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I recently acquired a handful of old PCs, but they are taking up space in my small apartment and I'd like to get them out of here. They are low-end processors (P133 would probably be the average and they seem to have mostly 8MB with all SIMMs filled). I haven't really taken the Linux plunge (I've played with SuSe 6.4 on one machine, but not much), but I have been paying loose attention to the Linux "scene" and I use SCO OS5 UNIX every day at work (purely command line, though).
I'd like to find out if there's a good distro for this kind of machine that would provide a reasonably performing X interface with a browser and e-mail client. Also, a source of cheap SIMMs to upgrade these things with would be appreciated as well.
My fiancee's grandmother may be one potential user if I can make it simple enough (although I'm not holding my breath for that one!).
Anyone know of some distros designed with such limited hardware in mind?
I don't think that with 8Mb you're gonna be using much of X! There is something called TinyX (can't remember the URL) that is supposed to be quite good at getting 'an X server' (not 'the X server') running on very low spec machines (I think the best so far was a 386 laptop with 4Mb ram). As for the distro of choice... there is only 1: SLACKWARE ALL THE WAY!
Try to find more RAM, then you will probably be able to start an old version of any X GUI. I have an old P120 with 72meg of Ram (I know this can be really hard to obtain, but I think you can easily find at least 32 meg of ram) running Slackware without important trouble.
Thanks for the replies! I definitely hope to expand the RAM 'cause I know 8MB ain't gonna cut it (although I'll try to check out the TinyX - thanks, Thymox!) - that's why I asked for a pointer to a cheap source of SIMMs. No replies to that yet...
I have heard that Slackware is a PITA to set up, tho (Debian-based, no?). I was kinda hoping for a load-n-go solution cause I don't want to spend much time on these buggers. I just wanted to make them useful for some people and give them away (or sell if they wind up taking too much time to set up).
I was also hoping for something that handled RPMs since those are the most prevalent packages out there (yes, I know they can be converted, but I'm trying to KISS these boxes).
Any more ideas out there?
Last edited by mannowhere; 09-04-2002 at 12:33 AM.
Linux Terminal Server Project (One server many terminals)
The X terminals run great on 486 or better 4 Meg Ram and
1+ Meg Video (Video Ram most important) and Nic.
Hard Drive and CD-rom Drive not needed (boot from floppy).
The server needs the RAM (12 meg min per client) and the
Linux Router Project
6+ ram, floppy drive (Hard drive not needed) 2+ NIC's
LRP's can be firewalls, Print servers, routers, etc.
To Run X locally I suggest at least 32 Megs of ram.
Distribution: RedHat 7.2, Vector Linux 1.8, Mandrake 8.2
My first Linux box was a Pent. 166 Mhz with Trident TGUI 9660 1Mb video card & 16Mb of EDO 72 pinn SIMM's. I ran Vector Linux 1.8 http://www.ibiblio.org/vectorlinux/index.htm ,look in the download section for the ISO images. Vector1.8 uses IceWM for the window manager (very light & not to hard), Spruce Email client, Netscape for a browser, & as far as using RPMs you can convert RPM's to .tgz files with midnight commander. Oh, Vector is Slackware based also & you will have to setup your soundcard , etc. by hand. They also have a great forum just for Vector questions http://www.mathomas.org/cgi-bin/vecl...e0fa43688cffff I recommended this distro because if not for it I would have quit before I had gotten started. I tried RedHat 7.0, Peanut Linux, Debian, Coyote, Vector was the only one after about 4 weeeks of trying that I could get to run with my hardware. The lastest release of Vector is 2.5 but I recommend 1.8, it worked great on my old box with 16 Mb but you will need atleast 32 Mb to run Star Office 5.2 or Open Office 1.0. As for CHEAP SIMM's do a search on dealtime www.dealtime.com & ebay other than that I don't know SIMM's have never been cheap compared to DIMM's.
Originally posted by mannowhere I have heard that Slackware is a PITA to set up, tho (Debian-based, no?). I was kinda hoping for a load-n-go solution... I was also hoping for something that handled RPMs
Slackware is not a Debian based distro. At its simplest, Debian (and its offspring) use DEB files (similar to RPM files) whereas Slackware uses TGZ files. There are many, many differences between the two, but in my experience, Debian is harder to get going. Debian is all well and good once you have got the hang of how to install stuff, but getting there can a trawl! Yes, Slackware forces you to setup everything yourself, but it really isn't that hard if you follow instructions.
