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  1. #1

    Linux for Windows users on dated systems


    I've done a few searches and have not found exactly what I want, so here is my collaboration of ideas.

    I have a goal in my mind right now, to create a minimal Linux install targeted at users who come from an entire Windows background. Now there's another challenge, to do this on extremely dated systems. I know these machines will not be screaming, but the basic functions are all that is needed. I have a surplus of extra machines here, and I'd like to make them useful and give them away to people. Actually, one day I'd like to get involved in a larger project for the entire community, so I could also use this information later.

    The challenge:

    16-64MB RAM
    500-4MB HDD

    The average system will most likely be:

    32-64MB RAM
    1-2GB HDD

    It needs to be able to run:

    A small, fast running easy to use GUI interface, supporting drag and drop, shortcuts, and a menu. A web browser for Internet use, an e-mail client, and an office package; by office package I mean something that has a word processor, and possibly a spreadsheet program, nothing fancy. A music player and something to use the MSNM protocol should also be included, as some of these will be used for lesser fortunate teens and then they can chat with their friends.

    Advanced features will not be necessary, basically cut and dry being able to run the programs OK. Some general things I could see having in a library are printer drivers, modem drivers, and support for networks.

    It would be nice if the machine was more or less on current technology, I'd like to avoid outdated versions of things if at all possible. I do realize I may have to use older versions for speed and size concerns, but another thing is security. I don't want the boxes wide open to Internet threats and such.

    Most of the functions would probably be best if hidden under the GUI interface, as it needs to be totally easy to use.

    So, I'm here for suggestions, comments, concerns, ideas, or anything relevant; or even if in my searches I missed another distribution that does all of this just fine.

    Thanks in advance,


  2. #2
    Linux Guru
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Täby, Sweden
    I don't think that you'll have to use any outdated versions. Just make sure to use a lightweight window manager like *box, enlightenment, sawfish, fvwm or similar. Since most of them are very customizable, you should be able to hide advanced options and make them easy to use.

    You should make sure to add quite a bit of swap, I think - especially on the low-mem machines. I'd suggest at least 64 MBs.

    Of course, there are lots of mail clients that can handle pretty low specs. I really don't know about web browsers, though - that's probably going to be your greatest problem. The smallest browser I know for Linux is Opera, but as we all know, Opera isn't free software. Mozilla has a project for a low-mem browser. I just can't seem to remember what they're calling it again... Anyway, if you can't find it, try compiling Mozilla from source and leave out functionality to see if that makes it runnable.

    As for spreadsheet program, gnumeric is probably the best choice, at least that I know of. I don't know that many spreadsheet programs, though. I don't know many word processors at all, but AbiWord is at least fairly small.

    Also, try to look for alternative programs.

  3. #3
    Linux User Muser's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Minimo is the small version of Mozilla

  4. $spacer_open
  5. #4
    Just Joined!
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Why dont you try DamnSmallLinux, it's a live-CD distro based on Debian with hd-install script so it's easy to apt-get things you want to check out...

  6. #5
    Linux Engineer
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Farnborough, UK
    VectorLinux would be a good outofthebox solution. Min requirements are up towards the top of your specs though.

    Dillo is a pretty small browser.

    Or you could try some older versions of popular distros, Mandrake 8.2 springs to mind, or Debian Woody.
    Lansbury's Lido

    thekiadriver on #linuxforums - fleetingly

  7. #6
    Linux Newbie
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    For the office software you could try
    System Requirements
    Pentium-compatible PC or higher
    Linux kernel 2.2.13 or higher, glibc2 2.1.3 or higher
    64 MBytes RAM recommended
    250 Mbytes hard disk space
    X Server with minimum display 800x600, 256 colours
    pretty low requirements other then the HD size but if you put in like a 2gb HD then you would be good to go.
    Desk TopAMD Semperon 3200+, MSI KT6V mobo, ATI Radeon 64mg DDR, 256 mg 3200, 40 gig HD
    LapTop Toshiba 105s. Pentium 75, 45 meg ram, 500 mg hdd.
    Server Compaq Proliant 166 mhz cpu. 168 meg ram, 2 x 4 gig hdd, 2 x 9 gig hdd

  8. #7
    Linux Engineer
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Montreal, Canada
    also about MSNM client
    GAIM youl'd be your option, supports (almost) all IM and is really light.
    \"Meditative mind\'s is like a vast ocean... whatever strikes the surface, the bottom stays calm\" - Dalai Lama
    \"Competition ultimatly comes down to one thing... a loser and a winner.\" - Ugo Deschamps

  9. #8
    Linux Enthusiast
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Windsor, CO
    Unlike windows, older software on linux doesn't equal faster or lighter. Sometimes it's the reverse, sometimes there's not much change, sometimes it is lighter, but usually it just depends on what you're using.
    If you wait for Enlightenment DR17 to be a little further developed, I highly suggest using it due to ultra-high customization and it looks really pretty with many features (planned, but definitely possible) at really really high speed (if it can run on a PDA, it's in your speed range, and it does run on a PDA). It will/does have a lot of features windows users (and max users) will want that most lightweight windows managers won't have, such as customized launcher bars and good for running Gnome/KDE apps without running Gnome/KDE (just install libs only).
    As for the other stuff, just remove bloat, and compile the packages for speed rather than anything else.
    As for media players, MPlayer is an excellent choice as it has a variety of video output options, some of which are wonderful for older systems. Also, it's GUI is pretty light (it's primarily console-based to begin with, so GUI is simple), and has a lot of useful compile-time options.
    Basically, keep it simple.
    I'm interested in trying this too actually, as it's a great opportunity to improve my linux skills by trying to build a distro for such out dated systems. I'm even more interested in the potential such a distro would have in advantages for the average user over windows- Being able to run stuff that most people use the PC for on ultra-cheap hardware... not just outdated hardware. Most people only need high-end hardware for gaming anyways at the home level, and they just want basic functions. This would be a great project to try.
    Emotions are the key to the soul.
    Registered Linux User #375050

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