pleasant Linux for a 503+?

Discussion in 'FIC' started by Boon, Aug 19, 2007.

  1. Boon

    Boon Guest


    Any good experiences out there with a Linux distro on a 503+?

    I have a 503+ that's never been used, and I'm thinking about giving Linux a
    try, if it's not going to be too painful. I tried Linux years ago, and
    give up in frustration. Maybe Linux is now more pleasant.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    - Dave
    Boon, Aug 19, 2007
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  2. Boon

    Kyle Guest

    Just for grins, try booting up a knoppix live Line CD on your 503+,
    you might just be thoroughly impressed. Google for knoppix and Linux

    Best regards,
    | Folks,
    | Any good experiences out there with a Linux distro on a 503+?
    | I have a 503+ that's never been used, and I'm thinking about giving
    Linux a
    | try, if it's not going to be too painful. I tried Linux years ago,
    | give up in frustration. Maybe Linux is now more pleasant.
    | Thanks for your thoughts.
    | - Dave
    Kyle, Aug 20, 2007
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  3. Boon

    Roger Hunt Guest

    Kyle wrote
    Can I imagine device drivers for Socket 7 era kit have been mostly
    already been written? (ATI Rage Pro, ... er, that sort of thing)
    Roger Hunt, Aug 20, 2007
  4. Boon

    Kyle Guest

    | Kyle wrote
    | >Just for grins, try booting up a knoppix live Line CD on your 503+,
    | >you might just be thoroughly impressed. Google for knoppix and
    | >
    | Can I imagine device drivers for Socket 7 era kit have been mostly
    | already been written? (ATI Rage Pro, ... er, that sort of thing)
    | --
    | Roger Hunt

    ATI enjoyed early support on Linux, would imagine such drivers do
    Kyle, Aug 20, 2007
  5. Boon

    Boon Guest


    Thanks for the tip. I Googled Knoppix and found
    where I ordered Knoppix for 75 cents.

    It was so cheap I got some more, running up a total, with shipping, of
    $9.91 for this:

    1 x Ubuntu 7.04 Desktop CD () = $0.75
    1 x OpenSUSE 10.2 CD Set () = $5.50
    1 x DamnSmallLinux 3.4 CD () = $1.10
    1 x Knoppix 5.1.1 Live CD () = $0.75

    Thanks again for your suggestion.

    - Dave
    Boon, Aug 20, 2007
  6. Boon

    Roger Hunt Guest

    Boon wrote
    I know that all these distros will be available via download and/or
    bitorrent, but for that kind of money it does look quite tempting, and
    saves the hassle of burning a CD etc ...

    <small rant>
    However, I see that IE wants to talk to the website on https, port 443,
    and won't let me in unless I allow secure communication.
    I know there is nothing in this apart from preparing for a transaction,
    but I prefer to have this kind of thing only initiated after I have been
    able to browse the site, and not before I have decided to do business
    with them.
    Sorry, just a small personal niggle.
    <rant finished>
    Roger Hunt, Aug 20, 2007
  7. Boon

    Carbon Guest

    I am running Ipcop ( on mine, a powerful linux firewall
    distribution. I've installed it for several newbies and they have had no
    trouble administering it through the web interface. With Ipcop a truly
    serious firewall, VPN support, transparent proxy caching, intrusion
    detection, etc., are just mouse clicks away.

    If you'd like a fully modern, easy to install and use linux that will
    still run on a 503+, then I'd suggest Xubuntu ( It's
    Ubuntu Linux but with the faster, leaner XFCE desktop. It really is quite
    nice, and is what I use on my personal PC. I have a modern computer and
    don't need to run it, but it is my favorite linux distro at the moment.

    If you want a really lean, fast linux on a 503+ you could try DSL Linux
    ( It really is damned small, yet fast and
    surprisingly featureful. DSL will run entirely in 128 MB RAM, providing
    excellent performance basically any remotely modern PC.

    Some observations:

    You can download all these distributions for free.

