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  1. #1
    Just Joined! pocketrocket's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Philly area

    Question Which Linux distro for turning very old laptop into a netbook?

    Which distro(s) should I try to use?

    I have an Inspiron 2100 with

    * 696 Mhz Pentium III processor and

    * 256 MB of RAM.

    * LinkSys Wireless G 2.4 GHz network card in the PCMCIA slot

    I need a distro which
    * has a fast efficient browser

    * needs very tiny amount of RAM

    * is very fast in the CPU (since it's only 696 Mhz processor)

    * recognizes the LinkSys card without my having to do anything extra except tell it the network name and key. A copy of sysresccd gentoo I downloaded & burned in February recognized and turned on the wireless network card so I could use it.

    I am hoping to use the laptop as a wireless netbook.

    Unfortunately, when I used the sysresccd's Firefox I had to turn off images, which makes browsing pretty useless. I think it only has about 4 MB of memory free when I have it loaded up. It was painful to use. Plus also, I am not sure if the rescue CD is a live CD which can be used to install itself to the internal HDD.

    I tried to find a DSL ISO but came up with bad links from Damn Small Linux, Download the ISO.

    It's a 10GB drive but only about 2.5 GB is available right now. I would need to fit both the Linux system and a swap partition in that space.

    I'm investigating if I can add more RAM, hope so.

    Is there any distro I could use on this computer? I mean, if it can run Windows XP Home service pack 2 (slowly), then SURELY there's a Linux out there which will do the trick?


  2. #2
    Linux Guru
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Tucson AZ
    You could try Slitaz, small (30MB) download and works on older computers well. Had no problem with it detecting wireless on my machine but don't have the same wireless card you do.
    SliTaz GNU/Linux (en)

  3. #3
    Since Linskys made those cards with different versions. Which means different chipsets maybe. There is no sure way of telling you what distro will work out of the box with the Linkys wireless chipset on that pcmcia card.

    That being said. If you have a land line. Boot up any live cd and visit via landline
    Debian HCL - index.cgi

    run the check and see if wireless is working.

    2 gig aint a whole heck of a lot. So to add to yanecks recommend.

    NimbleX - The New Wave of Linux !
    I refuse to let fear and fear of others rule my life. It puts my humanity at risk.
    Accepting Death is the only way to stay alive.

  4. $spacer_open
  5. #4
    Administrator jayd512's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    With minimal specs, and wanting out of box functionality, you might have to find some sort of happy medium.

    SliTaz, Puppy or antiX are going to be you best bets. But you will probably still have to install your wireless drivers.

    Follow the links provided by Roky and yancek.

    Follow up with any problems you come across, and post all information that you can.
    Last edited by jayd512; 06-23-2011 at 05:49 AM.

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  6. #5
    Linux Engineer MASONTX's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Mason Texas
    Lubuntu, SliTaz, AntiX, and legacyOS are my first trys on old laptops, all of which will run on your specs. To see other possible choices, go to and do a search on old computers, which will give you a list of suggested distro's.
    Registered Linux user #526930

  7. #6
    Linux Newbie Charles4809's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Utrecht, NL
    My suggestion would be Bodhi Linux. It's very lightweight on resources. No guarantees on your wifi though, you need to try a live-CD or usb-flash.
    ASUS EEE Box B202, Atom 270 1,6GHz, 1 GB, HDD 80GB, XP-SP3 / PinguyOS
    Asus EEE PC 901 with Bodhi-Linux

  8. #7
    Just Joined! pocketrocket's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Philly area

    a) Debian HCL check b) working with SliTaz

    The HCL check shows that "BCM4318" 802.11G Wireless LAN controller "works".

    So now what do I do to get wireless working in Slitaz?

    I selected "System Tools" > "Wireless Networks Connections", typed in the default password and clicked 'autosave', then clicked okay.

    It did a scan. But then it didn't find my wireless network. I'm sitting just a few feet away from the router. I was thinking that maybe it didn't have the Broadcom wireless driver installed by default. So I tried to choose the right things and then clicked on 'install', but it when it scanned again, it still didn't find my wireless network.

    At some point, one of the things I did messed up the eth0 interface, and so now I'm going to log out and try to log in again, see if that resets the hard-wired net connection. If not, then I'll have to reboot. At least the Slitax boots in less than 2 minutes.

    Okay -- back from reboot. Please see pics - any advice about getting wireless to work?

