As I've stated previously, I'm still waiting for my rma to clear and to order new parts. It seems that this dell laptop is very picky about ram, so I ordered a single 256 meg stick from crucial that claims to work in this system. The laptop can have a maximum of 512, and has 2 slots, but it came with a single 64 meg stick.
Adding the 256 meg stick has worked wonders for the responsiveness of this old laptop. The install of TinyMe (lightweight pclinuxos) went smoothly now that I had enough ram for the livecd to run and for the installer to do it's work.
On the positive side, it picked up the 8 meg mobility m3 (rage128) card and set the native resolution to 1024x768 with 3d enabled. The ess maestro sound card was also autodetected and worked out of the box as well.
As I'm waiting for some other parts to arrive (a 60 gig seagate 5400 rpm 8 meg ide hard drive, and a wpa2 pcmcia wireless network card), I'm stuck with a good old 5 gig hard drive and a usb wireless card.
And here was the first show-stopper. Since TinyMe uses such an old kernel, to get the realtek wireless card to work requires the eeprom and rtl8187 module to be patched... and since this old laptop does not have a wired internet connection, I'm at a bit of an impasse. I suppose I could download the files on another box and place them on my 1 gig usb thumb drive and then transfer them over, but that's a bit of a pain as there is only one usb port on this laptop, so that means swapping the wireless dongle and the thumb drive... but I'll probably just download the kernel source and build a more current kernel myself and include the rtl8187 usb support as all kernels 2.6.23 and later have it... it just needs to be enabled.
The decision to use an older kernel like this seems to be a bad choice in my honest opinion. The 2.6.26 kernel is rock solid and supports MUCH more hardware than the old 2.6.18 series. It also plays nicely with drm modules for older hardware as well.
In fact, a LOT of the software seems very outdated as well... and remember... I'm a long time Slackware user, so I don't HAVE to have bleeding edge software.... but c'mon.... ndiswrapper 1.48? 1.53 has been out FOREVER and it's still not included?
I think I'll only keep this installed long enough to help another user with his troubles with the mach64 driver and pclos, and then I'll wait for the new release of pclos to come out and then I'll modify my own openbox setup on it and see how that is.
I'm sure some users love TinyMe, and I'm trying very hard to like it... but with it's current limitations I'm finding that impossible at the moment. Pclos really needs to get their next release out the door and start progressing again or you'll find many more users moving on to other distros as well.
In fact... I have a freshly burned zenwalk cd calling my name.... hmmm.... =p