Supporting The Latest and Greatest; Supporting the Oldest and Slowest

by Caitlyn Martin

Like most people who do tech work of some sort or another for a living I love my toys. I'd love to have the latest and greatest gee whiz system and if I won the lottery I probably always would. Today's best full-featured distros all have native 64-bit versions. One of my favorites, Vector Linux was a little late to the table but I'm pleased to report that the current release, Vector Linux 5.9 Standard, has a 64-bit version in beta right now. Good news.

Of course not everyone can afford the latest and greatest. In the developing world in particular people make do and sometimes manage to do wondrous things with what folks here in the United States would call obsolete. Even if hardware is new it is sometimes designed to be what would normally be considered a low spec system either to be energy efficient (green computing) or low cost. The laptop designed for OLPC is a great example. So are green systems and low cost systems designed for use in first world, developed countries, including systems based on Nano-ITX and Pico-ITX technologies. ASUS Eee PC, designed for ease of use, small size, and low cost is another great example that's generated a lot of buzz. I know for most of you I'm preaching to the choir but I actually was criticized in a comment to my recent review of AliXe 0.11b for suggesting keeping old computers running is somehow a good idea.

Yes, there are a bunch of lightweight Linux distributions that meet this need nicely. Vector Linux started out as such a distro a decade ago but evolved into a full featured distro. The Vector Linux developers have returned to their roots, though, and now have Vector Linux Light in alpha. VL Light is an ultra light version of VL built with a current kernel and current applications but designed to run smoothly in just 64MB of RAM. I have Vector Linux successfully running on an old Liberty small footprint box with just a Pentium 133MMX processor and 32MB of RAM. That's normally Damn Small Linux territory but it's nice to be able to run something a bit more modern and a bit more capable on the old beast.

Kudos to the developers at Vector Linux for scaling down as well as scaling up. There's nothing more friendly to the environment or the budget than keeping an old system going rather than building or buying a new one. So long as a computer can do what you need it to do it's not obsolete. I'll be following up my AliXe review with reviews of other lightweight and small footprint Linux distributions, including Vector Linux Light when it's released.

6 Comments

thilo pfennig
2008-01-27 03:37:12
The link to vectorlinux contains a ","
Rob
2008-01-27 06:01:22
Your views on old hardwareare spot on. I've had my cheapo (2nd hand) AMD Duron 750, 384MB RAM mobo for some five or so years now.


I've been through many distro's too, but have settled on PCLinuxOS for now (easy to remaster). I plan to upgrade maybe next year (inc HDTV in mind).


Years ago I would have scoffed at surplanted hardware, but now realise that toxic 'e-waste' grows at rates directly proportional to fickle human nature. Mobile phones being the worst offenders. ;-/


Like you, many others realise the usefulness of Linux in this respect.


Bye

Caitlyn Martin
2008-01-30 13:03:56
@thilo & those who e-mailed me: Thanks for the heads up. The broken link has been fixed.


My readers never let me get away with anything :) No complaints... in a case like this it's a good thing.

vainrveenr
2008-02-14 21:03:54
@caitlyn
Just in case this thread is still being actively reviewed, you might wish to investigate the new release of Zenwalk 5.0, this via Mayank Sharma's review Zenwalk 5.0 at 'Tiny Zenwalk 5.0 packs a big punch', http://www.linux.com/feature/126526
The same suggestion could apply as well to your O'Reilly.net "partner-in-crime" (so to speak) Carla Schroder, http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/au/1909, in her efforts to resolve certain wireless issues.
-vv
Prefabrik
2008-03-14 03:45:07
Your views on old hardwareare spot on. I've had my cheapo (2nd hand) AMD Duron 750, 384MB RAM mobo for some five or so years now.


I've been through many distro's too, but have settled on PCLinuxOS for now (easy to remaster). I plan to upgrade maybe next year (inc HDTV in mind).


Years ago I would have scoffed at surplanted hardware, but now realise that toxic 'e-waste' grows at rates directly proportional to fickle human nature. Mobile phones being the worst offenders. ;-/


Like you, many others realise the usefulness of Linux in this respect.


Pre-Fab Prefabrik Production

Caitlyn Martin
2008-03-26 00:11:17
@vainrveenr: Zenwalk is on my list of distros to look at again. When I'll find time is an open question but it is on my list.


Prefabrik: Thank you for your kind words. I think this is an area where there has been a real growth in interest over the past year. The result has been an explosion of new lightweight distros and light versions of existing distros like Ubuntu and Vector Linux. I will be reviewing some of those lightweight choices in the near future.