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I have a 12-year old Toshiba Libretto laptop with a Transmeta Crusoe Processor TM 5600 running at about 600 MHz, 128 MB RAM and S3 Savage graphics. Which Ubuntu (or any other GNU/Linux based OS) could I use for stable operation?

I intend to use the laptop for basic computing needs including surfing and Skype without video.

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migrated from askubuntu.com Jun 10 '11 at 11:54

This question came from our site for Ubuntu users and developers.

11  
Its just funny to think I have a phone with a dual-core 1GHz processor and 1Gb of RAM. –  Mr. Shickadance Jun 10 '11 at 13:00
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And it's interesting to consider that even Android might be squeezed on specs like that. –  Nick Dixon Jun 10 '11 at 13:48
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Upvoted for making great use of old hardware! –  kivetros Jun 10 '11 at 14:27
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Releated to my question: askubuntu.com/questions/14226/… –  B. Roland Jun 12 '11 at 18:33
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@Mr. Shickadance - It's funny how quaint your comment will sound in 12 years... –  ire_and_curses Sep 13 '12 at 5:42

19 Answers 19

If you really want Ubunu... then I'd say 7.04. The first Linux distro I ever used was Edubuntu (in those days still a seperate distro) 7.04 and I really liked it. Everything worked much better than it does with the newer releases, except that wireless networking was disastreous (no drivers :'-(). Pitty it doesn't seem to boot anymore on newer PC's.

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I think there was no wireless 12 years ago :) –  Extender Jun 10 '11 at 8:22
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xD yeah but Ubuntu 7.04 is from 2007, not 1999 :p –  RobinJ Jun 10 '11 at 8:56
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7.04 hasn't been supported for over 2 years, it's not a good idea to recommend/use this. –  haydoni Jun 10 '11 at 9:26
    
Yeah but what supported distro would run on a 12-year old PC? –  RobinJ Jun 10 '11 at 9:30
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See other answers! (you'd be surprised.) –  haydoni Jun 10 '11 at 9:44

Lubuntu would be my first choice. It would run great on it. It uses the extremely lightweight and fast LXDE desktop and it is made to run fast on very old computers. Puppy Linux would also run very fast as well.

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"Minimum requirements for lubuntu are comparable to Pentium II or Celeron systems with a 128 Mb RAM configuration, which may yield a slow yet usable system with lubuntu." i.e. it may not run "great". What are the system requirements for Puppy? –  haydoni Jun 10 '11 at 9:57
    
+1 I also recommend Lubuntu. –  kv1dr Jun 10 '11 at 12:11
    
@haydoni I haven't tried the LXDE desktop but I am running Xubuntu with the fluxbox window manager and it runs pretty good on a similar box. Its not for gaming but you can get most done. –  KennyPeanuts Jun 10 '11 at 15:32
    
@KennyPeanuts, @haydoni, LXDE is lighter than XFCE, so I think it might be worth a shot. –  Oxwivi Jun 12 '11 at 16:21

Puppy Linux: Wary is great for older hardware.

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Puppy is good and certainly works awesome live w/o the install but it has a more limited package selection than running a debian derivative with a lightweight desktop or window manager. –  KennyPeanuts Jun 10 '11 at 15:30

Bodhi linux is worth trying out, your system requirements are met and you'll get a modern dektop (with an olden day footprint). It's Ubuntu-based and runs on the Enlightenment DE (which, debatably, is even more lightweight that LXDE).

It's very themeable

It can look however you want it to look, it's very easy to change the theme and look of the desktop from within menus.

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Enlightment fails to start when trying to boot the LiveCD from Qemu... –  RobinJ Jun 10 '11 at 10:10
    
@RobinJ On what computer? It's worked on several low spec computers for me, two netbooks and a Pentium II desktop. –  haydoni Jun 10 '11 at 11:11
    
2Ghz Dual-Core with 2GB RAM. But as I've said, I tried it in Qemu (256MB RAM). –  RobinJ Jun 10 '11 at 11:30
    
@RobinJ, running in QEMU is not not the same as running on actual hardware. And speaking of Bodhi Linux, it worked for me on Pentium III. –  Oxwivi Jun 12 '11 at 16:19

Maybe Damn Small Linux would suit your needs?

