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Fast-Booting OS for Usually-Off Appliance PCs?

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the zero-to-sixty-in-zilch-dot-two dept.

Hardware Hacking 523

An anonymous reader writes "I have some older computer equipment at work that I want to re-purpose as application appliances. The machines will sit, unpowered, until needed, then powered up. No way around the 'sitting powered off' — company directive. What is the quickest-booting OS I could use for them? I know about LinuxBIOS, but that would require new hardware, which does not go along which the re-purposing theme. Some of them do not need to be connected to a network, so an old version of Linux or Windows 98 are possible. DOS is too old to consider. So what are my options?"

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Splashtop (1, Informative)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236625)

http://www.splashtop.com/ [splashtop.com]

There you go.

Re:Splashtop (4, Insightful)

rtechie (244489) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236661)

Un, no. Splashtop requires new hardware. He specifically wants to repurpose old hardware.

Re:Splashtop (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236833)

Splashtop requires a new motherboard. Motherboards aren't always expensive.

And Splashtop is open source. If you go to their website and contact them, they will release source according to their site.

So you wouldn't even need a new motherboard then. Just install the Splashtop OS on your existing hardware.

New mobo == new PC with old case and drives (5, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236873)

Splashtop requires a new motherboard. Motherboards aren't always expensive.

But doesn't a new motherboard for a years-old PC typically have new, incompatible CPU and RAM sockets, which require a new CPU and new RAM? At that point, you're practically building a new PC with an old case and drives.

Re:New mobo == new PC with old case and drives (1)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237251)

But doesn't a new motherboard for a years-old PC typically have new, incompatible CPU and RAM sockets, which require a new CPU and new RAM? At that point, you're practically building a new PC with an old case and drives.

It really depends, but even best case your window for upgrades is really limited to a few years. I'm mostly thinking along the lines of Socket 939 and to a lesser extent Socket AM2, fairly wide range of processors (value, mainstream, enthusiast) has been developed for these sockets, and generally your memory, video card and all other relevant peripherals should transfer smoothly in these cases. Although it's only a matter of time before something like PCI-E or DDR2/3 come along to ruin all the fun. But I digress, and hope to find out more on this. Today at work I got a tip, 9 Pentium computers in the wonderful AT form factor... A fast boot time would really open up some options to find use in this old kit.

Re:Splashtop (2, Informative)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237195)

Splashtop requires a new motherboard. Motherboards aren't always expensive.

Since you need very specific ones they probably are and as someone else mentioned they won't work with older hardware. That's not counting whatever driver hell you may have with any peripherals.

And Splashtop is open source. If you go to their website and contact them, they will release source according to their site.

So you wouldn't even need a new motherboard then. Just install the Splashtop OS on your existing hardware.

Which will give you absolutely nothing, do you think it boots instantly by magic or something? Why in god's name do you think it requires specific motherboards or did you simply not think at all? Do you think that maybe those motherboard have some extra special hardware that let's splashtop do it's magic?

To quote wikipedia "Splashtop seems to work with a 512MB flash memory embedded on the PC motherboard.[6] A proprietary core engine starts at the BIOS boot and loads a specialized Linux distribution called a "Virtual Appliance Environment" (VAE). While running this VAE, the user can launch "Virtual Appliances" (VA). Skype is a VA, for instance.[7]"

Re:Splashtop (3, Informative)

cavtroop (859432) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236663)

While that looks neat, there is no download for it.

"Splashtop is bundled with motherboards, desktops and notebooks by their manufacturers.
Currently, it is available with products from the following manufacturers:
Notebooks
ASUS
Motherboards
ASUS
Desktops"

So, unless you buy an ASUS machine, with this loaded, you look to be SOL.

Re:Splashtop (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236849)

Click on Developers and then contact them for the source given that it is OSS.

Re:Splashtop (1)

i.of.the.storm (907783) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237085)

Have you tried this, and tried installing it on your motherboard? I'm actually intrigued by this, but it seems like it wouldn't be possible to just install on any old motherboard.

Re:Splashtop (2, Interesting)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237121)

It is an optimized Linux stack according to the site and developers section. It should install on a HDD in theory.

