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Best version of Linux for an outdated PC?

Discussion in 'Product Recommendations/Reviews' started by Rocksaurus, Mar 8, 2005.

  1. macrumors 6502a


    Okay, here's my thrilling story:
    My friends and I found an old PC in the dumpster in our apartment complex this Saturday. We've obtained a hard drive and keyboard, and now we want to install a flavor of Linux on it. It's an old PC, a 266 PII with mmx, so, considering the limited capabilities of our hardware, what flavor of Linux do the wise members of MacRumors recommend? I don't know enough about Linux to know what's good for the low end and what's good for the high end computers. Thanks :cool:
  2. macrumors 65816


    I once looked into getting Mandrake Linux, and even tried to download it, but it has a huge installer (http://www.mandrakelinux.com/en/ftp.php3).

    Another flavor of Linux that i wanted to try was the new Gentoo Linux (http://store.gentoo.org/index.php?cPath=2&osCsid=d81de91c6591e05af4a56cacd2db68d9). I like the way this one looks, and i think that it includes OpenOffice. Here is a picture of it: http://store.gentoo.org/images/pmoo-detail.png

    I think that these two have the best looking interface/appearance. But i think if i were to buy one of them i would buy/try the Gentoo Linux version.

    Good Luck
  3. macrumors 68020


    Can PC games run on a Linux OS?
  4. jsw
    Moderator emeritus


    No. Except in a very few special cases, but not what you'd consider to be "real" games. However, there are Linux versions of some PC games.
  5. macrumors 68020


    Well SOME games can run on Linux through Wine. Quite a few actually. I've never actually DONE it, but if you spend a few minutes on Google I'm sure you could find a compatibility list.
  6. macrumors member

    Most of the modern distros have heavy hardware requirements since they come prepackaged with a ton of crap. If you really want to run linux on the hardware you found then take a look at the slackware project or debian. I'd start with a base install running a window manager other than gnome or kde. Especially with the hardware you have.

    You might also take a look at freebsd. Same applies. Stay clear of gnome and kde. I'd use something like fluxbox, xfce, or fvwm to start off with.

    I've played the following on linux
    Unreal Tournament
    Return to Castle Wolfentein
    Quake 3 Arena
    Enemy Territory
    Quake 2
    Medal of Honer
    Medal of Honer – SpearHeads

    Check out http://www.transgaming.com/ for more linux gaming info.

  7. macrumors 68020


    Ubuntu is light, efficient and good looking. There's a fairly major upgrade being released in the next month or so. Gentoo will take a loooong time to install on your machine; it compiles a lot of code. Suse is huge, as is Fedora Core 3; they try to throw in every possible app and library. Ubuntu attempts to select best-of-breed in various app categories to keep the distro sane.

  8. macrumors 603


    Damn Small Linux will run well.
  9. macrumors 6502a


    Thanks for all the help guys, I'll look into all of your suggestions and make a pick at some point.
  10. macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    The big problem with Ubuntu or Gentoo is they default to "build everything from scratch". That's going to take a long time on a modern machine - on the one you describe it's going to be positively painful. When you hear someone say they "installed Gentoo over the weekend" you may not realize that's basically a literal statement. :D

    Don't go with Slack unless you're already quite comfortable with Linux, or you're intending to learn Linux the hard way.

    You don't mention how much memory you've got - really that's more important than processor speed when it comes to using some of the heavier window managers. If you're under 256MB, then I'd agree w/ the advice to stay away from Gnome and especially KDE. My fave was always Enlightenment, but that really is not friendly at all for beginners. :p

    For ease of install, I'd go with Fedora Core 3 or Mandrake. But if you don't have a fast internet connection available, look up your local LUG (Linux Users Group) and see if someone will give/lend you installation CDs.
  11. macrumors 6502a


    David Le Blond- I noticed your're running Fedora Core 2 on an outdated PIII, would you recommend Fedora Core 2 for my set up?
  12. macrumors 68020


    You can download a Ubuntu boot/install iso image. You really don't compile much, you just update packages, ala RH. I found it to be the quickest distro to get up and running; I found Gentoo to be, by far, the most time consuming. Fedora and Suse are simply super-sized; much more crap than you'll ever need.
  13. macrumors 6502


    I would STRONGLY suggest against gentoo. While it's a cool idea, for older PC's, it's a bad idea. It's a "source based" distro, which means that everything you run is compiled from source. So, installed something like mozilla (installing = compiling) may take hours! I installed KDE on a 1.8g, with 1gig of ram, and it took over a day to compile. I'd try Ubuntu, if you're not familiar with linux, try a live CD, ubuntu has one, so does knoppix. good luck!
  14. macrumors 6502a


    You would probably do best with a slightly older version of RedHat ( 8 would probably do ).

