Posts Tagged ‘old computer’

How to configure old ISA sound card on Debian / Ubuntu / Xubuntu Linux

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

isa old soundcard make work on Debian Ubuntu Xubuntu Fedora GNU / Linux
If you happen to install a modern GNU / Linux distribution to a relatively old computer hardware with an ISA non-PNP (Plug and Play) soundcard it will be not visible neither among PCI devices list with (lspci) command nor in USBs list (lsusb). Thus with ISA cards, the way to configure a 16 bit SoundBlaster is via a special kernel modules snd-es18xx and snd-sb16 which thanksfully is still existent even on latest Linux distros. Without this two modules enabled in the kernel trying alsamixer command will be unable to launch the mixer as the soundcard is not detected on run of /etc/init.d/alsa start – ALSA enabling boot script – loaded during the system enters runlevel 2.

For one time test of sound card driver, I tested by running:

manastir-pomorie@manastir-pomorie:~# /sbin/modprobe snd-es18xx
manastir-pomorie@manastir-pomorie:~# /sbin/modprobe snd-sb16

On enabling enabling the sound card via above two drivers on the speakers – volume raised to Loud a kind of beep sound was heard, this led me to thoughts now it might work. Before testing the sound in running Youtube Video with sound in Firefox, I launched alsamixer to see if volume settings for SoundBlaster are not muted. Not surprisingly they were set raised to lowest level as you can see on picture:

alsamixer xubuntu configuring isa old sound card on deb based distro

After raising the volume level for PCM and testing in browser thanksfully soundblaster worked fine.
To make the two kernel modules making the ISA card work, I added the modules to /etc/modules

manastir-pomorie@manastir-pomorie:~# echo 'snd-es18xx' >> /etc/modules
manastir-pomorie@manastir-pomorie:~# echo 'snd-sb16' >> /etc/modules

Even after restarting XUbuntu sound drivers gets loaded. Though I tested this on Xubuntu as Xubuntu is Debian based, same kernel module should be working fine on Ubuntu and Debian. The exact Xubuntu version and kernel on which the ISA card worked is;

manastir-pomorie@manastir-pomorie:~$ cat /etc/issue
Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS \n \l

manastir-pomorie@manastir-pomorie:~$ uname -a;
Linux manastir-pomorie 3.2.0-38-generic #61-Ubuntu SMP Tue Feb 19 12:20:02 UTC 2013 i686 i686 i386 GNU/Linux

Share this on

How to configure Matrox Graphics MGA G200 AGP on Debian and Ubuntu Linux

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

I just had to configure a Matrox Graphics MGA G200 AGP on a very old computer installed with Xubuntu 12.04. The Graphic card is not automatically detected and Xorg Linux server automatically runs X without generating any config in /etc/X11/xorg.conf after Xubuntu install. By default Linux uses the VESA driver for running X, the problem with VESA is it is very slow in videos and is only good for text reading and simple browsing. For watching video and Youtube, one needs to install the custom Video card driver on this host the Video card was identifying in lpsci as:

user@oldhost:~$ lspci |grep -i matrox
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: Matrox Graphics, Inc. MGA G200 AGP (rev 03)

In deb package repositories, there is a special xorg MGA driver suited to run MGA cards, thus to use it I had to first install it with:


user@oldhost:~# apt-get install --yes xserver-xorg-video-mga

For allowing card to normally watch movies – you have to have installed a special video driver which is to be lated built from source:

user@oldhost:~#  apt-get -b source mga-vid-source
user@oldhost:~# dpkg -i /usr/src/modules/mga-vid/debian/mga-vid-source_2.6.32-1_i386.deb

There is also special program to test if MGA video driver is installed and work correctly mga_vid_test. To have it installed and use it you have to be running on 2.6.x Linux kernel cause it is a bit of old software plus it is necessary to have installed mga-vid-common i.e.:

user@oldhost:~# apt-get install --yes mga-vid-common

I did a quick research online for other people who faced similar problem and found in Ubuntu Forums the following MGA G200 recommended xorg.conf
Below config was little modified by me as by default it was configured to run in 1280×1024 in 24 bit depth color. Usually 24 bit color is high for old cards, plus the resolution of 1280 seemed quite high for this piece of old iron, so I decided to use the better suiting old computers 1024×768 in 16 bit color depth.

Share this on

How to speed up Linux Flash Player videos in Firefox on old Computers

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Firefox browser cache variables to tune for better Flash player performance Linux screenshot

If you happen to run old Computer hardware with lets say 256 or 512 MB of memory, a CPU of 600-800Mhz and a small hard disk like 5 / 10 GB and you need to have Flash Player on Firefox play Videos in Youtube and Vimeo with as less obstructions as possible, it is useful to take a look and try tuning up browser caching values, to do so type in URL Address Bar


iceweasel about:config Iceweasel Firefox about:config screenshot in URL address bar

Then search for;


Iceweasel Firefox browser cache screenshot Debian Gnu Linux screenshot tiny

Raise (tune up) the values for:

browser.cache.disk.capacity 1048576

Try to raise this value with 50% (524288), (1048576 + 524288) = 1572864.

