Mint on low-end hardware?

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jharris1993
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Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by jharris1993 » Sun Dec 03, 2017 1:01 am

:D :shock:

I'm trying not to laugh while I'm typing this. . . .

Assume the following conditions exist:
1. System is relatively ancient. (Win-XP vintage, with a 32 bit CPU)
2. Memory is limited. System can have anywhere between 256 megs to 1 gig RAM
3. Limited hard drive capacity: 20 gig or so IDE/ATA drives are not unusual
4. Reasonably competent graphics, (NVIDIA Radeon or equivalent)

Also assume:
1. The system is not a total waste of time - it can and has run WinXP or better. (This obviously excludes my Toshiba Libretto that was "Designed for Windows 95" :shock: )
2. In the same vein, any system, (like my Libretto), that needs special kernel parameters to run Damn Small Linux, and cannot run Puppy or TinyCore is not included.

----------------------------------------------------

This question is not entirely academic as I often come across systems that reached the pinnacle of their existence with WinXP. Obviously, trying to upgrade these systems to something line Win7 or later is not gonna happen.

What I want to do is re-purpose/recycle these machines as Linux machines. Obviously, I'd like to re-purpose/recycle them as MINT Linux boxes, since (IMHO), Mint is the sine-qua-non of Linux distributions for "normal" people.

I am also assuming that as Mint progresses the more recent distributions, (18.n as of this writing), are expecting increasingly competent hardware to run on with impressive graphics, fast multi-core processors, gobs-and-gobs-and-gobs of insanely fast RAM, and a SATA drive measured in "T".

(Side Note: It's amazing how hardware that would have made an Alienware SUPER-gamer system hang its head in shame fifteen minutes or so ago, is now relegated to the "ho-hum" category of systems. It's like the Cold War all over again. . . .)

----------------------------------------------------

Question:
Given a system that is running on "older" (XP vintage) hardware - what version of Mint would you install? Obviously, newer is better, but should I drop back to Mint 13's Maya builds?

Obviously, I want to install Mint since this is a system that doesn't require a PhD in Rocket Science to use - and I want to be able to give these systems to people who are not necessarily Linux Guru's.

My current target system has 512 megs RAM, Radeon graphics, a 30 gig HD, and a replacement CD-ROM and battery on order. . . . I could put XP back on it, but it seems such a waste.

What say ye?
Jim "JR"

Some see things as they are, and ask "Why?"
I dream things that never were, and ask "Why Not".

Robert F. Kennedy

“Impossible” is only found in the dictionary of a fool.
Old Chinese Proverb

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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by Spearmint2 » Sun Dec 03, 2017 2:41 am

I would install Mint MATE or the XFCE version.


Assume the following conditions exist:

1. System is relatively ancient. (Win-XP vintage, with a 32 bit CPU)

May need SSE2 in it. Hopefully has PAE in it, or will need to add a bypass for that in the boot line.



2. Memory is limited. System can have anywhere between 256 megs to 1 gig RAM

Will need at least 512 MB to boot, but XFCE might boot to less. Will need to create a swap partition equal to RAM installed.



3. Limited hard drive capacity: 20 gig or so IDE/ATA drives are not unusual

You can install Mint to a drive that size. If you need more space, plug in a 32-64 GB USB flashdrive.


4. Reasonably competent graphics, (NVIDIA Radeon or equivalent)


Kernel in 17.3 has "mods" for those.
All things go better with Mint. Mint julep, mint jelly, mint gum, candy mints, pillow mints, peppermint, chocolate mints, spearmint,....

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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by jimallyn » Sun Dec 03, 2017 3:54 am

Unless the people that will be using these computers never go online, do not install Mint 13 on them. Like all obsolete software, Mint 13 has known vulnerabilities that will not be fixed. If you want to install Mint on them, you will want to go with the XFCE version, which uses the least resources (memory, CPU, etc.). I don't know about running Mint with 256 megs of RAM. 512 maybe, 1 gig certainly. There are other distros that are made for puny computers: antiX, LXLE, Lubuntu, Peppermint, probably others I'm not thinking of at the moment.
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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by thx-1138 » Sun Dec 03, 2017 5:44 am

...since you referenced those...
1) besides being a security risk as already mentioned above, i also think that the Maya repositories aren't even online anymore (someone to correct me if i'm wrong)...
2) Damn Small Linux has been discontinued since many years now...

I'd try XFCE first...and if that still feels 'heavy' & sluggish, then an alternative Mint-alike solution would probably be to start with Ubuntu minimal install, then add Mint's repositories more or less as described here...and maybe say install / use Openbox on it?