Re:Splashtop (5, Informative)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237201)

Use either DSL [damnsmalllinux.org] or puppy [puppylinux.com] . I have used both on older hardware and installed on the HDD the boot is very fast. You could probably speed up the process even more if you compiled it for the specific hardware.

Re:Splashtop (4, Insightful)

maeka (518272) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236671)

http://www.splashtop.com/ [splashtop.com]

There you go.

What part of the questioner's desire to re-purpose old, existing, hardware did you not understand?

Re:Splashtop (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24236719)

I don't know, how about the part where it's a stupid idea and he should just invest in a PC that isn't more than 10 years old?

Re:Splashtop (0, Troll)

fruitbane (454488) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236851)

Oh, because I know *I* can afford a new PC that's going to sit turned off and un-used until I need to do something very specific. I wish I had your expense account.

Re:Splashtop (0)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237181)

Can you afford the extra electricity to power the old PC, and the extra air conditioning to get rid of the massive amounts of heat that old thing is going to put out?

Re:Splashtop (1, Informative)

hclewk (1248568) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237225)

yes

Re:Splashtop (2, Insightful)

Plaid Phantom (818438) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237259)

It will be sitting powered off. Not much of a power drain there. At a certain point, the cost of new equipment will outweigh the power savings.

Re:Splashtop (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236889)

Look above you.

Re:Splashtop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24236981)

You look. Notice the 1 minute difference in our three posts? Think perhaps we were all composing at the same time? Sheesh.

Re:Splashtop (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237001)

I understand you all posted at the same time. But that doesn't mean I need to repost my reply three times.

Fucking AC's. Sheesh.

Who needs an os? (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236635)

Embed PERL in firmware! :-)

Re:Who needs an os? (5, Funny)

springbox (853816) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237063)

Embed PERL in firmware! :-)

I think you misspelled EMACS

Re:Who needs an os? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24237103)

Typed Lambda Calculus, n00bs.

DOS (5, Funny)

ClogHammer (904919) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236641)

Oh, keep the autoexec.bat small.

What will they be used for? (2, Insightful)

dj245 (732906) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236645)

What is their purpose?

Re:What will they be used for? (1, Interesting)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236751)

And will they be totally unnetworked? And do they have infared ports? because if they do, they really are networked for security purposes.

Re:What will they be used for? (4, Funny)

vivek7006 (585218) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237151)

What is their purpose?

Their purpose is to run a fast booting OS

Re:What will they be used for? (3, Insightful)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237159)

To expand on this idea as well, perhaps if the application is important enough, this "company directive" will be not quite so direct...iveness.

Linux + hibernate (4, Informative)

zjbs14 (549864) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236673)

Linux + hibernate (swsusp, TuxOnIce) functionality.

Re:Linux + hibernate (1)

KGIII (973947) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236859)

I was thinking Windows 98 + hibernation. The reason for my thinking was that they probably have some old 98 licenses unused and the drivers are likely more easy to find. Unfortunately we don't really know much about the hardware...

Re:Linux + hibernate (4, Informative)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237253)

And we don't know anything about the job either. This is as bad as when my youngest would say he wanted a video game and when I asked which one he would say "It had a guy in it. Oh,and magic!". If he wants decent advice he needs to give us a little more info. How old,like P2 old or early P4 old? What kind of jobs is it going to do? Give us a little more to work with here please.

Re:Linux + hibernate (2, Interesting)

Locklin (1074657) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236913)

Suspend to disk can be really fast if there is very little running. The more running, the more has to be swapped out to disk, then reloaded from disk at boot.

Well, (5, Interesting)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236677)

There's always BeOS, which prided itself on lightning-fast load times. Otherwise, a rather stripped down UNIX-alike would do you fine.

BeOS (5, Informative)

Lulu of the Lotus-Ea (3441) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236947)

BeOS really was pretty amazing in this respect, and some others. Multithreading was far ahead of anything else at the time, and probably since, as well. On some older machine (P3-ish; much slower HDD than nowadays) I clocked boot time at 15 seconds, OS/2 and Linux distros of the time were more like 1-1.5 minutes on the same hardware.