By default, as you see

browser.cache.disk.enable is set to false

Try to change it to true, as this might have positive effect on flash video buffering and thus improve a bit experience.

browser.cache.disk.smart_size_cached_value 358318

Again it is good practice to try raise it with 50% and test if Flash Player performs better. I.e. (358318/2) = 179159, (358318+179159) = 537477. Hence raise it too lets say 358318. I give the 50%, example because the cache size on Firefox (IceWeasel) will differ depending on the browser version Linux distro and architecture.

There are few other caching, variables to tune, though I doubt if they will have impact on Flash Player performance it is good to know they're there. To see all Mozilla caching variables in Search filed, type "cache". One other non Flash Player performance related variable to check and tune is:


In time of writting on my Firefox ver. 18.0.1 it is set to 5242880.
I'm looking forward to hear if this little tuning tips helped improve Flash Player. If you happen to have some positive impact on Video flow, please drop a comment with Linux distribution type and version, Flash Player version and changed caching variables.
Hope this little post helps. Happy tuning 🙂

Share this on

how to set Youtube default to use Adobe Flash player – fixing weird problem with youtube displaying videos using HTML5

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013


Youtube change html trial to Adobe Flash Player - how to change Youtube videos be played with Adobe Flash Player

I'm just coming from being a guest to dear friends. They're having a bit old hardware PC running Windows XP and some old ATI Radeon model video card. A video was played in youtube so I noticed the video is displaying very slow. The PC hardware was good enough to play videos with no delays and image chops, so I give it a check.
My guess was something is wrong with Video driver and to make driver is installed okay I take a look in:
Control Panel -> System -> Hardware -> Device Manager

For my surprise there all was fine, so my next guess-es were:

  • Mozilla Firefox Browser is out of date
  • Computer resolution is set to too high for the old video adapter hardware
  • Something is wrong with Adobe Flash Player
  • Computer has Viruses or Spyware loading CPU creating the video lags

I check Mozilla Firefox and it was latest version; Help -> About Firefox As of time of writting Firefox 18.0.1 The computer Monitor was a huge 21 inch LCD HP display and Windows was configured to display on a very high resolution ;

1280×1024 (32 bit Colors)

I've earlier, seen old Computer hardware creating similar video delays and chop issues with Played videos thus to see if this will solve the issue lowered down video resolution 1024×768 with 16 bit color depth.  Video continued to be showing slowly in every few seconds and display "choppy", so I excluded it as cause.

To make sure something is not wrong with Flash Player, I check in browser about installed plugins by typing in URL Address bar;


Very surprisingly the Flash Player was not installed! I hurried and install – googling, "install flash player" and following the trivial install procedure.

Then I give Firefox a restart and tested video with Alexander Nevsky Russian Movie (which btw is an interesting one to see for people who value art and history). The movie chops continued, I checked Flash version clicking on the video again just to determine, weirdly still Youtube was displaying videos usiong HTML5 (WebM) format!

I check once again if flash player is properly installed in about:plugins and weirdly all seemed fine I had on the PC properly working installed Adobe Flash 11.x.x. Now this was weird ?

For a first time I had a situation, where even though I installed Flash Player, Youtube continued to show videos using HTML5 WebM (open source video format). Now I should say I'm a big fan of HTML5 and open technologies, so HTML5 is great, the only problem is it still not production ready so for ordinary user Flash Player is still better – Flash's video buffering is much better, its compression is better, it is less buggy etc. etc.

It took me a bit of pondering Why Youtube was showing videos in HTML5 instead of using the Installed and working Flash Player?? After about 5 minutes of googling, I came to conclusion the person who fixed their Software, some months before had on purpose choose Youtube to be displayed with Experimetnal HTML5. I was not sure how to check if HTML5 is set as a default player in Youtube, so looked on the net, The page to change it is found by googling for "youtube html trial".

The URL to tune this as of time of writting is on;

youtube change html trial set youtube to use adobe flash player screenshot pciture Windows


I had to click on;

Leave the HTML5 Trial  – to stop using experimental Youtube HTML5 support

After a FF restart and lowered resolution to 1024×768 in 32 bit color depth, video started playing nice & smoothly 😉

Share this on

How to disable PC Spaker on Debian and Ubuntu Linux

Sunday, May 13th, 2012


How to disable pc-speaker on Linux / PC-Speaker Old Desktop Computer picture

A PC Speaker is helpful as it could be used as a tool for diagnosing system hardware failures (different systems produce different beep sequences depending on the machine BIOS type).
Using the instructions for the respective BIOS vendor and version one could determine the type of problem experienced by a machine based on the sequence and frequency of sounds produced by the SPEAKER.
Lets say a hardware component on a server is down with no need for a monitor or screen to be attached you can say precisely if it is the hard drive, memory or fan malfunctioning…

Generally speaking historically embedded PC Speaker was inseparatable part of the Personal Computers, preceding the soundblasters, now this is changing but for compitability sake many comp equipment vendors still produce machines with pc-speaker in.
Some newer machines (mostly laptops) are factory produced with no PC-SPEAKER component anymore.
For those who don't know what is PC SPEAKER, it is a hardware device capable of emitting very simple short beep sounds at certain system occasions.

