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Thread: Knoppix - Live CD for very old machines

  1. #1
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    Knoppix - Live CD for very old machines

    I have used a few Live distros recently - Knoppix, Mepis, and Ubuntu - and am impressed by how well they work on my 1.4gig desktop with 1 gig of ram. Right off the CD, no muss or fuss, they all have more strengths than weaknesses. My question is that I have a number of older early pentium 1 and 2 machines that bog down under these distros. Are there any versions of Knoppix or similar distros that would work on what could best be described as "solid Windows 98" machines?

    For example:

    Pentium I, 128mhz, 91meg Ram laptop. I have used this machine as a Win95-Me machine for almost 8 years. It will load Word97 without any problems and can do basic web surfing with IE. However, Knoppix 3, while it will load with some graphics tweaking, is almost unreadable and OpenOffice can't load.

    and: (welcome to my museum of antiques)

    Pentium II, 233, 65meg desktop. Part of my network, runs all the above quite well and I use it for a quake 2 game server. Recently, I reformatted and put on Mandrake 7.2, reconsidered and moved to RedHat 9.0. However, this machine too has problems with Knoppix and Mepis.

    Any ideas? I am looking for a "light" version, not in terms of space, but in terms of overhead. Need the following:
    Ability to run Firefox. OpenOffice 1+, and have basic networking built in.

  2. #2
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    Try this: http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=damnsmall It looks like joke, but it works.

  3. #3
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    I myself have experienced difficulties running modern distros like Ubuntu, Suse, Fedora on old machines. It only took a couple of tries before I realized that running 2005 OSs on 1997 HW and expecting the same end-user desktop experience as if it was running on 2 year old HW is just not realistic. We demand more complete desktop enviornments, GUI slickness, auto-this or auto-that, themes, icons, etc all which can not be reasonably delivered on the old HW. If I wanted to use old HW, I had to do two things. Either make a conscious effort to research & run lightweight everything from the system daemons/services to the workprocessor to the webbrowser to the GUI/windowmamanger itself. Or to seek a distro that is designed to be lightweight.


    To run lightweight/lean:
    Learn the system's services. Then disable all non-essential services. For me it was to disable things like: apm (Advanced Power Managment), anacron (a cron daemon), cups (printing service), sendmail or exim (email daemons), hotplug, sshd, alsasound, isdn, ppp, portmap, nfs*, *inetd,

    Run a window manager instead of a desktop enviornment: Today's GNOME & KDE are great powerful desktop enviornments that provide much needed interoperable, functional, consistent applications & GUI experiences. It has a cost & the cost is performance on old HW. The challenge, is then to run something else that might be "good enough" but not a full desktop enviornment. One such alternative is XFCE (see screenshot), a CDE (Common Desktop Enviornment) clone. It is designed to be functional but not resource heavy GUI desktop experince. If XFCE is not acceptable or still too heavy, then there is IceWM (see screenshot), Window Maker see screenshot) or BlackBox (see screenshot). They are literally a window manager and a application launcher. They are not a complete suite of applications or a cohesive consistent desktop experience.

    The next step is to learn and use smaller lightweight applications: OpenOffice.org 1.1.x is great but too heavy for old HW. There are alternative word processors, spreadsheet, presentation & diagraming programs. The same for file managers, web browsers, email clients, PDF viewers, music & media applications. Freshmeat .net is a good place to begin browsing the categories of applications.

    Alter your computing habits: If you tend to open up application _in case_ you need them, then consider only opening them when you need them to leave RAM for the other apps. If you only have 128MB of RAM and need to have FireFix plus 3 or 4 other applications open, then don't have FireFox loaded up with 30 tabs of pages. Change your surfing habits to reflect the machine and only open 3 or 4 tabs to leave RAM for the other applications. Choosing to not use big media apps or to listen to internet radio mp3 streams is a good way to conserve CPU & RAM. Don't use a desktop wallpaper.

