How low can you go : Using a ten year old computer on a daily basis.

Feb 16

The first big misconception about Linux is that it runs on everything. " Linux runs on Everything " they say, pointing towards old systems lying around in a dark corner, preaching that good old Linux can bring machines like that back to life while Vista has cast them into the shadows of Oblivion. But then again. So does Windows. Windows runs on "everything" too. My old 386 is still capable of running Windows 3.1. But that would not make it very usefull. Same thing is true with Linux. Yes : Linux runs just about on everything with a processor and some ram, but in various forms. Take "Freesco" a free version of Linux that can turn an 486 into a printserver / router using JUST a floppy and 4 megs of ram ! (tried it , works great ) Sure, THAT is linux, but not in the "daily flavor" we use it everyday.  There are different kinds of "linux" The "appliance" kind, that sits for example in your Linksys router, the Server kind (command line only, that you can run from a lighter piece of hardware too) and what i like to call the "daily flavor" a "Desktop" kind, that lets us do all we need to do to get around on the web.

It is with that "Desktop" kind that I would like to do a little experiment : What "flavor" or "distribution" is best to choose, when we are going to use an "older machine" for " daily tasks".  As an experiment I have literally "dug up" an old ‘Toshiba Satellite’

Here are the specs for the machine we are going to use.

  • Celeron 366mhz
  • 128 meg of ram
  • 4 gig harddrive
  • No built in network card
  • 2 pcmcia slots
  • 1 usb port
  • standard Cd rom
  • Parralel and serial ports
  • External VGA port
  • Modem
  • Soundcard.
  • Floppy drive !

Since it is still a functional machine AND I hate to let things go to waste, I suggest we use it for this little experiment.  Our little experiment is going to consist of the following.

  • Find an appropriate Linux distribution that one can install on this system.
    • Have an easy to use graphical interface.
    • Be able to have network connectivity (wired or wireless, preferably wireless)
    • Acceptable bootup time (under 3 minutes)
    • Use the following programs.
      • Firefox (with flash and Java)
      • Thunderbird
      • Pidgin
      • Twitter application
      • RSS application
      • Openoffice (or a surrogate)
      • Audacity (record an audio segment)
      • Filezilla (upload and transfer such audio segment)
    • Preform the following tasks.
      • Go online and watch a youtube video.
      • Visit a java based chatbox.
      • Play an Mp3 and a video file.
      • Write a blogpost.
      • Transfer a picture from a digital camera to Flickr.
      • Record an audio segement and upload it to a server.

In the next few days I will take a look at several candidates (possible distributions), pick one and let you know how it went. Now onto the tests to run an everyday operating system on ten year old hardware.

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