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 Forum index » House Training » HOWTO ( Solutions )
Running modern Puppy in Low RAM systems
Moderators: Flash, Ian, JohnMurga
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jamesbond

Joined: 26 Feb 2007
Posts: 3292
Location: The Blue Marble

PostPosted: Thu 07 Mar 2019, 22:10    Post subject:  Running modern Puppy in Low RAM systems
Subject description: As of March 2019
 

Puppy has grown in size in recent years. Questions have been asked, how does this size growth affect the ability of Puppy to run on older computers. To answer that questions, I have performed a test to run modern Puppy on low RAM systems.

Running modern Puppy in Low RAM systems
---
1. Tested: Dpup Stretch 7.5 CE (RC-4) with k4.1.48-i686-pae kernel (341MB)
2. Test environment: Qemu 3.1 (note1)
3. Simulated environment: RAM 256MB, Harddisk 512MB (note4)

Steps:
---
1. Get the it from here http://murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=112125

2. Boot with pfix=nocopy (note2)

3. Boot with default video. Once inside, click "OK" to close the First Run wizard. Then click "OK" to close the Welcome message.

4. At this stage if you open terminal and run "free -h" you well see that only 61M is being used.

5. Run gparted and partition the harddisk to 2 partitions: 256MB for swap and 256MB for ext4. Then I mounted the swap using "swapon /dev/sda1".

6. I can comfortably run libreoffice and edit some of the reference documents I found from the ISO. However, I decided to save the session into a savefolder first.

7. During shutdown I was asked if I want to copy the SFS files to the disk, which I rejected (note3).

8. After I've rebooted, swap is automatically recognised, and the savefolder loaded. RAM usage still hovers around 60MB, no swap usage.

9. I launched web browser. The browser is already installed, I don't have to download first. The browser is Pale Moon. I visited youtube.com and watch a few trailers, in full screen, with sound, comfortably. The swap isn't even fully occupied (only about 128MB out of 256MB).

10. Web browsers are among the memory hog these days, so I'm quite confident that if I can run the web browsers with full screen video, most other every task will be fine too.

11. This is not to say I don't feel the memory pressure. I can definitely feel the swapping effect. The machine isn't as responsive, mouse clicks to start/stop video play back takes a while to respond, and pressing Esc to return from full screen also takes a few seconds to take effect. But the video playback itself is smooth, almost uninterrupted. Overall the impact is very minimal.

12. Of course, don't expect to do video editing on it. And don't expect to be able to open too many apps at the same time. But, for example, typing a document in Libreoffice and having the browser open for researching stuff at the same, is very workable. In fact I'm tying this in geany with web browser open in inside Dpup itself.

Notes:
---
1. The computer I used to run qemu (the "host" computer) is a 2012 i5 computer with 8GB of RAM. It is a 7-year old second-hand computer that I've got from gumtree. It's not exactly new.

2. Use pfix=nocopy if your RAM size is larger than the ISO, to tell Puppy __not__ to load its SFS into RAM (for RAM size smaller than ISO this is automatic). This way, you can use your RAM for its intended purpose - running applications.

3. I decided not to copy the SFS from the (simulated) CD ROM to the (simulated) harddisk because in Qemu both have the same access speed, and because I have only set up a 512MB disk. In real machines you may want to copy it especially if you have the space because generally harddisk is a lot faster than a CD.

4. Use a real harddisk. Don't use USB flash drive, SD card, of the likes. These flash memory devices (with exception of SSD) are __really slow__ devices. With low-RAM systems you definitely want to use swap, and you want to use the fastest device you have for it. If you have both USB flash drive and harddisk, and have to choose which one to use, do it this way: use your USB flash drive for savefile/savefolder, and use your harddisk for swap.

5. Why dpup-stretch?
- It's 341MB - a bit on the bigger side as far as Pup is concerned.
- It's very recent (Jan 2019 release).
- It's 32-bit.

6. I did similar test for Fatdog64. I couldn't get it to run comfortably with 256MB, but at 384MB I got more or less the same experience. See link here: http://murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?p=1020472#1020472

7. Finally: in case you forget, this is a simulated test done in Qemu. I don't have a machine with 256MB or 384MB RAM anymore. The performance I've gotten from Qemu is very likely to be better than performance in real low RAM machines (since, not only they are low RAM, but also has older CPU, which is also slower), so take them with a grain of salt. The point still stands, however, that even modern Puppy can still be used on low RAM machines, even if they do look bigger than before.

---

Two last words:
- This kind of test probably needs to be done every couple of years to confirm its validity
- Dpup Stretch is a nice looking polished Puppy that I won't mind using on my older 32-bit only computers.

____________________________________________

EDIT: I also tested Upup Bionic Beaver from here: http://murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=113244 which according to the post date is also dated Jan 2019. This is 260MB in size, and is also meant for 32-bit systems. The office suite is abirword+gnumeric (vs Libreoffice for Dpup Stretch); it's browser is Light (a derivative of Mozilla) (vs Palemoon in Dpup Stretch).

I used the same configuration and the same virtual disk - same swap file and sharing the same partition for its savefolder (but different savefolder for each).

All the previous notes applies, except for one thing: while I could get the same response generally for non-browser applications, once I start the Light browser the system becomes sluggish. This is because Light uses a lot more memory than Palemoon (as htop indicates). The system becomes sluggish due to swapping especially when playing video (I used the same youtube video). When I adjusted RAM up to 384MB, then everything becomes reasonably responsive again.

I'm typing this EDIT from UpupBB itself.

