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The laptop in question is a Sony PCG-F540. It has a Pentium 3 700Mhz processor, 256MB RAM, 3MD VRAM, and a 40GB HDD. It runs Win98SE quite well but I have run into a snag. Some websites like Youtube are dropping support for IE6. IE7 won't work on Win98SE. Outlook Web Access also doesn't work on IE6, well, not without a registry hack. I need to make sure there is a driver for Speedstep or the processor defaults to 500MHz. A battery meter of some type would be nice also. I just don't know where to start.
I have run Debian Lenny with Fluxbox on a similar machine (Vaio PCG-SRX77 with 256Mb RAM). For a battery monitor, I use the wmbattery package. The speedstepping worked as expected.
The RAM can be a bit tight (especially once the browser is going), but it is usable.
You might also look into one of the major distros (Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE), but again, if you can use a lighter windows manager (XFCE, Fluxbox) and get rid of any non-essential services, it will help with the memory constraints.
There are light distros like Damn Small Linux and Puppy Linux which will easily run on such a machine, but there is perhaps not the same level of support available.
Many distros can be run from a CD if you just want to try them out (though be aware that this slows things down, because CD drives are sluggist compared to hard disks).
To get sites like youtube working, it will require flash plugins for the browser (which are often not in the default repositories, because of the non-free nature of these plugins).
Last edited by neonsignal; 08-23-2009 at 10:16 AM.
Thanks to both of you. So are you guys saying that it's going to take a performance hit running Linux instead of Win98 or will it be about the same? I used to hear that Linux would run faster on slower machines than Windows. I also have the option of running Win2K and can get most of the drivers from Sony. Which would be the better option?
It isn't easy to make an apples/apples comparison, because there are so many resource-hungry features in the newer operating systems (like desktop effects and automated services), and because it is not just the operating system that uses resources but also the applications.
A Linux system can be made lighter than Windows 95/98 (and offer comparable features), but this means being very careful about desktop features and application choices. For example, both Open Office and a current version of Microsoft Word are going to be constrained by the 256Mb memory, regardless of the operating system.
I personally wouldn't even consider Windows for a machine of that age, because with Linux I have a system that is continually being improved, and I escape many of the frustrations of Windows.
But having said that, I wouldn't recommend you switch to Linux just for performance reasons. It is a significant learning curve to change to a different operating system. By all means try out Windows 2000 on the machine; the performance will be adequate (and there are Windows 2000 services that can be removed to make it lighter). But good luck buying a license...
I just thought I'd follow up here and let others know how it was going. I have been running Ubuntu 8.10 for about a week now. It seems to be comparable in speed to Win98SE. Flash video performance is the same as Win98 with Firefox. The CPU is just too slow for flash video. All the hardware worked fine except the Belkin Wireless card. I finally got it using ndiswrapper but it was a real pain. More updates later.