Old notebook needs Linux, but what distro?


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Thread: Old notebook needs Linux, but what distro?

  1. #1
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    Old notebook needs Linux, but what distro?

    So I have this lame old Gateway Solo 5300 with a 900MHz P3 and 256MB RAM. I tried to get 512MB in it but it won't take it, so even Win2K is a dog on it, just barely works at all and too slow for practical use.

    I have limited experience with Ubuntu, but I need a distro that will allow it to be a reasonably usable web surfer and for watching simple online videos like YouTube. I also want a free distro, so what should I get? I used this test to figure one out and it told me Open SuSE, but that comes on a DVD and this has no DVD player (CD only) and I don't even think it has USB 2.0 so my external might now work and I also fear it will be much too slow for any standard modern distro.

    It is for a lady who learns PC stuff well but is totally new to Linux and just needs it until she gets money in October to get something nicer.
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  2. #2
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    Any time you ask a distro recommend, you are going to get answers all over the place.

    One I have used for a minimal machine in the past is Puppy, run as a live CD. My DIL learned it in a few minutes. It should fit the RAM, and if you add apps, you can remaster to a new CD with the CD burner if it has one.

    If not, I think it lets you save new apps in a special file in the existing HD without modifications.

  3. #3
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    Since you have tried Ubuntu, depending upon what your opinion of it was, you might want to look at Crunchbang Linux: http://www.crunchbanglinux.org. It's Ubuntu but with Openbox instead of Gnome or KDE. I had it installed on my old Dell Inspiron 8100 (P4 1.7, 384mb ram) and it ran well.

  4. #4
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    I have Debian Stable running on an older, though still P4, laptop. I've also tried DeLi Linux (I don't know if they're still around). I've also tried Gentoo on an old laptop. When I try Gentoo on and old laptop I go with the size optimizations (-Os) to reduce memory usage at a potential speed cost.

    Regardless of distribution, I think the important issue is the desktop environment. I would keep KDE off anything older than P4 (I run it on my newer Athlons). My old P4 laptop is currently running Gnome (not the newest one, as it's from the Debian Stable repositories). I'm also fond of Xfce, which is as minimalist as I'll get for a desktop environment/window manager. As long as you keep the eye candy, perks, and extras to a minimum, I think you'll be best served by any distribution you find that will let you easily install a light desktop environment/window manager. Any major login manager should be able to remember a default environment for the user and select that one on later logins, even if a heavy environment is installed.

  5. #5
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    Well I'd like to go with something common so she can get easy support from BBSs. Is there any reason why the test site I used would be wrong about open SUSE? Because from what I can tell the reason why it recommended it as a best match was ease of use and it was the only one that didn't say the system would possible run too slowly.

    Whatever I use should be on the hard drive, as it will be slow enough without further slowing it down running a CD on an already suspect old CD drive.
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  6. #6
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    Im a sabayon lover myself, but with the limited ram how about damn small linux?
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmills View Post
    Im a sabayon lover myself, but with the limited ram how about damn small linux?
    I once had a laptop that was so old it could barely run. I broke it in about two weeks by knocking it off the table (this is why I only buy old laptops). I got the best performance, far and away, from Vector Linux Light. As I remember, it was the only thing that manged to connect to the internet. It has a niceGUI-Based package management system, even though it's based on Slackware, and though the default desktop was icewm, I was able to run konqueror from icewm for a nice functional GUI.

  8. #8
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    Well I like Ubuntu so I am gonna give CrunchBang a try I think, but still open to suggestions just for general knowledge and if it isn't good.
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  9. #9
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    Oh man! CrunchBang is live only? I absolutely have to have one that will install to the hard drive. Her CD drive on that thing is lucky it works at all and I'll be damned if I want to have to use it any more than the bare minimum!
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  10. #10
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    OK so let me refine the request. I am trying Vector but I have a feeling the "ease of use" is not gonna be one of it's strengths. From just the install it kind of seems to me it is for a more advanced Linux user which I am not, let alone the lady who will be using it, but we'll finish the install and see.

    I LOVE Ubuntu's/Debian's "Synaptic" package manager and the ease of use of that, but I am thinking that Vector may not have such an easy package manager? (I know I should do more homework but she needs is ASAP on top of all else!).

    So what I am looking for is something that runs well on 256MB of RAM, installs to the hard drive, and is easy enough for a novice. Does this just bring me back to Ubuntu or open SUSE, or is there any other suggestions?

    I do want to say thanks though guys, you are a great wealth of info!
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  11. #11
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    Can you bump up the ram to 384mb if so you may want to give MoonOS a try. I have a older Gateway solo than what you have and it will take 384mb of ram. So I'm guessing that yours will also.

  12. #12
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    I put Xubuntu on a 500 MHz compaq. It had 320 Meg of ram. It worked well, donated to my 10 year old nephew. Flash will be a dog no matter what. Then u just use the lighter applications. Abiword instead of OpenOffice, I used Seamonkey instead of FireFox type deal. http://www.xubuntu.org/

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  13. #13
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    Well I am much more of a Linux noob than sometimes I care to admit. So far I have tried CrashBang (I learned how to actually install to the hard drive) and Ubuntu and Vector and none work on this POS. The open SUSE network install disk never even gets any video response from the system. It seems the Ubuntu based two just crash in cryptic ways that mean nothing to me, and Vector installs fine but says "login failed" every time I try to log in. MAN this thing is a complete POS!!! The problem is though either I get something on here that she can surf the web with and watch her Jimmy Swaggart BS (yeah one of those!), or I am on the hook to loan her one of my good machines that I'd rather not be without!

    You'd think a typical P3 intel based notebook would be able to handle some kind of Linux, but I suppose it is the mobile graphics chip that is probably screwing the pooch? In any case when I run into errors I don't understand then I am kind of screwed. I guess I'll get out the digi-cam and post some pics of the errors but it just seems bizarre to me that this should be so ridiculously difficult as I never had trouble with Ubuntu before!
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  14. #14
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    I got an EEEPC for Christmas. Horrid, ugly distro on it. I replaced it with a notebook version of the same Lenny as on this desk top. I used X-marks to import my bookmarks. I can move easily from one to the other. I would look into using the same distro on your notebook as your desk top or a smaller version of it.

  15. #15
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    Well have you given MoonOS a try though it is Ubuntu based, so you may have the same issues as regular Ubuntu. Well the Gateway solo I have is a PI with 384mb of ram and only a 4GB HD I installed Slackware 10.1 on it I have Xfce for the widow manager and it is usable but because it is so old and a PI it takes forever to load any webpage. I didn't mention Slackware on my first post as you will have to get your hands dirty but for me Slackware was the only Linux distro I could install on my Gateway. I don't know why but I couldn't even install a base install of Debian which was a first for me. But any who if you want to take the time I would give Slackware a try.

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