a generator for Mini version, along with customizer.

And my server core fits somehow requirements. 17mb, some of network drivers, PNP, etc...
but:
- No browser (OffByOne Browser should be OK, but i don't know if it supports JavaScript)
- No audio
- Done using WinBuilder (HEY! That's a good point!)

#4 MedEvil

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 05:19 PM

Hi wendy!

Many operating systems will give a "live cd-rom" boot, such as OS/2, Windows 9x, &c.

Have never toyed with OS/2, but Win9x systems don't give a live-CD-ROM.
The only live-CD system from M$ is PE. Or do you mean something different?

You can get BartPE to run with minimal resources. I ran it on a machine with 64 MB ram, for instance.

I already checked with WinPe from M$ and it works fine on computers with at least 32MB RAM.
So i think, that's the value that should be beat. :P
Though no idea if this is possible when a browser should work or how small the CPU can be!

For lesser power: try Windows NT4. It doesn't boot live from a cdrom, but it runs in quite small space.

Sorry, but i fail to see the point of mentioning NT4, if it can't run off of a CD. :P

Windows 9x is the best shot here. It is a good comprimise between compatability with modern software and limited resources. An 98lite-version of 98SE can run quite nicely in 16 MB, and there are useful instructions on how to cull Windows 98 for running on a cdrom.

Yes, Win9x looks good at first, but is there a general video driver for it except that terrible VGA one that comes with it? How does one get around the problems with the registry?
Each and every approach to build a Win9x Boot-CD, i've read about on the net, was always only about creating a Win9x Boot-CD for a specific computer and most even wanted to 'lift' a whole HD-image into RAM or the result could not even be called a Windows anymore. :P

Some of the older Linuxen will also fit the bill. The newer ones tend to assume more resources than what ye be suggesting.

Yes, but i could only sent him, as i already did, a CD as it comes of the net, as i don't know the first thing about the internal workings of Linux.

My initial idea was Win3.1 as it fits the system requirements perfectly, does not have any problems running of a CD and i could set it up quit easily to do whatever i want, do to the large dependency on DOS. :P
The problem is, as far as i remember, that there was no VESA or decent SVGA driver for Win3.1.
That wouldn't have changed, would it?

#5 MedEvil

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 05:26 PM

About Windows 98: I have a generator for Mini version, along with customizer.

And my server core fits somehow requirements. 17mb, some of network drivers, PNP, etc...
but:
- No browser (OffByOne Browser should be OK, but i don't know if it supports JavaScript)
- No audio
- Done using WinBuilder (HEY! That's a good point!)


No OffByOne Browser can't do JS, just as all the other small independent browsers.
An old IE, Navigator or Opera seems to be the most likely candidate.
Where can i find your 'generator'? I assume it is a script?

#6 asiekierka

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Posted 30 December 2006 - 08:36 PM

It's BATCH script.

But i forgot where i had it.

#7 MedEvil

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 12:55 AM

It's BATCH script.

But i forgot where i had it.

*lol* Well then, happy hunting! :P

See you next year!

#8 wendy

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 09:48 AM

It really depends on how extreme you want to go.

For example, if you have OS/2, you can build a boot session (off cdrom etc), that is relatively tiny. The OS/2 install will quite happily run at acceptable speeds from an OS/2 gui, installed in a ramdrive in memory. http://www.xs4all.nl/~hrbaan/

Windows XP can be made into a BartPE session, using the bartpe setup program, and "plugins", including things like video drivers, browsers etc. You can set the thing up to run as a kiosk mode thing (ie with no hard drive), or to run off a hard drive in its own partition. It does not write to the hard disk in any case. http://www.nu2.nu/

You can get DOS/Windows 3.1 to run off a floppy disk, but to run just one application, loaded by the shell= command. The video driver is vga.drv. I had to create one for sol.exe. I had a version of Windows 3.1, that could save settings to a floppy, the floppy disk component was something like 14 K, while the ramdisk bit was 150K. This was what i used on an 8 MB-ram system.

Windows 9x can be set to run from a cdrom + ramdrive, by dinking some of the settings. I had a version of it running on a laptop somewhere, but it was a tad extreme in what it removed. However, look at the site like http://www.litepc.com/ for tales of windows 9x cut down to run from 16 MB ram etc, complete with IE browser.

Wendy

#9 MedEvil

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Posted 01 January 2007 - 02:44 PM

It really depends on how extreme you want to go.

Well, i thought i pointed that out in my initial post. :P
And it's not 'want' but 'have'!

For example, if you have OS/2, you can build a boot session (off cdrom etc), that is relatively tiny. The OS/2 install will quite happily run at acceptable speeds from an OS/2 gui, installed in a ramdrive in memory. http://www.xs4all.nl/~hrbaan/

Have never toyed with OS/2, but the thing with running it off a ramdisk, sounds like it would need more than 32MB RAM to work, doesn't it?

Windows XP can be made into a BartPE session, using the bartpe setup program, and "plugins", including things like video drivers, browsers etc. You can set the thing up to run as a kiosk mode thing (ie with no hard drive), or to run off a hard drive in its own partition. It does not write to the hard disk in any case. http://www.nu2.nu/

Yes, PE sounds great. Lots of people working on a wide variety of versions. The needed browsers exist, a decent svga driver is available too, but can it meet the hardware requirements, do you know that?

