Lightweight Linux reader statistics

Now that I've been blogging here for about six months, it is interesting to see what kind of readers I have found according to StatCounter's free counter and statistics service.

At the moment the blog has about 170-180 readers every day. Most of them find their way here by googling "lightweight linux" or some other keywords.

The most popular web browser are Firefox 3.0 (52 %), Firefox 2.0 (8 %), Internet Explorer (8 %) and Opera (8 %). Some readers use more lightweight browsers like Dillo (0.4 %) or Opera (0.4 %). Someone has even used iPhone (0.4) for reading Lightweight Linux!

Not everyone is using Linux as the following statistics show. First column gives the number of visitors out of 500 last visitors, the second column is the percentage.










Someone has even used SunOS - cool!

The screen resolution tells also something about the age of the hardware used. About 25 % of my readers use the nowadays rather limiting resolution of 1024 x 768. Some of the readers are still using a 800 x 600 resolution. It seems at least they are really looking for information about using Linux on an old computer. What kind of hardware do You use for reading Lightweight Linux?

CrunchEee 8.10 Release Candidate 1

CrunchBang is only number 99 in the Distrowatch ranking but it has lot of dedicated users. CrunchBang is based on Ubuntu but it is designed to be more lightweight which of course can be seen in the default applications used by the distro. Ubuntu's GNOME has been replaced by much lighter and simpler Openbox. Desktop applications use GTK+. In addition, CrunchBang provides all the necessary multimedia codecs out of the box.

Even if CrunchBang has not been designed to be used on old computers, many users have reported it to be lightweight enough for older boxes. It certainly is worth a try if you want to have all the multimedia applications easily installed in an Ubuntu-like system running on reasonably recent hardware. But remember that the project does not guarantee anything at all:
CrunchBang Linux is not recommended for anyone needing a stable system or anyone who is not comfortable running into occasional, even frequent breakage. CrunchBang Linux could possibly make your computer go CRUNCH! BANG!

There is also a brand new CrunchEee edition which is certainly interesting if you are one of the happy owners of a new Eee PC. It is not yet finished but it is already available as a release candidate version. Another version of the distro is the CrunchBang Lite edition. The download links for the standard CrunchBang can be found here.

New GeexBox beta

GeexBoX is a nice system that can be used for turning an old computer into a media center. The project has just released a new beta of the coming stable release 1.2. The system boots from CD so it is easy to try it on any old Pentium class II computer with at least 400 MHz CPU and 64 MB RAM.

The ISO image has grown to huge 19 Mb download, but you should be able to download it in some 30 seconds with a decent broadband connection.

Downloads available for 32 bit and 64 bit architectures and even PowerPC from here.

If you have succeeded in turning an old computer into a usable media center, please share your experience in the comment box!

Kernel in a Nutshell

Compiling the Kernel is in a way a rite of initiation for advanced Linux users. Compiling the kernel has not been necessary in all these years I've used Linux but I've done it a few times just to see if I can compile and run my own kernel or not.

By the way, I succeeded :-)

If you want to try compiling your own kernel, I suggest you to read Greg Kroah-Hartman's Linux Kernel in a Nutshell. The book is published by O'Reilly but it is also available as a free download from the author's web page. The book covers everything you need to know in order to configure, compile and run your own very special kernel.

Download the kernel source and try your own kernel! You might not get any more performance out of your box but using the own kernel certainly adds to the geek factor of using Linux.

A Zen beta for Christmas

Zenwalk is a Slackware based distribution that is an excellent for old computers.

The new 5.4 is approaching release candidate status and the first beta was just released. The project is waiting for the XFCE 4.6 to be released before finishing the Zenwalk 5.4 release that will have the biggest changelog ever in the history of Zenwalk.

New features include:

- Kernel with gspca (supports many USB webcams)
- XFCE 4.6 (beta2, already very stable)
- Faster boot (tunned init scripts, with realtime I/O scheduler)
- PAM authentication has been added to the system
- Wicd is becoming the main network configuration tool
- Improved suspend/hibernate, with XFCE Power Manager
- new Netpkg with orphan dependencies and "offline operation" support
- New Zenpanel with integrated Disk Manager, Wifi and Wired Network Manager
- Gksu keyring based desktop granting system
- New artwork
- Many new applications

See the release notes for more information and links to downloads.

Sidux 2008-04 released

In case you have nothing more interesting to do during the holiday season, you might like to test the new release of Sidux.

