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I am upgrading some business network. In the new configuration, it consists of a LAMP server and clients which surf the "website" it presents (a typical DB management system with HTML UI)
The client computers (existing, dont want to bother upgrading) are :
Pentium 2 400MHz
about 10 G hard drive
They used to be an "ok" office computers by 2000 - 2002 standards, and surfed the web with Windows 98 and IE
Currently, my requirements are :
A browser with "standard" GUI, that will be intuitive to use for Windows users
The "website" running on the server is being constructed in the meanwhile (by me), so i can tweak it somewhat to work around the limitations of browsers
The browser won't be used to surf bloated websites
A desktop that is intuitive to Windows users (up to starting the browser / file manager / email client, logging on without typing "startx", log off and shut down options in the desktop, low risk of messing up the desktop or panel settings)
Autodetection of plugged in flash drives, CDs (e.g. file manager or a notification shows up if user plugs in a drive, and there is easy option to umount it)
Desktop appearance can be configured a bit to look nice, and can choose fonts / colors that won't hurt in the eyes on an old CRT monitor
The entire system must be fairly responsive when it is in use. Boot time is mostly not an issue (the computers can be powered up a bit earlier to let them boot for a while), but if fast boot is an option i'd like it
Meanwhile I tried LXDE, E17 and Afterstep on my desktop (Pentium 4 w/ Arch w/ KDE as my main desktop). I think LXDE is the best (KDE has no chance of running on that boxes, E17 and Afterstep are confusing and need getting used to)
Need suggestions for :
Distro (looking for installable distros, but live cds suggestions are wellcome too)
Desktop (i pretty much allready chose LXDE, but other suggestions are wellcome)
Also want :
basic email client that can send / receive emails on SMTP / POP3, for use on the same old boxes
If a memory upgrade is totally required then i'll talk the manager into doing it, but otherwise i'd prefer sufficing with what allready is there
Puppy will not run in 64MB RAM.
With that amount of RAM you will have serious troubles getting a responsive desktop, even with LXDE. I would try IceWM, it looks somewhat Windows like and is very lightweight.
I just installed "wary puppy" (Puppy 5) on a laptop with a 6 gig hard drive and 128M memory. It works really well without changing anything. It is well equipped to find and activate your internet connections in most cases, and has a good browser that works well within those limitations. It also has Abiword which will read and write to MSword format, and a spreadsheet that will read and write to Microsofts Excel.
With only 128M memory you ought to install it directly to the hard disk, and with only 10G HDD you would do well to give it the whole hard disk. I couldn't get grub to install properly, and had to use grub4dos (which is on the installation disc).
The programs that will be needed for a windows user to be comfortable have different names and icons in Puppy which they willo just have to get used to, but a short list on paper by the computer will get them by for a week or two until they understand. Once your into the program, there isn't a lot of difference from their counterparts in windoze.
I think that would be sufficient if you set up the machines in the right way. Either you have a small mass storage device (like a CF or SD card) to boot the system and then connect to your server, or the server delivers a small system image that runs in RAM of the thin client (Slitaz or Tinycore would be good distributions for something like that). Only the second task will hit the servers performance slightly, and only when delivering an image. The first variant will not influence the servers performance at all.