The way it booted so fast was largely by deferring a lot of the "initialization" stuff until the system was "booted". This is nothing like the awful way Windows (and to a lesser extent KDE/Gnome desktops) keep loading stuff for a good while, letting you see the desktop for a minute before you can really do anything. Under BeOS, said multithreading was well utilized to give you a responsive GUI right at that 15 seconds, but still do background loads of various background processes that you didn't *really* need immediately.

Of course, if you immediately launched something that *did* need the services of something loading in a background thread, you'd obviously have to wait a few more seconds. But even all that background loading was very efficient, and practically, by the time you could make a few clicks, it was loaded.
 

Re:BeOS (5, Interesting)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236999)

I remember when one of the Mac magazines gave away a BeOS preview release. I installed it on my 6400/200. I was able to play 8 quicktime movies all at the same time with no noticeable performace hit. I was really stoked about the possibilities. Unfortunately, Apple didn't go with Be and we'll never know what could have been.

LK

Re:BeOS (1)

ptudor (22537) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237069)

And it had a Terminal application! The sad day was when the BeOS guys decided to follow the single-user model instead of multi-user.

The best part about Be was the weekly newsletter JLG sent out, well, that and the BeBox.

In how many places have we all seen that "three person" icon reappear?

Re:BeOS (2, Informative)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237117)

M$ made OEM's not put BEOS on systems and that killed them.

Re:Well, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24237003)

I think BeOS is the answer.

Even today, none of the OS' with top of the line hardware come close to the speed of BeOS on way older hardware!

That OS is amazingly fast. The whole thing is just amazing.

Re:Well, (4, Interesting)

gooman (709147) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237101)

BeOS was as close to "instant on" as I've ever seen in an OS. Everyone who saw it was amazed. My computer took longer to go through the BIOS screens than BeOS took to load. Once the splashscreen appeared it was at the desktop in 5 seconds. I wonder how well Haiku performs in this regard.

Zeta (OS) (3, Informative)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237209)

... built off BeOS, I thinks ;)

Re:Well, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24237235)

I've got a Dell server quad-booting with Win2K Server, Solaris 10, Ubuntu, and BeOS. I haven't exactly timed it, but I'm going to guesstimate that Be boots up fully in about ten seconds.

More info is needed on what they need to do? (3, Interesting)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236681)

Dos may work well as well as windows 3.11 or windows 98.

A CF based disk will boot fast as well as a ssd.

Re:More info is needed on what they need to do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24236723)

As stated in the original paragraph, "DOS is too old to consider"

Re:More info is needed on what they need to do? (3, Informative)

Minwee (522556) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236825)

That's funny, because the latest version of DOS that I have is dated September 3, 2006 [ibiblio.org] .

Is that too old now?

Re:More info is needed on what they need to do? (4, Interesting)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237133)

***As stated in the original paragraph, "DOS is too old to consider"***

That's silly. If MSDOS/Freedos will do the job, why the hell would it be too old to consider? It's far more stable than later MS OSes and will boot nearly instantaneously. Moreover, it is the only PC OS that is almost simple enough to understand. A fair variety of software is available that will run under MSDOS with a DOS extender to provide access to memory above 1MB.

Next choice would be Windows 95 with all two dozen service packs. Or OSR2. It will boot faster than Windows 98 (Less crap) and will support a suprising amount of Windows software. I'm not entirely sure why, but enabling MSDOS disk caching will speed up Windows 95 boot by 10% or so.

It may be necessary to spend time tuning the BIOS, and maybe even reconfiguring IDE hard drives and CDROM drives. Some older BIOSes can take a loooooooong time -- like 30 seconds plus -- dealing with pathological IDE configurations.

Or Linux. I don't know if Slackware still has SlackZIP, but it's specifically intended to boot from MSDOS/Windows 9 environments -- which means that you can set it up to run as desired while still having a functioning OS, then replace the bootloader to boot directly to Linux.

One caution. Unless the operation has a generous people budget and no hardware budget or is going to deploy dozens of identical boxes, it is almost always going to be more cost effective to buy a prebuilt appliance than to roll your own.