    Are there any versions of Knoppix or similar distros that would work on what could best be described as "solid Windows 98" machines?
    Yes. Vector Linux and Damn Small Linux. Vector uses IceWM instead of GNOME or KDE. DSL uses BlackBox. Vector includes most normal use (non-lightweight) apps. DSL is packed full of lightweight alternatives.

    Any ideas? I am looking for a "light" version, not in terms of space, but in terms of overhead. Need the following: Ability to run Firefox. OpenOffice 1+, and have basic networking built in.
    You should be able to run Firefox & maybe OO.org on the 91MB system. I think that OO.org is too big to run OK on the 64MB system. It will end up swapping virtual memory to the HD & make the whole experience slower. It can probably be done but you might not like the results.

  4. #4
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    I have used DSL on PII 300 Mhz no problem. If it has 128 Mb or RAM, you can load full OS to RAM and is very fast even on old machine.

    I also agree with previous post as to not running resource intensive applications. I have run Knoppix 3.9 on a PIII 400 Mhz nicely with Fluxbox instead of KDE. Give Fluxbox a try, right-click to get the menu tree. Use cheat code "boot: desktop=fluxbox" to start it at boot.

  5. #5
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    Live CD for old machines - comments

    I must say the live distros are amusing in almost any form and the "mini distros" are nothing short of amazing and fun.

    Damn Small Linux: Because I am not a long-time user of Linux, I didn't understand of lot of the programs and I found the desktop confusing to configure. The distro loaded very nicely on my P2-233 (but only 65 meg ram - a real stumbling block). However, I loved the little dashboard monitor. It didn't configure my network without quite of bit of work. For fun, I tried it on my P3-1.4 desktop with 1 gig of RAM - wonderful - this program flies. Because I don't feel like starting at the bottom of the learning curve, I doubt this will be something I will use in the future on my older machines. But the speed on the newer machine will still prompt me to burn this to disk and keep it. If you ever wanted to get up and running fast, check some email, the internet and take some notes - this is a great program.

    Slax: Although I could get this to eventually load on my p2, it took almost 8 minutes to boot. Once booted, I couldn't get the mouse, network or much else to work.

    Vector Linux: Again, I think the lack of RAM choked this distro. Worked great on my desktop.

    Puppy Linux "chubby SOHO" edition. Very similar to DSL but with OpenOffice and Mozilla that bulked it up from around 68 meg to 93 meg. For my needs, this is a keeper. Had trouble recognizing my network, but works nicely on my p2. I may go for a full install this this one. It was both small and functional, right off the CD. Like DSL, this program was excellent on my desktop.

    I doubt any of these will ever be a "replacement" for windoze like Ubuntu, Mepis, and Knoppix, but the application of these programs for things like (1) old hardware, (2) restarting sick machines, (3) use on someone else's computer, (4) or my favorite - just working fast - are fantastic.

    Thanks to all who posted - particularly the link for all the distros.

  6. #6
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    Re: Live CD for old machines - comments

    Quote Originally Posted by pgluth1
    .... It didn't configure my network without quite of bit of work....
    We don't know any details about your network, but on every system I've tried that has an inexpensive router attached (except one Belkin model that I pitched) , I've been able to boot Knoppix or DSL and have been on the (wired) network with absolutely no setup at all. Routers are dirt cheap now. (Best Buy has one for $5 after rebate this week and CompUSA has an 802.11g wired/wireles on for the same price!) There are a lot of very good reasons for using a router, and at that price I can't find any reason not to.

    Quote Originally Posted by pgluth1
    Slax: Although I could get this to eventually load on my p2, it took almost 8 minutes to boot. Once booted, I couldn't get the mouse, network or much else to work.
    I don't know anything about Slax, maybe this is the nature of this software on your hardware. But we've seen over and over cases where the disc boots slowly if burnt at a high speed, but works great if you burn a CD at slow speed.

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