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Latios 06-03-2011 07:39 PM

Lightweight distro with browser
I am upgrading some business network. In the new configuration, it consists of a LAMP server and clients which surf the "website" it presents (a typical DB management system with HTML UI)

The client computers (existing, dont want to bother upgrading) are :
Pentium 2 400MHz
about 10 G hard drive

They used to be an "ok" office computers by 2000 - 2002 standards, and surfed the web with Windows 98 and IE

Currently, my requirements are :

A browser with "standard" GUI, that will be intuitive to use for Windows users

Support for HTML, CSS, images, cookies, file upload and download over http - required. Basic javascript (as in show / hide stuff on page when clicked) - advantage

The "website" running on the server is being constructed in the meanwhile (by me), so i can tweak it somewhat to work around the limitations of browsers

The browser won't be used to surf bloated websites

A desktop that is intuitive to Windows users (up to starting the browser / file manager / email client, logging on without typing "startx", log off and shut down options in the desktop, low risk of messing up the desktop or panel settings)

Autodetection of plugged in flash drives, CDs (e.g. file manager or a notification shows up if user plugs in a drive, and there is easy option to umount it)

Desktop appearance can be configured a bit to look nice, and can choose fonts / colors that won't hurt in the eyes on an old CRT monitor

The entire system must be fairly responsive when it is in use. Boot time is mostly not an issue (the computers can be powered up a bit earlier to let them boot for a while), but if fast boot is an option i'd like it

Meanwhile I tried LXDE, E17 and Afterstep on my desktop (Pentium 4 w/ Arch w/ KDE as my main desktop). I think LXDE is the best (KDE has no chance of running on that boxes, E17 and Afterstep are confusing and need getting used to)

Need suggestions for :


Distro (looking for installable distros, but live cds suggestions are wellcome too)

Desktop (i pretty much allready chose LXDE, but other suggestions are wellcome)

Also want :

basic email client that can send / receive emails on SMTP / POP3, for use on the same old boxes

If a memory upgrade is totally required then i'll talk the manager into doing it, but otherwise i'd prefer sufficing with what allready is there

Timothy Miller 06-03-2011 08:25 PM

I'd have to suggest Legacy OS or Puppy. They're about as light as you're going to find.

TobiSGD 06-04-2011 06:14 AM

Puppy will not run in 64MB RAM.
With that amount of RAM you will have serious troubles getting a responsive desktop, even with LXDE. I would try IceWM, it looks somewhat Windows like and is very lightweight.

Latios 06-06-2011 02:13 PM

What about the browser ?

Can IceWM recognize (ie. show a window automatically / allow user to umount with a click) USB flash drive etc ?

If i upgrade to 128 MiB (actually 120 MiB cause the computers have integrated graphics cards) how much of improvement it is (as in what software will it be capable to run) ?

TobiSGD 06-06-2011 02:23 PM

Most software nowadays is way to resource intensive for such an old machine. Even an upgrade to 128MB will improve thing only slightly.


Can IceWM recognize (ie. show a window automatically / allow user to umount with a click) USB flash drive etc ?
IceWM is a simple window manager, not a fully fledged desktop environment. You need to use an filemanager like Thunar or PCmanFM to get this functionality.


What about the browser ?
Use a browser with a small footprint, like Midori or Epiphany.

Besides all that, you will not get a fast desktop out of those old machines. I would recommend to replace them with some cheap thin clients or simple office machines.

snowpine 06-06-2011 03:08 PM

I would not expect good results with modern Linux on that hardware. Puppy and SliTaz are the "lightest" distros I've personally used, but 64mb is borderline (maybe 128mb would work).

Have you considered using Thin Client technology instead?

littlejoe5 06-06-2011 03:38 PM

I just installed "wary puppy" (Puppy 5) on a laptop with a 6 gig hard drive and 128M memory. It works really well without changing anything. It is well equipped to find and activate your internet connections in most cases, and has a good browser that works well within those limitations. It also has Abiword which will read and write to MSword format, and a spreadsheet that will read and write to Microsofts Excel.

With only 128M memory you ought to install it directly to the hard disk, and with only 10G HDD you would do well to give it the whole hard disk. I couldn't get grub to install properly, and had to use grub4dos (which is on the installation disc).

The programs that will be needed for a windows user to be comfortable have different names and icons in Puppy which they willo just have to get used to, but a short list on paper by the computer will get them by for a week or two until they understand. Once your into the program, there isn't a lot of difference from their counterparts in windoze.


Latios 06-07-2011 04:17 AM

For thin clients, would a Celeron 2.8 GHz (P4 based) w/ 256 M RAM be a sufficient server to run 10 of them AND the LAMP itself ?

I very doubt it

@littlejoe5 What desktop and browser do you use on it ?

The computers are intended to only do 1 task (surf the "website" on the local server), and do it sufficiently well. If the user tries to surf to Facebook on them and it is too slow, not my problem

I dont need the applications to look like Windows applications - I will just set the browser home page to be the wanted page on the server and name the icon for the browser "management application"

TobiSGD 06-07-2011 06:18 AM

I think that would be sufficient if you set up the machines in the right way. Either you have a small mass storage device (like a CF or SD card) to boot the system and then connect to your server, or the server delivers a small system image that runs in RAM of the thin client (Slitaz or Tinycore would be good distributions for something like that). Only the second task will hit the servers performance slightly, and only when delivering an image. The first variant will not influence the servers performance at all.

littlejoe5 06-07-2011 07:49 PM

Latios You asked: What desktop and browser for "Puppy"
I don't know what desktop "Wary Puppy" started out with, but I think they have modified it to suit themselves, and (IMO) done a good job.

The OS comes with the "SeaMonkey" browser, which I am starting to use in Mint10, and in many ways I like it better than Firefox.

I've never used it as a principal OS, but rely on it for maintainance work, and play with it now and then. It's fast and adequate even on older slower machines, and has it's own repositories.

jefro 06-07-2011 08:29 PM

Might try xpud.

I really have been liking slitaz.

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