Windows 98 IS DOS (2, Informative)

Gunga_Jim (1328061) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236693)

Since Windows 98 IS nothing but DOS with a copy of Windows that autoloads once booted why not use it? You can even modify the initialization scripts to have it boot up with a DOS prompt and then type WIN to run Windows 98. Did it all the time back in the day.

Re:Windows 98 IS DOS (2, Funny)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237089)

"Did it all the time back in the day.

That would be "back in the decade" now, by almost a month.

BeOS? (5, Informative)

Chonine (840828) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236697)

Back in the day, BeOS booted in 6 seconds to a fully usable desktop (6 seconds after the POST). I don't think that is what you are looking for though, and I don't know how far the Free clone, Haiku, has come.

More realistically, there is this interesting Linux distribution, Webconverger:

http://webconverger.com/ [webconverger.com]

I've used it for a few web-only systems. Boots up fast enough. Use it as a starting point to tweak. Basically, firefox becomes your operating system and UI. Neat idea.

how about Windows XP Embedded (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24236711)

why not use Windows XP Embedded its not that hard to install it supports older hardware... and it isnt resource intensive if setup correctly

Re:how about Windows XP Embedded (1)

superid (46543) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237161)

I just inherited a "simple" XP Embedded project on a SBC with an allegedly trimmed setup. It is not meeting the maximum 40 SECOND bootup time and I'm trying to figure out how to get it within the very generous 40 second requirement.

And this is recovering from hibernate!

40 seconds, sheesh

re (5, Informative)

JohnVanVliet (945577) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236713)

there is " damn small linux " http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/ [damnsmalllinux.org] you could even install it in the /boot partition of fedora as a backup os

Re:re (4, Interesting)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236941)

Ok. I HAVE to bite this one in the butt. After trying ALL of the recent "light weight" distros on my fathers Pentium II 300 w/256 MB of ram, DSL, Xubuntu, etc ALL FAILED miserably on it. 5 minute boot times, sluggish response, you name it. It wasn't usable. Oddly enough, I threw Slackware 4.0 on it and it ran great, while Slackware 12 did not. Maybe it is the 2.6 kernel... I haven't a clue. But there isn't an up to date distro that will run sufficiently as a desktop on such hardware. Period.

Re:re (2, Informative)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237051)

DSL uses 2.4 kernel. DSL-N uses 2.6. I have a machine with similar specs (even less RAM actually), and it actually runs windows 98 (and DSL) perfectly fine. Round 3 minutes for windows to boot, most stuff runs pretty well. *shrug* no idea whats going on for you.

Re:re (1)

perlchild (582235) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237083)

I'm running a 2.6 kernel(with sid) on a PII 350, with 384, but I wouldn't try with less, unless it was doing almost nothing... You need more room than that...

Re:re (1)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237175)

I have to wonder how Gentoo would fare on such a machine. With the new baselayout-2, boot times are far, far improved. Of course, *compiling* your own system would take forever... Now, granted, I have a quad-core 64-bit machine, so from grub to X is only about 15-20 seconds - it'd be longer on the older, single-core hardware.

Now, all that said, I have to agree with another user above who got slammed for it: you probably should just get a new machine. I mean, really. You can get reasonably modern hardware for $400-$500. My quad-core machine was only $1200, and it's fairly loaded. Expense accounts for this? What is your hourly salary? How many hours do you need to waste for it to be more worth it to the company to simply buy a new machine? Probably less than the amount of time it'll take to read this thread, procure whatever OS(es) you settle on trying, and install one after another until you find one that suits whatever task you have for the machine. So, just buy a $1000 machine, install VirtualBox or VMWare on it, install the special OS there, and you'll be off and running far faster, and far cheaper, than trying to repurpose hardware better sent to the recycler.

Re:re (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24237199)

DeLiLinux is catering to old hardware.
2.4, etc.

Check it out, it may work for you:
http://www.delilinux.org/ [delilinux.org]

Recycle for the gold content (2, Insightful)

oaklybonn (600250) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236727)

Reuse is good and and environmental and all, but: How much is your time worth? How many hours of your time to set up one of these older machines would buy a newer machine? And if energy costs are a concern (and why not): how much more efficient would the "right machine" for the task be, given the costs? I've never understood the tendency of companies to cheat on hardware costs - making someone jump through dozens of hours of hoops is far more costly than just buying the right hardware.