Or else, if you don't mind Debian-based, maybe try LMDE Mate? Alternatively, for a non-Mint solution, Antix will certainly handle what you described...it does have a learning curve, but it's not 'rocket science'...

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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by jharris1993 » Sun Dec 03, 2017 4:04 pm

thx-1138 wrote: ...since you referenced those...
1) besides being a security risk as already mentioned above, i also think that the Maya repositories aren't even online anymore (someone to correct me if i'm wrong)...
2) Damn Small Linux has been discontinued since many years now...
Good points, but I was trying to poke fun, as in reductio ad absurdum.

1. Maya has been "out of production" for a while now. (AFAK) Then again, Windows XP - the target OS for many of these systems - has been depreciated for a while too. (XP also has more security "holes" than a block of Swiss Cheese - I'd trust Maya before XP.)

2. DSL still has a small but loyal following and is the only Linux I know of that will actually run on insanely low-end hardware with a graphical front-end. In all seriousness it's about as useful as Teats on a Boar Hog, but it's fun to see a system with 8 megs of RAM boot a graphical based Linux.

As much as possible, I'd like to stick with Mint. The other "small" Linux distributions are often too "geeky" or are severely constrained. I'd like to provide a system that is at least as functional and familiar as XP.

Thanks!
Last edited by jharris1993 on Sun Dec 03, 2017 4:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Jim "JR"

Some see things as they are, and ask "Why?"
I dream things that never were, and ask "Why Not".

Robert F. Kennedy

“Impossible” is only found in the dictionary of a fool.
Old Chinese Proverb

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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by Moem » Sun Dec 03, 2017 4:13 pm

It's unofficial, but still Minty: the LXDE version of Mint. Default is German, but can be switched to English. Doesn't seem very active though.
If it doesn't have to be Mint: Lubuntu or LinuxLite.
Truth be told, usability on the internet will be limited... webpages have gotten so much more demanding.
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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by jharris1993 » Sun Dec 03, 2017 4:17 pm

Spearmint2 wrote: I would install Mint MATE or the XFCE version.


Assume the following conditions exist:

1. System is relatively ancient. (Win-XP vintage, with a 32 bit CPU)
May need SSE2 in it. Hopefully has PAE in it, or will need to add a bypass for that in the boot line.


2. Memory is limited. System can have anywhere between 256 megs to 1 gig RAM
Will need at least 512 MB to boot, but XFCE might boot to less. Will need to create a swap partition equal to RAM installed.


3. Limited hard drive capacity: 20 gig or so IDE/ATA drives are not unusual

You can install Mint to a drive that size. If you need more space, plug in a 32-64 GB USB flashdrive.


4. Reasonably competent graphics, (NVIDIA Radeon or equivalent)

Kernel in 17.3 has "mods" for those.
Thanks!

I usually install Mate on lower-end systems, or systems with underpowered graphics as, (AFAIK), Mate is a "lighter weight" desktop than Cinnamon.

Re:
1. I have not tried any special "PAE" editions or hacks. If it installs and at least appears to work, why would I mess with PAE? I have no idea what "SSE2" is, or how it would help.

2. Memory is usually the constraining issue. This one machine tops out at 1 gig and I'd love to find a couple of old SODIMMS in my "junk box" to toss in it.

3. I laugh when I tell people that you can install Mint to everything but a wet pancake! It's a great way to use drives that are useless for anything else.

4. What "mods"? Where? I'd like to use more of the hardware capabilities of the graphics subsystem as it eases the processor/RAM/Swap load over emulated graphics.
Jim "JR"

Some see things as they are, and ask "Why?"
I dream things that never were, and ask "Why Not".

Robert F. Kennedy

“Impossible” is only found in the dictionary of a fool.
Old Chinese Proverb

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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by jharris1993 » Sun Dec 03, 2017 4:25 pm

Moem wrote: If it doesn't have to be Mint: Lubuntu or LinuxLite.
Truth be told, usability on the internet will be limited... webpages have gotten so much more demanding.
. . . . and that's one of the real limiting factors. It really doesn't make sense to provide a system that can't handle a common web request. One of my benchmarks is if the implementation can handle sites like http://www.etvnet.com (a Russian on-line TV/Movie site based in Canada that my wife likes), or YouTube. If it can handle stuff like this, it should be able to handle most everything else.

Thanks!
Jim "JR"

Some see things as they are, and ask "Why?"
I dream things that never were, and ask "Why Not".

