Helium Linux: When your old machine needs some oxygen.

I have this old iMac lying around that I got off of some guy on Craigslist 2 years ago. It was a little bit of a “pet project” to tinker around with and to see how far I could take this computer from 2009. Swapping out the internal spinning-rust drive with an SSD was a very interesting piece of open-mac surgery and afterwards the machine was a tad faster then before.

Operating system no longer supported.

But the iMac would only upgrade its version of MacOs to a version that was no longer supported (El Capitan I think) so I thought let’s run Linux on it. I’ve had experience in running Linux on Macs for a couple of years now, but the installation of Ubuntu 18.04 was a little disappointing. The system was a little slow (I expected that from a 2009 machine) and got put by the wayside because it just wasn’t up to snuff.

I needed a place to focus.

Lately I’ve been having some issues with productivity. While (trying) to get stuff done (mostly when i’m writing), I’m constantly distracted by eMails, Social Media, Chatmessages and what have you. I had been looking for some ways to block them out (going offline, using apps like Focuswriter) but none of them helped. I needed a computer environment that was simple enough to let me get my writing done while being to slow or simple for anything else. The iMac popped back to mind.

Simplicity is the most complex thing to achieve.

But in order to be realy “functional” the machine needed a lighter and more serene operating system. I remembered a distro called “Crunchbang” from my netbook days. A lightweight and very geeky distro with an Openbox UI. But the distro was disconinued.. or was it?

Get me some Helium

It turns out “Crunchbang” is not dead after all. An organisation called Bunsenlabs has picked up the slack and forked “Helium” as a successor. The distribution is based on Debian 10 (not Ubuntu) and comes with a minimal of applications pre-installed. The graphical installer is sweet and simple and afterwards they run you through a text based post-install script that lets you choose what other options to install.

It’s like ‘less’ with ‘more’

The end result is a super minimalistic destkop interface with the classic openbox bar letting you open some classc apps like Firefox, Libreoffice and more. The developement team has gone out of its way to keep the interface clean and simple and to keep the apps as light as possible. In the end you get a slick, slim and FAST OS for an old machine.

A garden of Zen

I have only been using the OS for a couple of days now but I’ve managed to muddle through some pretty hefty copywriting and getting the stuff I needed done .. done. Aside from using Geany as the default Text editor and Firefox to surf around for research, I’ve resulted to mostly command line apps and scripts to get things done. (For example using MPV to play the “Mission Control” music station on Soma Fm). The end result: A fast system with minimal distractions and the very first time I’ve actually started using one of my ‘resurrected zombies’ in a production environment. If you have an old machine lying around or want to have a distraction free interface? Give it a try.

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2 Replies to “Helium Linux: When your old machine needs some oxygen.”

    1. Hey man 🙂 Thanx ! Gonna take a look at it. So far Helium is a pretty smooth distro. Can’t believe i’m getting so much joy out of an 9+ year old machine.

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