Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Low-end machine, lightweight applications and some other stuff

I had an old Toshiba PII 266 Mhz (I think), 4 GB HD, 32 Mb RAM preinstalled with windows 95 lying around, and I thought it with be fun to mess around with it a bit. It don't even have a network card, and it has never been on the internet. I've been into linux for a little less than a year, and I'm not yet a command line guru, but partitioning, installing and so forth usually works out.

Given the low specs of my toshiba box, I figured I needed to use either a distro with a text based installer or a distro with a very lightweight window manager, such as fluxbox. Most distros seem to have moved away from the text based installers, but the slackware derivates stick by it, so my initial attemtp was with Zenwalk. It installed fine, and seemed a decent distro. Unfortunately, xcfe was a tad on the heavy side for this old laptop, and performance was very slow.

My next attempt was with puppy linux. This was able to run as a live CD, although not very well. I could not get the hard drive installer to work properly, though, and not only could it not install puppy, for a while it seemed it had corrupted the hard drive in some way. All of a sudden no distros would work. A re-installation of Zenwalk failed. As did attempts with Windows 95, Feather, DesktopBSD, Austrumi, ReactOS, FreeDos, Minix 3, Slax, Dynebolic and propably one or two others I can't remember. As a result I sort of gave up, and forgot about it all for a while.

That was until I happend to see on Distrowatch that a new edition of Damn Small Linux was out. Since it was a quick download at 50 MB, I decided to give it a shot, and, he-heyyy, it worked! Guess my hard drive wasn't corrupted after all! DSL installed fine, and that's not all: Just for fun, I tried to connect my Toshiba to my cable modem with a USB-cable (this laptop has one USB-slot), and to my own huge surprise, all of a sudden I was on the internet. Oh joy!

DSL is a fine distro, especially when you consider how many functions have been crammed into so little space. Speed was satisfactory, although firefox was very slow. As an installed OS, however, I found DSL a bit limited, so I hoped that, now that I had internet and DSL is Debian-based, I could extend it a bit, using apt-get. Unfortunately, though, I could not get this to work, and I actually didn't find the DSL forums very helpful either. Had I been a bit more patient or persistent, I could perhaps made it, but I decided, instead, to look for another distro.

But which distro? There are certainly enough to choose from! I browsed the top 100 list at Distrowatch for distro that suited my needs: A text-based installer, and the possibility to choose some other desktop enviroment than Gnome, KDE or Xfce. There were a couple of candidates, but I only got to try out one, since that one turned out to be a stayer: Vector Linux.

At first I actually went for 5.1 instead of recent release 5.8, because it offered a better choice of lightweight window-managers during installation. I installed it successfully with IceWM, in my opinion by far the best lightweight WM, only to find out that my internet-connection was not auto-configured. Neither did I manage to get it to work with the network tools that were present ( I am, mind you, extremly helpless when it comes to internet connections).

So I turned to 5.8 instead. It installed with Xfce, and this time I succeeded in getting on the net. And using the package manager (it needed maybe 5-10 minutes to load when usin Xfce), I managed to install IceWM. I logged in anew with Ice, and things were starting to look good.

Vector comes with Firefox, Opera, Seamonkey, Dillo and Lynx, so there are some browsers to choose from. Firefox and Seamonkey was useless due to their memory usage, so I removed them. I keep Opera around, but it too is rather sluggish, so I use Dillo as much as I can. I also installed Links2, which is fast, and usable for pure text, such as Wikipedia.

Vector's package manager is Gslapt, and I think it's really great. Adding repositories is as easy as choosing from a list, and all dependencies are handled adequately. Adding and removing programs is no problem, and the graphical interface is intuitive.

After some fiddling with Gslapt, I now have a complete stack of applications that work well on my eight years old laptop: Abiword and gnumeric as office-tools are pre-intalled. As is Gaim, Opera, Dillo, xmms, mplayer and Xchat. I added the fast and elegant Sylpheed for mail and Gtk-gnutella for file-sharing (it's excellent). I removed some games that was to heavy to run, and as well as Vim and bluefish, as I'll never use them.

My old laptop now has almost all the functions one needs from a modern computer, and heck, it even looks good, with a red and yellow IceWM motif. I dig it! I actually find myself spending more time with it these days, than with my new acer with PCLinuxOS/XP. Vector is superb, though you would expekt that a distro who aims to be rather lightweight would have a home page that renders correctly in a lightweight-browser such as dillo.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Vector 5.8 = very good lightweight distro

I agree Vector 5.8 is really nice distribution based on Slackware 11.0. I'm running it on my two machines: Duron 850 MHz on Elitegroup K7SEM motherboard with integrated audio,video and NIC built around SiS chipset where it's blazing fast and on (unknown) P I 266 MHz with only 64 Mb SDRAM where it replaced Slackware 10.
I found latest Vector Linux release to be very suitable for day-to-day WEB browsing, email, watching movie trailers ( mostly from www.apple.com/trailers since with Mplayer plugin for brilliant Seamonkey browser I can SAVE movie streams to my hard-disk. Try that with Apple QuickTime !!! )
With Industrial theme and Deja Vu sans 9 bold fonts it is sharp looking distro couple people asked already if I can install it on their abandoned ( Pentium II generation) computers.

