Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Breathe new life into your old PC with WattOS R9 and ZRAM+ZSWAP

Breathe new life into your old computer with the lightweight distro WattOS R9. It uses 
Ubuntu as the upstream distro and built the latest version from 14.04 LTS for long term support and stability.
WattOS R9 comes installed with the LXDE desktop enviornment (LXDE is a lightweight desktop alternative to Unity, GNOME and KDE. It's ideal for old computers or anyone looking for a fast, lightweight system. It's even lighter than Xubuntu's XFCE).
The installation process is similar to the one of Ubuntu 14.04 (see how to install Ubuntu 14.04 here ).

For 768 MB RAM or less: enable zRam:

zram (also called zRAM and, initially, compcache) is a Linux kernel feature that provides a form of virtual memory compression

When your computer has very little RAM (768 MB or less), then of course your best choice is a lightweight member of the Ubuntu family, like Lubuntu. But even then the lack of memory will remain a problem, which will cause your system to slow down from time to time. Even when the swappiness has been decreased to 5.

In that case, you might achieve better results by enabling the experimental kernel module zRam. zRam creates a compressed swap file in your RAM. The compression factor is the gain: with that, you "increase" your RAM.
Note: this hack might make your system unstable! So do not apply it on important computers.
The price you pay for this, is threefold:

- Your processor (CPU) is being taxed more heavily, because it'll have to compress and decompress all the time;

- When the system has filled the RAM swap, it'll start swapping on the hard drive as well. With a heavy burden: the chunk of memory that has been sacrificed for the RAM swap.

You can install it by opening a terminal and type :

sudo apt-get install zram-config

Reboot your computer.


zswap is a Linux kernel feature that provides a compressed write-back cache for swapped pages, as a form of virtual memory compression.

To enable zswap you need to edit /etc/default/grub edit line to 

afterwards run sudo update-grub and reboot your computer
Reboot your computer.
At first glance WattOS might not be visually appealing . Tutorial on customizing and adding some eye candy to this OS can be found here  and here . 

Other popular lightweight Ubuntu Distros :