    RedHat tries to be the most idiot proof, and if you avoid Fedora, you won't need a new hard disk.

    Gentoo will take a lot of hard core tweaking to install, non to mention the better part of a week.

    As a final reminder... Anyone who has an old machine... Don't trash it, recycle. Someone will find it either useful, or collectable.


  15. macrumors 6502

    The problem with RedHat is that it was notoriously the most insecure linux distro out-of-box. You need to know about working with services from the command line to lock it down.

    That said, you have a pretty low power machine. I wouldn't suggest any of the mainstream distros. A lot of people like to suggest Ubuntu, but until GTK and Gnome do some optimization of their code, it won't run on slow hardware. KDE is heavily optimized, but it still takes some power behind it (particularly RAM) to give good performance. Someone suggested Damn Small Linux. I would go with that, or a distro called Vector Linux which is a version of Slackware designed for low power machines. Both are secure and reasonably friendly if you know a little bit about computers.

    Slightly OT, but relevant: If you are going to take the plunge into linux you need to know:

    linux != RedHat != Mandrake !=Suse, etc.

    Linux is merely the kernel. Distributions package higher level services and GUI stuff to form a usable OS. There are a lot of real jerks in the linux world and they seem to be more vocal than the nice helpful people. Just a warning. Every claim that you hear about Mac users being elitist is true and amplified in many linux distro forums. One wrong step and many will brand you a clueless newb and chastise you at every post. I remember thinking to myself that half of the posters at MR would have been more or less tarred and feathered on a linux distro forum or list. I like MR so much better. Just be sure to read everything you can and use google extensively.

    Good Luck! I'm sure many of us could also help if you get stuck.

  16. macrumors 6502a

    You don't have to compile programs everyday. Once you OS is setup, it all optimized to your hardware. The portage system is what makes Gentoo a painless experience.
  17. macrumors regular

  18. macrumors 6502a


    if you are fooling around...

    Why not try Darwin for x86.

    If you want a bit more, there is always open BSD.

  19. macrumors 6502

    Right, but with a P2 you're looking at at least a day and a half just to compile glibc. That's only a small part of the BOOTSTRAP process. Getting a usable system requires more time. The optimization isn't worth it anyway. A lot of distros compile using -mcpu=i586 anyway so you already have the optimizations built in. I don't think that having a PC use up tons of power for a week for no explicable reason or benefit is in anyone's best interest.

    portage is a great package management system. I loved gentoo when I started using it, but it isn't worth the effort on old hardware. Even on my 1GHz Athlon, which was pretty powerful at the time (yeah back when gentoo was first released), it took days to get a usable system. GCC3 came out and it took even longer due to its optimization process.

    Just go with Vector on that P2. It's a good distro and it is optimized for 586 cpus already.

  20. macrumors 68020


    You don't have to start with a stage1 install. You can go from stage3 and pretty much everything will already be built for you. Plus, there's prebuilt packages for many applications.

    But still... personally, I whouldn't use Gentoo on a P2...
  21. macrumors 6502a

    It depends if you are running KDE or Gnome. It won't matter which dist you are running. I have run Gentoo on a Athlon 900 for 1 years and I had no issue or cpu lag.
  22. macrumors regular


    Does it have a CD drive? (If not one can probably be had for dirt) I'd suggest trying out Knoppix. (http://www.knoppix.org/) I'm not sure how fast it'd be though as when I tried it out I used it on a Pentium 4. It all fits on one CD though.
  23. macrumors 65816

    redeye be

  24. macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Uh, that hasn't been true since about Red Hat 6. :D Quite a few years ago...
  25. macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Thanks for the correction. I didn't know Ubuntu had that option available - but the people I know using Ubuntu are guys who previously used Gentoo, likely just because it was the "new kid on the block" (which of course now means Ubuntu not Gentoo). For them I think building from source is part of the fun. :confused:

    Of course these guys will quickly abandon Ubuntu as soon as the next new distro comes along... :D

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