    I have notes from working with other distros too... Will post that next.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  9. #8
    Just Joined! pocketrocket's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Philly area

    Notes after trying 5 distros:

    Btw, I have USB 1.0 - and the computer won't boot from a USB stick as far as I know. Boots from internal HD, CD rom, or floppy disk.

    I found out that 256MB is the maxium RAM - I'm already maxed out.

    I did some looking around on wikipedia and distrowatch. I've downloaded, md5 checked, burned and booted from several LiveCDs. I don't know if they are all 'install' CDs. I'm not sure how to determine that.

    I have ~2.75GB on HDD for dual boot w/ XP right now, though I expect later on to have the whole 10GB (woo-hoo!) for either a single Linux or dual booting two different Linuxes (Linii ?)

    #1 Puppy Wary 5.1.2
    A) Has GUI so I don't have to guess at everything

    B) Recognizes my wireless card using b43 driver. "pcmcia bus", Broadcom B43. Am able to connect wirelessly very easily.

    a) "free" command in console says only 7576 RAM is available after I start Xvesa, with no Firewall and no browser loaded.

    b) Browser is not IE, FF, or Safari. I need to use a standard browser because some sites like banks or Verizon only support certain browsers, and Seamonkey and Midori are not on the supported list. Probably not a big deal - I would just need to learn how to add the "Firefox package", I suppose.

    c) It locked up when I attempted to access my Gmail web account in Seamonkey.

    d) If I were to install to internal Hard Drive, and if Puppy still expects to stay loaded in memory instead of mostly residing on hard-drive in a swap file (only loading the basics to RAM), then I'm in big trouble. Seven MB is just not going to be enough space for me to do much of anything.

    PUPPY Questions:
    Can I partition my C: drive (gparted?) with Puppy booted from LiveCD?

    Would I add a swap partition of ~384 MB (1.5 * the RAM)? I would have ~2.3 GB for an ext3 partition.

    I need to make a disk image before I begin. Because what if it crashes in the middle of re-partitioning? I've had a lot of software freezing up or otherwise break on me, probably because of the tiny amount of RAM. For example, I tried to save a disk image of "sda" using Clonezilla but about 30 minutes into that, it starting spitting out endless IO Buffer errors on sda. I assumed it was disk errors, so I ran chkdsk in Windows. But alas, when I ran Clonezilla a second time, the same thing happened. I'm curious if PUDD will do the same thing. I'm trying to move as many of my files as possible out of Windows XP as quickly as possible... so that there's less to back up, and less at risk should I mess up the harddrive while experimenting with Linuxes.

    When-if I create the partitions, I assume I can install Puppy to the ext3 parition from the LiveCD?

    Will the Puppy installation process automatically set up dual booting with Windows XP for me? Or do I have to do battle with garden pests like grubs?

    Even after it is installed to HDD, will Puppy continue to run from nearly all of my measely 256 MB of RAM or is it smart enough to know to use the swap partition?

    Where to find directions to add Firefox? How badly would FF impact performance?

    #2 Damn Small Linux 4.4.10
    a) has GUI interface

    b) Very small. Seemed fast in comparison to most of the others. I think this was the one with the interesting desktop background showing system stats...

    a) I couldn't figure out how to get it to recognize my Wireless card

    b) The project has been inactive for years. Is anyone supporting it, could answer questions, etc?

    Given my current level of Linux expertise, I can't use DSL unless there's a community of friendly people willing to put up with my endless questions...

    #3 Slitaz 3.0 (French) Booted with modprobe=b43 lang=en (last night - tonight booted without any options)
    a) Has GUI so I don't have to guess at everything

    a) Fan runs constantly - seems to not know about detecting CPU temperature and turning on the fan? (Tonight it seems to not be running as hot - fan is not running continuously)

    b) No wireless: No matter which way I tried, I could not use the "wireless manager" tool to connect to my wireless network

    c) Eventually the system locked up on me. I can't recall, but I might've had to press & hold the power button to get it to turn off.
    d) WHAT is with the screen resolution??

