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Lightweight But Capable Distro for P4 / 2.66 GHZ Box?

 7:12 pm on Sep 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Can you suggest a Linux distro that is light enough to be snappy on an older P4 / 2.66GHZ / 1 Gig Ram box, but will still allow me to easily download and run apps for photo editing, emailing, web browsing, coding, word-compatible documents, and spreadsheets?

Trying to balance responsiveness with usability. I also want to make sure that my hardware will work with it to, so driver availability is pretty important.

Thinking of moving my old XP PRO (SP3) box to Linux because it has gotten SO SLOW. Also, support for XP stops in April of 2014.

Since I am a Linux noob (can you tell?) I was just hoping for some input on what might be a good distro for a machine like mine.

Thanks in advance.

(I can't upgrade the RAM more than 1 Gig. That is the limit according to the manufacturer.)



 11:57 pm on Sep 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

take the "used" value and deduct the "cached" value from it to get an idea of memory requirement.

free -m will do the math for you. Also, htop is a good alternative to regular top; a bit more extensive (and colorful, to boot).

 1:14 am on Sep 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

"free -m will do the math for you..."

Total = 3792
used = 3579
free = 213


I am obviosuly reading this wrong... I hope....

When i go into the system monitor it shows that I am using about 410 MiB of memory (out of 3.7 gigs) after I boot up and don't have any apps open.

It doesn't seem to be using anything on the swap file.

This seems pretty weird because on the P4 I have that I installed the 32 bit OS version, it only uses about 190 megs when I don't have any apps open...

brotherhood of LAN

 3:14 am on Sep 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

190 megs sounds about right, and most of that will be for displaying things on your GUI...

Looking at my memory usage, everything over 10MB is a desktop program, mainly my text editor and the browser (which is using a greedy 350MB at the moment).

Hardware is so cheap nowadays. If you aren't doing anything fancy on the screen it's just as easy to do hard work on a remote server and just have your local box almost as a dummy terminal IMO.

The laptop I'm on is a dual core at a slightly slower clock rate, 4GB RAM though. Everything runs just fine. I'm on Ubuntu 13.04 (classic UI), but everyone seems to recommend Mint....


 6:01 pm on Sep 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Planet13, are you looking at the line that starts "-/+ buffers/cache:" ?

The top line includes the amount used for disk cache, and Linux tends to use most of the memory not being use by anything else as disk cache.


 6:53 am on Sep 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

An example from one of my servers:
total  used  free  shared buffers  cached 
Mem: 996 891 105 0 94 599
-/+ buffers/cache: 197 798
Swap: 1023 0 1023

The actual memory usage is 197 MB, the rest is cache & buffers. Free memory is wasted memory.

(The PRE formatting doesn't work very well here, does it?)


 2:55 pm on Oct 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Just to follow up on the original topic of which distro of Linux is good for older machines:

I currently have a love / hate relationship with Bodhi Linux 2.4 NON-pae version.

It is certainly fast, and it seems to work well on P4 machines (as long as you are sure to install the NON-pae version).

The problem is that the E17 desktop / window manager interface is SO different from windows (and most other Linux desktops) that it is really difficult to do some basic stuff.

Plus, it doesn't have a HUGE community of users, so there isn't as much user-contributed help out there.

Plus the support forum is not particularly user friendly. For instance, if you search "chmod" on the support forum, you get zero results - even though there are several threads that mention chmod. It is just that for whatever reason, their forum doesn't index the term chmod.

But it is fast, and it has some gorgeous themes. And it works on older machines. And being based on ubuntu LTS, it is stable and dependable, with lots of software out there.

Hope this helps anyone else who might be moving from windows to Linux.


If you have a dual core machine or better and you would like something of a windows XP "replacement" then maybe Linux Mint is pretty close to what you might want.


 4:48 am on Oct 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have been trying ElementaryOS, and for anyone who does not like E17 it is a good alternative: it feels like a simplified version of MacOS, but it has the flexibility of an Ubuntu base. I am not too impressed by all the default apps, but they easy enough to change.

It looks beautiful and has an excellent UI.


 8:09 pm on Oct 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the input, graeme_p:

Would you mind terribly posting some info on what sort of resources it uses when just running the os / desktop?

(From youtube videos, gotta agree that it does look beautiful.)


 9:32 pm on Oct 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Too new to trust. :(

I'm not impressed that there isn't a picture of the desktop on the site (I never use youtube). I did eventually find a pic of the desktop but it had a compiz-like menu across the bottom; I assume changeable but it's one reason I left ubuntu.

I use midori for a minor task - not really impressed with it after firefox. I accept that changing apps is not usually onerous on linux OS's though.

Any idea what base it's built on? It's unusual nowadays not to be founded on something like debian or ubuntu or...


 8:24 am on Oct 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

ElementaryOS is based on Ubuntu.


