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Currently I am using the latest version of DSL (3.01 i think) and I want to try something new.
I have an older machine, a Pentium II 266MHz with 128MB of RAM. My primary drive is a 1GB and I have a 650MB slave.
I dont like running Live CDs, they are too slow and you cant do that much with them. So I am looking for something that has a hard drive installation option. Also, it would be good if it was a Debain based distro. Im still kinda new to Linux, and all I have used so far is Debain based distros (DSL, Ubuntu, Debain, dyne:bolic, knoppix)
What I mainly use this computer for is graphics (GIMP), web browsing, and chat.
If you want to stick with a Debian based distro, why not just use Debian? Do a base install (i.e. no gui or any extras -- I think it takes up 200MB or so) and then build a lightweight desktop on top of it. I actually have a full KDE-base running on a Celeron 400MHz (which is comparable to your P266) and it only uses 50MB of RAM. I trim that in about half when I switch to icewm...
The Ubuntu stuff uses Gnome, and I dont have enough hard drive space for Gnome. And I need something already all done. Like I said, Im a noob to Linux. I have tried that with Debian, and I have no idea wtf im doing. I can get the WM installed, but then it will boot into the WM and I wont be able to do anything (no icons or menus).
And how much does KDE slow an older computer down?
No, Ubuntu uses Gnome. Kubuntu uses KDE and Xubuntu uses Xfce which is very lightweight.
Why I would choose Xubuntu is because you get a very well maintained distro - all ubuntu packages work with xubuntu, and most debian packages work too. It's ubuntu, simply with another desktop enviroment that was optimized for old hardware. And most of the things that go for ubuntu, are the same for Xubuntu, so you will have a very nice support group. Vector or Feather linux might be great, but if you run into distro-specific problems, you're more likely to have to solve it on your own.
of course, any distro would do. Just install it with minimal graphical enviroment, or none, and then install a light desktop like WindowMaker, Fluxbox, Xfce...
Though, if you don't have much experience with the linux command line, you won't have much fun that way, and I would still recommend a complete solution.
I'd use debian testing, install from netboot cd. And use deborphan, remove unused locales, etc.
Or Arch linux, it boots very fast, and it's easier to get flash,mplayer, etc to work in firefox then in debian. Apart from that it uses a bit more megabytes then debian testing (which might be critical in your case), and is maybe a bit more difficult to control the system settings because there are no gui tools (but for me that makes it easier, because the config files are usually very clear and simple). If you decide to try it, definetaly look at the wiki on their website which helps you to configure: http://archlinux.org/