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Old 02-16-2008, 09:12 AM   #1
shoeburymike
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Registered: Dec 2007
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Unhappy Gettin a version of Linux on to an older PC


I have a a 166 Pentium Packard Bell desktop running Windows 98 and a Compaq Armada E500(probably a bit quicker) laptop running Windows NT and I have been trying to get a version of Linux on to them. Both old PCs take floppys and CD ROMs(not DVDs). I have tried a Suse 9.2 from an older Linux Format magazine and the Ubuntu 7.10 and Mandriva Powerpack 2008 from the latest Linux Magazines, and attempted to make boot discs from the instructions provided to no avail. It is a shame, because I understand that Linux can breathe new life into some of these older computers because of its superior efficiency. I also like some of the 'Sun Systems' related things associated with Linux. I was using Sun stuff well before MS came on the scene almost 30 years ago!! That was in the days when we had ONE computer per department and you had to book your time on it a week in advance!! Any simple ideas for getting Linux on one of these old machines. My main machine is a year old Packard Bell with the other stuff on!!!
 
Old 02-16-2008, 09:22 AM   #2
carltm
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Location: Canton, MI
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I have successfully installed Debian on computers with
older/slower cpus than this. You might want to give
Debian a try.
 
Old 02-16-2008, 10:14 AM   #3
MoonMind
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First, please make sure that your computers can boot from CD - that's a BIOS setting, so you need to enter the BIOS (the way to do that is indicated immediately after starting up the machine, *before* the actual OS boots) and set it up to boot from CD as a first (or second, first being floppy) boot device. If you can't get that to work, you'll always have to use boot floppies, and not all of the recommendable distributions offer them.

The question of what to run is crucial - but the most important thing is not CPU, but RAM: What you can use on those machines depends on the amount of RAM they have, so I'd suggest checking that first and stating it here; I can give only preliminary advice before I know what we're really dealing with here.

What I *can* say is that there's a distribution called DeLiLinux that is very likely to run on both boxes (almost) regardless of RAM, but it's not a first choice - while it's extremely (or rather, admirably) compact and does need only minimal resources, it's also pretty bare-bones and less extendable than other distributions.

You can also start using full featured distributions like Debian or Slackware (I'd stay away from the likes of Ubuntu with such old hardware - it won't work nicely), and there are ways to make them perform well even on very old systems, but frankly, that's not really something I'd try as a first experience in Linux (if you're not willing to learn a lot and do a lot of trial and error). However, those projects offer boot floppies and sport really great documentation and big communities.

You can try interesting distributions for older hardware, starting with DamnSmallLinux which is already considerably more usable out of the box than DeLi since it ships with a couple of more common applications and is generally very flexible (but sometimes needs a thorough hands on), Puppylinux (runs well with 64MB RAM - if there's swap space available, anyhow) and - if there's 128MB of RAM or more - Zenwalk and Vector Linux (use the Light edition of the latter in order to get a usable system. Other possibilities with 128MB+: Xubuntu (a little lighter than Ubuntu) - you may have to chose the "alternate" install CD), Fluxbuntu (they offer a nice RC, but it's clearly work in progress) or Shift Linux (with a very light GUI, but well done in all). Finally, there's Debris Linux which works well with 128MB but really takes off with 256MB.

Of those mentioned above, apart from DeLiLinux (which I like, but would not necessarily recommend because of its quite peculiar set of applications - it takes a lot of getting used to), I'd recommend using Puppylinux (I run it on a P233MMX with 64MB RAM - fits perfectly!) or Zenwalk (it *flies* on a PII450 with - well - 384MB RAM, but I already had it running sufficiently well on the very same P233MMX I use with Puppylinux now). I've also done a customised Debian install on an old Toshiba laptop (Celeron300 with 192MB RAM), but that certainly didn't run "out of the box" (did take almost a day of tinkering and optimising - but it was very well worth it).

Sorry for the long answer - I hope I didn't confuse you too much

M.

Last edited by MoonMind; 02-16-2008 at 10:19 AM.
 
Old 02-16-2008, 11:10 AM   #4
mrrangerman
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I would say try Debian first, if that fails try Slackware. I have a Gateway Solo laptop pI 266 386mb ram Slackware installed with no problems. You will want to use a light windows manager though something with little overhead, I use Fluxbox which makes the system usable.
 
Old 02-16-2008, 11:40 AM   #5
MoonMind
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mrrangerman:

I generally agree (I prefer Debian over almost everything myself, and I'm convinced that with a customised Debian system, you can revive almost everything...), but if I get this right, he's a new user. Configuring Fluxbox may not be too difficult, but it needs some hands-on and some reading-up. I wouldn't expect a a newb to start with that (except he/she wants that, of course), let alone on an old laptop that might struggle with X (mine did - nothing a dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg and a little research couldn't cure, but enough to give an unexperienced user a headache). Puppylinux, on the other hand, feels a lot like WinDoze (fortunately, it also feels a lot like GNU/Linux ) - that may be a downside on the long run (for one, one really shouldn't be root by default on a system that encourages online activity...), but for beginners, it's often a blessing. And it really runs well on old hardware (not that Debian doesn't, but there may be a few obstacles to clear).

M.

Last edited by MoonMind; 02-16-2008 at 11:41 AM.
 
Old 02-16-2008, 12:16 PM   #6
Slokunshialgo
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I second (fourth?) the motion of Slackware. I used to be running it (Slackware 10-10.2) on a similar system, and it ran quite nicely. Booted up faster than Windows XP did on my much better desktop computer.
 
Old 02-16-2008, 12:36 PM   #7
shoeburymike
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Thanks for all the replies - both long and short. I will take a day or so to absorb and try and let you know how things got on!
 
Old 02-17-2008, 11:28 PM   #8
MoonMind
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shoeburymike:

I reread your first post: You're not our average newb! I'd suggest you try Debian or Slackware first (remember "Sun stuff" and "DOS commands" - just allow yourself to revive and rethink these things) if you're really into continuing and broadening your experience. If, on the other hand, you'd like to make things work quickly and (more) hassle free, use my first reply

M.
 
Old 03-18-2008, 08:40 AM   #9
shoeburymike
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Cheers, me dears!
I managed to get Puppylinux working using floppies on the laptop, but haven't yet managed to get the old 166M desktop going yet. I think I might bin the desktop as there is no way I can put the cd drive into top spot on the BIOS and so will never boot from it!
I have just put Ubuntu 7.10 on my main machine(2 yr old Packard Bell with a 3G Celeron, 1G RAM, and 160G HDD) and am enjoying playing around with it! Just to think how much I paid for my MS Office a few years ago and I now have a better product free!(Open Org 2.3)
regards
 
Old 09-01-2008, 06:26 PM   #10
OldBob1
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Registered: Jun 2008
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Booting from CD

---There's a floppy setup that boots, then loads CD drivers, so that the boot is transferred to the CD. --- I'm looking for it right now, myself, for my old P2.
If I find it, I'll post it here, if I can find my way back here.

OldBob1
 
  


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