Linked by Howard Fosdick on Mon 18th Jun 2012 04:20 UTC
Linux In the past year I've reviewed four lightweight Linuxes for OS News: VectorLinux, Puppy Linux, Lubuntu, and Damn Small Linux. This article compares the four distributions. I invite your comments in response: what are your own experiences with these and competing lightweight distros?
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Tinycore instead of DSL
by uggla on Mon 18th Jun 2012 05:19 UTC
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DSL has evolved into Tinycore, you should have tested that instead.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Tinycore instead of DSL
by cb88 on Mon 18th Jun 2012 16:55 UTC in reply to "Tinycore instead of DSL"
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DSL and Tinycore have different goals though... I don't think tiny core is pushing the I can run on a 486 bit as much.

That said slitaz is pretty nice.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Tinycore instead of DSL
by djohnston on Mon 18th Jun 2012 21:34 UTC in reply to "RE: Tinycore instead of DSL"
djohnston Member since:

"The reviews all cover current releases (except for Lubuntu, which is now at version 12.04)."

The last Damn Small Linux release was in late 2008.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Tinycore instead of DSL
by bassbeast on Tue 19th Jun 2012 05:43 UTC in reply to "RE: Tinycore instead of DSL"
bassbeast Member since:

Uhhh...and wouldn't it be kinda , you know, unsafe to run a distro that hasn't had a single update in 4 years? Frankly I don't think I'd trust ANY OS that hadn't had so much as a single update in 4 years, who knows how many bugs that have been patched are still present in DSL. Sure if all you are doing is futzing with an old machine and not allowing it to hook to the Internet then fine, but if that's the case then that Win95 or whatever is on it would do just as well.

It just seems a little crazy to me to even entertain something that has been for all intents and purposes abandoned as a viable OS for use on the net. I mean you can still download those last releases of Xandros Community Edition, like DSL their website is still up, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Reply Score: 2

Salix OS
by ghostdawg on Mon 18th Jun 2012 05:37 UTC
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Salix OS would have been nice to test also for a lightweight distro!

Reply Score: 2

Comment by wigry
by wigry on Mon 18th Jun 2012 06:35 UTC
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If you tested VectorLinux then I thing Slackware would also qualify. Although Slack is as small or big as you make it ;)

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by wigry
by Morgan on Mon 18th Jun 2012 07:08 UTC in reply to "Comment by wigry"
Morgan Member since:

VectorLinux has two distinct advantages over pure Slackware: Speed and native dependency checking.

Unfortunately, you give up Slackware's extremely stable nature, and ability to customize the installation down to the individual packages. As for dependency checking, you can always use slapt-get. Personally I prefer building and maintaining my own packages via pkgbuilds or just compiling from source. I have to take the extra time to seek out dependencies, but I learned more about how GNU/Linux works using Slackware than with all the other distros combined. Edit: And of course I forgot that Slackware can still be installed on as low as a 486 with 64MB RAM! You can't beat that for old/low specs.

Still, I do prefer Arch these days for the bleeding-edge packages and excellent support community. I can still build and install from source if necessary, and my system is built piece by piece so there's no cruft. I realize Arch is far from newbie-friendly, but I would definitely say it can be considered a "lightweight" distro given how bare it can be if you want.

Edited 2012-06-18 07:10 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by wigry
by zima on Mon 18th Jun 2012 08:07 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by wigry"
zima Member since:

Slackware can still be installed on as low as a 486 with 64MB RAM! You can't beat that for old/low specs.

I think you can ( - admittedly, large part of them based on Slackware, even if on its old versions).

Though... that would be one unusual 486, with 64 MiB, me thinks. Still, it points to what the article barely addresses (worse, it seems to focus more on CPU generations for demarcation): for most "daily usage" scenarios, RAM tends to be more important than CPU power.
Lubuntu is moderately decent on a PII that I keep around (well, dual, but OTOH only 266 MHz), with a relatively large for its era 384 MiB of RAM.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by wigry
by bassbeast on Tue 19th Jun 2012 05:53 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by wigry"
bassbeast Member since:

The problem I've found with any of those "old systems", not talking about some 486 that someone found in an attic but what you'd normally find, those P3s and P4s that seem to be everywhere? yeah their power usage was just awful compared to even a cheapo Atom or AMD E series or ARM, those things just blew through the power, especially anything to do with netburst.