Talking about PC-Speaker, it reminds me of the old computer days, where we used pc-speakers to play music in DOS quite frequently.
It was wide practice across my friends and myself to use the pc-speaker to play Axel Folly and other mod files because we couldn't afford to pay 150$ for a sound cards. Playing a song over pc-speaker is quite a nice thing and it will be a nice thing if someone writes a program to be able to play songs on Linux via the pc-speaker for the sake of experiment.

As of time of writting, I don't know of any application capable of playing music files via the pc-speaker if one knows of something like this please, drop me a comment..

As long as it is used for hardware failure diagnosis the speaker is useful, however there are too many occasions where its just creating useless annoying sounds.
For instance whether one uses a GUI terminal or console typing commands and hits multiple times backspace to delete a mistyped command. The result is just irritating beeps, which could be quite disturbing for other people in the room (for example if you use Linux as Desktop in heterogeneous OS office).
When this "unplanned" glitchering beeps are experienced 100+ times a day you really want to break the computer, as well as your collegues are starting to get mad (if not using their headphones) 🙂

Hence you need sometimes to turn off the pc-speaker to save some nerves.

Here is how this is done on major Linux distros.

On Debian and most other distros, the PC SPEAKER is controlled by a kernel module, so to disable communication with the speaker you have to remove the kernel module.

On Debian and Fedora disabling pcspeaker is done with:

# modprobe -r pcspkr

Then to permanently disable load of the pcspkr module on system boot:

debian:~# echo 'blacklist pcspkr' >> /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf

On Ubuntu to disable load on boot /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist, file should be used:

ubuntu:~# echo 'blacklist pcspkr' >> /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist
Well that's all folks …

Share this on

Triumph of the Nerds – A documentary about the rise of Personal Computers

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

Triumph of the Nerds movie cover

Triumph of the Nerds is 3 parts documentary movie on how the Personal Computer was developed. The movie features interviews with Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Allan Paul and many other IT veterans who played key roles for the development of the Personal Computer ,

The movie is an interesting watching for people interested into Information Technology and gives some minor insights on the starred interviewed people and their life philosophy. It was interesting times back then and it seems many of the guys who could participate in the PCs were very lucky, where others who made key developments which are de-facto standards today went into history without much being remembered.

Now the trends which these man set in world’s development is not nice. Even though PC brough a lot of fun in our every lives it suddenly started taking over our privacy and made the humanity divided.
The movie is a story of a man motivated by greed arrogancy and exploitation. Even though the movie has historical value it doesn’t even mention about Free Software Richard Stallman and the free software movement.

The movie talks about the development of CP/M the predecessor of Quick and Dirty DOS (QDOS), MS-DOS Windows 1,2,3, Windows 95 etc.

It also tries to picture the events around the raise and fall of IBM and OS/2.

The most notable parts for me in the movie are the showing off of some old computer hardware and Mainframe servers as well as the quick explanation on how Mainframes irons predecessed the PC. Another interesting moment in the movie is displaying Steve Jobs demonstrating the Xerox’s Alto graphical interface. Talking about Jobs it was quite shocking for the world his sudden death just 3 days ago so (R.I.P).

The movie author Robert X. Cringery stress out in the movie the great struggle between the so called “the blue Elephant” IBM and the just emerging early Microsoft Corporation

Triumph of the Nerds slightly mentions Digital Equipment Corporation / DEC or COMPAQ as later known. DEC is company less known in todays world which had historically great impact on computer market, so its a pity the movie part mentioning DEC is so short.

What the movie misses is to aforemention About’s Digital Equipment VMS operating system known under the code name OpenVMS. OpenVMS even of today is believed by many to be the most secure Operating System ever developed.
The movie part that talks about DEC is the second part of movie it shows a nice COMPAQ portable computer.

DEC Compaq portable II Computer

One should admit COMPAQ portable Computer is a really trendy for its time, Also the way it sticks the keyboard to the screen does remind seriously the opening and closing of a modern laptop 😉

The movie includes some interesting, so called crash courses where the movie author gives some insight on elementary computing, so for those new to informatix the movie will surely be educative as well, though for a UNIX gurus this elementary computing scenes will look kinda ridiculous 😉

One serious flaw with this movie is the complete lack of interviews with Richard Stallman and the importance of Free Software for the development of modern PC and the influence of the free software culture on todays latest Macintosh and PC developments.

A related movie which probably most IT geeks already know / seen is Pirates of the Sillicon Valley
, hence large chunk of Triumph of the Nerds gives another point of view on the ideas and stories presented in Triumph of the Nerds

Triumph of the Nerds brings back some good memories of the glorious PC computer past for all of us who had been a DR-DOS/MS-DOS and Windows 3.11 / 95 users.

Share this on