    I'd suggest 256 MB RAM if you're considering Xubuntu. You don't strictly
    need it but the desktop experience will be better. I'd avoid the Gnome and
    KDE desktops. They are pretty but too bloated for a 503+.

    Finally, Linux has gotten a lot easier to use over the years. I would
    suggest a trip to if you install Xubuntu to learn
    how to install mp3 support and various other multimedia goodies.

    Linux really is quite painless these days. I bet you'll be surprised.
    Carbon, Aug 23, 2007
  8. Boon

    Boon Guest


    Thanks for your advice. I'm looking forward to trying a couple of the
    distros you recommend. But first I have to get my 503+ up and running. I
    broke the seal on the mobo Wednesday, and I thought I'd have it up in a few
    hours, but it's still not working.

    Bad battery, maybe, although its voltage looks OK, and the bios remembers
    the settings I give it. But it won't go past the first screen - the one
    with the memory check. I'm in the process of swapping out the floppy,
    video card, cables, etc. I hope it's not a DOA motherboard.

    My CPU is a K6-2+ 450, the one with L2 cache. Can anybody tell me whether
    the mobo cache should be disabled? I tried disabling it, but it still
    won't go past the memory test screen. I have two other 503+ computers
    running fine, but with the K6-2 550. A couple jumper settings are
    different, but there are enough similarities that I can't believe that I'm

    Well anyhow, Carbon, thanks again for your Linux suggestions.

    - Dave
    Boon, Aug 25, 2007
  9. Boon

    Boon Guest

    Wait, wait, don't tell me.

    503+ BIOS JE439 won't support the K6-2+ CPU. Have to first flash to BIOS
    JE4333, then it will work.

    - Dave
    Boon, Aug 26, 2007
  10. Boon

    Roger Hunt Guest

    Boon wrote
    FIC, as I remember, had a marvellous unique numbering system for the
    503+ BIOSes, and with prefixes of such similarity I managed to screw
    Royally the BIOS chip on mine by using a .bin designed for the 2013.

    Also, the jumpers seem mostly labelled upside-down and often back to
    front as well, and one or two need advanced tweezer design to get at
    them easily (when overclocking the CPU of course).

    Have fun!
    Roger Hunt, Aug 26, 2007
  11. Boon

    Guest Guest

    I have a VA-503+ on which I have run a bunch of Linux distributions,
    beginning with Slackware: RedHat, Gentoo, Debian, Ubuntu, etc. After a
    succession of recent disasters involving Linux 2.6-based Debian
    distributions (namely, Debian etch and Ubuntu current) -- both of which
    repeatedly self-destructed -- due, I suspect, to a bug in the
    Debian/Ubuntu NE2000 ISA NIC driver module ('ne') -- I decided to switch
    back to Linux 2.4-based Slackware 11.0.

    Home, sweet home!

    I doubt I will be running any more Linux 2.6-based distros on this
    board any time soon.

    Guest, Sep 4, 2007
  12. Boon

    Carbon Guest

    That's weird. I've run an isa ne2000 nic in my 503+ for years with many
    different distributions and have never had any trouble with it.
    Carbon, Sep 6, 2007
  13. Boon

    Boon Guest


    I got my new 503+ up and running. My problem was that the BIOS JE439
    wouldn't POST with my CPU, a K6-2+ 450. I borrowed a K6-2 (no plus) from
    one of my other 503+ computers, flashed the BIOS on the new 503+ to
    JE4333, then put the CPUs back where they were. The new 503+ works now
    with the K6-2+. I wonder how (or if) anyone got a K6-2+ to work on a 503+
    JE439 BIOS without first using a K6-2 (no plus) CPU like I did.

    I've been running the Linux live distros from CDs that you guys
    suggested. I'm greatly impressed that I can get to the web and to files
    on my other computers right away.

    Here's a question. Suppose I run Knoppix live to find that yes, it
    supports my sound card. Can I then assume that a hard drive installation
    of Xubuntu will support my sound card? The reasoning is that Knoppix and
    Xubuntu are both descendants of Ubuntu. If Knoppix has the driver, then
    Ubuntu has it, and that means Xubuntu has it, too. Is this good logic?
    Or do you still find out about drivers by brutal trial and error?