Definitly keep off KDE and Gnome, maybe Xfce and LXDE are choices, but I guess a very simple VM/DE like IceWM would be the way to go.

Although I had SuSE 9.1 with KDE running on a computer that had some Pentium 2 or 3 with 128 MB. It just wasn't any real fun.

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7  
DSL is no longer being maintained. If you want super small distros then I would go with Puppy or TinyCore –  KennyPeanuts Jun 10 '11 at 15:16
    
Oh, did not know that. Thanks for the info. –  queueoverflow Jun 10 '11 at 16:58

I was on a similar quest recently, and after trying different Ubuntu variants, Puppy and DSL, my personal choice is PCLinuxOS.

The base distributive uses KDE, but it has variants with Enlightenment, LXDE, XFCE, and Gnome. KDE, Gnome and Enlightenment would be too "heavy" for your laptop, but both LXDE and XFCE will work great. I think PCLinuxOS has better organized configuration and management tools then Ubuntu, clearer ways to configure everything, more stuff works right "out of the box".

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I am running Xubuntu with good success on a similar system. I generally load into the fluxbox window manager. You don't get a fancy desktop but it saves a lot of RAM and it is really easy to use.

Don't have any illusions about what you are doing here though. I can do most everything that I want to do on this box but it has its limitations. For example, if Pandora is playing she aint gonna do much more that simple command line tasks. Also some .pdf files can take minutes to open. RAM is your biggest limitation so you will be forced to think ahead if you need to run multiple applications.

P.S. I am also running TinyCore off of a 4 Gig USB drive on a MacBook Pro that has more RAM to be sure but no HD. This would work great but is a lot more hassle.

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600 Mhz is fine, but can you get more RAM? If you can put 256 or even 512 MB into the thing - it shouldn't be expensive, but does the hardware detect it? And with 512, xubuntu is waiting. :) Or the other alternatives, mentioned. But RAM, RAM, RAM.

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At that age, 1) compatible RAM is sort of hard to acquire, and 2) there may or may not be a place to put it (I've had a machine of similar age, and there were no more RAM slots, and the BIOS couldn't handle replacing with a larger RAM anyway, only recognizing the first 128 MB). –  Piskvor Jun 10 '11 at 16:27
    
Yes. It can be cheap to acquire at ebay, but then you can't test it. At a shop, they might not sell it anymore. I don't know if Toshiba-Laptops need a specific RAM, with Compaq, a friend of mine had big problems - they didn't accept foreign RAM, and the Compaq-RAM was extraordinary expensive - 10 times above normal prices. Maybe (linux-on-laptops)[linux-on-laptops.com/toshiba.html] can answer the question about maximum RAM? –  user unknown Jun 11 '11 at 21:50

Ubuntu 11.04 minimal iso + openbox + lxpanel

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Any reason why? –  Michael Mrozek Jun 12 '11 at 2:39
    
it's da fastest 8) –  LanceBaynes Jun 13 '11 at 15:07

ArchLinux is a very good, rolling release, minimalistic distribution. You get a minimal install CD, and install what you want on top of that; it is possible to make it extremely lightweight and fast.

I run it on pretty much everything I have, from old systems like yours to the newest, and it is really fast on all; I would wholeheartedly recommend it.

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I tried Slitaz (Distrowatch page) and it worked really well for me. It is extremely fast on old machines, with very active community, plus it takes less then 100MB disk space.

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Debian still officially supports running on a 486 (but not a 386).

Everything else about which desktop environments and window managers to use on an older system has almost nothing to do with the distro choice.

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Any distribution that avoids installing a heavyweight window manager will do nicely. For maximum choice, Debian will be fine on an older system. Your real decision is which window manager to use. I was using FVWM on a laptop made in 1996 and it was plenty fast enough. More modern "lightweight" window managers are probably also appropriate.

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Absolutely. Debian (lenny/stable) with WMII window manager is running great on my 1999 Thinkpad 600E. Be sure to have swap space available. –  krubo Jun 12 '11 at 14:47

ALT Antique (several versions of the installation images) might be OK for your requirements; the description is though in the form of a discussion of the creators of the distro in Russian.

