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Re: [K12OSN] Linux on Older PCs

Lots of good advice given so far. Here are my two cents.

Don't even *think* about running any big distro like Red Hat, Mandrake, SuSE, etc., even if there are tricks to get the installer to actually work with such low memory. Rather, consider running something like OpenBSD or NetBSD on these older boxes, with, say, FVWM or some other low-memory window manager (FVWM is the default on OpenBSD). The memory footprint with NetBSD and OpenBSD is much smaller, by design. You can forget about trying to run Mozilla as well; that 32MB will be swallowed up instantly...just by Mozilla itself. What you can do, though, is grab an old version of Netscape--say, Navigator v3, if it's available. Yes, it's old, but 1.) it does work pretty well, and 2.) the memory footprint is minimal.

However, I wouldn't run any apps on the local workstation at all on boxes with that little DRAM. Here's how I would do it. Install OpenSSH on one or more hi-powered, hi-DRAM client box(es)--for now, until you can get your server--and tweak sshd_config for X11 forwarding (restart sshd afterwards, of course). Also install OpenSSH on these low-mem boxes (OpenBSD does this by default), and tweak ssh_config to do X11 forwarding. Then, have your users ssh into a hi-powered, hi-DRAM client box and fire up apps from there. You don't have to do xhost or setting the $DISPLAY variable or any other garbage like that; OpenSSH takes care of that automagically for you (as does commercial SSH, BTW). The end-user process would go something like this:

microman multimedia01:~$ ssh terrell nms fcps edu

Trustix Secure Linux release 1.5 (MiddleWhere)
Kernel 2.2.19-5tr on an i686
terrell nms fcps edu's password:
Last login: Fri Jun 27 21:07:01 2003 from inmsbox.fcps.k12.va.us
terrell nms ~$  mozilla &
[1] 4162
terrell nms ~$

...and Mozilla comes right up. This is taken from an actual ssh session that I just did--no editing (yes, the kernel's old--I know--don't bug me :-) ). My username here at home is microman. At the box at work that I just ssh'ed to, it's terrell. Yes, it really is that easy, and yes, it works across NAT/PAT.

Hope this helps,


Richard K. Ingalls wrote:

I've got several older PCs (AMD 150 Mhz - 300 Mhz and Pentium 100 Mhz) with minimal RAM 16 Mb - 32 Mb. I know these will be fine as clients, BUT, I can't afford to set up another server for these clients (yet). Is there a Linux distro that runs well on something this old? I need them to run a web browser / email client, word processor, IM client (GAIM). What window manager would you recommend? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

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