Lightweight distro needed

Q I am looking for an OS suitable for an AMD K-6/200. I thought NetBSD might be a good choice, but it turns out the basic install results in an OS that is command line only. Xfree86 (not Xorg) needs to be set up separately. I'm disabled and the extra effort is a problem for me. Is there an 'easy' version, like PC-BSD or Desktop BSD are easy versions of FreeBSD? I had tried DSL on a P2/400 machine and didn't care for it, but I just discovered DSL-N. This has a real word processor! How much net performance do you end up gaining if you install Gnome or KDE on either NetBSD or DSL-N? Fedora, with Gnome, runs infuriatingly slow on the P2/400.

A A K-6/200 is slow by current standards, so you'll need a lightweight distro to give reasonable performance. Most importantly, you will need a lightweight window manager, which definitely excludes Gnome and KDE. Something using Fluxbox, Xfce or IceWM would be far more suitable. As you need word processing, Xfce may be a good choice, as it uses the GTK toolkit, as does AbiWord. With limited resources, choosing a set of applications that use the same toolkit and libraries will help your system run more efficiently.

Speaking of resources, one of the best improvements for any Linux system that needs more speed is more memory. Spending a few pounds/dollars/euros pieces-of-eight on extra RAM generally gives a greater improvement than spending a similar amount on a faster processor. There are a number of distros designed for lightweight systems; you have already discovered DSL and DSL-N, but you could also consider Puppy Linux, from www.puppylinux.org. DSL is limited by the stipulation that the ISO image should never exceed 50MB, while Puppy Linux is nearly twice that. This means it includes a lot more, such as the AbiWord word processor and accompanying office software, SeaMonkey (the new name for Mozilla) for web and mail and plenty more.

The main drawback of Puppy is that the hard disk installation process is rather convoluted, as this is mainly designed as a live CD system. You could also run it from the CD, using your hard disk only for storage of data and settings. Another alternative, although a little heavier, is Zenwalk (www.zenwalk.org). If you have the amount of RAM that was typically used on 200MHz machines when new, you will definitely need more to use Zenwalk, but it will give you more features than smaller distros. Running any OS on a K-6/200 is going to be a compromise between features and performance, but it is definitely possible: doubly so if you add some extra RAM.

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