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Old laptop, and linux?
vkaryl
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I have a 1997 IBM ThinkPad (bought used in 2001) with a 20gig hdd, 150mhz, floppy and cd drives, pcmcia slot. What linux could I put on that? Or is there one that would be appropriate for something that old and feature-limited?
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techAdmin
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Intro: ms fud, discussion, etc
It's funny you should ask that, this question has just been getting a lot of news. Yesterday, a discussion of a microsoft funded study about linux on old oses. Sigh. Is this familiar, or what? So let's forget the FUD for a moment.

This new MS garbage did spawn a lot of discussion [newsforge] though.

So what to use? You want something that has a small footprint desktop. You want to be able to install software. Here's a good threaded comment section on small linux distros.

Damn Small Linux
First of all, there's Damn Small Linux [DSL]. Read an LA times review.

:: Quote ::
Last I looked, about a year ago, DSL still had a lot of rough edges - fun to play with, but nothing you'd give to your grandmother.

No longer. Now up to version 2.0, DSL Linux has attracted a dedicated team of volunteer developers who continue to hack away, shrink and refine the code, the kind of collaboration that's one of the great advantages of open-source software. Besides browser, word processor and spreadsheet, there are programs for image editing and for ripping and playing MP3s. The piece de resistance is a fully functional version of the Firefox browser, which means you're compatible with some of the trickier Web applications, like banking, that tend to reject nonstandard browsers.


At 50 mB, it's pretty darned small. But there's some drawbacks, I wouldn't recommend it based on the following comments, if they are correct:

Feather Linux
:: Quote ::
Please consider Feather linux as well.

Whilst it is very similar to DSL and only a few MBs bigger, it is better from many points of view:
1) Better support for recent hardware
2) The capability to download more stuff, IF YOU WANT (Firebird, Opera, OpenOffice)
3) Improved HD install: it can install to an ext 3 partition, whilst DSL can only use ext 2
4) Lilo will put ABSOLUTELY everythig in the boot menu. This is simply amazing, and if you don't won't to use Feather for any purpose, you can use it just as a (free) bootloader, instead of commercial ones..


But there's more, I'm trying to find an article I read that covered this question exactly, it was a test on hold hardware of various distros. Slackware, Ubuntu, and a few others were found to work very well.

The slackware family: zenwalk
Slackware is however not available with a package manager, which might or might not matter long term. zenwalk is a slackware based distro that comes with XFCE(4.2.3.2), KDE 3.5, Gnome-libs(2.10.1), GTK2 (2.8.9) desktops. At 400 mB it's pretty small. But KDE tends to run fairly slowly. Slackware won the tester's most functional on slow older pcs prize, but ibm laptops are another story, it's got to recognize the hardware or you won't be happy.

Read install instructions for zenwalk. You can read a nice review from osnews.com. This sounds like a good one if you want to give slackware a spin, which I've been wanting to do.

Kanotix small distro - see following posts
there's also a distro based on Kanotix that is lightweight, but I can't find its name.

Or you can just install all of kanotix, but use a lightweight window's manager like xfce or blackice instead of kde or gnome.

Gnome tends to run faster than kde.

Beatrix: temporarily on hold, wait to see what happens
Then of course there's always our friends over at beatrix, a ubuntu based debian based distro, very small. But development seems to have gotten stuck, I hope Steve is still doing OK. It wouldn't be my first choice for an ibm though, there were issues with 2005-1, and it hasn't gotten to 2006 yet.

Resources
List of Small Linux distros.

More later.

Since I have a 200 megahertz laptop, I'll give a few of these a spin, especially zenwalk and dsl. Maybe feather linux too. Need to find the small kanotix distro though, that's the one that will kick butt.
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vkaryl
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Wow. I'm amazed! I wouldn't have thought it was a real common request actually....

Yes, please keep me up on some of the IBM problematicals. The reason I say this: I had trouble with this laptop with windows stuff not wanting to behave, from upgrading to Win98 from Win95, to installing Firefox back when it was still Firebird, and it still won't run T'bird. So it's a tad bit wonky from various angles anyway. It's too bad the processor speed is so slow, because I'd bet it would be a happier Windows camper with XP!

Thanks for your help!
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techAdmin
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Here it is, found it:

I knew there was one, a small, lightweight kanotix based distro, cpx-mini, that would be my number one try, I'll grab it now and check it out.

:: Quote ::
This is a shrinked version of KANOTIX linux live-cd.
It is only 240 MB in order to fit USB-thumbdrives, or other bootable USB-devices. It works partly on CF-cards,too. Installed on HD it currently only takes ~570MB. KANOTIX CPX-MINI is based on KANOTIX which is based on Debian.

That's the ticket, yeah...
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vkaryl
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Oh, COOL! I LOVE kanotix!
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techAdmin
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That's going on my gateway 200 megahertz tonite, we'll see how it does, it uses fluxbox windows manager, has apt-get, sounds really good.

That should be excellent, we'll see. Kanotix on old laptops, hope it works.
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vkaryl
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Oh, moi aussi! Kanotix is so easy to use for someone who's trying to migrate to linux full-scale eventually!
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techAdmin
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With these small distros it's going to come down to which one correctly detects your hardware though, that's my guess. Kano's stuff is a good bet, kanotix itself has a section in the kde menu just for ibm laptop install, but kde doesn't come with this, but it's probably a script of some type, or group of scripts, we'll see.
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vkaryl
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Sounding good.... just keep me posted! I'm your guinea pig for this sort of thing, ain't?
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techAdmin
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No, I'll guinea pig this one, if I can get a debian based non-abandonned distro to run on that old laptop at an acceptable speed, I'm a happy camper. The small cpx-mini is based on 2005-4, which means it comes with firefox 1.5, which means you get that cached browsing back and forth speed, which was a big problem on slow pcs running firefox.

I'll see how the hardware detection is though. Good thing, I can pop a bunch of distros on a small hard drive, since each takes almost no room, I can test them all on one disk. We'll see. Sound will be an issue, the one that makes my gateway sound work will win the prize though. Ibm support should be much better.

Basically, all these use small windows managers, some more lean and stripped down than others. The smaller windows managers don't have nearly as many features as kde or gnome though, things like copy and paste from app to app may or may not work.

Best bets are: DSL, CPX-mini, and a slackware based one.
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