-   Linux - Newbie (
-   -   Lightweight linux for writing?? (

linus72 01-26-2009 06:19 PM

Lightweight linux for writing??
Hey gang, kinda new to linux(about a month), but have learned alot since then.
Anyway-I am a writer and love all the distro choices available-much better than XP(which I had). What I need is a super-small distro that has only a good word processor(abiword?), a web-browser that can run flash/java/etc but that is light-weight!, and miscellaneous apps like utilities, web/distro dev tools, etc.
The distro will be run on two different computers-1 is HP Pavillion AMD Athlon 64 (32bit), 1GB RAM, 160GB HD, OEM SIS 760 Graphics(sux!), the other is an old Toshiba 7000CT Portege with 160MB RAM, 4GB HD, with NEOMAGIC (junk) graphics. The laptop is the problematic item here- it has a floppy drive but no CD drive, and if I try to boot Damn Small Linux(great!) (via USB) from floppy and activate USB port it fails and can't find the USB drive(which it just booted out of?).
I have CrunchBang 8.04 installed on laptop via USB CD-ROM, but it is stressing out the little laptop and I need something like DSL or a floppy distro?
DSL won't even recognize the USB CD-ROM,(the usb is sdb1 on laptop),
And this is important--the laptop cannot boot from USB in BIOS-only floppy-and I had to trick it when i installed both Debian and Crunchbang alternate install cd's ( i installed them to usb using FUSBI)by using PlOP Boot manager floppy to boot USB-then removed USB and inserted USB CD-ROM cable-anaconda installer auto-loaded from there. I am limited by HD space too-Crunchbang takes up over 1.5Gb installed out of only 4GB available. So-can anyone answer these questions below

1)Light-weight buildable distro for both HP Pavillion Desktop and low-ram Toshiba 7000ct and how to install on the difficult lap-top?

2) distro must be installable on HD or USB-(persistent).

3) Distro must have access to repositories or upgrades(a current distro).

4) Most distros can only start X in laptop w/ 600x480 res(11" screen), and I can't click buttons cause their offscreen!( Crunchbang is only distro that can generate 800x600-laptop should be able to handle 1024x768 but how?

5) I could remaster Crunchbang, but I really need something under 1GB installed and low-ram (when installing crunch the RAM was at 110 of 160 and the swap was at 90 of 325-stressing out!)

Notes-puppy linux is not a choice-too weird-hard time copy and paste and the screen kept "cracking".

As I said I am not an experienced Linux guy-but I am not afraid of the terminal and even an X-less distro with only a web-browser, word processor(RTF, etc.), some utiliity apps and the Ability to be buildable!

Thanks alot

stratotak 01-26-2009 10:49 PM

JUst my opinion.But of the lite distro's I have tried I liked Vector Linux Light Edition the best.Its based on Slackware.Right out of the box it played multimedia,dvd's and flash.It as Gslapt installed and setup.Gslapt is a front-end for slapt-get.Like Debian and Ubuntu's apt-get.So installing software is easy.Light edition will run on a pc with a Pentium 166 and 64meg memory.Standard will run on Pentium 200 with 96meg memory.

For the laptop with only can do a Debian install with floppies..Never done it.But im sure there are people who can explain it better than me how to install debian via floppies.Or just go ahead and download netinstall iso and see if it will boot from usb-cd//You said it did it with Ubuntu?Then just install the base system..and then choose a light desktop like Lxde..Thats how I installed on this laptop.At idle this laptop is using about 60megs of ram.Compared to close to 300 with Kde as desktop.Im really liking Lxde.Use to be a Kde fan..But really liking Lxde more and more i use it.

jmite 01-26-2009 11:20 PM

In my experience, nothing beats DSL for speed and lightness. I had it up and running on an old computer with 24MB of ram and a Pentium 75MHz processor, and a 1G hard drive. The only thing about it is there's limited software avaliable, and it's kind of tricky to use.

Puppy linux was a little more user friendly when I tried it, but not as light. I haven't tried feather or delilinux, but they're also not bad.

If you really want to get adventurous, you could try compiling a gentoo system with icewm. The advantages there are that it doesn't install any more software than is necesarry, and it optimizes it for your computer, which can make it run faster. The disadvantage is that it compiles all software, which could take a while on the older computers. And it's not for the faint of heart: the documentation is good, but it's not exactly a noob distro.

Whatever you choose, I highly reccomend icewm as a window manager, it is easy to use, lightweight (it can run on an old 386) and it's not actually ugly. Jwm or fluxbox are also okay...

jmite 01-26-2009 11:22 PM

Sorry, I missed what you said above about puppy...

For the floppy only, well, here's the thing. I'll suggest FreeDos. It doesn't exactly fit your requirements above about being current, but it has zilch for hardware requirements and can be installed via floppy.