So while I can appreciate playing with the old stuff just to goof around I have to wonder if keeping anything like that for an actual purpose would be smart or if you'd waste more in electricity than you'd save just getting a small ARM box or one of those $100 E350 kits where they draw like 8w on average. I can tell you when I finally got around to replacing my boys Pentium Ds for an AMD Hex and Quad the power bill dropped pretty dang quick. I hadn't thought about how much power and cooling them old units took, just as tossing their CRTs for LCDs a few months later caused another decent sized drop. You don't realize how little they cared about power draw back then until you actually change them out for something modern but its a pretty big difference.

That is why the only older machine I've kept is a 754 Sempron, it only pulls 35w or so and makes a nice nettop, I'm sure it'll be even better when i get around to tossing the Sempron for a Mobile Athlon with better thermal controls.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Comment by wigry
by zima on Tue 19th Jun 2012 16:05 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by wigry"
zima Member since:

When all the overall resources and energy consumption are taken into account, the total cost of manufacturing and shipping new electronic thingy tends to eclipse the energy usage from continuous operation of old machine - at least within the limits of sensible usage patterns (not turned on 24/7 and such; well, and perhaps not if that's some Pentium D or smth). It might be often not directly apparent because all externalities are virtually never accounted for in retail prices.

P3s were moderately decent BTW, comparable to that Sempron you keep, certainly in the most popular Celeron (not pushing things) or even Celeron Tualatin variants (0.13 - nice those ones, and quite fast; unfortunately, Intel marketing was too often succesful in convincing that in fact slower Netburst Celerons were "better" with their much higher clock and so on...).
Many budget AMDs similar - and I even keep around an Athlon XP Palomino which, according to my back-of-the-napkin calculations, uses at most as many Watts as your Sempron (it's underclocked and undervolted - slight performance loss doesn't matter in how it's sometimes used; it's more a "cool, I have a decade old PC which is still perfectly comfortable in 'daily' tasks" thing)

Edited 2012-06-19 16:07 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Arch Linux
by Ford Prefect on Mon 18th Jun 2012 08:46 UTC
Ford Prefect
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I once tested two of these lightweight distros for an old Pentium II laptop with 128 MB of RAM. I found them to be inconvenient and also somewhat outdated, starting with the distro's organization, but also in terms of what software is available.

I then tried Archlinux, because I also use it as my main system. I found it to be a perfect fit for the old laptop. The system was quite responsive and I could even watch videos on Youtube with epiphany+Flash.

So my experience is that it is not worth it to watch out for especially slim distros like DSL and puppy, if you can just take a slim-by-design major distro like Archlinux.

Reply Score: 5

RE: Arch Linux
by gan17 on Mon 18th Jun 2012 14:16 UTC in reply to "Arch Linux"
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So my experience is that it is not worth it to watch out for especially slim distros like DSL and puppy, if you can just take a slim-by-design major distro like Archlinux.

Same hear. A build-your-own distro like Arch or Debian-businesscard is probably a better way to go for most people. They don't even require much experience, just the patience to read documentation.

I'd personally take Slitaz over Puppy or DSL/Tinycore if I was on the lookout for a ready-made slim distro, though.

Reply Score: 3

Comment by MOS6510
by MOS6510 on Mon 18th Jun 2012 10:36 UTC
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I just installed Vector Linux on an IBM Thinkpad. It's a 2.4 Ghz Pentium IV and 256 MB RAM. It seems to run fine.

Don't forget to physically clean a computer. It may not run faster from it, but it does look much better!

Reply Score: 2

Comment by marcp
by marcp on Mon 18th Jun 2012 11:56 UTC
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To me Puppy, DSL are somewhat a mess. They're way too chaotic, unpleasant experience.
Vector is somewhere between being usable and messy, while Lubuntu is almost perfect here.
Of course, Lubuntu has its own drawbacks, but still it just beats crap out of the other ones when it comes to "user experience".

I like the fact Vector is based on Slackware, but to me Lubuntu seems to be more organized distro. I actually use it as my "make-a-backup-from" OS.

Reply Score: 2

pure WM fate
by acobar on Mon 18th Jun 2012 12:36 UTC
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Seems like the big distros are dupming the support to pure window managers lately. I think it is a big mistake as they are quite good on many cases.

I like openSUSE and kde4 but I also like a lot my configuration with openbox/fluxbox enhanced with some neat additions like:
compton -
nitrogen -
tint2 -
wbar -
volumeicon -
netwmpager -
fbxkb -

Perhaps, I should write a little article on how to build and configure them and post here on osnews for the sake of documentation.