Re:Recycle for the gold content (4, Insightful)

wb8wsf (106309) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236867)

Older machines are often built better than newer faster stuff. I have several of the white Dell Optiplex machines doing infrastructure stuff for me. Most have uptimes measured in the span between upgrades of my op system (OpenBSD).

      It takes almost no more time to install on a 500MHz Dell than some 2.xGHz box. Yes, the disk may take longer to format--but how often are you going to be doing that?

      Given the various quality problems with new systems, I'll stick with the older slower systems when I can, which is most of the time.

Re:Recycle for the gold content (1)

Chillintau (1169599) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236875)

Labor and equipment are different items in a company's budget. So if they have no budget left for equipment, they just throw labor at it.

OpenBSD? (4, Interesting)

condition-label-red (657497) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236733)

Depending on the intended use, a minimal install of OpenBSD [openbsd.org] might do the trick.

Re:OpenBSD? (1)

AceofSpades19 (1107875) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236797)

I was just going to say that ;)

Fast boot (4, Informative)

Sp4freel (1312013) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236743)

DSL linux is really fast when installed on a Hdd.

Hibernate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24236749)

Run linux and hibernate to the disk. It is hard to be more instant on from a fully off state.

Linux with a RAMdisk (3, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236757)

Boot from a RAMdisk filesystem and make it as small as possible. Rip out all the startup scripts and write your own that just runs the one or two things you actually need running, runs ifconfig, route, etc. manually with hard-coded info (or starts dhclient/pump/dhcpcd). Compile the minimum number of possible drivers into the kernel and don't include any modules at all, nor tools to load modules. Include a bare-bones GUI layer like Nano-X and write your applications using pure Xlib if you can. Otherwise, use the most lightweight WM and GUI toolkit you can find (e.g. straight Tcl/Tk).

For permanent storage, mount a small (e.g. 300 MB) filesystem on a flash card so that the fsck takes just a couple of seconds even if forced. :-)

Re:Linux with a RAMdisk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24236983)

Don't remove startup scripts; disable them. Well, if he's working with a 4MB RAMdisk, then removing the disabled scripts is a good idea.

A fast-booting BSD or GNU/Linux can work well. The advantage of GNU/Linux is that there are distros already stripped and geared for appliance use; look for "floppy linux" and see which is already close to your needs. (One or two of the floppy distros even used a modules system to make it easier to modify. Stripping the kernel features and creating a small, monolithic kernel used to be the way to boot faster after disabling most startup scripts.)

Check LEAF http://leaf.sourceforge.net/
Check this list, too: http://www.linuxlinks.com/Distributions/Floppy/

Re:Linux with a RAMdisk (1)

allaunjsilverfox2 (882195) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237245)

http://www.linuxlinks.com/Distributions/Floppy/ [linuxlinks.com] if you want a slightly more complete list.

Re:Linux with a RAMdisk (2, Insightful)

allaunjsilverfox2 (882195) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237263)

Mulinux is pretty flexiable as a quick kiosk OS. Forgot to mention it.

Not enough information (4, Informative)

rtechie (244489) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236765)

Just to be clear: You intend to have old machines sitting around unpowered and then someone WALKS UP TO THEM and presses the power button. The user then waits for the OS to boot and does his thing. Correct?v

So what are these systems being used for? Kiosks? This is critical to determining what you need. For example, QNX boots very quickly but it's an embedded Unix system. But QNX probably won't run whatever app it is you want to run on these systems.

Basically, you said they are going to be application appliances. WHAT application?

Re:Not enough information (1)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236935)

FreeRTOS has an x86 port so that would cost less than QNX.
There is also eCos which might get you more hardware support.

Re:Not enough information (4, Informative)

sootman (158191) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237149)

I agree this is too little information, so I will take advantage of the vagueness to walk a decade down memory lane. :-)
 
Back in 1998 when I was first getting into Linux and other OSs--back when we thought OSs besides Windows had a chance because Windows was so crappy and all these others were so great--there were a couple experiments that were fun.

