I am currently trying to find the best live Linux CD for an old notebook computer I have, a Compaq Presario 1700 XL260. This computer has a 500 MHz Pentium III processor, 192 MB of RAM, and over 5 GB of hard drive space. It looks like it also has a DVD-ROM, two USB ports –One currently used by my mouse, the other buy either a USB memory stick, or a USB wi-fi adapter.
Initially I tried to get the PC working with a Linux distro that would allow me to get online wirelessly with my router using that USB wireless-G adapter mentioned earlier. I was pretty sure that I’d have to use a lightweight distro since the dearth of RAM would be probably the biggest limiter in my distro selection choices.
My first try was with …. DSL — Damn Small Linux. Weighing in at 50MB, the highly-regarded, extremely light weight distribution proved to live up to its billing, however it certainly wasn’t as user friendly as I would have liked. It comes with JWM and Fluxbox, no Gnome, or KDE with this one, obviously. One big problem I encountered with this version as I occasionally did with subsequent ones is that getting Linux to talk to a USB wi-fi adapter is much tougher than I would suspect a PCI wi-fi adapter. Not to mention I’m sure all distros will connect to a network with no problem these days using a hard-wired ethernet.
My next Linux distro to try was Puppy Linux, the 100MB powerhouse. This was truly an exciting version to use since it had so many advanced elements for such a small size that it really seemed like that could be a daily user that could keep up with the big fellas in the Linux world. It was really fast, too, since it booted itself entirely into the minuscule RAM on the computer! The distro ships with JWM / IceWM + ROX Desktop user interfaces for your convenience. So, it’s still a small distro but it has more modern desktop environments than the previously mentioned DSL.
I eventually tested around a dozen distros, and understandably the more “packed-with-features” distros like the Ubuntus and the Arch Linux types were really too much for the mature system. Unfortunately since the system doesn’t have an ethernet port, it really limits the functionality of the networking aspect.
It’s certainly true that there are some modern albeit light-weight distros out there today that can certainly bring life back to this baby. It still has Windows 98se installed on its hard drive, and I certainly wouldn’t consider trying XP but it’s a lot of fun looking at the latest in mini-Linux and seeing what this machine is still capable of.