Reply Score: 3

by JuEeHa on Mon 18th Jun 2012 13:13 UTC
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I can't honestly call any of those distros (except DSL) lightweight. Only DSL and VectorLinux light edition even boot on my _main_ computer (and VectorLinux light edition only barely). I run SliTaz on my computer. (I used lowram-cdrom flavor cd to install it.) It is distro I can call lightweight. (After switching to plain openbox of course. Currently I don't use X11.) Something like Lubuntu is not lightweight. At most I'd call it not as horribly bloated as some distros.

Edited 2012-06-18 13:15 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE: Lightweight?
by zima on Mon 25th Jun 2012 23:36 UTC in reply to "Lightweight?"
zima Member since:

Your 64 MiB were on the low side even in the times of that Pentium III of yours... hell, my Pentium II 266 has six times as much RAM.

Stop doing this to yourself, go though some scrapyard or something and get for nothing a much better PC (or at least surplus RAM)

Reply Score: 2

Comment by lucas_maximus
by lucas_maximus on Mon 18th Jun 2012 13:55 UTC
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Why not run something like OpenBSD/FreeBSD

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by lucas_maximus
by gan17 on Mon 18th Jun 2012 14:28 UTC in reply to "Comment by lucas_maximus"
gan17 Member since:

My thoughts initially, but I suppose someone looking for a slimmed-down distro (rather than configuring one themselves; Linux, BSD or otherwise) probably wouldn't have the patience to read the documentation for maintaining a BSD install, even though ports and pkg_foo are much simpler in essence.

Edited 2012-06-18 14:29 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by lucas_maximus
by lucas_maximus on Mon 18th Jun 2012 16:07 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by lucas_maximus"
lucas_maximus Member since:

TBH if you are going to go to this amount of effort you already know what you are doing (or one should hope so).

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by lucas_maximus
by Soulbender on Tue 19th Jun 2012 04:18 UTC in reply to "Comment by lucas_maximus"
Soulbender Member since:

Probably because BSD is not Linux.
Not really a good reason but I'm guessing it's a pretty likely one.

Reply Score: 2

Yanni Depp
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Gentoo can be quite difficult to install: it takes a steady hand, strong familiarity with underlying Unix concepts, and the time it takes to compile everything.

However, if you only install what you need and you're willing to tweak the kernel to support just the hardware you need, Gentoo is incredibly lightweight. I've run a full Gnome 2.30 desktop with Banshee playing music and a few Epiphany tabs open - all with less than 200MB RAM in-use.

On the plus side, Gentoo includes incredibly comprehensive documentation that explains just about everything to less-experienced users.

Reply Score: 2

My take
by kateline on Tue 19th Jun 2012 01:32 UTC
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Puppy -- megacool, worth a look by anybody

Vector -- anybody use this?

DSL -- obsolete, why cover it?

Lubuntu -- hardly a lightweight, at least on my system. But I like the idea in the article that it is an alternative to Unity. Never thought of that.

Reply Score: 1

Puppy Linux FTW
by awfullyquiet on Tue 19th Jun 2012 05:04 UTC
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I have used Puppy to restore literally hundreds of computers over the last decade or so. It is flexible and versatile, and improves with every version. There has recently been a step back from really older hardware with version 5, but I've installed Puppy 4 on a P133 with 64MB of RAM and a 256MB swap partition, and that worked well enough. It also has more built in wizards than any other distro I've seen, so its ideal for new computer or new Linux users to cut their teeth on.

Reply Score: 1

Just tried Lubuntu 12.04
by another_sam on Tue 19th Jun 2012 10:32 UTC
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Just moved from Ubuntu to Lubuntu using
on yesterday and so far I like it. Less CPU fan, same usability, and same programs available. Although so far I've only installed Firefox.

I'd suggest users who left Firefox more than 6 months ago in favor of Chrome that retry Firefox now. It has received many sensible optimizations at different levels since then: more UI speed, less disk load time, less memory usage, more resistance against problematic extensions, etc.

Reply Score: 1

by rohan_p on Tue 19th Jun 2012 23:48 UTC
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I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with Lubuntu. Didn't feel that lighgweight at all. Probably my favourite lightweight distro I've used recently was CrunchBang (I wrote a short review of it for Computerworld Australia early last year: .)

Reply Score: 1