Lightweight Linux ( eg DSL ) - and old Dell Laptops

Discussion in 'Linux' started by Mutoid, Sep 23, 2015.

  1. Mutoid

    Mutoid MDL Member

    Sep 23, 2015
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    I have some old ( 32-bit ) Dell Laptops and I'm looking to breathe new life into them.

    I also have some elderly relatives and neighbors who are keen to get online ( mostly web-browsing and Skype )
    and I'd like to give away these laptops so that they can play around without having to spend any money ...
    ... just so they see how they get on.

    I've tried some Puppy distros which are OK , but not without problems when it comes to WiFi setup.

    Is anyone here using Damn Small Linux ?
    I checked distrowatch and damnsmalllinux.org and there is very little evidence that it is still being supported
    or developed .

    Can anybody suggest any other lightweight distros that might work for this project ?

    Thanks in advance for any tips or advice !
     
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  2. Skaendo

    Skaendo MDL Addicted

    Sep 23, 2014
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    That depends, how lightweight do you need? Most distros are under 10GB installed. I would recommend Linux Mint either way.
     
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  3. Mutoid

    Mutoid MDL Member

    Sep 23, 2015
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    Thanks Skaendo

    I'm a long-term user of Mint ( among others ) on my main computer and in VMs and IMO it is one of the most "user-friendly" Linux distros .

    The problem is that these old Dell laptops don't really have the hardware to do justice to Mint.
    Also , I like to experiment with Live USB distros before going to a full install .... that's why I got interested in the " lightweights " - ;)
     
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  4. Skaendo

    Skaendo MDL Addicted

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  5. Mutoid

    Mutoid MDL Member

    Sep 23, 2015
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    #5 Mutoid, Sep 23, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2015
    (OP)
     
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  6. Antilope

    Antilope MDL Member

    Sep 15, 2015
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    #6 Antilope, Sep 23, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2015
    I have a Dell Inspiron 1545 laptop made in 2009 with an Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 cpu (it came with a Pentium Dual Core T4200 but I upgraded that for $20 a couple of years ago. An Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 cpu with 6mb cache is now on order for $7.95), 4gb ram and a 160gb hard drive are currently installed. It will accept up to a T9700 or P9900 Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 8gb ram and a 500gb or 1TB sata hard drive. Check Ebay for some really good parts deals as a lot of these computers are being parted out and sold there. This laptop shipped with Windows Vista just as Windows 7 was coming out, so it was upgraded to Windows 7 for free in 2009. It came with 2gb of ram, but an additional 2gb of DDR2 PC2-6400 800MHz non-ECC 200-pin ram is currently only $10. Check the Dell website and make sure it has the latest bios installed. Check out YouTube for many upgrade videos. The cpu can be changed in about 15 minutes and ram added in less than 5 minutes.

    I recently installed, as dual boot, Linux Mint Cinnamon 17.2, 64-bit. The old computer really flies running Linux. Give it a try. Windows 7 (upgraded to 64-bit) takes 30gb and Linux takes up about 10gb of the little 160gb drive. It has LibreOffice installed in both Windows 7 and Linux Mint (Linux Mint comes with LibreOffice and Firefox browser). I downloaded the Linux Mint ISO and created a bootable USB flash drive from the ISO using Rufus. Don't mess around with a DVD install, a USB flash drive will install Linux in about half the time.

    I didn't have to add one driver in Linux. All of the Dell hardware was automatically detected and drivers installed. Wifi is working great on the original internal Dell installed Wifi card.

    My wife also has a Dell Inspiron 1545 laptop made in 2010 with similar hardware upgrades that I installed. That computer is running Windows 10 x64, and really well. It upgraded without any problems.

    So those little old Dell laptops have a lot of life left in them.
     
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  7. SOCRATE_MMXII

    SOCRATE_MMXII MDL Expert

    Jan 25, 2012
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    CPU? RAM? HDD?

    You can try Kanotix liveCD/DVD and if you like it, you can install it on HDD.
     
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  8. Nimbus2000

    Nimbus2000 MDL Member

    May 5, 2010
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    My favorite distros for really old machines:

    LXLE 12.04.5
    Watt OS LXDE

    both use the LXDE desktop, and Q4OS, which uses Trinity desktop (a fork of KDE 3.5).