_________________
Fatdog64, Slacko and Puppeee user. Puppy user since 2.13.
Contributed Fatdog64 packages thread.

Last edited by jamesbond on Thu 07 Mar 2019, 23:18; edited 2 times in total
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s243a

Joined: 02 Sep 2014
Posts: 1561

PostPosted: Thu 07 Mar 2019, 22:21    Post subject:  

You post should be pinned for new users.

On another note, I was wonder if setting up a ram drive might help but only populating it with the files that use the most I/O (or maybe some raio of I/O usage to file size). To figure this out the kernal has to support iotop though. Maybe some script could be devised that would figure out witch files to populate said ram drive with based on the currently running processes.

P.S. I think choosing dpup strech was a good choice for your tests because I have found dpup stretch to have beter performance than many of the other newer pups.
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darry19662018

Joined: 31 Mar 2018
Posts: 376
Location: Rakaia

PostPosted: Thu 07 Mar 2019, 23:31    Post subject:  

Yes it would be interesting to have people with really old machines to give their findings on this thread.

I run Stretch on a Dell D620 and its pretty good on that. Though I have 2 gig ram it still has a pretty old processor.

Anyway added this to wiki entry here:
https://puppylinux.org/wikka/old_laptops
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jamesbond

Joined: 26 Feb 2007
Posts: 3292
Location: The Blue Marble

PostPosted: Thu 07 Mar 2019, 23:39    Post subject:  

s243a wrote:
You post should be pinned for new users.
Thanks. I'll leave it to Flash and others, if they think it is useful.

Quote:
On another note, I was wonder if setting up a ram drive might help but only populating it with the files that use the most I/O (or maybe some raio of I/O usage to file size). To figure this out the kernal has to support iotop though. Maybe some script could be devised that would figure out witch files to populate said ram drive with based on the currently running processes.
If you are on a low RAM system it is best to use all your RAM for your applications. Using them for a RAM disk will not help.

Another way which could help is to use "zram" as a swap device. "Zram" is compressed, so e.g. if you create a 64MB zram swap, to the system it would look like you have 128MB of swap, and this "swap" is actually still in RAM so it would be faster than swapping to harddisk. However, zram swap is still swap, and memory allocated for zram cannot be used directly by applications, so there is a cut-off where the benefit of doing so disappears. I actually tried this on my Fatdog64 test (see the link from the 1st post) and could not get it work either witn 256MB or 384MB situation (tried allocating 64MB and 128MB for zram swap). When you have comfortably enough memory (say 2GB), dedicating 512MB out of that for zram probably helps a lot; but when you're hard pressed for memory, it's better to use another device for swap and let RAM be used by the applications.

Quote:
P.S. I think choosing dpup strech was a good choice for your tests because I have found dpup stretch to have beter performance than many of the other newer pups.
I didn't know that when I started, and my choice was actually try to prove the opposite (Dpup Stretch being bigger than Upup, for example). I wanted to know what's the worst case RAM you need for large-than-normal Puppy. Your comment, however, motivated me to do another test with UpupBB, and true enough it requires more RAM to be reasonable responsive. I can point out the culprit: it's the Light browser.

darry19662018 wrote:
I run Stretch on a Dell D620 and its pretty good on that. Though I have 2 gig ram it still has a pretty old processor.
The wisdom from the old days is this: when your computer is slow, the first thing you "upgrade" is RAM, that is, add more RAM. Then (if you play games) get a better GPU. Upgrade the CPU last. I think it is still true today.

Aside, if your Dell D620 run Core 2 Duo: Core 2 Duo was one of the better CPU from Intel. It may be old but it is certainly capable (I used to have a laptop with that CPU too).

Quote:

Anyway added this to wiki entry here:
https://puppylinux.org/wikka/old_laptops
Thanks.
_________________
Fatdog64, Slacko and Puppeee user. Puppy user since 2.13.
Contributed Fatdog64 packages thread.
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p310don

Joined: 19 May 2009
Posts: 1375
Location: Brisbane, Australia

PostPosted: Fri 08 Mar 2019, 02:13    Post subject:  

Quote:
7. Finally: in case you forget, this is a simulated test done in Qemu. I don't have a machine with 256MB or 384MB RAM anymore. The performance I've gotten from Qemu is very likely to be better than performance in real low RAM machines (since, not only they are low RAM, but also has older CPU, which is also slower), so take them with a grain of salt. The point still stands, however, that even modern Puppy can still be used on low RAM machines, even if they do look bigger than before.


I have an old clunker in the garage that would suit testing for usability beyond just ram usage. I think it has 512, but maybe 256mb ram. P4 processor of some kind, maybe single core, maybe ht core.
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darry19662018

Joined: 31 Mar 2018
Posts: 376
Location: Rakaia

PostPosted: Fri 08 Mar 2019, 02:27    Post subject:  

[quote="p310don"]
Quote:
7. Finally: in case you forget, this is a simulated test done in Qemu. I don't have a machine with 256MB or 384MB RAM anymore. The performance I've gotten from Qemu is very likely to be better than performance in real low RAM machines (since, not only they are low RAM, but also has older CPU, which is also slower), so take them with a grain of salt. The point still stands, however, that even modern Puppy can still be used on low RAM machines, even if they do look bigger than before.


I have an old clunker in the garage that would suit testing for usability beyond just ram usage. I think it has 512, but maybe 256mb ram. P4 processor of some kind, maybe single core, maybe ht core.[/quote

It would interesting to see how Stretch fares and Slacko 572CE and the new non-pae version of Buster.
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