 1:23 pm on Oct 31, 2013 (gmt 0)


On a old desktop with an E2200 2.2Ghx Pentium Dual processor:

imeediatly after boot and login.

total used free shared buffers cached
Mem: 989 662 326 0 48 436
-/+ buffers/cache: 178 811

With Midori, s#System settigns, and a terminal with two tabs open, and a few minutes of browsing:

total used free shared buffers cached
Mem: 989 900 89 0 50 548
-/+ buffers/cache: 300 688
Swap: 956 0 956


18:58:22 up 13 min, 3 users, load average: 0.69, 0.28, 0.18

 1:34 pm on Oct 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

Elementary is based on Ubuntu, the current version is based on Ubuntu 12.04 (ie the last long term stable release)

It is new and not very mature, but it is perfectly usable, and VERY nicely designed - not just looks, but the UI is excellent.

It does have a MacOS like dock, and is less configurable than most Linux desktop,s but thanks to the excellent design I am not inclined to mess around with it anyway.

The only thing I can find really wrong with it is that it does use vertical space very well compared to Unity - otherwise I would install it on my wife's netbook as well as the visitors/spare desktop. Its not for everyone, but its very simple and well designed.


 10:07 pm on Nov 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks. I'll stick with Mint for a while though, I think. :)


 6:43 am on Nov 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

Nothing wrong with Mint - apart from requiring a re-install to upgrade :(

I meant Elementary does NOT use vertical space very well. I seem to have a problem with WW and the word "not".


 10:10 pm on Dec 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

@ graeme_p

I am a bit confused by this statement:

"Nothing wrong with Mint - apart from requiring a re-install to upgrade :( "

by saying that, are you implying that Elementary OS can be updated WITHOUT reinstalling?

Or am I just confused again?


 1:06 pm on Dec 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

Most Linux distros can be upgraded without a re-install.

With Ubuntu you can upgrade from a each release to the next, or from an LTS (long term stable) release to the next LTS release, or from any release to the next LTS release.

The official Ubuntu variants will do this, Mint will not, do not know about Elementary.


 8:44 pm on Dec 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

A very bad issue, in my opinion. I think mint is great but dread having to update all these machines when the Maya LTS expires. :(


 9:06 pm on Dec 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

"The official Ubuntu variants will do this..."

i assume you mean Lubuntu, Kubuntu, and xubuntu, right?

Unfortunately for me, Bodhi Linux (built on Ubuntu 12.0.4 LTS) requires a reinstall (as far as I have read).


 7:10 am on Dec 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

Yes, that is what I meant, and it appear to be how Bodhi works.


 10:05 pm on Dec 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

Searching for a solution to a slightly different problem I found the site...


...with the following reason for Mint's update method...

"Why doesn't Linux Mint upgrade the way Ubuntu does?

"From our point of view, Ubuntu does three things wrong:

"1. It doesn't make it easy for you to backup your data, nor does it warn you to do so.

"2. It automatically asks you to upgrade to the latest version. You click on the "upgrade" button and there's no turning back. No explanation about the risks involved, no explanation about the pros and cons... just a simple button to click for a process you likely don't understand.

"3. It uses a "package" upgrade method. See section C2 for pros and cons associated with this method.

"The only advantage Ubuntu offers is that it makes the process trivial and fully automated. Though, considering the risks and the way it upgrades your system, this should be considered dangerous. We do not even recommend this on the command line, so to have it triggered from the click of a button is just not acceptable to us. It's easy alright, but it's not the right solution. Sometimes things are important enough for us to take the time to do them properly. When it comes to upgrading, it's important to backup your data, to test the release before installing it and to avoid any broken or conflicting packages. The method chosen by Ubuntu is fully graphical and extremely easy to use, but it fails to do just that, and that's what matters the most."

The site gives what appears to be a comprehensive guide to upgrading Mint. The page seems to have been written for Mint 9 (why do people never date their articles!?) but it seems sound for Mint 15 and others.


 11:31 am on Dec 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

I was looking for that, thanks.

I think Mint overstate the risk, and underestimate how difficult people find it to do things correctly. Lots of users will simply never upgrade if they have to reinstall to do so.


 9:09 pm on Dec 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

I agree. :)

However, there is information in that article on upgrading a la ubuntu, albeit with dire warnings.

Of the warnings, I can accept that a lot of people using ubuntu updater could easily be persuaded to do so without backing up data. I know I used to (although I keep daily backups anyway). The suggestion to upgrade within the Updater suggests there is no potential risk, which I (now) think is wrong.


 11:53 am on Jan 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

A reminder asking people to backup first is probably a good idea. Most people do not seem to backup at all!

Also, any idea what the default partitioning is? I really think /home should be on a separate partition (and so should the equivalent on any OS). That way you do not have to trash your data even if you reformat the partition the OS is on.

This 53 message thread spans 2 pages: < < 53 ( 1 [2]
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