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My daughter has an old(and I mean OLD) Dell desktop computer that's been in storage for a while. I wanted to mess around with it and see if I could ...
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  1. #1
    Linux Engineer TNFrank's Avatar
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    Lightweight Non-PAE Distro for Desktop?


    My daughter has an old(and I mean OLD) Dell desktop computer that's been in storage for a while. I wanted to mess around with it and see if I could get it running for her just for kicks. I was going to put Mint 13 MATE on it but the file is too large to put onto a CD and the optical drive won't read DVD's(that's how old this thing is, LOL). I did manage to install a non-pae version of Bodhi on it but I'm really not crazy about Bodhi and the 10.04LTS 32bit copy of Ubuntu only gave me a text interface and even after doing a "sudo apt-get install ubuntu" it'd still not give me any kind of UI or desktop.
    The specs are a Pentium III, 866MHz with 348GB of DDR-133MHz ram and I think the hard drive is 30GB but I'd not swear to it, might only be 3GB. It also only has the CD optical drive and a floppy drive for input, no USB to boot to.
    Anyway, I'd like to throw something on it that'd not take up much space, work with the non-pae processor and make this old machine run fast as possible.
    I thought about Puppy but the newer versions are PAE, also thought about DSL but then again I'm still not sure.
    I like the MATE desktop so is there any older i386 non-pae Distros out there running the MATE desktop that be light weight and work well on this machine? Also, I'd like them to be current, not some older Distro like Ubuntu 10.04LTS or the like with no support. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Linux Engineer TNFrank's Avatar
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    Found a Distro called Wolfer 1.9.10 Zero that might work. It's based on Ubuntu 10.04LTS so it should be non-pae. Guess I'll burn a copy to CD and C what happens, LOL.
    Last edited by TNFrank; 08-15-2013 at 11:57 AM.

  3. #3
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    I don't know if it will fit on a cd or a none pae but I know PLOP boot manager fits on a cd and then you can boot off of USB.

    DistroWatch.com: Point Linux

    DistroWatch.com: LinuxBBQ

    DistroWatch.com: Hybryde Linux

    DistroWatch.com: ALT Linux

    DistroWatch.com: Descent|OS

    DistroWatch.com: Salix OS

    DistroWatch.com: Porteus

    DistroWatch.com: Snowlinux

    DistroWatch.com: Manjaro Linux

    Now, getting all of those out of the way. I know for sure

    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<look at my lady to the left

    can run Mate also. antiX-forum - View topic - Mantix screenshots ( MATE desktop on AntiX 12 & 13.1)

    and I know for sure that our kernel will work on your Dell. Install [wiki.mate-desktop.org]

    Edit: by the way. All AntiX isos fit on CD.

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    The problem is only about the kernel, check a distro with support for i486 and it should work. Then, if you want a more updated kernel (or one that completely supports your machine) you can build it on your machine . After doing this, you have a system wich should work basically, and the pc will be ready to be used. If it works, you can use it with that distro, or even install a new distro, compiling its kernel with this firs linux machine.

    If that works, you might actually have various options, depending on your flavours and your knowledge of how your system works. If the pc's very old a good option would be a small basic system (as the ones provided by archlinux or slackware, or a basic debian) with only a window manager, not an entire desktop environment. You can then choose the most lightwieight programs for each need (you may wont to check the RaspberryPi apt-list for this), there is lots of these programs.

    However, I suggest you not to use a debian-based distro if the pc is that old, its package manager may slow it down really bad...

    edit: when i say "a window manager" i mean like fluxbox, or blackbox; these programs require a bit of configuration to be done from the command-line but there would be a gain in performance.

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    348GB of memory wow!

    I have a couple of this spec of box, old IBM Thinkpads and they run fine for what I use them for. I download openSuSE live KDE CD and choose the "install" option . During the install, you can try the full KDE or Gnome desktop but I generally choose the LXFE one which seems to load the box less heavily.

    Of course, you will need a working internet connection to do the install.

    If you do choose KDE, make sure you turn off all the Desktop effects, they use a lot of oomph.

    Cheers - VP

  7. #6
    Linux Engineer TNFrank's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by voidpointer69 View Post
    348GB of memory wow!
    LOL, I bumped that up from 256MB by taking a 256MB DDR-133 out of my old iMac and replacing one of the 128MB RAMs. Wolfer seems to be working pretty well on this old machine. Gnome 2 desktop looks a lot and feels a lot like the Gnome 3 MATE desktop I'm using now. Also found out it has a woppin' 10GB hard drive,LOL. After install I've still got 6.4GB free.
    Now I need to get hooked to the Interweb. It has a modem(i.e. phone jack) connection but no RJ-45 Ethernet or WiFi. I wonder if one of those USB WiFi deals with the small antenna would work? I'm sure this is only USB 1.1. Need to do some research but it's kind of cool to get this old machine up and running. Thanks to Linux.