  • BeOS, as others have already mentioned, booted very quickly. I remember seeing it advertised at around 20 seconds after POST; on my 300 MHz AMD K6-2 it took about 30. On any newer system with a halfway decent disk you'd see boot times in the teens or less. One of the open-source BeOS clones might be worth looking at.
  • Around that same time, QNX released a free demo that fit onto a floppy--one with (limited) NIC support and the other for computers with modems. Full TCP/IP stack, browser, shipped with a browser-based ring-stacking game (Towers of Hanoi) written in JavaScript. You can probably find copies of the image online. Ah, here we go, fifth match. [toastytech.com] I don't remember what floppy boot times were like but if you install it onto a CF card or something I bet it'd be great. (Can't get it to run in VirtualBox at the moment.)
  • A bit later I bought a 1 GHz PIII HP Pavillion. After I replaced the 60 GB WD HDD with a 13 GB unit (big drives are for servers; clients get small drives) and replaced the trialware-laden WinME with Win98 boot times dropped from 35 seconds to 25. That's gotta be 6, 7 years ago by now... how old is your box?
  • Not known for boot times but speaking of relatively fullfeatured alternative OSs, ReactOS might be worth looking into.
  • Oh yeah, and way back in the late 1980s, my parents bought an AT or XT clone which booted from power off to a C: prompt in seven seconds. Great for running WordPerfect 5.1 and Banner Blue Movie Guide.

Why is fast booting important? (3, Insightful)

wb8wsf (106309) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236781)

You haven't said what exactly these machines are going to be doing, but I fail to see why the extra time that one OS takes over another is a factor to deal with.

If it takes an extra 90 seconds to boot an OS that is stable and reliable, how does shaving that 90 seconds save anything?

Optimizing for boot time over everything else seems very foolish to me.

Re:Why is fast booting important? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24237241)

And what magic thing is the computer doing during those 90 seconds that makes it "stable and reliable"? Sorry but I don't buy it. 90 seconds extra can only bring you extra bloat. Besides, the boot time constraint *is* the question. If you remove it then the question disappears, so play along, and shut up if you don't have an answer.

Suspend to Disk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24236813)

Having done a suspend to disk gets things going faster for me when I power up.

Re:Suspend to Disk (1)

yorkrj (658277) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236927)

I totally agree. Suspend to disk or "hybernate" allows for considerably faster boot times... if your hardware supports it.

Alternatively the Core Boot project seems like an intriguing possibility for fast boots by overwriting the factory BIOS with an optimized OS specific boot loader:
http://www.coreboot.org/ [coreboot.org]

DSL and Puppy (5, Informative)

steveha (103154) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236821)

Take a look at DSL and Puppy Linux. Both are tiny and would boot quickly from a CompactFlash. DSL is probably better for all-around appliance use; Puppy is intended for use as a desktop OS.

http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/ [damnsmalllinux.org]

http://www.puppylinux.org/ [puppylinux.org]

steveha

Re:DSL and Puppy (2, Informative)

n4t3 (266019) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237143)

I use DSL on an old Dell 400MHz Celeron L400c and it runs pretty quick. I'd say faster than Windows 98 did on that box. As far as boot up time, I really can't say since its been running for about 2 years now without a reboot ;) Its playing a list of mp3s in mp3blaster to provide music on hold for a PBX phone system. Every once in a while I ssh in and change the playlist. Good example of repurposed old hardware.

MenuetOS (2, Interesting)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236829)

MenuetOS [menuetos.net] Its a bit hardcore though, and you would probably have a hard time getting 'normal' applications to work, but its tiny and quick, although sort of a beta still.

But if you know ASM, its could be a miracle cure or something...

MenuetOS is an Operating System in development for the PC written entirely in 32/64 bit assembly language, and released under the License. It supports 32/64 bit x86 assembly programming for smaller, faster and less resource hungry applications.

Menuet has no roots within UNIX or the POSIX standards, nor is it based on any operating system. The design goal has been to remove the extra layers between different parts of an OS, which normally complicate programming and create bugs.

Menuet's application structure is not specifically reserved for asm programming since the header can be produced with practically any other language. However, the overall application programming design is intended for easy 32/64 bit asm programming. Menuet's responsive GUI is easy to handle with assembly language.

