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Old 04-04-2003, 09:23 AM   #1
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Registered: Feb 2003
Posts: 4

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Lightbulb linux on old machines

i was trying to get some old 386 , 486 and P1(in extreme cases) to run linux at my school ... ive been looking up in the net and goo dsuggestions that i got were to use a new powerful server and the machines as terminals ... well this might be a great suggestion ! but the problem is that i CANT get such a machine i have to make each machine run its own linux coz the server we have is a MS windows based machine and the brain-less administraitor wont change it ... so what do u people suggest , which flavors , which X versions ...etc , i need the machines to run simple apps all in X coz u know no one and really NO ONE at my school ever had something to do with linux shell , and im trying to convince ppl here to use it , the problem is the resources , i have machines 386 , 486 and P1 , with small HD (1.25 or less mayb) and small RAM (24-32) so what do u suggest , small , light nice linux and X versions and/or flavors ... i really want to be convincing !!!
Old 04-04-2003, 11:49 AM   #2
Registered: Mar 2003
Location: Scotland
Distribution: Slackware, RedHat, Debian
Posts: 12,047

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Sorry - I agree with the terminal server idea. Even a 500 MHz PC with 128MB ram will let 3 clients as above act as X terminal for the Linux Terminal Server Project

I think you wil be hard pushed to get a worthwhile graphical system running on those machines on their own.
Old 04-04-2003, 12:31 PM   #3
Registered: Dec 2002
Posts: 263

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Try VectorLinux 3.2, small distro withX and many apps, uses little memory and diskspace. ( the SoHo version is larger, so go for the simple version )
Got it on an old P1, 16MB mem, 800MB HD, runs fine ! ( small download 250-300MB )

Old 04-04-2003, 01:11 PM   #4
Registered: Feb 2003
Location: Florida
Distribution: Fedora Core 5 2.6.16-1.2133_FC5smp
Posts: 96

Rep: Reputation: 15
i use Red Hat 8.0 on my P1 166 and 200 computers, they work just fine, but it takes forever to load, and tux racer wont run in it... i have 64 megs ram too

Scott McNeely
Old 04-15-2003, 07:45 PM   #5
Registered: Mar 2003
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Distribution: RedHat, Gentoo
Posts: 51

Rep: Reputation: 15
The problem with most modern distros is that the eat way too much ram.

I recently had to install linux on a 486 thinkpad with 16MB. Ouch... I ended up going back to an old copy of RedHat 6.1

You might want to try some of the micro-distributions that are designed for PDA's. They are designed for run on scant RAM, miserly processors and limited (or non-existent) disk space.

A good place to check is the distro finder on the website:

Check out the "minimalist" category.


Now if you want the real answer, you need to come over to the hard-core realm of Linux Hacking.

This is your last chance...

If you take take the Blue Pill, you give up on the idea, and believe that it's impossible.

It you take the Red Pill, you download the gentoo installer onto another computer, and in a chrooted environment, build your own custom distro, tarball the result, save it on the network (or onto a custom Boot-CD) and then after formatting the dist, untar the result onto the newly created file system.

I suggest using the -Os flags when compiling your software to make the memory footprint smaller. I also recommend deleting the /usr/portage/distfiles, /usr/portage/packages, and /var/tmp/portage directories before you make the final image. You'll chop almost 500 MB out.

I'm only offering my opinion, nothing more.
Old 04-15-2003, 07:48 PM   #6
Registered: Mar 2003
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Distribution: RedHat, Gentoo
Posts: 51

Rep: Reputation: 15

Don't even bother installing any modern version of GNOME or KDE.

I personally recommend XFCE, but any window manager that bills itself as a minimalist should do.
Old 04-15-2003, 08:15 PM   #7
Senior Member
Registered: Oct 2002
Location: Belgium
Distribution: Debian, Free/OpenBSD
Posts: 1,123

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This has been discussed many times before, please use the search button next time.
But anyway, here's my view on what to do with old pc's:
Debian woody with black- flux- or openbox, does the trick every time.
With X and everything you'll need somewhere around 400 megs and it runs really fast on a p1 with 32 megs.
Or you could build your own distro starting from LFS: (
Old 04-16-2003, 01:27 AM   #8
Registered: Apr 2003
Location: Portugal
Distribution: Slackware 10.1
Posts: 42

Rep: Reputation: 15

There is a project to install up to date software in older machines, with 16 MB ram and so.

This project, which is *not* a new distro is made to install RedHat in a older PC with the criterial selection of the packages to install.

You can find more info at

It has installation floppies to RH 7.2 up to 9.0, this last ones with just 2 days.


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