Speeding up my Linux Laptop

Linux Format Magazine Issue #72 had, appropriately enough, 72 speedups for a Linux computer. I really don’t need it for my desktop computer as it has a modern processor and 512 MB of RAM, but my laptop is a 600 Mhz 128 MB RAM geezer. The most important thing for me with the laptop is the startup time. I use it for pretty simple tasks since it is so slow and so I don’t mind perhaps giving up some ameneties to make it startup faster. After all, on a laptop, the longer it takes to start up, the less battery time I have to use when it’s up!
I chose the following speedups:

#7 – Switch off Graphical Boot

and, depending on how much that improves things,

#4 Boot into text mode

and, finally – although I use WindowMaker, a very light and fast Window Manager,

#13 mentions using FVWM – so I will check that out depending upon how much help the others give.

I don’t have a stopwatch so my way of measuring how fast things are going is to use the date command on this computer when I turn on the laptop then date again when it gets there. That shows the difference down to the second. So, let’s get started.

Original boot time before any changes (on a stock Fedora Core 4 install): 2 minutes 46 seconds from boot to GDM load where I can type in my username and password. Login time for Window Manager: 10 seconds so we’ll see how long FVWM takes.

Ok, so let’s switch off graphical boot. It says in LXF to remove rhgb from kernel lines in /boot/grub/grub.conf I will just comment it out instead of removing it. I decide it is better to just remove it, because of where it is in the command and just make a backup of the file in case something goes crazy. I made the changes and shut down the computer. I didn’t want to just reboot, in case that skips some step by already being on. So here we go!

Time without graphical boot: 2 minutes 41 seconds. Hmm…that wasn’t really much of a boost, now was it? Now, it DID take 20 seconds from the login prompt until GDM was booted up. However, when I use my computer on the airplane, it’s usually to watch movies, although ocassionally to do some programming. For now I will leave it alone and not do tip #4. However, I wll go ahead and see if I can find fvwm via yum. Didn’t find it via yum, but the main fvwm site has rpms. Only needed to download libstroke to satisfy the dependencies. Ok, that’s done – time to try this out.

Darn, it didn’t automatically update GDM. Time to go into the config files! How to do this:

1. Navigate to /etc/X11/gdm/Sessions

2. Add a file that contains:

exec /etc/X11/Xsession fvwm

3. go to /etc/X11/dm/Sessions/ and add a file there for fvwm, easiest to copy one of files there and modify it as necessary

In my sessions menu of GDM I have a LOT of Window Managers/Desktop Environments. The beauty of Linux is that it is fee as in beer to try as many different ways to experience your desktop as you want. My list is currently:









I must say that fvwm is the ugliest desktop I’ve ever seen! At least the default is. It’s nowhere near as nice-looking as a bare fluxbox. But, time to go back to gdm and see how long it takes to load. It took about 8 seconds, so only 2 seconds shorter than Fluxbox. I’ll have to work on customizing it later, but right now it hurts my eyes to look at it!

Author: Eric Mesa

To find out a little more about me, see About Me

2 thoughts on “Speeding up my Linux Laptop”

  1. Infidel! You have dissed fvwm by saying that it’s ugly!

    Well, yeah, it is, by default. You might want to look at FVWM Crystal, which makes it look more modern. FVWM is nothing if not endlessly hackable.

    I tend to prefer the default style, myself, except I use randomly selected wallpapers. I guess I like ugly.

  2. I may be doing something wrong, but I downloaded the RPM theme pack with a bunch of themes. Then I tried to switch themes which just caused my laptop to cough and wheeze, but nothing happened. I left it alone for 15 minutes – no change. Sure, the mouse was an egg timer, but nothing changed. Finally I just exited out. Since I was able to exit out normally, I assume the system wasn’t stuck. (Or maybe that’s my Windows mentality – if something gets stuck, the whole computer gets stuck) Anyway, as you may/may not be reading, I’ve been busy installing FC5 tr2. I’ll give fvwm another shot once that’s done.

    By the way, how did you end up at this site? (if I may ask)

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