Something using RPM that will 'load 'n' go'... you tried Red Hat? I believe that they optimize for 486s (or maybe they've gone to 586), so you should be fine with installing stuff. Most software is optimized for 386s (hence the .i386.rpm files), so they will work on anything above a 386. Once you have a little more memory, you should be OK with most things though.
Badjooda: I was aware of all those things, but my goal is to get these things out of here - not set up my own classroom! But thanks for the info, anyway - had I not already known about those things then they would have at least been interesting to investigate.
Bubba: Thank you for the most helpful reply I've gotten. I see you read my situation exactly. A distro using IceWM and other lightwieght apps is just what I was looking for. That, along with an article in the current Linux Journal covering low-resource alternative apps will hopefully get me on my way. If nothing else - the shopping link looks great (strange that there is such a range in prices - I'll have to be very careful about what I order and from whom, I guess). Maybe I can slap some RAM in these things and sell them at the cost of the RAM.
Thymox: Right, now I remember - Slackware is the true hacker's distro. Sounds right up my alley - given the time - but I've got a wife and kid (with another on the way), so I haven't the time to dive in that deep, I'm afraid (not that I wouldn't like to...). Debian, if I recall, while technically superior in some ways (I understand DEB packages are better than RPMs in some fashion or another), is generally more just a PITA. Recent RH distros don't seem to support older hardware as well anymore. They come with GNOME or KDE baggage that's waayyy too demanding of such modest hardware. I'm sure if I spent enough time tweaking I could figure it out, but - as I said - I don't want to waste too much time on this.
Thanks again, all for taking the time to help out!
(I understand DEB packages are better than RPMs in some fashion or another)
"Both package formats have similar scripts, but the moments during the package installation/upgrade/removal processes they are called are different. The ordering dpkg uses guarantees that packages can finetune things at various essential moments and handle rollback on errors cleanly. For rpm that is not possible."
Distribution: RedHat 7.2, Vector Linux 1.8, Mandrake 8.2
It seems we both like to mess around with old junk. I just have finally built my first new computer, everything I had was a handme down & all the new ones I built was for other people so I kinda know about your limitations with old hardware.
As for the Ram EDO 72 pin SIMM's normally are about $1.00 per Mb (give or take a few cents). Also from my past experience I have bought cheap or generic Ram, but it didn't last long compared to other brands. Crucial is mostly what I use now http://www.crucial.com/ The downside to upgrading your old boxes is that you will probably have about $65.00 (US $) per box in upgrading the memory to 64 Mb. Also did these boxes have modems installed in them or not. Anyways here is another site that might help you find something that you need http://www.used-pcs.com/home.htm everything here is used but you might find something you need.
Also I have no affliation with any of the websites that I have mentioned I found them a while back & thought I would pass them on.
I have had very useable results using Libranet 1.9.1 and 2.0 on older machines. (read pentiun 90 w/32 megs memory, 80 meg swap.)
There is a little more configuring to get Icewm in 2.0 to how I like it. But with opera-6.0-static as the web browser instead of mozilla (netscape) 4.77 I am quite comfortable for the time being. I also use Sylpheed for a mail client. It looks simular to Outlook Express but MUCH faster, only without the graphics. Libranets default WindowMaker is IceWm, it is fairly gnome compliant or tries to be. It has several options for themes from A-Z . Libranet 1.9.1 will install on a 540 meg drive . It uses about 330 megs for the default OS, 2.0 takes a little more room on the default install (about 430). The difference between the 2 is a big step as the distibution has matured. It is Debian based and includes quite a bit of tools and toys/games on the disk. Adminmenu is very well mannered when trying to setup some of the more useful items on a Deskop machine.
Mungkie Linux or TinyX is super small. It fits on 2 floppys and has a basic gui using alloywm and chimera binaries. It has a web browser, and mail client. It takes a lot more tinkering than Libranet to get it to boot from an ext2 hdd, but it is extremely light on resources. Their site mentions quite a bit about it being intended as an embedded OS rather than a desktop. Their site is at www.thepub.nildram.co.uk/mirrors/ 2diskxwin/2diskXwin.htm . It tells quite abit about it and what is installed by default. After "installing" it on my hard drive with what came on the two disks and a third dl of moduls.tgz I used up 24 megs of drive space. It does have an option of installing to a dos partition so any win-bootable disk should boot it using loadlin.exe (supplied) and linux.bat (also supplied). It also has some roots in Debian. It includes dpkg for *.deb installs. I havent tried it yet to see if it works the same or not as the dpkg in my Libranet installs. It is pretty light on networking tools; surprisingly, because it does have an http server running.
Nautilus is pretty but a resourse hog and really doesnt flatter (sp?) older harware well. I hope they enjoy the systems you set up for them.