    I ran the Debian HCL check. Everything said "Yes". See my previous post. But now what?
    #4 Bodhi 1.1.0 (very recently released, I believe)
    a) Has GUI so I don't have to guess at everything

    b) I was able to access my wireless network with only a little guessing

    c) I like the look of the interface better than puppy, but this is less of a factor for me. I can't afford to be too choosy. If Puppy is better in other ways I'll sacrifice eye-candy.

    a) The system clock was messed up (not a biggie as long as I don't have to fix it each time I boot from HDD after I install to it)

    b) Very slow to boot from disk - does this indicate how slow it would be to boot from HDD?

    c) Doesn't have a standard browser - see Puppy comment above (Has midori browser)

    d) midori crashed on gmail just as Puppy Seamonkey did. Even crashed when I turned off loading of images

    e) I logged out and couldn't figure out what ID to use to login again, so I had to shutdown/halt. Since it takes so long to boot up, I didn't experiment much further.

    BODHI QUESTIONS - the same as the PUPPY questions above.

    #5 Gentoo install-x86-minimal-20110614
    PROS: Seems a bit faster

    a) NO GUI interface, so mostly I was clueless as to how to proceed. Just a "livecd ~#" prompt.

    b) No wireless. I typed in some stuff (it had some hint about which command to type in) which supposedly set up the wireless network. But the network lights on card weren't lit, so I don't think it worked.

    c) When I shut down, it locked up on "remounting remaining filesystems readonly" - had to press & hold power button because keyboard and mouse were dead.


    So far, Puppy and Bodhi seem the best, with Puppy in front because it's probably less resource intensive.

    DSL is better IF there is a community which supports DSL which could help me get wireless working, install firefox, and troubleshoot other items as they come along.

    I've heard there's something similar to DSL - Tiny Linux or something like that? Is that GUI, or at least providing sufficient on-screen guidance so I can download/install wireless driver using wired connection, as well as firefox?

    I booted up Slitaz and used a wired connection to go to the debian hcl page and checked my hardware.

    I was going to burn Vector Linux Lite, but the download for it was over 600 MB, so I figured that I'd be nearly dead by the time my computer booted up that CD. So I didn't bother with it.

    Two others mentioned here but I've not yet tried: antiX and nimbleX.

  10. #9
    For the ram in puppy linux. to load the to hard drive instead of ram on boot. use the boot cheat code

    puppy pfix=noram
    Edit: Barry included puppy pfix=noram in wary as a boot option

    Word of warning to this producing an official boot code list. Barry made some changes towards the end of last year. I would have to search his blog to find out what they were (pfix=copy, pfix=nocopy, pfix =noram ???). While his latest Wary will have these changes I am not sure of the status of Lupu.
    To make using Puppy easier

    boot option. If you install Puppy. That bootcode needs to added to the end of kernel line in /boot/grub/menu.lst or if using the grub4dos bootloader. In it's menu list also at the end of the kernel line also.

    Leave out the "puppy after install so kernel line at the end looks like (just for a example)

    kernel /vmlinuz pmedia=idehd pfix=noram
    Edit again: You have so many questions I need to edit stuff.

    For the banks and sites that want IE or whatever. Just install a user agent switcher addon in your browser. Works for me in Iceape/SeaMonkey browser.
    Last edited by rokytnji; 06-26-2011 at 07:33 AM.
    I refuse to let fear and fear of others rule my life. It puts my humanity at risk.
    Accepting Death is the only way to stay alive.

  11. #10
    If deciding to try AntiX which I run exclusively also. I suggest with 256mb of ram the


    which comes with fluxbox desktop (Icewm is left out). Rutilt and ceni as network managers. Wicd is left out which comes in the full iso.

    this is something Anticapitalista told me about running AntiX live by the way

    rok don't use the lean or Xtralean cheatcodes and wicd should open ok.
    antiX-forum - View topic - antiX-M11-pt1 available

    You can download and try the full iso. If it boots. Make sure your /swap is turned on before running graphical installer. Base and full iso also comes with a cli installer also for low ram machines. You'll need to run off of landline first (probably, just guessing) during install and enabling/installing your broadcom wireless after install.

    For your b43 wireless

    antiX-forum - View topic - firmware-b43legacy pgrade error

    antiX-forum - View topic - Bug-fixes for antiX-M11

    We are a small group. But very knowledgeable and friendly.
    The developer replies to threads also. Greece uprisings lately with power cuts is crimping his posts a bit so one must be patient.

    We have lots of members that run broadcom wireless on their hardware. So if you decide to run AntiX. Which I have done successfully on a IBM a22m with 256mb of ram (the full iso also) with wireless pcmcia. You know what to expect.
    I refuse to let fear and fear of others rule my life. It puts my humanity at risk.
    Accepting Death is the only way to stay alive.

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