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Hiya! I know that "what's the best distro for my crappy old machine" threats are to be found everywhere on the net, but I haven't found a solution. So, please, ...
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  1. #1
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    Which distro for a really, REALLY old notebook?


    Hiya!

    I know that "what's the best distro for my crappy old machine" threats are to be found everywhere on the net, but I haven't found a solution. So, please, bear with me for the moment. And please forgive me for the wall of text; I prefer to explain exactly what I want and what I already did to get there.

    Some time ago I've inherited my wife's old notebook, a Sony Vaio PCG-FX705 that originally came with Windows XP Home installed; 1.3 GHz AMD Mobile Athlon XP, 256 MB SDRAM (can be upgraded to 512 MB, but I don't want to do that - it's just not worth it), 8 MB shared video RAM, max. resolution of 1400 x 1050 x 32 on a 15" display, CD-RW/CD-ROM drive, 30 GB IDE HDD.

    My goal is to repurpose it to a "gaming helper" computer. What I mean with that is that I want to turn it into a little tool I have sitting next to me on the couch or on the coffee table when I'm playing console games so I can easily look up game FAQs, guides, etc. while playing. I don't need the notebook to do much, but I need it to be fast and reliable at what I want it to do. That is:

    • having open multiple tabs in the browser, most of which are quite demanding due to lots of images, flash elements, and/or ads (AdBlockPlus doesn't get them all)
    • being able to watch FLV videos on youtube, IGN and similar websites
    • being able to watch videos and listen to music from a CD/DVD or an (external) HDD; if you're running around in the game searching for stuff, it helps to have a bit of distraction so you don't get bored out of your skull
    • a simply image viewer; sometimes I rather download maps and the like so I can zoom in on the image
    • a simple text editor; an office suite would be overkill since I only use it either to view plain text FAQs or to take notes myself
    • a simple PDF viewer


    By now I've tried the latest stable versions of Puppy Linux, anti X, Damn Small Linux, Ubuntu, Xubuntu and Lubuntu, and Zenwalk Linux. While they're probably all good distros for a (slightly?) more powerful machine, they all have the same problems on my notebook: far too slow in general, incapable of viewing one video format or the other, and either the browser crashing or the whole thing crashing or freezing when the browser gets overwhelmed with too many demanding websites or flash videos even if I've got only that one tab open.

    I'd very much like the distro I use to have at least a simple desktop environment since my wife is going to use the notebook for the same purpose as well, and she's even more computer-unsavvy than I am. It doesn't have to be a sophisticated DE at all. Eye-candy is neither required nor desired, but ease of use is.

    Thanks in advance, and thank you for bearing with this wall of text.

    Cheers!

  2. #2
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    if you are having trouble with

    By now I've tried the latest stable versions of Puppy Linux, anti X, Damn Small Linux, Ubuntu, Xubuntu and Lubuntu, and Zenwalk Linux
    There are other choices like ,Tiny Core, Slax, Vector.

    With 256mb of ram though,

    having open multiple tabs in the browser, most of which are quite demanding due to lots of images, flash elements, and/or ads (AdBlockPlus doesn't get them all)
    being able to watch FLV videos on youtube, IGN and similar websites
    You might be expecting a bit much. Especially with your video capabilities. I run Antix 8.5 on a 1000hz, 256mb, IBM a22 and it works ok for me. Unfortunately folks mileage will vary when it comes to Hardware. So what works for me may not necissarily work for you.

    Browser crashes and slow video could be the way you are setting up the video card driver. Using the Vesa option instead of the Xorg option may improve matters for you. Just a suggestion.

  3. #3
    Linux Engineer Segfault's Avatar
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    I'd try Lubuntu. I just tried it on an old PC and was surprised how well Chromium/Chrome actually works compared to Firefox.

    My compliments, Mercoledi.
    It's real refreshing to see a literate post here. Most members here cannot differentiate between mb (millibite) and MB (megabyte), etc. And there is a space between value and unit, as SI requires. I'm impressed, there still is education on this globe ... somewhere in the old Europe.

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  5. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by rokytnji View Post
    There are other choices like ,Tiny Core, Slax, Vector.
    Thank you, I will give them a try.

    Quote Originally Posted by rokytnji View Post
    You might be expecting a bit much. Especially with your video capabilities. I run Antix 8.5 on a 1000hz, 256mb, IBM a22 and it works ok for me. Unfortunately folks mileage will vary when it comes to Hardware. So what works for me may not necissarily work for you.
    I don't really think that I'm expecting too much - at least I hope so. The notebook ran absolutely fine back when WinXP was installed. It was a tad on the slow side, but it was stable. For example, launching Firefox with a handful of add-ons took about five seconds on WinXP, whereas launching Icecat takes anywhere from 10 to 20 seconds in Zenwalk 6.4 (the distro I'm currently testing) even if no other applications are running. And there are less add-ons installed in Icecat than there were in Firefox.

    Quote Originally Posted by rokytnji View Post
    Browser crashes and slow video could be the way you are setting up the video card driver. Using the Vesa option instead of the Xorg option may improve matters for you. Just a suggestion.
    When I tried Puppy Linux (Lucid Linux, not the 5.1 version that was released a couple of days ago, but the previous one), I could only select Vesa since other options didn't work. And with Vesa I got a harmless glitch with the mouse pointer. Since I have that very same glitch in all other distros I tried so far, I assume that they are using Vesa as well. But hey, I'm new - I could be wrong.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segfault View Post
    I'd try Lubuntu. I just tried it on an old PC and was surprised how well Chromium/Chrome actually works compared to Firefox.

    My compliments, Mercoledi.
    It's real refreshing to see a literate post here. Most members here cannot differentiate between mb (millibite) and MB (megabyte), etc. And there is a space between value and unit, as SI requires. I'm impressed, there still is education on this globe ... somewhere in the old Europe.
    *blushes* Thanks for that compliment. That's how I learned it way back in the early 1990's.

    Anyway, although I've tried Lubuntu already, I'm going to give it another try after I tried Knoppix and Slackware, which I just downloaded yesterday. I'm a bit scared of and intimidated by Slackware since I read that it's "Linux for pros", but you know what they say: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    Cheers!

  6. #5
    Just Joined! Avalon's Avatar
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    Crunchbang would work like a charm on that machine. You might not be able to do as much video streaming, etc., with that hardware though. Try Opera as a browser with Turbo Mode turned on. Cheers!

  7. #6
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    I installed ubuntu net book 10.04 works fine on a HP Pavilion. You can download it and try it out on a live cd. You will need an active Internet to install the updates so you can install the needed wireless drive.

  8. #7
    Linux User zenwalker's Avatar
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    See "Small and Floppy-based Linux Distros" at distrowatch Related Links
    DistroWatch.com: Put the fun back into computing. Use Linux, BSD. BasicLinux looks good, but there are others.

  9. #8
    Linux Guru coopstah13's Avatar
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    if you are willing, you should be able to run arch on that system without much of a problem

    I've had gnome running on arch in < 256m (note this doesn't leave much for other apps)

    pretty much any distro you build from the ground up should work, debian, ubuntu server, arch

  10. #9
    Linux Engineer Segfault's Avatar
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    I installed Gentoo once for my neighbor. P2 with 128 MB of RAM. Xfce up and running consumed 40 MB. Opening a page in Firefox practically filled the RAM, second tab in FF sent it swapping.

  11. #10
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    2 years ago I would have said xubuntu, I used to run it ona dell laptop with only 128 megs, worked great, but now xbuntu is too bloated to even work well with 256 megs. good luck with, I'm sure there's still a distro that will work good with 256.

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