Sidux is a distribution based on Debian Sid. It requires a CPU of at least Pentium II class, but otherwise the requirements are not too demanding:

Intel Pentium pro/ Pentium II
AMD K7 Athlon (not K5/ K6)
VIA C3-2 (Nehemiah, not C3 Samuel or Ezra)/ C7
any x86-64/ EM64T capable CPU or newer; the full i686 command set is required.
≥192 MB RAM, ≥ 512 MB RAM for liveapt.
VGA graphics card capable of at least 640x480 pixel resolution.
optical disk drive or USB media.
≥3 GB HDD space, ≥10 GB recommended.

Merry Christmas from Finland!

Vector Linux 6.0 RC1

Vector Linux is a great distribution for old computers. I myself use it for my daily computing: browsing the web, email, write my papers and student essays with Abiword. At the moment it is my preferred distro to be used on a P1000 - it just works and even provides all the multimedia codecs I need.

The project has just released a new release candidate version of the distribution: 6.0 RC1 was announced yesterday. The release candidate uses a new graphical installer so that even the text mode phobiacs can now install Vector without experiencing fear, uncertainty and doubt. The default Window manager is Xfce4 and LXDE is provided as an alternative choice. All the media codecs and flash are installed by default which means that all the web and other media content is available out of the box.

Download the ISO from here and md5sum for the image here.

Lightweight Linux - Linux is great for old computers and environment!

Linux runs on old computers, doesn't it? Many people have heard or read that also old computers can run Linux. This is true, but you should not expect to be able to run newest multimedia programs or play 3D games on old hardware. If you just want to read and send email, write a book, browse the Internet, learn to program, or maybe write a book with your computer, read on. Only your imagination can limit the uses of old hardware or modern hardware with low specifications.

Save your money for better uses. You don't have to buy a new computer just to update the operating system. Even computers one can get free or buy for a few euros or dollars can be used to run a modern desktop with lightweight software. Everyone living in the industrial world can afford a used computer for running a free operating system. Thus Linux helps to cross the digital chasm between those who can afford to participate in the modern computerized world and those who cannot.

If your computer is not older than ten years, it definitely can be used as a Linux desktop. You can either use a distribution specifically tailored for older hardware or you can use almost any modern distribution and customize the installation for your needs. You might have to hack some configuration files with a text editor and forget using the latest GNOME or KDE. You might have to install the distribution of your choice in text mode. You might need some help in tweaking your system to run as smoothly as possible.

You can also help to save our environment by using your old computer or by using recycled hardware. Even if the power consumption of old computers can be relatively high compared to modern computers, using an old computer saves energy that is spent for producing the computer and its components.

Nowadays, computers that have very low power consumption (less than 10 W) are also available for public. This usually means their specifications are rather low on modern standards. Thus information on this site could equally well be used for building a usable desktop on such a box. Using low specs or recycled hardware is truly green computing, a part of modern and sustainable way of living.

Only you can decide, whether to install Linux on an old computer or to recycle it. Even if you have another, modern desktop computer, you could use the old one with Linux. You could use this as a learning experience: you will learn a lot about how the operating system works. This knowledge can be useful, and learning is always fun!

If you want to run a modern system with an old computer, you have to compensate some of the missing GHz and megabytes with your own brains. You have to know what you are doing. You have to know what you want your computer to do. Only so you can build a system that is ideal for your needs and your hardware.

This means you have to be ready to learn something about Linux and how it works. It is not rocket science, it is something everyone can do. If you are willing to learn, you can realize the full power of Linux.

We are lucky to have a lot of free documentation. There are even many good introductions to Linux. Most of them are published by The Linux Documentation Project. I suggest you first familiarize yourself with the site just to see what kind of documentation there is. Depending on what you already know, select some of the guides where you can learn at least something new. Just remember: learning is fun and knowledge is power!

There is no need to use an old version of Linux as long as you choose the distribution wisely. You can either install a lightweight distro that is designed for old and limited hardware or you can use an ordinary but lightweight distribution like Slackware, Debian or Arch to build your own custom desktop using only a lightweight window manager and other lightweight applications.

To get started, read my top 10 of lightweight Linux distributions.

ZevenOS 1.0 released!

Project ZevenOS has finally released the stable 1.0 of the distribution. The web page is mostly in German, but it is of course not a problem for anyone who uses Linux :-)

ZevenOS is designed to be fast and simple with a touch of BeOS. The kernel version is 2.6.24. Applications include Abiword, Gnumeric, Audacious, QuodLibet, mplayer, Mousepad, Medit and many more.

The system requirements are on the low end of the spectrum:

* Pentium 500 MHZ
* 192 MB RAM
* 3 GB hard disk space
* 16 MB Graphics card

Got to try it!

Tiny Core Linux is a new ultralight distro

Tiny Core Linux is a new ultralight Linux distribution that packs everything one needs for browsing the web in 10 Mb. From the web page of the distro:
Tiny Core Linux is a very small (10 MB) minimal Linux Desktop. It is based on Linux 2.6 kernel, Busybox, Tiny X, Fltk, and Jwm. The core runs entirely in ram and boots very quickly.

