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With 64 MB RAM I wouldn't make nothing but some simple servers out of them. With 128MB you should be able to run a simple GUI based system, but forget about running Firefox or Openoffice/Libreoffice on that machines.
Vector Linux, ConnochaetOS and antiX should run with such limited resources, but you can of course take a general purpose distribution like Slackware or Debian, if you only run a WM or maybe LXDE as graphical environment.
I personally would take one of those laptops for practicing on the command-line and build servers, without installing a GUI.
I have a Dell CPx, it was the very first Linux computer on which I learned Linux. 500mhz pentium 3, 256mb RAM, 6gb hard drive. It finally bit the dust due to a failing power supply.
The answer to your question is: what are your needs? If you have a modern desktop/laptop/netbook that currently meets all of your needs, then I would take the old computers straight to Freecycle/Goodwill/recycling center (I doubt you could sell them for any significant $$).
On the other hand, if you are temporarily on hard times and desperately need a functional computer, then max out your RAM (I think 512mb is the maximum for the CPx) and try Puppy/SliTaz/AntiX/CrunchBang and you should be OK for lightweight web browsing (no Flash!), word processing, coding, etc.
You will have got hard-times using a gui-installer from a live-CD. Debian comes with a cli-installer out of box, i think Slackware too (not sure). Antix has a script to do that, but i don't know it. As far i can tell puppy runs on pretty much anything :-)
Like already said i would use the 64MB machines for cli only, and (perhaps) try a gui on the 128 ones.
Perhaps have a look at http://inx.maincontent.net/ (for the fun of it, if you go cli only you can pick the already mentioned distributions and simply don't install a gui).
I use such machines (mainly for fun), and hence would not give them away. Even if right now you think you would never-ever do xyz, it might be you will do it soon (and then miss a cheap box to test it there).
The problem with very small computers is not the OS, but finding usable software.
You can run a GUI on a 64MB machine: AntiX, for example. But don't expect to do anything fancy with it. It would be a matter of one program at a time, Dillo for the internet, Ted for a word processor, and so on. 128MB is a different question: you can use modern software with AntiX or Vector Light.
Well if you're really so very much attached to them, those Dell laptops of yours, then you can try and run some CLI-based Linux there. Just for the fun of it, you know . There are CLI-based browsers like lynx, links and the like. There are lots of other things, too.
Although I must admit I just junked my two old (but working) Pentium MMX w 64Mb RAM machines -- just don't have enough space to keep old junk. Kept them to use for some simple servers in some small office network, should such thing be needed. But these days even 500Mb RAM machines are being junked as easily, I'm using one of them for a server (and even then the limitation can be sensed)... But with your 6GB HDD you never know when it is going to fail, and when it finally does you never get a NEW one for replacement. So, you see the point.
True, for a simple network server-gateway you don't even need a HDD, but can go with a live-cd. But then, 64Mb of RAM will be a bit too little for any modern distro based LiveCD.
So, I really don't know... I'm not SO deep into this stuff that I could understand someone telling me he would go with a 386 and be content with it (although I hear some such remarks from time to time). Even QNX modern distro needs quite some modern stuff to run, you know.
Perhaps, if you just want to do some assembler programming or just need ANY machines to make a small home network to probe with some networking technologies, then you can use these.
OK, a friend of mine who's also an instructor for Novell on SuSE Enterprise and networking technologies, he has a bunch of them old machines running various old weird stuff (including Novell Netware!) and connected into a home network. But he's every now and then approached by some companies still using such stuff in their networks, so it makes perfect sense with him to keep it. Well, when the bosses in one of such companies learned about the old junk he's using, they almost insisted on supplying him some more recent stuff they were about to junk anyway. But he's of the old school and loves his old stuff that keep working now for about 20 years I think, so he kept his old stuff.
So, you see for yourself.
With me it's always a question of time (if not money) I'll have to dedicate to all this stuff, apart from the space it will occupy. Will it pay back accordingly (in whatever sense)? But that ain't no "Linux question", sorry .
I was surprised to learn of Arachne for Linux. There is a 2010 version I tried to install on my Ubuntu 10.10 laptop but it aborted when it couldn't link to /dev/mouse. It is not an issue yet because I really intend to try to get Arachne running on my old 386pc running Debian Slink: http://www.linuxquestions.org/questi...roblem-525843/
I did manage to get Arachne J190LAST.EXE to run in Dos on a Panasonic CF-01 with my trusty old US Robotics external modem. Slow but fun.
Old computers like that will still run a cut down linux system. I usually like to install the Debian base system, use sysv-rc-conf to disable the unnecessary daemons/services that run by default, then manually install the packages I need. The --no-install-recommends option for apt-get is useful for saving disk space.
Anyway, a system with 128MB of RAM could still do simple web browsing, if you use a lightweight web browser like midori. Firefox is too bloated and won't be worth using.
You can use kickstart and make a bare-minimum linux system with packages that you need.
I could create a fedora 14 in a 260MB iso DVD, it has XFCE desktop, rsync, dropbear SSH and even 32-bit application runtime
I use rsync to install from the LiveOS.
Here is my list of packages:
## @base and @core are selected by default
%packages --excludedocs --instLangs=en_US
### desktop and X
mousepad # text editor
# for X fonts
# for terminal fonts
# graphics drivers
I have some functional P2 / P3 laptops w 64MB or 128 MB ram - 6GB hard drives. Dell Latitude cpi / cpx.
I have some old Celeron desktops that are in their boxes - never opened.
Are they candidates for anything useful in the world of Linux? ..or do I take them to the recycling place??
As others have suggested the machines will not meet today's specifications for modern Gnu/Linux. You could first increase the RAM to the maximum for the chosen machines. 6GB storage for some older Gnu/Linux is doable.
My suggestion would be to choose a early Slackware version around 8.1 or even start at 8.1. Even 11 would be doable for that class of machine. Best would to setup for X terminals for your network. Light DE or small window managers would be a good choice. Look at Slackware.
I do use this class of machines for controllers and very workable with small environments.