    P.S.
    Ok, just ordered a 150Mbps Mini USB Wireless WiFi Network Card 802.11b/g/n Antenna LAN Adapter off of Evil-Bay for $6.29 shipped. From what I read the USB 2.0 will simply be slowed down to USB 1.1 specs but hey, that's better then NO WiFi at all, especially on this older machine and I'm sure I'd not be able to find a PCI WiFi card for it anyway so may as well use one of the two USB ports on the back of the machine for WiFi. The other is being used by a USB optical mouse so No USB for anyone on this machine unless I get a cheap USB hub to plug into.
    Last edited by TNFrank; 08-15-2013 at 12:23 PM.

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    I think the real problem you'll face is that websites these days use memory like crazy, even on really resource-efficient web browsers. As far as I know, Google Chrome (or the open source version with no Google-specific branding, Chromium) uses the least amount of memory in most circumstances. But I could be wrong. Firefox browser was resource hungry a few years ago but has gotten much better now. No matter what you use, I doubt you'll be able to view more than one or two websites at a time. I hope I'm wrong.

    I would add to the Distrowatch suggestions by rokytnji above PeppermintOS, which at the moment is the 35th entry on the Distrowatch front page. It has its website peppermintos dot com (I can't post the actual link, I haven't been active enough on the forums). PeppermintOS is available 32 bit, and their minimum system requirement is 192MB of RAM, a 32-bit x86 processor, and 2GB of disk space. Their recommended configuration is 512MB, though. But if you have to burn it to a CD to install it anyway, you can run the LiveCD and see how well it works.

    Good luck.

  9. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by theCimmerian View Post
    I think the real problem you'll face is that websites these days use memory like crazy, even on really resource-efficient web browsers. As far as I know, Google Chrome (or the open source version with no Google-specific branding, Chromium) uses the least amount of memory in most circumstances. But I could be wrong. Firefox browser was resource hungry a few years ago but has gotten much better now. No matter what you use, I doubt you'll be able to view more than one or two websites at a time. I hope I'm wrong.

    I would add to the Distrowatch suggestions by rokytnji above PeppermintOS, which at the moment is the 35th entry on the Distrowatch front page. It has its website peppermintos dot com (I can't post the actual link, I haven't been active enough on the forums). PeppermintOS is available 32 bit, and their minimum system requirement is 192MB of RAM, a 32-bit x86 processor, and 2GB of disk space. Their recommended configuration is 512MB, though. But if you have to burn it to a CD to install it anyway, you can run the LiveCD and see how well it works.

    Good luck.
    Yeah, that's a good one to add. I have both antiX and Peppermint OS installed on one of my systems (antiX on ALL of them, actually) and both work well. If you are willing to try somewhat unusual variations, CrunchBang Linux (#! Linux) might be a surprisingly good choice too.

    Not sure if Roky had this in his list, but Puppy Linux (which has countless variations) might also be a good one to poke around with. AntiX and Puppy are particularly good for people who want to tweak and create something personal that works just right for them. They might be less desirable for someone who just wants to plug in a pray ... er... play! Peppermint OS is good in that sense, and it's also good in the sense that it is a hybrid distribution - it installs to disk, but also runs quite a few network or "Cloud-based" applications - things that work right from "application instances" built from the browser.
    Brian Masinick
    masinick AT yahoo DOT com

  10. #9
    Linux Engineer TNFrank's Avatar
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    I have a CD of Peppermint 4 OS but it's a PAE distro so it'd not work. So far the Wolfer looks like it's a winner. Soon as I get my USB/WiFi adapter then I can hit the Interweb and see what's shakin' on that end of things.
    I wish I could find another DDR-133MHz, 256MB RAM stick so I could replace the other 128MB and at least get to 512MB total, that'd probably help out a lot. Anyway, it's just cool to have it up and running. Soon as I get WiFi access I can do all my updates and stuff and maybe load Freecell onto it so they'll be another game to play besides gbrainy, LOL.

  11. #10
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    I wish I could find another DDR-133MHz, 256MB RAM stick
    This or This should work for you. My IBM M41 which is a dual drive quad booter runs 1.2 gig of sdram.

    The only thing I would google is whether your dell is capable of running high density ram or can only run low density ram. I ran into that on my Amrel Laptop ram Upgrade. A google search should tell you.

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