It is not a complete desktop nor is all hardware completely supported. It represents only the core needed to boot into a very minimal X desktop typically with wired internet access.
The distro has a discussion forum and an own small wiki.

The Economist recommends netbooks with Linux

It is always a pleasure to see mainstream publications advocate free software.

This time the widely read The Economist recommends netbooks with Linux. Furthermore, the author of the article sees no point in installing Windows instead of Linux:

Yet increasing the specification only makes sense for people who want to run (and to pay for) Windows and specific Windows-based applications. The extra hardware and software costs start to push the price of a netbook towards that of a standard laptop, which will invariably be better because it has a bigger processor and superior graphics. For many users, the basic, free software shipped with a netbook will be quite enough.

Great window manager for old computers: JWM

Joe's Window Manager (JWM) is yet another lightweight window manager that is excellent for those using Linux with an old computer. Several lightweight distributions use it as the window manager. At least SliTaz, Puppy Linux and Damn Small Linux all use JWM.

JWM can very easily be used with any other distribution if the hardware is not fast enough for running a modern desktop environment with all the bells and whistles. Unlike some other lightweight window managers, JWM includes a panel with start menu for starting applications, a pager for changing the virtual desktops, a taskbar and a clock. So there is no need for an external panel for making the window manager usable. The look is pretty classical and reminds me of the systems I used in the nineties, except that those operating systems did not support any virtual desktops!

The default look of JWM is not especially pretty. But a nice wallpaper (I use feh for setting a wallpaper) can do miracles. In addition, I have tweaked the configuration file in order to make the font used for menus smaller and turned the outline mode on for moving and resizing windows.

To tweak the configuration file, copy it from /etc/system.jwmrc to ~/.jwmrc. Edit it with any editor you like and save it after doing the necessary changes. In my system there was one absolutely necessary change to make: I had to change the original rxvt for xterm in order to be able to start a terminal session from the JWM menu. You'll find a lot more information about the configuration settings in Joe Wingbermuehle's web page.

The wallpaper can be downloaded from from here.

What is your favourite lightweight window manager to be used with an old computer running Linux?

New Releases

There are several recent distribution releases that are interesting for anyone who is using or intends to use Linux on an old computer:

Back up!

Make backups.

I have several times mentioned the Gentoo Wiki as a great source of information for users of other distributions. It used to be a great handbook whenever I wanted to tweak some lightweight window manager or was trying to do some other obscure things with my desktop.

Unfortunately, the administrator of the Wiki did not consider the information valuable enough to be backed up:

Gentoo-Wiki recently had it's database lost; this is the rewrite of the site. Please visit the Main Page to see how you can help.

For me, the Gentoo Wiki was the only reason why I even considered installing and using Gentoo. For some months, I actually used Gentoo as my main desktop. The fate of this wiki makes me wonder, if I should ever participate in collaborative writing efforts if the platform is not collectively and reliably backed up. I don't care if you lose all of your own data, but losing collectively written documentation means the administrator and the project did not value the documentation at all.

Some links:

Pekwm theme collection

I just found a very nice collection of pekwm theme files in Adrinux blog. Most of the blog is by the way written in Italian.

The theme used is Leopard. Wallpaper can be downloaded here.

Edit.: correct link for wallpaper :-)

Pekwm is an excellent window manager for old computers

I like to test new window managers every now and then. I decided to dedicate my desktop to pekwm this week.

I had never tried pekwm before. In fact, I am not even sure if I had ever heard about it before. This very lightweight window manager has been a most pleasant surprise for me. Even my old Pentium III (1.0 GHz with 256 Mb) has no difficulties in providing a very usable desktop with this window manager.

You can find many nice themes for pekwm in Just download the theme and unpack it to ~/.pekwm/themes. Right-click the root window and select Pekwm, Themes to change the theme.

The clock shown is the classic xclock and the dock is wbar. Wbar is still in beta stage but already pretty useful piece of software.

More information about installing and tweaking pekwm can be found in the Ubuntu forum and in Urukrama's weblog.

Light-monitor provides lightweight system monitoring

This is probably the first time that I recommend an application I have installed from the source code. Light-monitor is a lightweight system monitor that is very suitable for those who use Linux with an old computer. It is light on the system resources and depends only on X and Xft.

The Light-monitor was extremely easy to compile with Vector Linux. I just downloaded the .tgz package, untarred it (tar xvf light-monitor-v1.7.tgz), and compiled with make and make install. Of course, you need to have gcc installed on your system to compile the C source.

Light-monitor can be seen in the bottom of the screen. On the right side, the OS X -like dock is wbar.