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I have a Dell Lattitude D600 laptop which has a Pentium M 1.6GHz CPU, an ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 GPU and 512Mb RAM. It was bought ~2003.

I'm looking at installing Linux on it but would like to know which distro would be most suitable for standard web/email/photo/music useage.

I have gone through the zegenie Studios Linux Distribution Chooser which suggests OpenSUSE over others due to the age of the laptop, however the site has not been updated in 9 months so I was wondering if there are any other newer alternatives to choose from.

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Voting to close as "no longer relevant", since the original poster finally went for Windows 7, not really linked to the question anymore. – Gnoupi Jan 19 '10 at 8:25

Considering these specs are on par with most cheap netbooks, I think you can run nearly any Linux distro without problems.

Alternatively, you can have a look at this question: What is the lightest-weight Linux distribution?

But since the laptop is 6 years old, I don't think a 9 month old advice will be "oud-dated" so much. If OpenSUSE ran back then, it will run right now.

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I was not suggesting that the advice of OpenSUSE is outdated, merely that there may be other, newer distros that have been released since April last. I will give DSL a try this evening... Thanks! – Shevek Jan 18 '10 at 14:35
I know, just stating that the logic failed me a little bit ;-) – Ivo Flipse Jan 18 '10 at 14:37
Oh, and the netbook comparison is great... I'll also try the new Ubuntu Netbook Remix as well – Shevek Jan 18 '10 at 14:37
That's actually a good idea, though I'd try Moblin then – Ivo Flipse Jan 18 '10 at 14:38
I've updated the question slightly :) now "newer alternatives" – Shevek Jan 18 '10 at 14:39

I'm running ubuntu on a 10 year old box, as well as one pretty much contemporary with yours. considering its relative youth, try a few livecds, or liveusbs and see what works for you. (yes. 512 mb, Pentium M 1.6? thats PLENTY to run linux on, hell even a composite desktop!)

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+1 good advice. Play without making a commitment. – DaveParillo Jan 18 '10 at 16:07

Two alternative ends to a range of choices like other answers here suggest.

  1. Ubuntu (preferred for its Debian support)
  2. PuppyLinux (in case Ubuntu is not fast enough for you)

Some suggestions,

  1. Try to install the OS on a flash-drive rather then trying it from a LiveCD
    Observations from a LiveCD trial may not match those you should expect from an installation.
    IF you like the USB-install, you could continue to use it for a while before completely changing over to a laptop installation.

  2. Optimize -- by reducing unused stuff running in your default installation.
    Also consider remaining on lower graphics modes (less effects) initially; then enhance effects if things work smoothly.

As a reference,

  • I currently run Ubuntu on a 7 year old D800-512MB-nVidia laptop -- from a USB flash.
  • No trouble with stability -- though, I could use some more RAM for smoother operation.
  • Have managed to recover completely after accidentally removing the flash too.
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I agree on the Ubuntu advice. I'd try to upgrade your RAM if possible when running any Linux - 1GB is cheap and will make a big difference. – Iain Jan 18 '10 at 15:33
It seems to not like Ubuntu at all. 9.10, 9.10 Netbook and Mint 8 all suffer from random freezes. – Shevek Jan 19 '10 at 8:07
SODIMM RAM is not so cheap for this though... A 512Mb stick of DDR is the same price currently as a 1Gb stick of DDR2 – Shevek Jan 19 '10 at 8:11
@Shevek, you are very correct. I am still debating if the SODIMM-DDR price is worth the scaling on my laptop too. Life has been a little easier on that machine after I changed from XP to Ubuntu on flash. – nik Jan 19 '10 at 9:36
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Well, I ended up going with Windows 7 - I found some articles about 7 being better than XP on older hardware and gave it a try.

And it is amazing - it flies along compared to the old XP install (which was pretty fresh anyway so not suffering from the usual long term XP install issues)

Missing loads of drivers on first install including the NIC but after I added the Broadcom driver Windows Update found all but the Audio and the Dell XP driver works fine for that.

I'm pretty happy with it now. Thanks all for your suggestions.

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I run CentOS on similar machine, I am happy with it. CentOS is more server friendly than desktop friendly. If you want desktop friendly I would go with ubuntu, especially Xubuntu (XFCE4 is very fast)

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Try MacPup "Opera" or "Foxy" (Tagline: A Beautiful Remaster of Puppy Linux) depending on your browser preferences, but the "Opera" release got the better looks :)

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It's a rather small download (130-150 MB) and you can run it as Live CD first to check the hardware compatibility.

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You can fine tune nearly any Linux to run more lightly if you want. You might be best served picking a distro you already have some familiarity with and stripping away the things you can live without. If you don't want to put that sort of effort into it, then I would recommend Crunchbang. It's Ubunutu based & gives access to an impressive software repository, but uses a lightweight highly configurable window manager - Openbox. You can to 'roll your own' by installing a standard Ubuntu & then installing and cofiguring Openbox yourself, but the Crunchbang folks have done alot of the homework for you. They also include quite a few lightweight alternatives to the standard music / mail applications typically found in Linux distros.

It's almost as lightweight as Puppy linux running the e17 window manager, but has IMHO much better software selection.

One caveat: if you don't like the command line, then forget everything I've written here & pick something else ;-)

As The Journeyman Geek suggested, try out the Live CD's first & see which you like.

As an aside, I have Ubuntu 9.04 installed on a cheap e-Machines laptop I bought new for US$220. It's about as low end as you can get - she is very rough on hardware. My daughter uses it to check email, surf the web (facebook mostly) & listen to music, local and streaming. Believe me, if it wasn't working, I'd hear about it!

crunchbang screenshot

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Building your own is a good idea, especially if you're learning- though i think the specifics of it is a whole nother superuser question – Journeyman Geek Jan 19 '10 at 2:12
Yes - probably very many questions! – DaveParillo Jan 19 '10 at 15:36

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