More in Tux Machines

Leftovers: Software

  • A Quick Hands-On With Chatty, A Desktop Twitch Chat Client
    Chatty is a desktop Twitch Chat client for Windows, macOS and Linux written in Ja
  • HP Linux Imaging and Printing 3.16.8 Adds Support for Linux Mint 18, Fedora 24
    The open-source HP Linux Imaging and Printing (HPLIP) project has been updated on August 29, 2016, to version 3.16.8, a maintenance update that adds support for new printers and GNU/Linux operating systems. According to the release notes, HP Linux Imaging and Printing 3.16.8 adds support for new all-in-one HP printers, including HP OfficeJet Pro 6970, HP OfficeJet Pro 6960, HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile, HP DeskJet 3700, as well as HP DeskJet Ink Advantage 3700. Also new in the HPLIP 3.16.8 update is support for the recently released Linux Mint 18 "Sarah" Cinnamon, MATE, Xfce, and the upcoming KDE editions, the Fedora 24 Linux operating system, as well as the Debian GNU/Linux 8.5 "Jessie" distribution. So if you're using any of these OSes, you can now update to the latest HPLIP release.
  • MPlayer-Based MPV 0.20.0 Video Player Released with New Options and Commands
    The popular, open-source, and cross-platform MPV video player software received a new update, version 0.20.0, which comes only two weeks after the previous 0.19.0 maintenance release. MPV 0.20.0 is not a major update, and, according to the release notes, it only implements a couple of new options and commands, such as "--video-unscaled=downscale-big" for changing the aspect ratio. Additionally, the MPlayer-based video playback application also gets the "--image-display-duration" option for controlling the duration of image display, and a new "dcomposition" flag for controlling DirectComposition.
  • FFmpeg 3.1.3 "Laplace" Open-Source Multimedia Framework Now Available for Linux
    The major FFmpeg 3.1 "Laplace" open-source and cross-platform multimedia framework has received recently its third maintenance update, version 3.1.3, which brings updated components. FFmpeg 3.1 was announced two months ago, at the end of June, and it introduced a multitude of new features to make the popular multimedia backend even more reliable and handy to game and application developers. Dubbed Laplace, FFmpeg 3.1 is currently the most advanced FFmpeg release, cut from Git master on June 26, 2016.
  • GNU Scientific Library 2.2 released
    Version 2.2 of the GNU Scientific Library (GSL) is now available. GSL provides a large collection of routines for numerical computing in C. This release contains new linear algebra routines (Pivoted and Modified Cholesky, Complete Orthogonal Decomposition, matrix condition number estimation) as well as a completely rewritten nonlinear least squares module, including support for Levenberg-Marquardt, dogleg, double-dogleg, and Steihaug-Toint methods. The full NEWS file entry is appended below.

today's howtos

Leftovers: OSS

  • Report: If DOD Doesn't Embrace Open Source, It'll 'Be Left Behind'
    Unless the Defense Department and its military components levy increased importance on software development, they risk losing military technical superiority, according to a new report from the Center for a New American Security. In the report, the Washington, D.C.-based bipartisan think tank argues the Pentagon, which for years has relied heavily on proprietary software systems, “must actively embrace open source software” and buck the status quo. Currently, DOD uses open source software “infrequently and on an ad hoc basis,” unlike tech companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook that wouldn’t exist without open source software.
  • The Honey Trap of Copy/Pasting Open Source Code
    I couldn’t agree more with Bill Sourour’s article ‘Copy.Paste.Code?’ which says that copying and pasting code snippets from sources like Google and StackOverflow is fine as long as you understand how they work. However, the same logic can’t be applied to open source code. When I started open source coding at the tender age of fourteen, I was none the wiser to the pitfalls of copy/pasting open source code. I took it for granted that if a particular snippet performed my desired function, I could just insert it into my code, revelling in the fact that I'd just gotten one step closer to getting my software up and running. Yet, since then, through much trial and error, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to use open source code effectively.
  • Affordable, Open Source, 3D Printable CNC Machine is Now on Kickstarter
    The appeals of Kickstarter campaigns are many. There are the rewards for backers, frequently taking the form of either deep discounts on the final product or unusual items that can’t be found anywhere else. Pledging to support any crowdfunding campaign is a gamble, but it’s an exciting gamble; just browsing Kickstarter is pretty exciting, in fact, especially in the technological categories. Inventive individuals and startups offer new twists on machines like 3D printers and CNC machines – often for much less cost than others on the market.
  • Open Standards and Open Source
    Much has changed in the telecommunications industry in the years since Standards Development Organization (SDOs) such as 3GPP, ITU and OMA were formed. In the early days of telecom and the Internet, as fundamental technology was being invented, it was imperative for the growth of the new markets that standards were established prior to large-scale deployment of technology and related services. The process for development of these standards followed a traditional "waterfall" approach, which helped to harmonize (sometimes competing) pre-standard technical solutions to market needs.

Leftovers: BSD

  • The Voicemail Scammers Never Got Past Our OpenBSD Greylisting
    We usually don't see much of the scammy spam and malware. But that one time we went looking for them, we found a campaign where our OpenBSD greylisting setup was 100% effective in stopping the miscreants' messages. During August 23rd to August 24th 2016, a spam campaign was executed with what appears to have been a ransomware payload. I had not noticed anything particularly unusual about the bsdly.net and friends setup that morning, but then Xavier Mertens' post at isc.sans.edu Voice Message Notifications Deliver Ransomware caught my attention in the tweetstream, and I decided to have a look.
  • Why FreeBSD Doesn't Aim For OpenMP Support Out-Of-The-Box