You can get DOS/Windows 3.1 to run off a floppy disk, but to run just one application, loaded by the shell= command. The video driver is vga.drv. I had to create one for sol.exe. I had a version of Windows 3.1, that could save settings to a floppy, the floppy disk component was something like 14 K, while the ramdisk bit was 150K. This was what i used on an 8 MB-ram system.

The problem with Win3.1 is the stupid vga.drv. It's good enough for a lot of things, but not when you use a browser. 800x600 is already to small these days for easy browsing, but still usable.
But with 640x480 and only 16 colors thats masochism! :P

Windows 9x can be set to run from a cdrom + ramdrive, by dinking some of the settings. I had a version of it running on a laptop somewhere, but it was a tad extreme in what it removed. However, look at the site like http://www.litepc.com/ for tales of windows 9x cut down to run from 16 MB ram etc, complete with IE browser.

Yeah, but those a custom builds and they are not telling anyone how they do it. I only know, it isn't done with LitePC.

Wendy, as much as i appreciate your help, could you please read my initial post for the requirements of suitable candidates? Those are are not 'like to' values, but 'have to' values. Any OS not being able to meet all of them is absolutely no candidate!

#10 wendy

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 07:26 AM

Many of the modern operating systems assume you will have something like 32 MB ram or a pentium already.

If you are using older hardware, ye may need to go to an older version of software.

Both early versions of OS/2 and Windows 9x will quite happily run in 20 MB ram, on a 486. I even ran Windows NT4 in such an environment. Running these off a cdrom (ie a live system), is going to make things somewhat slower.

PEKO was a 20 MB + 486 dx 66, it ran DOS, OS/2, Windows 3.1, Windows 9x, Windows NT4. The larger systems showed some slowness due to paging, but i made a 9 MB version of OS/2 3.1, that ran quite nicely in 20 MB, and was used mainly for cutting cdroms.

My last computer 'PORKY' was a 16 megabyte + pentium 120 machine, it ran quite happily with a stripped down version of Windows 98, coupled with IE 6.0

Many of the older browsers etc do not support the latest versions of java or javascript.

There are of course, several things you can do to 'tune' an OS to running in a smaller environment.
  • Use a less-resource intense shell, eg nu2menu. Windows 2.x made its mark as a sub-layer for programs launched from the DOS prompt.
  • Run fewer applications at the same time.
  • Use character-mode programs, and scripts, to avoid video redraws. Something like fcw.exe runs a lot faster than even the GUI equivalant NC/Win or Windows Commander. 4DOS is quite handy in this regard.
  • Remove wall-paper, and some memory intense systems. Lots of colours might look good, but they chew memory up. Using 16-bit colour drivers with Windows 3.1 used to drive it crazy.
  • Remove unwanted services, tsr's etc. The art of optimising DOS was there for good reason: people tried to run a lot of stuff on DOS.


#11 asiekierka

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 03:39 PM

The problem with Win3.1 is the stupid vga.drv. It's good enough for a lot of things, but not when you use a browser. 800x600 is already to small these days for easy browsing, but still usable.
But with 640x480 and only 16 colors thats masochism! :P


I have SVGA driver for Windows 3.x.
Installer is 1,02 MB, but most of it are fonts.
SVGA.EXE.

Yes, PE sounds great. Lots of people working on a wide variety of versions. The needed browsers exist, a decent svga driver is available too, but can it meet the hardware requirements, do you know that?


Mine Server Core uses ~17MB of ram, with CMD & CAD_TRAP.
Without them it'll use <16 MB of ram, which is suitable i think.

#12 MedEvil

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 06:11 PM

On DOS-Boot Floppis and CDs i use Arachne-Browser. No idea how small the RAM can actually be, but it runs perfect on 4 MB. And can do hicolor VESA modes, complete with switching while browsing.
In generell i would like the same, just with JS. I know i will have to throw some RAM in, to make it work with other OS. But 16MB should really be enough. :P

The problem is though, that it seems that there is better use of available technologies in DOS, than in the other outdated OS.
VESA video drivers being the most prominent one.
From what i've read in the last couple of days, there seems to be no VESA video drivers for Win3.x, Win9x or WinNT. :P
Do you know if there is one for OS2? Especialy the early, little ones?

#13 MedEvil

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 07:16 PM

I have SVGA driver for Windows 3.x.
Installer is 1,02 MB, but most of it are fonts.
SVGA.EXE.

Have that one too. Can only do 256 colors if it works at all. Most of the time it doesn't. :P

Mine Server Core uses ~17MB of ram, with CMD & CAD_TRAP.
Without them it'll use <16 MB of ram, which is suitable i think.

That sounds usable, when used together with a pagefile. What do you guess would it need with network support and a browser?

#14 asiekierka

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 08:03 PM

I think the same, since it already has software for network, just add drivers :P
But while loading, it'll use ~24 MB.
I can do HDD version with pagefile for you.
or CD version where you can set pagefile on HDD.

#15 MedEvil

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 10:24 PM

I think the same, since it already has software for network, just add drivers :P
But while loading, it'll use ~24 MB.
I can do HDD version with pagefile for you.
or CD version where you can set pagefile on HDD.

Would you? Oh, a CD version with pagefile on HDD would be great. I could run it on my old 486 and see how it performs.




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