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Thread: Good lightweight, user-friendly distro for an older computer?

  1. #1

    Good lightweight, user-friendly distro for an older computer?

    Hi all,

    My dad is running a pretty old computer with Windows XP. He got it in, I believe, 2002. It only has 256 MB of RAM, which was enough to run XP efficiently before the service packs and what have you. Lately, he's become very frustrated with it because, as you can imagine, XP is pretty non-responsive to only having 256 MB of RAM these days.

    I really think Windows is the best OS for him, because he's not a very tech-heavy person. All he really does is browse the web, use E-Bay, check his e-mail, store pictures of our family on his computer, print things, and watch the occasional YouTube video, which is becoming more and more of a hassle as the system doesn't have enough physical memory to effectively render flash videos. He prefers Firefox, so no conversion is necessary there, and he uses Outlook, so Evolution would probably be more comfortable than Thunderbird for him, but either would probably do.

    I've recommended downgrading to an older version of Windows to him, but he doesn't want to for obvious reasons. It costs money to buy a copy of the old version, and also who wants to still be using Windows 98?

    Upgrading the RAM is probably the best option, but it's a very old type (PC133 SDRAM...we're talking pre-DDR here) that costs about $100 to get a gig for. Really, it's not worth the price he'd have to pay.

    Ideally, I'd like to install Ubuntu or Linux Mint on his machine, but even these OSes recommend more than 256 MB to run well. I showed him a Xubuntu LiveCD and he seemed impressed, but the computer doesn't have enough space in the RAM for me to install the flash player to show him that it can really handle playing a YouTube video better than his XP installation can. I realize that if I installed it, it would perform a lot better, but I also understand that for a man that's over 50 years old, the idea of removing Windows or even running a dual-boot setup is a little scary.

    Basically, I'm asking for a distro that would look good from a LiveCD that's also user-friendly enough that even my dad can use it. Distros like Puppy and Damn Small are out, because it requires a degree of technical skill that my dad doesn't have. He'd probably prefer sticking to his familiar GUI environment over learning a whole new way of computing using CLI, which is why I said I'd prefer something like Ubuntu or Mint.

    Does a distro like this even exist? Is it really possible?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Beans
    97

    Re: Good lightweight, user-friendly distro for an older computer?

    Hmmm you could try TinyMe, a slimmed down remaster of PCLinuxOS http://tinymelinux.com/doku.php or maybe SliTaz http://www.slitaz.org/en/
    Software should be smart, not clever

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Austin, Texas
    Beans
    79
    Distro
    Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot

    Re: Good lightweight, user-friendly distro for an older computer?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Clown View Post
    Hi all,

    My dad is running a pretty old computer with Windows XP. He got it in, I believe, 2002. It only has 256 MB of RAM, which was enough to run XP efficiently before the service packs and what have you. Lately, he's become very frustrated with it because, as you can imagine, XP is pretty non-responsive to only having 256 MB of RAM these days.

    I really think Windows is the best OS for him, because he's not a very tech-heavy person. All he really does is browse the web, use E-Bay, check his e-mail, store pictures of our family on his computer, print things, and watch the occasional YouTube video, which is becoming more and more of a hassle as the system doesn't have enough physical memory to effectively render flash videos. He prefers Firefox, so no conversion is necessary there, and he uses Outlook, so Evolution would probably be more comfortable than Thunderbird for him, but either would probably do.

    I've recommended downgrading to an older version of Windows to him, but he doesn't want to for obvious reasons. It costs money to buy a copy of the old version, and also who wants to still be using Windows 98?

    Upgrading the RAM is probably the best option, but it's a very old type (PC133 SDRAM...we're talking pre-DDR here) that costs about $100 to get a gig for. Really, it's not worth the price he'd have to pay.

    Ideally, I'd like to install Ubuntu or Linux Mint on his machine, but even these OSes recommend more than 256 MB to run well. I showed him a Xubuntu LiveCD and he seemed impressed, but the computer doesn't have enough space in the RAM for me to install the flash player to show him that it can really handle playing a YouTube video better than his XP installation can. I realize that if I installed it, it would perform a lot better, but I also understand that for a man that's over 50 years old, the idea of removing Windows or even running a dual-boot setup is a little scary.

