A few weeks ago a friend gave me an old laptop they’d found (behind a sofa or something) and thought I ‘might like to do something with it’!
It was a rather ancient ‘Medion’ laptop (they were sold in the UK Woolworthes before they went bankrupt) and it had an original single core Celeron processor, 256MB of RAM and was running Windows XP (very slowly!).
I’ve always wanted to try a simple linux install and see what’s it like. Having only 256MB of RAM presented somewhat of a challenge as common Linux distros, like Ubuntu, really want 1GB (or at least 512MB). But I was determined to get Linux on this old laptop!Looking round some Linux forums I found a few distros that could run a VERY small amount of ram and decided to go with Puppy Linux and I’ve been very impressed!
Puppy Linux can be run from a CD, USB drive or installed on an internal hard drive (the whole OS download iso file is less than 130MB!). If running from a CD or USB drive, and if you’ve got at least 256MB RAM, it runs completely within the RAM – that’s amazing!
Puppy itself comes in a couple of flavors:
- Lucid – which I’ve used and which is fine for most people.
- Wary – designed for REALLY old computers!
Creating a USB drive is easily done using Unetbootin (although USB drives will only work on PCs not Macs) and CDs can be burnt using most decent CD burning programs (I used Disk Utility on the Mac).
So I made myself a CD and USB drive (I wanted to have a good play!), popped in the CD and booted up.
My first thoughts were “wow that was fast!”. I was greeted by a very friendly desktop that also detected my Ethernet connection and set that up for me. I was in and ready to have a look around!
Puppy Linux comes pre-installed with some ‘essential’ programs including:
- Dillo – a simple web browser.
- Abiword – word processor.
- Gnumeric – spreadsheets.
- MPlayer – media player.
Other applications are easily installed using the ‘quickpet’ utility with common programs like:
- Chrome (Chromium version)
- Libre Office
All being easily installed and running like a charm.
The desktop environment is also very simple to customise with wallpapers, icon sets and toolbars all being simple to change.
Getting some wireless setups, etc. can be a bit of a pain to get going, but the Puppy Linux support forums are a great source of helpful solutions!
As I didn’t really want or need XP on this laptop any more, following the instructions on the Puppy Linux site and a couple of YouTube videos, I managed to format the internal hard drive and do a ‘full’ install. (As it’s the only OS I’ve now got the laptop I haven’t had to install the GRUB bootloader.)
If you’re running things off a CD or USB drive, when exiting Puppy, changes and personal files, etc. can be saved to an internal hard drive or onto a USB drive (if using a USB drive it needs to be bigger than 1GB).
Using some YouTube videos about setting up and using Puppy Linux, I now have a great little surfing machine that’s given a new lease of life knackered old laptop! It also boots in just 50 seconds and running the OS and Chromium it uses about 7% of the cpu and 100MB of RAM! (Imagine what it would be like if it was a half decent machine!)
Another great advantage of Puppy being able to run completely in RAM, from a CD or USB drive, is that you can use it to scan and clean up a virus infected PC without having to load Windows! I can see this being a great benefit to me in the future.
I’m still certainly no Linux expert (in any shape or form!), but I found Puppy Linux a very friendly and easy way of being introduced into all things Linux.
So if you’ve got an old laptop or desktop tower gathering dust somewhere, why not give Puppy Linux a go, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Have you done anything ‘Linuxy’ with an old PC?
[Image via Puppy Linux]