Robert F. Kennedy

“Impossible” is only found in the dictionary of a fool.
Old Chinese Proverb

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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by Moem » Sun Dec 03, 2017 4:31 pm

jharris1993 wrote: It really doesn't make sense to provide a system that can't handle a common web request.
I agree. My personal benchmark is the Ikea homepage; if it can load that without going belly up, it can be useful.

I have one such system that I tried many combinations of OS and browser on... and it turns out that the only way this 'pavement tile' is going to pass the Ikea test, with an OS that's doable for a non-guru, is MX 16 with Firefox. But then, the machine can handle no more than 0.75 GB of RAM... 8)
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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by DAMIEN1307 » Sun Dec 03, 2017 4:34 pm

i agree with jimallyn as to his mention of peppermint linux...its basically an xfce type of distro and if you can run LM, you can easily run peppermint...i have had to use this on other peoples low end computers with a gig or less of ram and it does run smoothly though perhaps a bit slower than what we are used to on mid to higher range systems, but has acceptable performance...the chromium browser that comes with it tends to run quicker than say firefox etc so i would just use it...DAMIEN
ORDO AB CHAO

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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by jharris1993 » Sun Dec 03, 2017 4:36 pm

Moem wrote:
jharris1993 wrote: It really doesn't make sense to provide a system that can't handle a common web request.
I agree. My personal benchmark is the Ikea homepage; if it can load that without going belly up, it can be useful.

I have one such system that I tried many combinations of OS and browser on... and it turns out that the only way this 'pavement tile' is going to pass the Ikea test, with an OS that's doable for a non-guru, is MX 16 with Firefox. But then, the machine can handle no more than 0.75 GB of RAM... 8)
(laughing!) I can just imagine what the Ikea homepage must be like! I'll have to give it a try.

What is "MX 16"? Sounds like a semi-automatic weapon. Aren't they illegal in the Netherlands? :wink:
Jim "JR"

Some see things as they are, and ask "Why?"
I dream things that never were, and ask "Why Not".

Robert F. Kennedy

“Impossible” is only found in the dictionary of a fool.
Old Chinese Proverb

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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by Moem » Sun Dec 03, 2017 5:00 pm

jharris1993 wrote:What is "MX 16"? Sounds like a semi-automatic weapon. Aren't they illegal in the Netherlands? :wink:
Not this one. :-)
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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by jharris1993 » Sun Dec 03, 2017 5:22 pm

Moem wrote:
jharris1993 wrote:What is "MX 16"? Sounds like a semi-automatic weapon. Aren't they illegal in the Netherlands? :wink:
Not this one. :-)
Took a peek. Read some reviews. (Viz., https://www.dedoimedo.com/computers/mx-16.html) Decided it was a bit too wonky for the un-initiated. Reminds me of an Arch linux install with a graphical front-end. (i.e. You start with the kernel, and have to side-load everything else.)

Seriously, the way Dedoimedo talked about the distro and the numerous quirks with things like networking, multimedia and such, makes it sound more experimental than practical. I'd rather not send something like that to people I'd like to keep as friends. :wink: Though it does sound interesting and I might just try it.
Jim "JR"

Some see things as they are, and ask "Why?"
I dream things that never were, and ask "Why Not".

Robert F. Kennedy

“Impossible” is only found in the dictionary of a fool.
Old Chinese Proverb

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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by Moem » Sun Dec 03, 2017 5:35 pm

jharris1993 wrote: I'd rather not send something like that to people I'd like to keep as friends. :wink: Though it does sound interesting and I might just try it.

Agreed again! That is why I did not recommend it for your described user case; just mentioned it as an example of things that I've been trying. :)
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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by administrollaattori » Sun Dec 03, 2017 5:42 pm

MX is not an old-computer distro. Install Mint 17 and install and use JWM desktop.
https://joewing.net/projects/jwm/

Code: Select all

apt install jwm

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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by Mute Ant » Sun Dec 03, 2017 5:55 pm

o You can 'burn' a USB ISO distribution directly to a hard drive and boot it from there. Goodbye to USB1 connections and flaky DVD drives. XP-era machines can handle two drives on the same PATA cable... boot from the Slave and install to the Master.

o The KNOPPIX distribution is all Three Bears in one go. It's big, 4.5GB, because it has KDE and Gnome and Openbox built in. You choose how it boots. There's a persistence partition that expands to fit the drive you have written it to... instant install. Writing the ISO installs the system.
Data stored in an encrypted volume will only be accessible with the original password. Without this key, all the data will remain scrambled beyond hope of recovery.