Features:

- Pre-emptive multitasking with 1000hz scheduler, multithreading, ring-3 protection
- Responsive GUI with resolutions up to 1280x1024, 16 million colours
- Free-form, transparent and skinnable application windows, drag'n drop
- IDE: Editor/Assembler for applications
- USB 2.0 Hi-speed storage support
- TCP/IP stack with Loopback & Ethernet drivers
- Email/ftp/http/chess clients and ftp/mp3/http servers
- Hard real-time data fetch
- Fits on a single floppy

Happens to be a favorite of mine (not mine as in created), although probably not suited to your needs judging by the brief summary.

Re:MenuetOS (1)

Samah (729132) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237231)

Do you know if there's some sort of media player for it? Sounds like it'd make for a great HTPC. If not you could just use it as a fast-booting fileserver I guess and stream from it (using Xbox Media Center etc.)

HIBERNATE (3, Informative)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236855)

Any OS with hibernate should be quick enough. I doubt systems vary too much between them. Anything that uses minimal ram and hance has less to load on boot. Just go with whatever OS suits you best.

Panasonic HDTV use Linux (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24236877)

Some Panasonic Viera consumer HDTV sets run on a version of Linux. It takes 6 or 7 seconds to boot from ROM.

Re:Panasonic HDTV use Linux (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24237179)

Linux 2.6.11.12; http://www.am-linux.jp/dl/DTV07U [am-linux.jp]

A quick booting OS... (1)

kage.j (721084) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236897)

is FreeBSD. Enjoy.

DSL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24236921)

damn small linux. doesn't need hardly any specs at all, and boots very fast.

The obvious choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24236943)

Windows Vista

light weight linux, BeOS, MS NT4/2k, NOT Win98! (1)

MrDERP (1004577) | more than 6 years ago | (#24236989)

NT4 or light weight Linux, Xubuntu, Feather, Damn Small Linux etc.. perhaps a real time kernel if they are appliances. I am assuming you can't or don't want to buy fast flash/NVRAM. Is wake on LAN an option in the BIOS? That may be helpful for keeping them off except when needed. Also the "Suspend" / Hibernate mode for Linux will bring it up quickly. If you can find all the apps you need then BeOS would be ideal. There are ways to have a nearly "instant on Linux" I am not an expert in trying to have it boot up fast, rather have it STAY up..Good Luck! Others will probably have similar comments, just trying to help. - Jeff

Fastest boot in the west... (1)

JLF65 (888379) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237021)

Heh - I'll toss in my two cents... AROS. It boots DAMN fast. AmigaOS was one of the fastest booting OSes made... next to maybe BeOS.

Don't boot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24237037)

Use solid state memory instead of dynamic. This means that you can clock right down to zero Hertz. That saves beaucoup power. This would be easier with very old equipment.

The trouble is that you can't (as far as I know) get sticks with solid state memory on them. Very old equipment had socketed memory. There were also memory expansion boards that plugged into an ISA slot.

You could also copy solid state memory to dynamic as your boot routine.

I haven't actually tried the above ideas with a standard PC motherboard but those are exactly what you would do with embedded equipment. What I have done is run damnsmalllinux from a cf card, no hard drive. As long as your hardware never changes, you don't have to test for hardware in the boot routine. That saves bags of time. You could also save lots of time by skipping the memory test, but I wouldn't do that for most applications. For the embedded chips I use, memory checking isn't done but that memory is measured in tens of K. If the memory goes bad, the application works wrong and we do test for that.

Kids these days (2, Informative)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237053)

You have a requirement for fast booting but you just blunder ahead and elimiate DOS from the running right from the start.

DOS can make a very capable platform if you don't need the support services of a more sophisticated OS. There is no question that it can be made to boot faster than most other off the shelf OS's. You don't mention what you need to run on these machines so it is hard to tell what will be suitable for you. You can run most *NIX shell apps under a DOS environment using DJGPP and its 32-bit extender. FreeDOS has a lot of drivers to handle more modern hardware. If you need something closer to a true *NIX system that boots fast, QNX is worth considering too.

a really old version of MacOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24237055)

so long as you dont have many extension...

