First posted 2/16/2024

The first brand-new computer I ever built for myself had an Abit AAX8E motherboard with a late 2004 Pentium 4 3.2ghz (single-core!) processor, and still remains in my basement to this day. The CMOS battery on it is very dead, but it’s still booting up perfectly fine, so I figured why not try to have some FT8 fun with WSJT-X on it? Although I wasn’t able to get a full QSO, I was able to get the latest AntiX Linux installed and decoded some FT8 from across the pond successfully. This will also be the very last post in my Linux for Hams with Win7/XP in the shack series, and just about everything here should work in a similar way on Raspberry Pi OS too.

Step 1: Install AntiX Linux 23

This computer’s CPU is before the x64 era, so if you want something that’ll work on x32 computers while still getting security updates here in 2024, your best bet is likely AntiX Linux. While you could certainly use Raspberry Pi Desktop, as of this writing they haven’t released a Debian Bookworm flavored version, and I didn’t feel like using their Debian Bullseye flavored version available today as it’s more than a few years old. After burning the AntiX Linux 23 image to a DVD (fun fact: the AA8XE is old enough to not have boot from USB functionality), the installer ran successfully!

For extra nostalgia, I broke out my Abit “uGuru 3rd eye clock” that came with the motherboard 20 years ago, plugged in my retro keyboard, and hooked up the lone CRT monitor I kept in the basement for extra authenticity. Not only did all of these products survive many years of storage, the CRT’s deep color actually looked pretty darn good after not using a CRT in so many years! I definitely can’t ever go back to using one of these as my primary display, but it did look surprisingly good in the basement:

Step 2: Get NTP time working

No YouTube video or blog post about WSJT-X/FT8 would be complete without mentioning the importance of a good time sync. (Raspberry Pi OS users, you should already have a good time sync, if not definitely consult YouTube). Assuming you have a good wired ethernet connection on the computer, go ahead and open up the AntiX control center

Then click on the System menu from the left side, and click “set date and time”:

You’ll immediately notice your system time waaaaay off, in my case almost by 20 years! But one click of the “Use Internet Time server” button should fix it:

As we can see from the next crappy picture on my CRT monitor, our time sync now looks much better, and we can click Quit to exit:

Before moving on, it’s always good practice to open the built-in web browser and do a quick check. While the time wasn’t quite perfect, I felt like it was good enough given the ancient hardware (no sense spending any tshooting time on equipment this old!) and FT8’s forgiving nature:

Step 3: Install Updates + WSJT-X

Open up a terminal from the bottom left corner flower-like menu, then run the following three commands to perform OS updates and install WSJT-X:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install wsjtx

After install, you will have WSJT-X in your Applications menu! Raspberry Pi OS users, look around the Raspberry menu, it’s in a different spot, but I assure you it’s buried somewhere in there.

Step 4: Configure WSJT-X

There’s many great YouTube videos out there about configuring WSJT-X, and I highly recommend watching a few to gain familiarity with setting your callsign, setting your grid square, turning on reporting, etc. I’m using the SignalLink USB from my 10m rig, and I will leave a screenshot of that here as the input/output looks quite a bit different than it does on Windows:

Once everything looks good in WSJT-X, fire up that radio and hope for some decodes. While I got a lot less than what I would normally see on my newer computers, it got a few very quickly, and WSJT-X actually looked pretty darn good on a square CRT monitor!

I was really hoping to get a complete QSO on the ancient computer, but between 10m not being so hot in the afternoon at my QTH and far too many things that can go wrong on gear this old, it just wasn’t meant to be. I did have a fair amount of signal reports via pskreporter though, so that was fun to see. The website took quite some time to load, but it did appear on the CRT too:


I am a gigantic fan of computer & video game stuff from the “Nintendo 64 through original Xbox era”. Let’s call that 1996-2005, shortly before Windows Vista + smartphones came along and screwed everything up :). While I very much enjoy these older computers for silly remote desktop use-cases and old-school gaming, chances are you’re not going to be happy with something this old for WSJT-X, even if the machine is more than capable of running your logging + rig control software. Modern web browsers eat lots of RAM and CPU cores, it baffles me that web browsing used to be very fast on this computer when it first arrived! I’m always amazed at how modern websites have such terrible performance on 15-25 year old x32 computers considering the multi-core CPU multi-GB RAM x64 machines from circa 2008 onwards can still somewhat browse the web slowly but surely. Plus the amount of power I’m burning on this large desktop is waaaaay more than even the highest performance Raspberry Pi 5 you can buy today.

This was a fun little side-project and I’m glad that this PC which got me through High School was able to enjoy FT8. I’m planning to get rid of even more ancient computer & video game stuff in the coming months, but this is the one desktop I will absolutely be holding onto for as long as I can. All of the hours playing HL2 Deathmatch, UT2004 and experimenting with Linux + Cisco stuff on this PC sparked a lot of joy for me, and I hope you consider reviving an old PC with AntiX linux someday! Here’s one last picture of all the silly lights & stuff which 2004 Tom was sooooo proud of:

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WSJT-X on a 20 year old computer running AntiX Linux 23 (or Raspberry Pi OS)

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