    Basically, I'm asking for a distro that would look good from a LiveCD that's also user-friendly enough that even my dad can use it. Distros like Puppy and Damn Small are out, because it requires a degree of technical skill that my dad doesn't have. He'd probably prefer sticking to his familiar GUI environment over learning a whole new way of computing using CLI, which is why I said I'd prefer something like Ubuntu or Mint.

    Does a distro like this even exist? Is it really possible?
    I'm selling my Athlon 3000+ for $100 on my local Craigslist. It has Xubuntu installed and 1GB of RAM

    Seriously, tell him to dump that old POS, he can proally get a Athlon XP or P4 box for $100-$150 on CL that uses DDR and other more modern components.

    Either that or buy some used RAM from a reputable seller. Try the forsale forum at www.hardforum.com and see if anyone has some PC133 they are willing to let go for cheap.
    I ride my bike, to ride my bike.

  4. #4

    Re: Good lightweight, user-friendly distro for an older computer?

    Quote Originally Posted by brons2 View Post
    I'm selling my Athlon 3000+ for $100 on my local Craigslist. It has Xubuntu installed and 1GB of RAM

    Seriously, tell him to dump that old POS, he can proally get a Athlon XP or P4 box for $100-$150 on CL that uses DDR and other more modern components.

    Either that or buy some used RAM from a reputable seller. Try the forsale forum at www.hardforum.com and see if anyone has some PC133 they are willing to let go for cheap.
    Cool. That sounds like it would make a good gift for him. I'll have to see how much money I can scrounge up, but if you don't get any takers for a while, I'll be happy to buy that as a gift for my dad.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    $HOME (Washington State)
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    4,590

    Re: Good lightweight, user-friendly distro for an older computer?

    Quote Originally Posted by brons2 View Post
    I'm selling my Athlon 3000+ for $100 on my local Craigslist. It has Xubuntu installed and 1GB of RAM

    Seriously, tell him to dump that old POS, he can proally get a Athlon XP or P4 box for $100-$150 on CL that uses DDR and other more modern components.

    Either that or buy some used RAM from a reputable seller. Try the forsale forum at www.hardforum.com and see if anyone has some PC133 they are willing to let go for cheap.
    If you have a local electronics recycler, they should have some PC133 RAM for pretty cheap (I'm going to get some PC100 ram there if I can find the money, as my old laptop needs to get rid of it's corrupt stick of RAM).
    See my themes here! | Dont preach Linux, mention it | Make GNOME Themes
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
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    Hidden!

    Re: Good lightweight, user-friendly distro for an older computer?

    TinyMe is very light and easy to use. It has a lot of GUI tools and is a rolling release. It should run OK on that computer. And it looks good.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5u4N0...eature=related

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Beans
    411

    Re: Good lightweight, user-friendly distro for an older computer?

    A lot of users find Puppy Linux requires less technical skill than major distros. Have you looked at Transitions or Pupeez?
    Last edited by darrelljon; February 9th, 2009 at 10:31 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    CT, USA
    Beans
    41

    Re: Good lightweight, user-friendly distro for an older computer?

    You could install Xubuntu onto a partition for him so he can try it and still go back to windows if he chooses.

    You could also pick up a stick of RAM. I can tell you that seller is most likely ripping you off. I assume you mean 168pin sdram for the type which a 256MB stick can be purchased from newegg.com for $20. Newegg only sells within the United States but you should be able to find RAM cheaper then $100 where you are.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
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    3,170
    Distro
    Ubuntu Karmic Koala (testing)

    Re: Good lightweight, user-friendly distro for an older computer?

    Iwould go for slitaz or puppy

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Beans
    2,132

    Re: Good lightweight, user-friendly distro for an older computer?

    SliTaz. It's the only micro-distro I've tried that is actually usable as a full, installed system. On it right now.

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