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 Forum index » Advanced Topics » Hardware
Puppy on a Rocky II RT686 military grade laptop
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Puppyt

Joined: 09 May 2008
Posts: 841
Location: Gatton, Queensland

PostPosted: Mon 02 Apr 2018, 01:17    Post subject:  Puppy on a Rocky II RT686 military grade laptop
Subject description: Pentium III coppermine, 512 MB RAM, base for music server etc
 

Quote:
“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

― Omar Khayyám

So enough with the waffle. I've reported on the forum ages ago about this particular machine, and felt it worthwhile to post an update on its use and the issues addressed in keeping it relevant for everyday functions.

rokytnji has been a real inspiration in tracking down issues on several online forums for this family of mil-spec laptops (his American Amrel version - there are others such as the Roda from Germany and mine is an Australian Opentec OpenFire Series II 461D. All use the RT686 base configuration).

LIMITATIONS:
Intel i430BX motherboard - 512 MB SDRAM limit (present), P III cpu (mine a 500mHz).
Onboard Opl3sa2/Yamaha - NeoMagic nm256 soundcard support dropped from the official Linux kernel around v2.1.6. [EDIT 12/04: I dunno what hat I pulled this detail from - early in my research, prolly confused "deprecated interface" or some such in my failures to get some Puppy2 and Puppy3-era kernels failing to register the soundcard properly. Works fine in most Puppy5 puplets. More to follow in later post in this thread]
Pentium 3 - 32-bit distros possible only.
SSE2 not supported, so Palemoon browser etc won't install.

On the plus side, I have the last-issue BIOS for this config (thanks rokytnji) so despite the USB 1.1, can boot from USB fdd/cdrom/zip/hdd *however* it skips my Yumi multiboot sticks. Haven't got it working yet. Looks like a job for PLOP on the CD.

Another plus is that while the original piddly 1.2G ATA hdd is on board, replacements such as CF cards, SD cards, a spare 128 gb ssd I have hanging around - are all available for upcycling.

CANDIDATES:
Dpup Stretch 7.5 CE (RC-2, retro kernel 4.1.48-i686-pae currently testing). Needs to have the op3sa2/nm256 modules re-included into the kernel, no soundcards currently detected.

Quirky6.1.2 or April 7.2.1 from BK... [UPDATE 05-Apr; Live boot dropped out before Xwin started: booting from YUMI multiboot USB with PLOP loaded first from CD]

Racy5.5 - Ninotix's last PRER 5.5 seems promising [UPDATE 05-Apr; live booted from yumi multiboot fine, looks great, responsive - but fails to recognise opl3sa2/nm256 soundcard]

Wary?? Have never actually used it...[UPDATE 05-Apr; live booted from yumi multiboot fine, looks great but fails to recognise opl3sa2/nm256 soundcard]

Precise 5.2.8.x... rewins' family of updates have always been a strong candidate for this - I'm hedging for Lupusuper4 at present. [UPDATE 05-Apr; Live boot of latest Lupusuper4 dropped out before Xwin started]

Precise 5.1.7retro minimal from csipesz in Hungarian Puppy team looks like it might perform well in this configuration. [UPDATE 05-Apr; WE HAVE A WINNER!! Kernel 3.2.48 (But I thought opl3sa2 support dropped before this one??). Doesn't have audio OOTB but skipping the nm256 module for either of the opl3sa2 modules listed GIVES AUDIO (listed twice for some reason - a common trait in all puppy/alsa wizard combinations I've tried). Csipesz' presets in PuppyRadio work and it's funky time, at long last]

214X - ttuuxx's top v.11 updated last in 2016 has most of the (then) mod-cons for productive networking. [UPDATE 05-Apr; Live boot dropped out before Xwin started]


If anyone has found a decent working/functional environment on similarly-restricted hardware, I would love to hear it,

Cheers Smile

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Last edited by Puppyt on Wed 11 Apr 2018, 19:45; edited 3 times in total
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Puppyt

Joined: 09 May 2008
Posts: 841
Location: Gatton, Queensland

PostPosted: Mon 02 Apr 2018, 01:17    Post subject:
Subject description: Configuration issues to consider
 

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD
A glib heading to explain a basket of additional details for anyone who might consider renovating a similarly-vintaged military laptop.

The RT686 (and its upgrade models RT686EX and RT786) were built around 1998-2002, and appear as fanless, unlabeled motherboards. The basic model is (was) made by different companies across the world - Opentec in Australia, Amrel in the USA, Roda in Germany, Toughnote/Terralogic in the UK etc. (A large company called MilDef has bought out Amrel, Terralogic and others in Scandinavia.) Might be a cost-effective option to Using the alumininum/magnesium alloy case for other projects, perhaps with a modern replacement motherboard equivalent (unusual form factor?). Caddy/cassette modules for batteries, hdd, dvd/cd/spare battery appear interchangeable between the various companies (e.g., Amrel, Roda and Opentec) and might provide a cost-effective route for after-market replacements - might even be compatible with very recent laptops still made by Roda, for example...

Apart from the usual hardware limitations from the Pentium era, the Linux kernel has dropped support for the opl3sa2 (Yamaha) / Neomagic 256 (snd-nm256) soundcard I understand is common for the RT686. Drivers can be manually added back into kernels from 2.3.x onwards (Puppy 430-era I think). I currently have no knowledge or expertise in that route. OOTB audio from Puppy 412 and earlier, I understand - though results may vary... and everyday web browsing is likely to be affected (no SSE2 support in those older CPU's, lets not discuss glibC and gtk etc evolutions...) And yet, working PIII RT686's with XP on board are currently selling for U$300 on eBay. What the?