    I really like Mint, but unfortunately they no longer offer LXDE. The lightest desktop they support is XFCE, which is really not that light. I consider XFCE and Mate to be mid level, while Cinnamon and KDE require much more in system resources (but have very nice features).
     
  9. Mutoid

    Mutoid MDL Member

    Sep 23, 2015
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    Many thanks to all for your suggestions.

    I will " road test " all of them in VirtualBox , and then on Live USBs

    I will come back to this thread with comments later .
     
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  10. Mutoid

    Mutoid MDL Member

    Sep 23, 2015
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    I tried WattOS on your suggestion and I agree , it's nice ...
    .... runs like a charm in VBox but I've tried every tool I know to make a bootable Live USB and they all fail , across all hardware.
    That has never happened to me before ..... one of these tools always used to hit the target :-
    LiLi USB creator , Pendrive Linux ,Unetbootin ... etc etc .

    I road tested LinuxLite while I was going through these distro recommends .... also sweet in a VM , but also troublesome on a Live USB.
    As for LXLE .... I just couldn't get a clean download , even after trying several different mirrors.

    Oh well .... tomorrow's another day .... live and learn .... and other similar blandishments ....:rolleyes:

    Thanks to all for help and suggestions !
     
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  11. Antilope

    Antilope MDL Member

    Sep 15, 2015
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    #13 Antilope, Sep 27, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2015
    Since these laptops are being setup for elderly relatives, you have to ask yourself, "What Linux would I set up for my mother or grandmother to use?" I would use Linux Mint Cinnamon.
     
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  12. John Sutherland

    John Sutherland MDL Addicted

    Oct 15, 2014
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  13. Mutoid

    Mutoid MDL Member

    Sep 23, 2015
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    #16 Mutoid, Sep 27, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2015
    (OP)
    UPDATE

    I forgot an old favorite in that list ....Win32DiskImager ..... and it did the business on every one of my previous "Failures "

    But a word of caution to anyone using it .... it's lean and it's mean !

    It DOES NOT GIVE WARNINGS about destination drive ( reformatting , writing etc )

    Here's an example .... I have all my Linux iso files on an external drive , when I boot Win32DiskImager it has
    already pre-selected the external hard drive as the destination and NOT the USB pendrive !

    Failure to change it ( or even notice it ) will cause the entire HD to be reformatted .... DISASTER !
    The other tools I mentioned always warn and/or ask you to double-check before starting.

    EDIT : Correction - it pre-selects the first USB device connected , and it does flash a quick warning box.

    { Reason for edit : Brain Fart :rolleyes: }

    I was thinking of writing a review of these various tools in case anyone is interested , but I'm not sure
    which of the MDL forums to post in .

    Any suggestions ?

    PS - @ John Sutherland .... at your suggestion I tried Vector today in a VM ... it looks good and it is light.
    The problem for me is that I like to make a Live USB of new distros to play around with before doing
    a full install , and that option doesn't appear to be available with Vector
     
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  14. Mutoid

    Mutoid MDL Member

    Sep 23, 2015
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    Yes , I like YUMI too , it's an old favorite .... but I often find that if one of your chosen distros is not
    on it's supported list , you end up with a multi-boot USB with that distro failing to boot ( or to not be shown as an option ).

    Of the 4 or 5 distros that I've mentioned in this thread , several do NOT play nicely together with YUMI

    I've had Rufus bookmarked from a long time back .... just haven't got round to playing with it yet ....

    .... thanks for the feedback !
     
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  15. Mutoid

    Mutoid MDL Member

    Sep 23, 2015
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  16. Skaendo

    Skaendo MDL Addicted

    Sep 23, 2014
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    From that other thread:

    Anything based on Slackware is pretty "lightweight", but Slackware is a different kind of monster. IMO it is the first and last true GNU/Linux distro, and takes some knowledge about how Linux really works to use/maintain.

    Some distros that are based on Slackware are Salix, Slax, Vector, Absolute, Porteus and Zenwalk. Some of these are live OSs and some might not be. Slackware itself is not a live OS.

    Another very fine lightweight independent distro is Void.
     
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