Sorry if I'm not actually answering your questions...

i92guboj 01-26-2009 11:40 PM


Originally Posted by linus72 (Post 3422158)
a web-browser that can run flash/java/etc but that is light-weight!

Impossible. Flash is heavy, java is heavier, and web browsers in general -even the so called light ones- are heavy as well (unless you want to use a text based browser or dillo, and neither of those is gonna give you flash nor java). Do the maths yourself, and you got a beast. Such a thing as a light modern web browser doesn't exist. If I were you I wouldn't even think about running java and/or flash on the laptop. It's going to be an eternal pain. But if you really plan to do, at least use some kind of script locker like noscript for firefox or/and flashblock, so at least you can choose what to enable and what you don't need.

Being that said, the lightest you can get is webkit based (arora, midori), opera or khtml (konqueror), probably in that order. So, if you like kde and plan to use it as your desktop, konqueror is probably going to be the lighter choice.

About word processors, the best standalone one that I know of is abiword, yes.


4) Most distros can only start X in laptop w/ 600x480 res(11" screen), and I can't click buttons cause their offscreen!( Crunchbang is only distro that can generate 800x600-laptop should be able to handle 1024x768 but how?
You might need to fix the configuration yourself, editing /etc/X11/xorg.conf which is the global X configuration file. The procedure can vary slightly depending on your graphics hardware, and might not be needed at all if you use a newer >=1.5 xorg server. That will only depend on how current your distro is. Of course the max resolution is going to depend on your hardware in any case.

I'd suggest DSL (which you didn't like), Vector and Puppy.

Brianfast 01-27-2009 12:39 AM

Wait you have a 32 bit athlon 64? Such a thing exists?

Anyway for you I would recommend building a system from a minimum debian install. You can try either etch or lenny. You can even install a distro like Antix to see if that is easier for you. Remember that once the distro is installed.

Personally what I would do if I were you is download debian etch (either net install or non net install depending how fast your internet is)

In etch I would do everything, and then when it asks what components you would like to install select NOTHING (done by unselecting everything)

Then you should have a text only operating system... Pretty boring

So do the follwing:
add the following line to /etc/sources.list:

deb etch-backports main contrib non-free
(you can do this by being root and typing "nano /etc/sources.list" then to save in nano do ctrl+O and to exit ctrl+X)

then run the following commands as root:
(you become root by typing su and then your root password)

apt-get update && apt-get install gdm firefox abiword x-window-system-core rox-filer && apt-get -t etch-backports install fluxbox
then do


nano ~/.xsessions
and add the following


exec startfluxbox
now comes the last step, but this step gives you the right resolution ect...:


dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg

then finally type in "startx", and you will have a very fast system for editing text. On your next login you will have a GUI login as well :)

i92guboj 01-27-2009 12:47 AM


Originally Posted by Brianfast (Post 3422377)
Wait you have a 32 bit athlon 64? Such a thing exists?

All the x86_64 (amd64) processors can run 32 bits code. You don't need to use a 64 bits distro unless you want to.

anomie 01-27-2009 12:49 AM

[ quoted for context ]


Originally Posted by stratotak
But of the lite distro's I have tried I liked Vector Linux Light Edition the best.Its based on Slackware.

@linus72: Just dropping in to second the Vector recommendation. I took it for a run ~1 year ago (to set up a Tuxnes gaming station on an old, crummy laptop). Frankly, Vector is the easiest / friendliest Linux distro I've tried that also works following a default installation. I don't remember a "light edition" being available at the time that I used it, but I did have the option to choose fluxbox as my wm, so in the end it was pretty snappy.

I can't speak to your specific needs or hardware questions, but if you have a spare cd-r laying around Vector is worth some experimentation.

Chriswaterguy 01-27-2009 05:25 PM

I'll second LXDE - light, fast and stable, for me. A few things don't work running it on Mandriva GNOME (audio and flash video) but I'm hoping it will when I switch to Debian.

Re browsers: Swiftfox is a lighter version of Firefox, and it works well for me. There are lighter ones, such as Midori, but I don't like any that I've tried. From memory, I had to login every time I started the browser, and I didn't have a way of saving passwords.

i92guboj 01-27-2009 05:38 PM

That's always arguable. The big part about gecko based browsers is -well- gecko. The rendering engines are so big and bulky that the interface is the least important thing. If you want a slicker gecko browser you can use kazehakase or seamonkey, but either way it's going to be BIG, and swiftfox is not an exception.

That's why I suggested khtml, webkit and opera: they are much smaller than gecko, hence it is possible to build a small browser using them. Using gecko it's impossible no matter how light the interface is.

I couldn't swear by it, but I think that swiftfox is just a firefox version with some files removed. I doubt that removing a few chrome stuff, some scripts and a few images is going to help that much when you are short in resources. Compared to gecko that's nothing. However swiftfox offer arch specific packages, and that might be a plus on some distros that still compile for i686 or even lower.

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 09:57 PM.