Basic BIOS - not updated since 2003 AFAIK. Booting from USB (1.1) is enabled - but not natively through PCMCIA if you have USB2.0 etc. Even with FAT32-formatted boot sticks like I have been using (8GB), often the flashdrive is skipped in normal bootup. I haven't worked out if YUMI vs Unetbootin etc might be an issue. I have been working through using PLOP on cd to go back to booting flashdrives via PCMCIA.USB2.0 - however PLOP doesn't work with all pcmcia cards apparently, and perhaps there are differences depending on which pcmcia slot is in use.
I noticed that IRQ allocation for the neomagic audio card varied on bootup, depending on what "integrated peripheral" choices I tinkered with. Has not yet translated into a working soundcard OOTB yet in Puppy 5+ puplets, so I will go back to the earlier versions to see what results I *should* be getting.

UPDATE 05-Apr; with a spate of dropouts before xwin started properly for a few Puppy versions on my multiboot, I considered that my BIOS settings might not have been ideal. I had disabled UART1 and UART2 settings at some point earlier, in an effort to free up IRQ resources and have the soundcard drivers ample space to load without conflicts and oversights in the linux kernel when it loaded... just a theory. Anyway, went back to selecting "failsafe" configurations and the first Puppy that I tried thereafter (Hungarian PrecisePuppy571 k.3.2.4Cool had the soundcard working after using alsaconfig after bootup.

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Last edited by Puppyt on Tue 03 Apr 2018, 22:56; edited 2 times in total
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mistfire

Joined: 04 Nov 2008
Posts: 990
Location: PH

PostPosted: Mon 02 Apr 2018, 05:36    Post subject:  

You can try X-Slacko Slim
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Puppyt

Joined: 09 May 2008
Posts: 841
Location: Gatton, Queensland

PostPosted: Mon 02 Apr 2018, 16:14    Post subject:  

Thanks for the recommendation mistfire - I downloaded your latest/yesterday's iteration of Xslacko-Slim, and also the fdrv sfs to include for any additional drivers, cheers! Will report back later today, Best Wishes.

UPDATE: I've spent about an hour with it mistfire, and no joy with audio just yet. I've collated some lsmod/lspci outputs for reply on your thread, if it will help to spot any elephants in the room (oops hadn't included the fdrv with my earlier tests...)

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dancytron

Joined: 18 Jul 2012
Posts: 1152

PostPosted: Mon 02 Apr 2018, 17:13    Post subject:  

I have a substantially similar Itronix ix-250 GoBook, which is probably police or fire department surplus (military ones usually didn't have hard drives.) 512 Meg of Ram, P-III type Celeron 800 Mhz.

It originally ran (and still runs) Windows 2000. I've used a variety of puppies on it, the one that seemed the most successful was the original Lupu 5.28. Another thing that runs well on it is Debian Dog Squeeze https://debiandog.github.io/doglinux/zz00debiandogsqueeze.html .
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Puppyt

Joined: 09 May 2008
Posts: 841
Location: Gatton, Queensland

PostPosted: Tue 03 Apr 2018, 05:38    Post subject:  

Cheers dancytron - I recall that I actually *had* the RT686 working well with Puppy as an online music server, via a pcmcia wifi card, to international country music radio stations for my invalid mother-in-law. Can't remember what Puppy version/puplet I was using. I seem to recall that at the time I had the setup running on an SD card on an ATA adapter, and it ran really well with a set of amplified speakers from the headphone jack. It could well have been a 5.2.8 edition - I don't recall running into soundcard problems earlier, and here I've been chasing my tail: http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?p=699639#699639; http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?p=698051#698051 where I mention using Upup precise 3.7.2 and Lucid528 without kernel issues...

I did however uncover a similar project I was using for the kids and a library of DOS games. Boots into FreeDOS and a comprehensive games menu in about 13 seconds (would be quicker if I didn't include a choice to select JEMMEX settings to run intended games...). Not too shabby for a laptop approaching 18 yrs.

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Puppyt

Joined: 09 May 2008
Posts: 841
Location: Gatton, Queensland

PostPosted: Wed 18 Apr 2018, 00:13    Post subject:  

Project In Progress -
quick update - using MediaWary55 as a music server for the household. Haven't got the perfect "sweet spot" yet regarding a media player with ideal connectivity (e.g., multiple radio stations saved as a playlist in Deadbeef, pupradio pretty old and flakey etc etc). Pretty happy at present, although switching stations can be problematic. Still learning. It's a P III 500mHz gig, so maybe issues there too. Other puplets have since emerged as possible contenders/alternatives, testing those intermittently. Parallel interest in similar resurrection projects is also of interest e.g., http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=113179,http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=113180... the former with OP and contributions from newly-registered users on the Murga forum, too!

Shoutout to tuxtoo/darry1966 for the 412 collection https://412collection.neocities.org/index.html; https://sourceforge.net/projects/old412forever/; and the recent updates of darry19662018 on AnitaOS - which I have overlooked before now...

And this site would have been useful from the get-go: http://puppylinux.org/wikka/WhatpuppyLinuxisbestforyou

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