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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by jharris1993 » Sun Dec 03, 2017 6:05 pm

Moem wrote:
Agreed again! That is why I did not recommend it for your described user case; just mentioned it as an example of things that I've been trying. :)
You sound like you have the same kind of twisted sense-of-humor as I. Sometime when the grandkids in Russia let me loose, (and I'm aimlessly wandering around in the Netherlands), we'll have to get together for a pint or two. Or, maybe, if you end up in Moscow (Russia), or Massachusetts (in the USA), we can get together.

In Russia, beer is called "peeva" (пева), what do they call it out your way? (Though frankly I'm more of a "cuppa tea" or maybe hot chocolate kind of guy myself.)

----------------------------------------

One of the essential criteria - and this is why I am leaning toward Mint as a OS-of-choice - is that the finished product must not only pass the "Ikea/YouTube" browser test, but must also be as non-geeky as possible. (Translation: As "Windows-like" as possible to lessen the learning curve.)

I don't expect blazing speed, but I do want it to be as simple to use and maintain as possible. Trying to help maintain a friend's system from 6000 miles away is a bit of a stretch. I'd like to avoid that if possible. :roll: :wink:

There are a lot of interesting "tiny" Linux packages, but all the distro's I've tried (so far) have been too odd or "geeky" in ways that I do not want to inflict on the un-initiated.

Though I will admit, some of them sound interesting from the "Oooh! Let's take a peek!" point-of-view, and I appreciate all the suggestions, applicable or not.
Jim "JR"

Some see things as they are, and ask "Why?"
I dream things that never were, and ask "Why Not".

Robert F. Kennedy

“Impossible” is only found in the dictionary of a fool.
Old Chinese Proverb

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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by Moem » Sun Dec 03, 2017 6:14 pm

jharris1993 wrote:In Russia, beer is called "peeva" (пева), what do they call it out your way? (Though frankly I'm more of a "cuppa tea" or maybe hot chocolate kind of guy myself.)
'Bier'. We're boring like that. Or maybe just practical. Actually English and Dutch share a lot of words. Like apartheid, and schadenfreude. Wait no, that's German.
And yes, tea is my thing, too. Hot chocolate is popular here as a winter beverage and I like it too; on special occasions, spiking it with a dash of rum doesn't hurt, either. :wink:
jharris1993 wrote:One of the essential criteria - and this is why I am leaning toward Mint as a OS-of-choice - is that the finished product must not only pass the "Ikea/YouTube" browser test, but must also be as non-geeky as possible.
I had that in mind when I recommended Lubuntu and LinuxLite. I figured you wanted something that doesn't immediately scare people away if they've never used Linux before and aren't very techy. Unfortunately, the userfriendliness and polish of Mint is hard to wrap into a (much) smaller package.
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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by jimallyn » Sun Dec 03, 2017 7:23 pm

As Moem said, the internet is going to be a limiting factor. I run a really old computer now and then, just for fun, and sometimes I run a text-based browser. Facebook is a massive memory hog, and when I want to access that on an old Win98-era machine, I use the mobile site: m.facebook.com. A lot of sites have a mobile site like that. But most people aren't going to like it.
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Re: Mint on low-end hardware?

Post by br1anstorm » Sun Dec 03, 2017 8:03 pm

I started browsing this thread out of simple curiosity. I too have a couple of old laptops with WinXP, a non-pae processor and limited RAM and storage.

Then I was poised to join in with a comment, only to discover that Moem had beaten me to it.....
Moem wrote: I have one such system that I tried many combinations of OS and browser on... and it turns out that the only way this 'pavement tile' is going to pass the Ikea test, with an OS that's doable for a non-guru, is MX 16 with Firefox.....
With all due respect to those who then commented that MX-16 is not very polished nor very user-friendly, I beg to disagree. I'm a committed Linux Mint XFCE user, and it remains my distro of choice. I have Linux Lite installed too (and a shared Data partition) just in case the mood takes me. But just recently I have been trying out MX-16, which also uses the XFCE desktop, and is Debian-based rather than a derivative of Ubuntu. I'm deeply impressed.

I'm still a relative newbie with limited tech skill - but MX-16 is not at all intimidating. Not only that, but it offers both 32-bit and 64-bit versions, and the 32-bit comes with both pae and non-pae options on the same Live CD or USB. I've run MX-16 on an old laptop with 1GB RAM, a 2GHz CPU, and 40GB HDD. I've even installed MX-16 on an SD card and then booted into it from the card on another old laptop. No glitches with wifi, no problems with music files or video clips, the browser (Firefox) works fine. What's not to like?

My advice to the OP would be - yes, Mint (XFCE) is still first preference. But once you've had a beer, a cuppa tea, or a hot chocolate, give MX-16 a go - you might be pleasantly surprised.

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