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I'm pretty much of a complete newbie when it comes to Linux. Years ago, just for the fun of it, I put Red Hat Linux on an unused 150 mhz Compac. I got about 10 books on Linux from the local library and much to my amazement was able to get it up and running. However, it ran sluggishly on that old PC, so I didn't really pursue it further, and I've forgotten most of what I learned then. I'm now reconsidering, for security purposes, putting Linux on another old machine to use for Internet access. The XP machine tends to be tied up a lot with video editing and I use the Win 98 machine much of the day for run other programs so I do want a separate machine to run Linux.
The machine I'm considering is an unused 366 mhz PC with 128 MB RAM. My preliminary research leads me to think that this machine will be too slow to run any of the latest distros of Linux effectively, but wasn't completely sure about this. I was wondering about using an older distro. I basically only need to do be able to the following:
1. Access the Internet using a Linksys wired broadband router via DSL
2. Use the router to connect to the XP machine and Win 98 on the network, so I can transfer files that I download from the Linux machine to those computers (I assume I'll need a FAT32 partition on the Linux PC for this)
3. Be able to use the latest Firefox browser and Thunderbird email.
If this machine is not adequate, what would be the minimum PC that would work decently?
I am pretty new to this stuff myself but I think I might be able to help you out a little here.
I am majoring in computer science, and am just about to get my BS in May. I felt like playing around with Linux for years, but never had I computer I could mess around with and not worry about messing up. It really sucks staying up all night after crashing your main desktop while tweaking and playing around with things that don't need playing around with. One time was enough for me to learn the lesson, wait for a second computer. Recently I cam across an old laptop that was just such a bargain that I couldn't pass on it.
What I have is an old IBM 390X laptop. around a 400Mhz PII, 128Mb RAM and a 5.5Gb hard drive. It is connected to a Linksys BEFSR41 router/switch to share my cable internet connection. I have installed Slackware it it works just fine for me, although it is just a tad on the slow side. I am sure if you did more research and played around with it even better results could be had. I have been doing some reading and it seems that there are some other window managers that use up less resources. Anyway I also installed Firefox without any problems after some reading up to get over the differences from Windows. It takes maybe 10 - 20 seconds to get Firefox up and running, but once it is running it works fine. For simplicities sake I just chose to do a full install, and it only took about 3Gb.
The only thing that I have been having any real trouble with is sharing a printer connected to my Windows computer. Sharing files between them is no problem, well I can take files off of the Linux machine without problem anyway. I am still having some problems accessing the Windows Machine from the Linux machine.
I did some more research and Slackware comes up the most often in the recommendations so I'm going to give it a try. Maybe VectorLinux which is based on Slackware. One reviewer said that Slackware was about as user friendly as a coiled rattlesnake, so I may have recheck out all those Linux books from the library and do a lot of studying. Oh well, should be fun.