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I have an ancient Toshiba 4600 Satellite Pro laptop. It has WinXP, and it's no longer responding. (See http://superuser.com/questions/70312/winxp-apps-wont-end) So, I figured it's time to try installing a Linux distro. I've never done any Linux, never installed an OS. What versions would be recommended 1) for this laptop? 2) for this user? 1 is much more important than 2, because I am usually capable of learning.

PS: I plan on mostly just using the laptop for a word processor, and I have Open Office on my main PC. That could always change, depending on how well it works and how well I learn.

Specs: Intel Pentium 2, 847 mhz, 256 MB Ram, 20 G harddrive

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can you add specifications of the laptop - The Processor, Memory & HDD capacity. –  Sathya Nov 20 '09 at 23:52
    
I will do that when I get home tonight. If I recall it has an 20G hard drive, and barely enough memory for WinXP (It originally came with Win98). I will provide more information in the original question, but it will take a couple of hours. –  thursdaysgeek Nov 21 '09 at 0:12
    
Lubuntu is mentioned below, here's an article with a few benchmarks: linux-mag.com/cache/7520/1.html –  bedwyr Nov 21 '09 at 3:35

9 Answers 9

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Don't get too hung up on which distribution to install - it is the applications which really matter, and your main applications are the desktop and the word processor. I think you would be best off getting a distribution that has a wide choice of desktops and checking them out one by one; try XFCE, LXDE, Openbox etc. You can also try Gnome: you may prefer a richer desktop that is a bit slow to a faster but more basic one. Similarly you could try out the various word processors that are part of your chosen distribution.

(As an example, I am running OpenSuse 11.2 on an old Dell CPx laptop, 500MHz processor, 192MB of RAM. OpenSuse is not normally considered lightweight but during the install I just chose XFCE rather than KDE as the desktop. With Google chromium running with 5 tabs open, and a terminal with htop running, htop is reporting that I am using 99MB of memory.)

You may need to be careful how you install Linux: your computer will find it much easier to boot an installed distribution than a live CD. On this machine I installed from the network install CD without a problem, for Ubuntu based systems you would be better off choosing install straight from the boot menu (assuming Ubuntu hasn't changed that much from what I remember).

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+1 Good advice. –  DaveParillo Nov 22 '09 at 6:58

I am using an older Toshiba laptop and am very happy that I have replaced Win XP with LinuxMint, based on Ubuntu.

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What was your WM? I would expect Gnome (not to mention KDE) to suffer from poor performance on a P2 w/256M of RAM. –  bedwyr Nov 21 '09 at 3:37
    
My machine is running Gnome, and has 512MB, thankfully. Also it's a Core Duo Processor T2400 (2M Cache, 1.83 GHz, 667 MHz FSB). (The asker supplied his hardware specs some time after my answer.) –  JMD Nov 23 '09 at 18:54

I ran, so far, Gericom (less known ex-european brand), HP, Toshiba and Fujitsu-Siemens laptops.

If you're new to linux, may I suggest OpenSUSE? It has an forbidable community (compared only to Ubuntu by some), and in my experience is a little better when it comes to drivers for little more egxotical hardware (wifi, video cards ...). Nice documentation, and all in all, a very tidy distro.

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Are saying you ran OpenSUSE on Gericom, HP, etc machines? –  DaveParillo Nov 21 '09 at 16:25
    
Yes, through the years in dual boot, XP+OpenSUSE. –  ldigas Nov 21 '09 at 18:40

I think you should try xubuntu, its a light weight version of the normal ubuntu and ubuntu is known for being among the most user friendly linux flavor for beginners and powerful enough for experts as well.

http://www.xubuntu.org/

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Actually, Xubuntu uses slightly more memory in it's default configuration than Ubuntu does. –  DaveParillo Nov 25 '09 at 0:36

Since it's so old, your best bet is probably grab a few live CD's and try them out to see which ones run best on your hardware. Open office is a hungry beast. It's not my first choice for editing on a really anemic machine.

You might try Lubuntu - an LXDE based ubuntu variant.

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+1 LXDE will give a nice experience, and should be lightweight enough for the system –  bedwyr Nov 21 '09 at 3:35

I used to run vector linux light on a pIII 733 with 128 mb of ram- and really your ram is probably the bottle neck as far as your system is concerned. If you just want a word processor abiword is a good thing to try- as opposed to OOo i think

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Ubuntu is probably the most user friendly, and in my experience, the best for learning linux if you're not used to it. Ubuntu also has most of the commonly used parts of Open Office pre-installed in the latest release, but of course you can get the whole package if you like it later.

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I recommend Macpup Opera - like Puppy Linux it will most certainly run on your old laptop, it's just so much nicer:

alt text

It's got everything that Puppy has plus Opera, IceWM, wbar, and a 'pretty' Mac theme.

Here's a screen video demonstration.

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Very promising. Do you know what it's video driver support is like? Video drivers always seem to give trouble on laptops. –  DaveParillo Nov 21 '09 at 16:29
    
same hardware support as Puppy Linux. –  Molly7244 Nov 21 '09 at 17:09
    
I am commenting on this using MacPup Opera 61. It's pretty cool, so far, but you would never confuse this setup with a Mac, that's for sure. It is fast on my old thinkpad. Config was a snap - the only hitch was the grub config got confused because /boot was on it's own partition. I had to edit menu.lst by hand. –  DaveParillo Nov 22 '09 at 6:55
    
I thought most Linux distros were lighter weight than Windows! So, even though it was running XP Pro, it's too under-powered for most of the Linux distros out there? –  thursdaysgeek Nov 25 '09 at 5:13
    
that's correct, your average modern linux distro has much higher hardware requirements than windows XP. –  Molly7244 Nov 25 '09 at 10:46

I would also recommend CrunchBang (aka #!). It's a distro built with Netbooks in mind, is based on Ubuntu, and uses Openbox for the window manager. It's lightweight, and has a great user community for questions/configuration/suggestions.

The interface for Openbox might take a little while to get used to, but it's definitely nice to have something different. I ran it for 6 months on my older laptop and am now running it in a VM on my Mac.

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I'm trying to get a lean linux running on an older Thinkpad. Lot's a folks give this distro a hard time, but I think I'll give it a spin. –  DaveParillo Nov 21 '09 at 16:26
    
#! is very nice. Plus, the live CD includes a bunch or drivers that you typically have to manually install from various "non-free" or restricted repositories. –  DaveParillo Nov 25 '09 at 0:31

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