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Which Linux distro with GUI is best for an old 486

Posted on 2004-10-19
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Last Modified: 2013-11-15
All I really care about having is a graphical interface, a decent word processor, and maybe some other office programs and an internet browser. I'm keeping win95 srC on another partition for games. I'm new to Linux, played a little with SuSe and Fedora, other than that all I've used are MS-DOS, and windows 3.11, 95, ME, and XP.

My computer's stats are: 486 133MHz, 24 megs of RAM, 8.4 gig hard drive, 54x cd-drive (non-bootable), 33.6 modem, 1 meg of video memory. I've got a 2Ghz emachines computer (on which I tried SuSe and now have XP and Fedora) to download the distro onto and to burn it, but I'll still need a distro that can use a bootable floppy or something. I've tried sorting through the distros available myself, but most of the ones that might run on my old Frankenstein of a PackBell Legend 20CD are text-based. Again, all I'm really planning on doing on it is word processing and light-duty internet browsing. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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Question by:purdya
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13 Comments
 
LVL 11

Expert Comment

by:avizit
ID: 12348592
I am afraid 24 M is quite less , but still i think you can try slackware
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LVL 96

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Lee W, MVP earned 100 total points
ID: 12348602
Newer versions of linux seem to demand 70+ MB of RAM.  I had a Toshiba Libretto with 32 MB and never was able to install Linux on it as everything with setup programs kept choking on too little RAM.  if you can deal with a NON-GRAPHICAL setup, I'd probably suggest debian as the best bet.  You can possibly get that installed then you can use the built in package tool (APT) to download and install X Windows and KDE or Gnome.  But I don't think it's going to be easy to do what you ask.
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LVL 11

Assisted Solution

by:avizit
avizit earned 100 total points
ID: 12348669
here's the system requirements of slackware

http://slackware.com/install/sysreq.php
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LVL 13

Assisted Solution

by:Caseybea
Caseybea earned 100 total points
ID: 12349400
Based on the age of your hardware, I don't have a SPECIFIC distribution recommendation, but I do have a resource for you that can assist:    http://distrowatch.com

This one web site has information on nearly EVERY distribution you can imagine for Linux.     There, you will see and find out about many "scaled down" distributions that may suit your poor workstation very nicely.

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LVL 31

Expert Comment

by:rid
ID: 12349419
486 133 MHz?

To get some kind of useable GUI I do think you have to up your RAM to something in the vicinity of 64 MB. I did succeed with GNOME on a 40 MB RAM machine, but it was fairly slow. Browsing with Netscape was OK, but not impressive... That was a RedHat 6.2 system.

Regards
/RID
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Author Comment

by:purdya
ID: 12349745
Thank you all for your input. Alright, I suppose I should edit my request: I can learn the text commands, as MS-DOS and I get along just fine. But I do want to have at least a decent word processor, and would like a usable web browser as well. As I'm new to the world of Linux, I'd rather avoid a difficult install (which I've heard Slackware and Debian, unfortunately, are). I can do without a GUI, but a good word processor is the main reason I'm trying to find a version of Linux to work on my old computer; I don't have the passcode for my Office '97 CD, don't have the money to buy it, and I need more functionalty than Wordpad provides. I hope all this makes it easier to find a solution.
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LVL 31

Assisted Solution

by:rid
rid earned 100 total points
ID: 12349799
There is a very decent word processor called AbiWord, which is available for both Linux and Windows; it's open source and free, AFAIK. I *think* you will have difficulties with a modern Linux distro on your 24 M of RAM so perhaps you should try AbiWord in windows 95. I think it works very well in that environment. I've forgotten the link, unfortunately.... I'll be back if I find out where you can download it.
/RID
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LVL 31

Expert Comment

by:rid
ID: 12349829
http://www.abisource.com/

Take a look.
/RID
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Author Comment

by:purdya
ID: 12352782
I've been using it, and though I like the layout for the most part, the way the letters shift about on the screen whenever you select them falls somewhere short of confidence-inspiring. It's the only free word processor I've gotten to run on the old machine that would transfer to my new emachines properly. The others, even when I use the same free program to open it on the emachines, for some unkown reason print with a grey background. It shows up that way in print preview, too, so I know it's not my printer. I've tried Jarte(grey background), Atlantis(won't run), EasyOffice(won't run), and another program the name of which I forgot. And I've been wanting the stability of Linux, and am needing to partition my old comp's hard drive anyway (right now only 2 of the 8.4gigs is usable - windows won't recognize the rest, and I'd rather not bother trying to make it recognize it when any Linux kernel beyond 2.2 - I think - supports partition sizes up to 2 terabytes). I'm just saying all this so that anyone else who responds will know for certain that I'm looking for a Linux, not Windows, solution. Preferably easy to install. I realize that what I ask may not be possible, but with all the Linux distros and software out there, I think there's something. As I said, I can learn to handle a text-based interface. It's the installation that kills me. I once managed to get FreeBSD installed, but none of my hardware worked, the installation itself was a nightmare, and I've no desire to repeat the experience. Hope this further clears things up.
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LVL 2

Assisted Solution

by:revantine
revantine earned 100 total points
ID: 12425499
You might give Debian a try (as mentioned previously). I would use the netinstall and once I got it installed then apt-get install fluxbox. The 24M is going to be the primary impairment. Debian can be installed from floppy, but last I checked it was something in excess of 10 floppies; the netinstall disk with base system is less than 200M.

For the browser, you can try dillo. It is GTK based but doesn't require gnome. For a lower intensity program there is a version of lynx that will overlay graphics on a console window but I do not recall the name or have a reference in front of me.
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LVL 3

Assisted Solution

by:gerodim
gerodim earned 100 total points
ID: 12517388
1Vote for Debian too
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