In general, it is just based on Sisyphus, a general-purpose constantly developped repository of packages/basis for distros&solutions.

(Further question should be probably addressed to the creators, not me, because I'm not even a user of their project, but perhaps I will try it some day on an old Toshiba laptop.)

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Use Linux Mint based on LXDE. It's very light and user friendly, based on Ubuntu, so all software is easily available. I think that 128Mbs is enough for it, you can't use GNOME or KDE with only 128Mb.
However I'm not sure if that hardware is supported, but even then Mint is a good choice for a test, just use liveCD or liveUSB.

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I think VectorLinux is missing in the list of suggestions. It was desgined to run on low ressources. I used it some years ago and liked it.

Quote from Wikipedia: "The Light Edition is designed for older computers with limited hard disk space."

VectorLinux on Wikipedia

VectorLinux project page

EDIT: Distrowatch lets you search for distributions, one of the features is called "Old Computers". Today there were 18 hits of active distributions matching:

  1. Absolute Linux
  2. antiX
  3. ConnochaetOS
  4. GALPon MiniNo
  5. Legacy OS
  6. LinuxConsole
  7. Lubuntu
  8. PapugLinux
  9. Puppy Linux
  10. Quirky
  11. SliTaz GNU/Linux
  12. Swift Linux
  13. Tiny Core Linux
  14. TinyMe
  15. Toutou Linux
  16. Unity Linux
  17. VectorLinux
  18. wattOS
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I am in the same situation: Sony C1 MSX with tranmeta crusoe tm5800 800mhz.

I tried windows xp SP1: Very good but sp2 and sp3= game over => Cannot get firefox or other navigator running well. I tried Lubuntu: Game over (very slow) I tried Xubuntu: Incredibly slow, had to unplug the machine to stop it I tried Puppy Linux Lucid 5.2.8: That start to be heavy for this machine, however it's quite usable. Opera and Midori works incredibly well on it.

Next step Puppy Linux Warry 5.2.2. Maybe i ll let you know (I am not familiar with this forum)

The issue with the Crusoe processor, is that it's not reactive. When it runs it run fast, but it has difficulties to start. Particularly when working on battery.

Hope this helps.

Bye

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Don't look for a distro or a subdistro, look instead for tools to use to do what you want to do, and then check if you can run all these in that computer. You should detail what are the "basic needs" you will focus on. E.g., if you want to focus on WYSIWYG "office suite" document editing, then you're advised to try something lighter than LibreOffice (although if you don't open another memory-hungry application, I think you will manage to run libo).

If you want web browsing, you should see if you can get a lightweight browser. If you don't rely too much on dynamic AJAX-bloated sites and you really surf HTML, there are some choices out there, ranging from dillo to lynx.

(But Firefox should be able to run too — but unless they managed to get rid of the leaks, you have to restart it once in a while, also be sure to disable any overkill eye-candy and to disable scripts and plugins unless they're really needed (NoScript and Adblock or the like will be handy here).)

Your main bottleneck is, definitely, RAM. Try to get some more RAM if you want to run something heavier. Also, try using a fast hard drive for the swap partition.

CPU speed won't mean a lot unless you're going to do intensive computation, compilation, image processing, etc., or unless you choose a source-based distro (and, curiously, the bottleneck with source-based distros will be RAM, not CPU).

The choice of distro is meaningless as soon as you pick the tools you want to use. Of course, if some distro forces you to go through a default installation of KDE running firefox with thousand background processes to provide "automagic" behavior, then you will have some trouble setting it up.

I guess the best choice is, whatever distro you pick, check whether you have to use some special option to pick the packages and install the most minimalist system you can conceive, then install pieces as you find out you need them.

(A good generic tip would be: stay away from DEs (Desktop Environments) -- a window manager suffices to get, well, window management. But I guess whether you can get rid of some of the things DEs give you depends on how you work and on your tastes.)

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ArchBang is lightweight and fast, while supporting all sorts of x86 hardware. I think of it as preconfigured Arch Linux with OpenBox, and a live cd. Works great on my low-power netbook.

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