How To Revive An Old PC With Linux

Story: How To Revive An Old PC With LinuxTotal Replies: 10
Author Content

Mar 25, 2007
1:50 PM EDT
I sent this note to the author:

Old PCs are slow. If you migrate from an old PC to a new one, you actually have two PCs, one fast and one slow. If you have GNU/Linux on the new one, you can edit /etc/gdm/gdm.conf (for Gnome) and have it accept TCP connection for the X interface (/etc/init.d/gdm restart). Then, your old machine can show you the login screen from the new machine, and two can run on the new machine while the old machine has only to show pictures and receive clicks to forward to the new machine. You can install minimally on the old machine but instead of installing Gnome, just install x-window-system and gdm and set it up as a Linux terminal that connects via X -query newmachineIP. That will be a much faster installation on the old machine. Another approach is to install LTSP on the new machine and have a boot floppy or BIOS PXE loader boot from the new machine. This will work even if the old machine has a dead hard drive. Either way is faster than booting a GUI on the old machine from the hard drive. You should have 100 mbits/s or faster to avoid jerky display.

Robert Pogson

Mar 25, 2007
2:00 PM EDT
That sounds interesting. Let me suggest that you write it up as a tutorial and submit it here. I'd like to give it a try.

Mar 25, 2007
7:52 PM EDT
I've done ssh -X from an old machine in order to run konqueror on the new machine just to get the benefit of my kwallet / passwords. It's just:

oldbox> xhost newbox oldbox> ssh -X newbox newbox> export DISPLAY=oldbox:0 newbox> konqueror

Mar 26, 2007
10:43 AM EDT
moopst, are you sure you need all that? In my understanding,

oldbox> ssh -X newbox newbox> konqueror

is all that is needed. ssh handles the authorization and DISPLAY set-up -- provided it is configured to do so. At least, for me it works, I use this _very_ regularly. - Martin

Mar 26, 2007
4:31 PM EDT
Yes please write up a howto on that, I have searched and haven't found anything very useful.

I have a laptop that likes to corrupt hard drives, does not boot form usb, but will boot of the network. So using it as a thin client would be very nice.

Mar 27, 2007
5:02 AM EDT
@theboomboomcars -

I second the motion for the howto. It won't need to be very much longer than his post above, however, because the commands he gives are really all that's needed. Instead of konqueror, you could do "mozilla", "firefox", "nautilus" - or any number of X-based applications.

Mar 27, 2007
6:13 PM EDT
Assuming you have linux running on two machines, one old and one hot and running gnome:

On the hot machine edit /etc/gdm/gdm.conf DisallowTCP=false # to permit tcp connection Enable=true #in [xdmcp] section

/etc/init.d/gdm restart

On the old machine, from the command line, you could X -query IPofhotmachine or you can edit /etc/gdm/gdm.conf to exceute that when gdm starts up:

0=Terminal -query IPofhotmachine

/etc/init.d/gdm restart gives you a login to the hot machine

There are other choices, too. You can set up a chooser screen to allow choosing which host to log into. Good fun. People will not believe you can make a Pentium I look good this way, but it works if you have 100 mbits/s network, or better ;-). 10 mbits will drag...

This setup should only be done on a private LAN, not over the web, or some hacker will get in. It is basically what I use in computer labs to get all the students on one server so I can control their baser instincts... For example, he who controls the server can shutdown all of a particular user's processes. That really gets their attention.

For the really old machine with dead hard drive this can be extended to boot from the server with LTSP, K12LTSP, etc.

Mar 27, 2007
7:07 PM EDT
Thanks that looks very simple. I'll have to look into the ltsp.

Jun 07, 2007
6:13 AM EDT
theboomcars wrote:"Thanks that looks very simple. I'll have to look into the ltsp."

LTSP is available from installation of EdUbuntu, K12LTSP and SkoleLinux (DebianEdU). There are also Debian packages. The difference between LTSP and these X tricks, above, is that LTSP uses the server to boot the client PCs. This works very well in a small operation, because you do not even need to install on the hard drives of the client. I wrote an article for FreeSoftwareMagazine on the installation with EduBuntu from 2006 at It took all of 20 minutes to install on the server and the clients boot in about 20 seconds with only a BIOS enabling of PXE boot or pushing F8 at boot time to get a boot menu.

To boot from the server, the client gets the kernel and a ramdisk environment, boots, and then does the X connection to the server. I cannot tell you what a huge time saver this is. Maintaining hundreds of clients becomes as easy as maintaining the server (or cluster of servers).

Jun 08, 2007
10:52 AM EDT
Thanks for the link. I am thinking that the LTSP thing is just what I need to get these systems going. Now I just need to scrape together a server for it.

Jun 08, 2007
3:40 PM EDT
On the alternate-install CD for Xubuntu, one of the options is "install a LTSP server." It's something I'd like to try. I've got a bunch of thin clients (some real, some just old PCs) that I'd like to try out as true thin clients and not Frankenstein PCs, which is the way I use them now.

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