Pointless discussion (2, Insightful)

Ainu (135288) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237059)

I have to agree that this is a pointless discussion. As long as we don't know the purpose or application required, the OS discussion is pointless. The application will usually dictate the environment, not the other way around.

Netboot Thin-Client (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24237071)

PXELinux and some kind of thin-client? If it's Windows either Terminal Services or Citrix. I'm not sure of the Linux equivalent(VNC, NetworkX?).

I did a setup at my school with 200 old machines and Windows 2003 on the server-side, and it worked very well for our needs.

http://thinstation.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/ThIndex

ROM based OS's? (1)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237081)

A friend of mine, back in High School had a Tanday X86 compatible machine. It had DOS onboard in a ROM, if you hit the reset button it would be back at a C:> before your finger was off the button.

Seems like I used to see some sort of Windows accelerator cards in the mid 90's at Incredible Universe, never heard of one being used, but from what I understand they had part/most of Windows 95 on there for a performance boost, maybe you had to flash it.

Old Macs had ROM based OS's, they didn't necessarily boot that fast.

Try a RAM based solid state HDD [aspacia.com] . The will help the OS to load as quickly as the bus will allow. BeOS may be the quickest for you, if it will do what you want.

Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24237087)

You could probably recompile the kernel to not require a initrd to load it. You could then use a window manager that loads fast.
 
  You could also just set the computer to hibernate... that doesn't require any power.

Why not start from scratch? (1)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237145)

If it's an applicance, why not start from scratch?

I mean, just get the necessary drivers/libraries, stick-em up together and voilÃ, there you go.

Why bother with a complete OS when you have a fixed hardware; you power-up, you setup your stack pointers, then setup your hardware. How long can it take?

Do you really have to do all the extraneous stuff an OS will do?

I used to program industrial machines running on 8 bit Motorola chips; Iâ(TM)d burn an Eprom then stick it in the prototype. I had to basically write my own OS; Iâ(TM)d merely do the bare minimum I needed and the thing ran perfectly fast enough.

Slackware! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24237157)

it had to be said...

Quick to setup, quick to boot Fedora? (1)

ClarisseMcClellan (1286192) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237167)

If you go with 'pure' Fedora and some trusty instructions then you should be able to get less than a minute boot time, even with venerable hardware. Furthermore, you should be able to setup the box quickly. Here are some instructions you may want to borrow:

http://www.improvedsource.com/view.php/Linux-System/2/ [improvedsource.com]

You can customise how you setup your networking from there. Other tips: install server rather than workstation (no X-display) and tweak the BIOS so that it does not tick through the RAM or search for floppy/CD drives.

The advantage of Fedora is that it is standard enough for others to use without any 'sudo' nonsense at every turn and there are no proprietary-code-kernal-blobs to load.

Clean shut-downs are needed if you don't want corrupted disks or long boot times - make sure the on/off switch gets handled in the BIOS and O/S to do that correctly before you take the monitor away.

S3 sleep (1)

GleeBot (1301227) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237187)

If you can get away with just putting the computer to sleep, rather than powering it off entirely, S3 sleep (suspend to RAM) works pretty well on modern hardware. Pretty much instantaneous sleep and resume.

QNX is designed for this (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237191)

You can build an embedded version of QNX which has only what you need for your dedicated application. If you boot QNX from disk in a full configuration using "diskboot", it takes about 15 seconds, but that's a whole development configuration. You can build a custom boot image with "mkifs" containing only the OS, drivers, services, applications, and shared objects you need. QNX is designed for that. (Some fancier car stereos have a QNX system inside.)

If the machine doesn't need any state saved locally from boot to boot, you can build a diskless system and boot it from flash memory. On suitable hardware, you can run it from ROM, although that's generally done on rather small machines like an ARM.

Gentoo (1)

jadedoto (1242580) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237207)

Isn't this the sort of thing gentoo linux was made for (and not used for anymore)?

my fast booting wonder (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#24237265)

Windows ME all the way! My ME laptop is an 850MHz P3 with 128 MB of ram and it boots from completely off to all services and processes running in about 10-15 seconds. It shuts off from being ran for 4 hours to completely off in 4 seconds! Standby is even fsater.
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