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Old 07-14-2004, 09:07 PM   #1
LaptopLinux
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Need help selecting a small distro for an old laptop


I was asked by a friend to take an old laptop (90 MHz P1, 2 GB hard drive) and turn it into a basic Linux box with word processing, email, web surfing, games (simple games like solitare, etc), and multimedia applications. Since this computer will be donated to a person that may not be very computer literate, it also has to be as easy to use as possible (in other words, full GUI--I don't want to bring the command line into this.) Can you guys recommend any small distros that would fit the bill?

While I'm at it, I have another small problem with the computer itself: It is so old that it doesn't have any kind of internet connection, a CD-ROM drive, or a USB drive. The only useful connection it has is a PCMCIA slot. My friend also gave me a USB CD-ROM drive to use to install the OS, but the computer can't boot from anything connected by USB, even if it had a USB connection. My friend also has a USB-to-PCMCIA adapter that we can use, but that is about all the tools I can expect to have for this job. Any ideas on how to get Linux on this ancient box with what I have to work with?
 
Old 07-14-2004, 09:26 PM   #2
pave_spectre
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With careful selection of installation pakages, it should be possible to fit any distro in 2gig, especially if you go with a lighter window manager in place of KDE or GNOME.

If you were willing to fork out a few bucks, you can by a notebook-to-desktop adaptor, and install the distro with the drive installed in a desktop PC and then connect it back to the laptop when you are done. Adaptors can be had pretty cheap.
 
Old 07-14-2004, 10:35 PM   #3
MS3FGX
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Sorry to burst your bubble, but I don't think it can be done.

Linux runs well on old hardware, but there is a limit. I had FluxBox ( a very light GUI) installed on a 133 MHz P1, and it ran at a crawl. A 90 MHz machine would be pretty bad, and I don't think you would have enough power to run the GUI and a word processor worth using.

And I am almost sure it will be impossible to watch any videos on it (if that is what you mean by multimedia) mplayer would be able to play MP3s on it though.

If you still want to go through with it, Vector Linux is supposed to be very good on old hardware. You will need to get an old version of it though, the newest version requires a lot more hardware than you have there.
 
Old 07-14-2004, 10:36 PM   #4
vectordrake
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The distros you'll want to consider would be Deli Linux or early versions of Slackware (Vector's 1.x versions would work well). Perhaps Debian Potato as well. If there's a floppy drive in it, you can likely get a cheap pcmcia ethernet card to connect to the net or a network and you can bootstrap the system from a floppy (Debian will work well here) and do the installation over the net. Just a suggestion.
 
Old 07-15-2004, 08:56 AM   #5
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MF3FGX, the computer already has Windows 98 installed on it. It runs slowly, but reliably. If the computer can handle Windows 98, why shouldn't it be able to handle one of the lighter Linux distros with a WM like Fluxbox?
 
Old 07-15-2004, 01:19 PM   #6
MS3FGX
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Because Windows 98 was created when hardware like yours was common. It was designed to be able to run on hardware like that (even though that machine still would have been considered slow in 1998).

On the other hand, Linux is current software. It is optimized for faster processors, higher amounts of RAM, and bigger drives.

Windows 98 hasn't changed since 1998, but Linux has changed immensely.
 
Old 07-15-2004, 03:31 PM   #7
vectordrake
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"DeLi Linux stands for "Desktop Light" Linux. It is a Linux Distribution for old computers, from 486 to Pentium MMX 166 or so. It's focused on desktop usage. It includes email clients, graphical web browser, an office package with word processor and spreadsheet, and so on." - from the Deli homepage.

Debian Potato was developed around 1999-2000. It runs on kernel 2.2 (which is still being updated) which will run on older hardware reasonably well.

Slackware predates Windows 98 by about 3 years, and all the distros are available via ftp.

There's no reason that Linux can't run on older hardware. You just need the linux fron the time. Kernel 2.0 or 2.2. XFree86 v er 3.3, Glibc5, etc. Its all out there and it worked well, considering (and is still being developed). The *BSDs will work as well.

Fluxbox, IceWM, Windowmaker, XFCE or any of the super-lite environments like UDE will run fine. The key is to run it on top of the lighter stuff. Kernel 2.4 will be a bad idea for anything less than a p-133 (But I ran Woody on a p-133 with XFCE quite well -48mb ram) because it takes a lot more overhead and requires more swap than 2.2 and before.

The problem with this piece of hardware is the install options. How do you get it on the thing. That's the real problem.
 
Old 07-15-2004, 07:14 PM   #8
NoxVampyre
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According to the Deli site if it has a floppy drive and a parallel port you could install from a zip disk. I know I have a parallel zip drive around here somewhere and hopefully you do too? I also used to have a pcmcia cdrom but it died.

Tough call here but where there's a will there's a way.
 
Old 07-15-2004, 07:24 PM   #9
vectordrake
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It looks like what one would need for an older system. Of course, one could find an archive somewhere with a copy of Storm Linux on it. Its based on Debian Potato (choice of 2.0 and 2.2 kernels, I believe). But, its not supported any more. Best to try Deli or an earlier version of Slackware (version 7 or before)
 
  


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