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A friend asked me to trim the fat on his old xp machine to get some speed out of it (only has 256mb ram so it is understandably under performing with xp). He mostly uses it for music, videos and general internet use so I thought a dual boot with linux might help for performance.
I have only ever used BT and Mint on my Lappy that has 4 gigs of ram so I have no idea what linux distro would perform well with 256 mb of ram for multimedia and general internet use. Mint is very friendly and eager BUT I don't think it would like 256 mb of ram.
My friend is ummm... less ummm... "patient" than me so the more intuitive the interface the better.
Puppy linux is a good choice to familiarize windows users with linux. Puppy will run from ram and 256 mb is enough for the smaller versions. You can save personal settings and software changes/additions back to the cd, never having to disturb the hard drive itself. Puppy can also be installed to hard disk later on if one desires although this is not ideal. Puppy also supplies versions with older kernels for older machines = nice.
Thank you... when I have my own computer issues resolved I will throw puppy onto a usb and take it for a spin... with any luck we can save my friend from the evil clutches of Microsoft or *gasp* Apple Z/Z
Since you seem to be the one to administrate that computer (at least in the beginning) I would go for something that you are able to handle, but has a nice interface for your friend.
You stated that you have used Backtrack and Mint, so I would recommend to go for something based on Debian or Ubuntu. Distros that come to my mind: Debian with XFCE, Mint XFCE Edition, Bodhi Linux, Xubuntu, SalineOS. If you want it to be even lighter on ressources then may be Debian with LXDE, Mint LXDE Edition, Lubuntu, wattOS.
The Mint distros sound promising... If I had to compare Mint to win 7 based on ease of use and learning curve Mint would win hands down... assuming we are not talking about Linux commands and just the interface. It took me all of 60 seconds to figure out the mint interface as compared to the few weeks it took me to get used to 7 after leaving xp (I skipped Vista because I heard it sucked ***).
I'll take the distros you mentioned for a test drive as well... bless the people who came up with the live usb thing...pure genius. Z/Z
Mint Xfce is not particularly light; more of a distro for those who like Xfce than for small computers. Puppy is, of course, very non-standard in the way it operates compared to other distros. For 256MB, deb packages, and user-friendly, I'd recommend
SalineOS: Xfce and Debian-based. To quote my review "I loaded Chromium, Gimp, and Writer and still was using less than 200MB."
WattOS: LXDE and Ubuntu-based. LXDE is often rather unconfigurable, but WattOS has added a configuration centre: it's the only LXDE distro where I could see how to set sub-pixel smoothing. They advise at least 192MB.
The 256 ram isn't set in stone yet. I'll have a look online for some cheap used ram sticks... no one wants to throw good money into an old machine but if he can get a 512 stick for $20-40 not only will xp's performance improve but he'll have a greater selection of Linux distros to choose from. Dude has a skank job coupled with mental impairment and he seems like the decent sort so I'd like to help him out and practice my computer operation skills in the process. Z/Z