    Thanks for your comments.

    - Dave
    Boon, Sep 7, 2007
  14. Boon

    Guest Guest

    Thanks for the good news about the NE2000 ISA NIC. I forgot which
    thread I was in. This (as I said in another thread) is the VA-503+ that
    I wrecked by carelessly jamming a SDRAM chip into its slot, so there is
    plenty of weird stuff going on. Fact is, it's amazing to me that the
    board works at all -- but it does!


    p.s. I am in the market for a replacement board. (I wasted $40 on a
    DOA on eBay but the guy who sold it to me apparently "went South".) Any
    Guest, Sep 8, 2007
  15. Boon

    Carbon Guest

    It's good logic.

    However, you don't need to test with Knoppix. The Xubuntu desktop CD
    ( is also a live CD. If you boot into it and it
    picks up all your hardware, just click on the install to hard drive icon
    on the desktop and follow the prompts. It's that easy.
    Carbon, Sep 10, 2007
  16. Boon

    Boon Guest


    I've been working your suggestions for a pleasant Linux on a VA 503+.

    The live CDs are great for determining which cards work, and which don't.

    I found a solution to one problem that may be helpful to others.
    I want to put four cards into the 503+'s 3 PCI slots + 3 ISA slots:
    1) sound
    2) Promise controller
    3) USB 2
    4) ethernet

    I have PCI cards for all four, but the only ISA cards I have are sound
    cards - Sound Blaster models CT1350B and CT2940. These ISA Sound
    Blasters work with Windows, but they don't seem to work with Ubuntu &
    family. This was very discouraging because I wanted all four of these

    I found a very well written work-around at
    I followed the directions and got sound from the ISA card. Great!

    I then added the PCI USB card, and the sound died. An IRQ conflict,
    maybe? Yes! In Ubuntu I clicked on Application/Accessories/Terminal and
    cat /proc/interrupts
    to find that the USB card uses IRQ 5, which the sound card wants.

    In the PNP/PCI section of the JE4333 Bios I changed "Resources Controlled
    By" from Auto to Manual, then I changed both IRQ 5 and DMA 1 from
    "PCI/ISA" to "Legacy ISA". Now it all works!

    Here's my observations so far on the Linux distros I've tried:

    Knoppix is an awesome live demo!

    Open Suse's Samba didn't work, so I gave it up. I don't want to mess
    with the Samba config file. I think Open Suse has become like Fedora,
    unpaid beta testing.

    Damn Small Linux - I can't do much with this. Maybe it's too damn small.
    I'll have to come back to it.

    Xubuntu 7.04 wouldn't install because its hard drive partitioner is
    broken. I'll wait for a fix.

    Ubuntu 7.04 is great! Web access and Samba work from the get-go, and it
    even installs with no fuss to a hard drive hooked to a Promise
    Controller. I'm very happy with it. I'm thinking this is the keeper.
    But it's a little slow, so I still want to check out Xubuntu.

    Thanks again for your suggestions.
    Boon, Sep 16, 2007
  17. Boon

    Carbon Guest

    Very resourceful getting the PCI and ISA cards sorted out. I had the same
    issues getting four network cards working on my 503+ firewall.

    Now that you have Ubuntu installed you can easily install the XFCE desktop
    and switch back and forth between it and Gnome at login. Open a terminal
    window, type sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop, log out, select XFCE
    and log back in. You can install the KDE desktop the same way, sudo
    apt-get install kubuntu-desktop

    You'll probably also want to have a look at It has simple
    instructions for adding extra repositories, installing the various
    multimedia codecs for MP3, etc.
    Carbon, Sep 17, 2007
  18. Boon

    Boon Guest


    Thank you very much. I didn't know that I could install Kubunto and
    Xubunto from Ubunto. I now have all three. I should be out there cutting
    the grass, but this is more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

    Thanks again!

    - Dave
    Boon, Sep 17, 2007
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