The Best OS for your old laptop? Pt 1 of 2

29 05 2008

Do you have a spare old computer lying around collecting dust?


What do you do when you have an aged laptop or desktop and running Windows XP is a pain in the ass? A friend of mine wanted me to fix his sister’s old computer, a Dell Inspiron 2100 laptop running ……

Microsoft Windows XP SP2
Intel Pentium III 700Mhz
128MB RAM (1 slot, upgradeable to 256)

A sticker on his diminutive laptop (now called a sub-notebook) carried the l’terrible Windows ME sticker in a corner galvanizing me to set forth on an adventure to seek out the best usable Operating System for that old POS. Since the end-user would require a familiar user-interface, my first bet was Windows XP. It was bad. Really bad and took a longer time to load and operate than expected.

Being the honorable ninja, I was began looking for “free” Operating Systems devoid of commercial value. So the next thing to XP, since Vista is definitely out of the equation, was TinyXP. You can google it up and download the ISO file via torrents for free. Install the ISO as I have detailed in this post and try setting it up on your computer. Remember that when you install it on a drive, you will have to format the drive so backup everything you have on DVDs or CDs or another hard drive.

So how’s TinyXP? It’s great for that laptop when I installed Rev08 and it’s the same as Windows XP for the regular user other than certain disabled features. Only took like 500MB so was pretty neat. The only problem was after installing all the different add-ons like Flash Player for YouTube and Office 2003 etc etc, the laptop became slow. There are options to remove printers and other features and even after combing out everything from the start-up and uninstalling McAfee Anti-Virus, it wasn’t as fun. The wallpaper and theme figures into the slowness of the operations of the computer as well. Oh and you can’t run updates to secure your machine on the internet.

After these problems with TinyXP, I said fuggit and formatted the drive with the much heralded Fluxbox variant of the already open-source and “free” Ubuntu known as Fluxbuntu. After formatting the drive to EXT3 and getting Flux on it, to my shock, it was a plain Linux screen where everything had to be done manually. Click on the terminal window to install applications (example: sudo apt-get install firefox) but to it’s credit, Fluxbuntu did have some nice looking preloaded themes to it.

To get an updated repository list of applications, you would have to open up the terminal window and type in sudo update-menus before you can do the sudo apt-get install [name of application]. It did not recognize my Western Digital external hard drive and had trouble loading my flash drives. Apparently you have to manually mount them to the computer through commands on the terminal. Pfffft. Gave it another 24 hours and blah. Gave up on it. It’s light-weight and great for an old workstation but simply not user-friendly enough for the average person like my friend’s sister.

And so our ninja trod on towards his next project, KDE. I remembered having problems installing Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon – Gnome) and knew that similar issues could arise during installation of Kubuntu (KDE Ubuntu) so ran the lazy man’s way of installing Kubuntu over Flux.

[To Be Continued…]




6 responses

29 05 2008

If you install a graphical frontend to package management like gnome-app-install or synaptic, you should be able to install applications without the terminal.

I’ve never found Fluxbox to be that friendly an environment. Of all the lightweight window managers, you may find IceWM to be easier to use, but the truth is that all lightweight window managers lack a lot of the user-friendliness of the heavier desktop environments like Gnome, Xfce, or KDE.

I think your best bet is to install Ubuntu or Kubuntu using the Alternate CD (the Desktop CD will be too intense for the 128 MB of RAM) and then install a lightweight window manager like IceWM and use IceWM. That way, you’ll be sure all the essential services (say, for mounting external USB drives) are installed.

I have a screenshot-heavy guide to installing and customizing IceWM on a Ubuntu installation:

29 05 2008

I found out that the only way to get Kubuntu installed on that laptop was through Fluxbox or do a network install. Yea. In the 2nd part of this post, I’ll talk about KDE v XFCE and the better alternative. Haven’t used IceWM and don’t have that subnote anymore but thanks for the tip. I’ll have to try it out when I’m able to land my hands on it again.

3 07 2008

another alternative is puppylinux; very lightweight and there are several variations to choose from. very user friendly for linux.

31 10 2010

CrunchBang Linux, is the best thing I put on my old laptop. It has OpenBox window manager. For people that don’t have nix experience, it takes a little getting used too.. But it fly’s and is based off ubuntu(debian is the best in my opinion). check it out.

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