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Old 02-15-2004, 08:29 PM   #1
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Question Which light distro for student desktop on old hardware?

Hi folks -

I'm new to the forum, and new to linux. For myself, I'm exploring linux with dual boot on my laptop and home computers, W2K/SuSE-XD2 and W98/SuSE-KDE, respectively. Learning is coming along.

Some of the reading I've done indicates that, apples to apples (or hardware to hardware), one generally gets more bang from a linux install than a windows install -- speed, stability, etc. In that vein, I'm exploring various light distros in hopes of finding one that my young sister-in-law could use on an old-old-old Pentium box instead of W98. The box is so slow that a Knoppix LiveCD was too slow to wait for it to load.

Would any of you have any recommendations for the following box and her requirements? (And, "forget it, it's too old" is a valid recommendation!)

- desktop use by a not-so-literate student. (No server needs.)
- Word processor, Word / WP compatible for term papers. Need compatibility so she can transport to/from a computer lab, and collaborate on papers. (I favor, but it doesn't like 640x480 display much -- lots of buttons off screen.)
- a decent browser -- I'd favor Mozilla/Firefox, but could be swayed, of course
- Windows-familiar desktop I think either KDE or GNOME would be fine, but wonder if a lighter desktop would suffice -- I haven't loaded any to see them.
- DSL support -- probably just plug it in the Ethernet jack in her apartment to get a DHCP IP assigned.

- Pentium (I)
- 64 Meg RAM
- 1 Gig hard drive
- display 640x480 - stop swearing
- CD drive and floppy drive
- Currently running W98 with as the suite

If you need more detail on the box, I can get more detail. As I read on the various LiveCD, etc., distros, they claim light requirements, but as I read in more detail (seems a basic listing of system requirements is very often lacking), they want 128 Meg RAM, etc.

So, is this a lost cause?
Old 02-15-2004, 08:39 PM   #2
Registered: Sep 2003
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I think slackware or debian with a lightweight WM like fluxbox would work great

You might want to look into vector linux as well
Old 02-15-2004, 08:49 PM   #3
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Location: Calif, USA
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Definately check out Vector Linux and Peanut Linux. Vector has the lower RAM and hard disk requirements. I am having trouble locating recommended specs quickly, but I believe Vector says it will install to 32MB and Peanut to 64MB.
Don't know if it will suit you completely but check out Abiword for word processing if other Open Office functions are not needed.
If you have a spare partition, test drive each for a short time.
As Tyir mentions, Slack or Debian may be suitable but you would need to fool with the configuration and program selection yourself.
Good Luck.
Old 02-15-2004, 10:21 PM   #4
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Slack 9.1 with all the default kde stuff runs pretty darn nice on my p233 with 96 meg ram.
Old 02-16-2004, 11:54 AM   #5
Registered: Jul 2003
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Yes SLACKWARE with a highly customised and trimmed kernel will run like a Jet!!!
And i think Abiword and Gnumeric are suited for the LOW end PC.
Also you colud try the IceWM - its really LIGHT and FAST or even XFCE
Old 02-16-2004, 10:10 PM   #6
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Hi folks - thank you for your replies. You're help us most welcome. I am much intrigued by VectorLinux. I hit their site, read some reviews, including the install doc which points to minimal requirements as 386 box, 16 Meg RAM, and 350 Meg HD space. Makes my sister-in-law's box sound like a screaming speed demon. I am hopeful.

If successful in tests, I may also consider this for my kids' elementary school. I'm in the early stages of writing (applying for) a grant on the school's behalf to get some first-grade class computer-lab / -resources / etc. I am thinking through possible hardware donations / cheap sources, where I'll find the talent for installs and ongoing maintenance, etc. All along, I'm wanting to make this a linux solution, and if I'm relying on old hardware donations, then a light linux like VL would be ideal. I'm also concerned about the desktop, making sure it leaves these kids familiar enough that they could run their Windows boxes at home, etc. Anyway, you have answered questions I didn't even pose, and I'm grateful.
Old 02-16-2004, 10:14 PM   #7
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some mix and matches:
vector + fluxbox + abiword
debian + icewm/windowmaker + epiphany
slackware + xfce4 + firebird/fox


with those specs stay away from kde and gnome, imho -- (very far )


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