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Old 09-29-2007, 10:34 AM   #1
Relztrah
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Can I install a Linux distro on an old laptop?


Greetings friends,

Relztrah here, glad to have found this discussion group and I hope to join the growing body of Linux users.

I have an old Compaq laptop with a small 1 or 2 GB HDD, 128 MB of RAM and probably Pentium I processor that I'm not using for obvious reasons. I wonder if I can install a distro on it to learn Linux. I read about this thing called Damn Small Linux but I also need one requiring very little horsepower to run. I'm old enough to remember DOS, and I don't want to go back to the command line, so I'll need something with a GUI. I think that's what GNOME is, correct?

I don't need to keep Windows on this laptop, so there's no need to attempt a dual-boot option.

I have a Netgear wireless laptop PC Card so I would need a Linux driver to use it. Is that a possibility?

I'm a total newbie, and my eyes glaze over when I read GRUB, SUDO, or any other dirty four-letter words. So please keep that in mind in your reply.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

Relztrah
 
Old 09-29-2007, 10:44 AM   #2
MattJUK
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Any one of these would run fine..

DSL
http://damnsmalllinux.org/

BeaFanatIX
http://bea.cabarel.com/

Puppy Linux
http://www.puppylinux.org/user/viewpage.php?page_id=3

Luit Linux
http://luitlinux.sarovar.org/

Or maybe consider Debian (www.debian.org)
 
Old 09-29-2007, 10:53 AM   #3
MoonMind
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I don't have anything to add to the list MattJuk posted, just a little caveat about BFX2 (I'm one of the people behind that project): 128MB RAM is enough, but a bit tight. For such an old machine, you may or may not get lucky (I'm running it on an old P233MMX with 64MB RAM, but it's really slow). DSL is the better choice for anything below 160MB as far as I'm concerned. I also like Puppy, btw. - it's even than DSL, but DSL is even more compact and considerably faster on old hardware. If you consider yourself computer literate, I'd choose DSL, if you think of yourself as more of a newbie, I'd try Puppy. Of course, if you'd like to try BFX2 (revision 4 has just hit the server), we'll be more than lucky to offer all the support we can.

M.
 
Old 09-29-2007, 02:10 PM   #4
Su-Shee
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It doesn't have to be a specific "small" linux distribution.

Just make sure just to use a very minimalistic kernel - maybe even the 2.4.x-generation - and install only really necessary stuff.

Applications like Firefox are much more of a problem with this setup than the Linux system itself.

I use a regular Slackware with a similar notebook and I don't start Gnome or KDE, I use Fluxbox and fvwm instead. As a minimal browser try Dillo or one of the other 20 or so browsers for Linux out there. (It won't be as nice as Firefox, though.)

Nevertheless, it will take you some reading and fiddling around to get a nice setup.
 
Old 09-29-2007, 04:07 PM   #5
zephyrcat
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I have installed Linux (or tried too) on a few old machines. What I have found is that the most important thing by far is using a text-based installer. Ubuntu, for example, allows you to download the standard "Live-CD" or the "alternate" cd. The alternate CD allow you to use a text based installer. It is a little harder to install with a text based installer, but I doubt you will be able to boot any live cd. (I could be wrong, no reason not to try and see if you can.)
 
Old 09-29-2007, 06:37 PM   #6
Relztrah
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Follow-up question #1 (because I'm sure there will be more)

Thanks to the help of the good folks at this forum, I was able to download the .iso file and create a DSL Live CD which works with my old Armada 7350MT. In fact, I'm using it right now!

Question: This is very slow and I'm wondering if it's due to the old, slow machine I'm using or the fact that I'm running from a live CD, which I know is slower than running from the HDD. I am ready to reformat the HDD and install DSL on this laptop if it will run faster. I know that DSL has this "frugal" install option, but it would involve partitioning the HDD and hey, I'm a newbie after all.

Furthermore, I am still wondering about a wireless PC card and Linux. Currently I have a 25 foot Ethernet cable connecting me to the router, but ideally I would like to take this to a WiFi hotspot.

BTW, I am using Firefox 1.0.6 which came with DSL, and it seems to be working OK.

Thanks again for your help.

Relztrah
 
Old 09-30-2007, 12:27 PM   #7
zephyrcat
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It depends on the speed of your CD drive and the speed of the rest of the computer, but it is very likely that DSL will run faster when installed.

It is hard to know if the Wifi will work. The model number would also be very helpful. Even if you cannot find a driver for Linux, many cards can be made to work using a program called Ndiswrapper.
 
Old 09-30-2007, 04:58 PM   #8
MoonMind
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As long as your using DSL with 128MB RAM, you can still try to use the "toram" boot option; since you didn't partition your hard drive yet, running bigger programs (like FF) is bound to be a bit slow, but if you boot "toram", you'll have it all available in RAM, which will greatly increase response and startup time. I think 128MB is just enough to use that option...

OTOH, partitioning's not so bad a problem as to prevent you from trying - if you want Linux on that machine, anyway. If you're not yet sure, I'd not suggest you try. There are even graphical tools for that like GParted or QTparted, or command line tools like cfdisk or parted (I'd recommend cfdisk and GParted). BFX2 has Gparted on board; but there's also a dedicated live CD for it, and SystemRescueCD has a recent version, too (that's a great tool to have, especially when you're trying out things - if you can afford it, I'd suggest downloading that anyway).

You can try out NDISwrapper with DSL, btw. - it's installed. If you manage booting to RAM, it'll even be possible to load the drivers directly from a CD...

M.
 
Old 10-01-2007, 01:02 AM   #9
Trio3b
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distro for old hdwr

I have used Puppy, DSL, Kanotix, Austrumi on older hdwr.

I have found VectorLinux 5.8 does very well on hdwr you are describing. I use 256mb RAM to install then donate these PCs with as little as 64mb RAM and all is well. With 128 mb RAM, Vector really moves and the XFce interface seems to be more comfortable to Windows to linux converts compared to Puppy or DSL (although they are very good distros).

Hope this helps

Last edited by Trio3b; 10-01-2007 at 01:16 AM.
 
Old 10-01-2007, 03:05 PM   #10
Relztrah
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MoonMind View Post
As long as your using DSL with 128MB RAM, you can still try to use the "toram" boot option; since you didn't partition your hard drive yet, running bigger programs (like FF) is bound to be a bit slow, but if you boot "toram", you'll have it all available in RAM, which will greatly increase response and startup time. I think 128MB is just enough to use that option...
How do I use the "toram" boot option? Plese provide simple step-by-step instuctions or direct me to a thread that will explain how to do it.

Thanks so much for your help.

Relztrah
 
Old 10-02-2007, 11:59 AM   #11
MoonMind
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Simply type at the boot prompt ("boot:"):
Code:
boot: dsl toram
That's all, really. F2 gives you further insight into available boot options.

M.
 
Old 10-02-2007, 06:34 PM   #12
larkl
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I've found running of the live CD to be painfully slow. DSL running in RAM is very fast. Look at frugal install if you like, then it'll load DSL into RAM from the HD - even better. Plus, the OS is essentially read-only this way, so it's almost bullet proof. I've moved onto Vector Std, but DSL worked great for me for a couple of years.
 
  


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