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i am installing linux on a toshiba laptop for a girl at work with 16 megs or ram currently (max is 144) and a 1.4 gig hard drive. she doesn't want slack (kinda afraid of it, who knows!), so i am thinking of installing debian with xfce or icewm, she keeps talking about fedora (i installed it on a couple of peoples computers at work), but i keep telling her it is too bloated. Anyone have any ideas for a distro, maybe rpm, that is slim and trim and will keep her using linux (user-friendlier). thanks. like i said i am leaning towards debian
I would go with Debian but it's not rpm based. aptitude works well for help with installing software. With 16MB she's not going to be able to do much. Dillo is a web brower that will work but Mozilla, etc. won't work. So flash, etc. are out of the picture.
I would suggest she get more RAM.
I would try Morphix on it. It is a Debian based live-distro that has the option to install on the hard drive. One of the download ISO's contains XFCE. http://www.morphix.org/
I think any current GUI would be sluggish with 16MB. I also wouldn't suggest getting more RAM, because deprecated RAM modules are actually ridiculously expensive in my experience. If you can find some for a decent price it would definitely help. Maybe you could try a BSD variant. FreeBSD apparently runs great on 32MB, so it must run fairly well on 16MB.
Swap space is on the hard drive so there is a lot of reading to and from it. It is necessary but slower than physical RAM. My maching with 16MB of RAM had 32MB of swap. It is still sluggish. BTW, it wouldn't do any good to add more than twice the swap space as you have RAM. Fluxbox, Window Maker, IceWM, fvwm, and Enlightenment ran fine. GNOME and KDE won't. not even the older versions. Netscape, Mozilla, Firefox, Konqueror won't. Dillo will. For email sylpheed will work fine.
The thing to do to increase performance is to install at least 16 more megs of physical RAM.