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Old 11-27-2008, 09:26 PM   #1
Chronothread
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What distro will run fast on an old computer?


I recently was given an old Inspiron 3500 with only 128MB of RAM. Obviously linux is a good choice for such a computer. I had also had an old wireless card that works in it so I think I could get some good use out of it. I was just wondering what distro I should get for such a computer. The main thing I would want from it is being able to use the internet. If I could get as far as youtube working well on it that would be great. I know stuff like DSL and Puppy work fairly well on it, but even with them I have trouble with youtube videos being pretty skippy. Are there any distros that use up more of the hard drive then these mini distros but will run faster because of it? I don't mind spending hard drive space. Thanks for your time!
 
Old 11-27-2008, 09:48 PM   #2
pinniped
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All I can suggest are Puppy, AntiX (doesn't mean there aren't others).

Don't be surprised with skippy video; the encoded stream needs to be decoded as it is displayed and your CPU may simply not have quite enough compute power for the job (or it may have enough, but you may need to tweak execution priorities to get the results you desire).

If you have memory swapping then you will have all sorts of noticeable lag (I don't know if you remember the bad old days ...) To help reduce the 'risk' of memory swaps:

1. use a lightweight GUI (fluxbox, icewm, many others) rather than a bloated one (KDE, GNOME, and some would even say XFCE4).

2. try not to run many processes at once - don't open up the GIMP while trying to view video or have half a dozen other apps open.

3. be very careful in selecting software to install; some software can easily pull in the KDE or Gnome libraries (and there goes all the effort to stave off the bloatware).

Now despite all efforts, some simple periodic maintenance is usually scheduled via 'cron'; you may be in the middle of watching your favorite Tube video and suddenly 'cron' decides to update the directory search tree, chewing up CPU cycles and spoiling your video.

128MB is fine for a light GUI.
 
Old 11-27-2008, 10:08 PM   #3
Chronothread
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Would I want to change the priority settings of the browser or flashplayer? And how would I go about doing that?

Thanks for the quick reply.
 
Old 11-27-2008, 10:53 PM   #4
salter
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Remove or disable as many unneeded system services as possible. If you don't want to run a local web server, mysql server, samba server, etc, than disable them. Do NOT delete any files or applications, unless you know what you are doing. Most system can be turned off by GUI-tools or simply by running /etc/init.d/service-name stop.

That you way you will have more resources (CPU cycles) available for browsing and video viewing. But even so - video viewing is actually a tough task for a computer, so it will not perfect on very old PC's. Web page browsing should work without a flaw.

Last edited by Tinkster; 10-30-2010 at 06:12 PM.
 
Old 11-27-2008, 11:25 PM   #5
pinniped
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronothread View Post
Would I want to change the priority settings of the browser or flashplayer? And how would I go about doing that?

Thanks for the quick reply.
You can try to change the priority, but remember that won't necessarily fix your video issue because it's not the only factor. You can use 'renice' to change the priority of a running process (man renice). For this to be effective, you must run 'renice' as the super user. To identify the ID of the process you want to 'renice', use 'ps'; for example:

1. user 'bob' logs in and runs 'mozilla'; since bob is using Debian, the process name is actually "iceape-bin".

2. root determines the PID for bob's mozilla:
ps -u bob | grep 'iceape-bin'
5206 ? 00:01:05 iceape-bin

3. root uses 'renice':
renice -10 -p 5206

That may turn out to be an incredible nuisance if you have to do it before watching each video - but that's just one of the limitations of having such an old machine.
 
Old 11-27-2008, 11:55 PM   #6
claudius753
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronothread View Post
I recently was given an old Inspiron 3500 with only 128MB of RAM. Obviously linux is a good choice for such a computer. I had also had an old wireless card that works in it so I think I could get some good use out of it. I was just wondering what distro I should get for such a computer. The main thing I would want from it is being able to use the internet. If I could get as far as youtube working well on it that would be great. I know stuff like DSL and Puppy work fairly well on it, but even with them I have trouble with youtube videos being pretty skippy. Are there any distros that use up more of the hard drive then these mini distros but will run faster because of it? I don't mind spending hard drive space. Thanks for your time!
Are you running puppy from the CD? From the cd, I think that by default it will load the entire OS into ram, taking up ~95 MB? I think there is a boot time option to tell puppy not to load everything into ram, maybe that would free up more ram for your browsing session, though it is going to be constantly accessing the CD

From a youtube video, I think the command would be:
Code:
puppy pfix=noram

Last edited by claudius753; 11-28-2008 at 12:02 AM. Reason: added command
 
Old 11-28-2008, 12:03 AM   #7
eggixyz
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From my experience, any Linux distro, including Ubuntu Hardy, will run on my old 384mb 700mhz half/duplex cpu POS. The only thing you need to do is not install any GUI components and stick with the command line. If necessary, just go with the very basics, like xdm, with 16 colors and just use that so you can run xterm and get a scrollback buffer.

If you're looking to command line jockey, pretty much any distro will do. Just my opinion and only backed up by what I've been able to try myself to date.

Best of luck

, Mike
 
Old 11-28-2008, 03:30 AM   #8
lakedude
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronothread View Post
I recently was given an old Inspiron 3500 with only 128MB of RAM. Obviously linux is a good choice for such a computer. I had also had an old wireless card that works in it so I think I could get some good use out of it. I was just wondering what distro I should get for such a computer. The main thing I would want from it is being able to use the internet. If I could get as far as youtube working well on it that would be great. I know stuff like DSL and Puppy work fairly well on it, but even with them I have trouble with youtube videos being pretty skippy. Are there any distros that use up more of the hard drive then these mini distros but will run faster because of it? I don't mind spending hard drive space. Thanks for your time!
Do regular/local (non-youtube) videos play correctly without skipping?

If so, the problem is the internet connection speed (not the computer or software).

Freeing up some memory would certainly help as well. I think Puppy expands as it loads into RAM meaning it takes up more than ~95MB of RAM. I heard something like ~250MB (don't know if this is true). If this is the case, Puppy is not loading completely to RAM in your 3500 because there is not enough RAM.

The easy way to solve this is to invest in some RAM and crank that thing up to 256MB. Of course this way costs money....

The hard/fun way would be to look at a non-standard Puppy distro like Micro Muppy which is only 12MB. I've not used Micro Muppy but it seems like a good starting point. Just add the bare minimum packages you need and you could end up with a sub DSL sized distro.
 
Old 11-29-2008, 12:58 AM   #9
mogrady
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Add A USB Flash to Puppy

I had real good luck with Puppy once I put a 1 gig USB flash in the system to save "stuff" into from Puppy. I was on a faster machine than you describe but USB flash is pretty cheap now. Maybe worth a try.

Good Luck, Michael
 
  


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