I’m in search of a lightweight distro for an ancient 1ghz, 128MB RAM laptop. One of these days, I’ll find a distro that properly supports ACPI and VGA-out. I hope.
Puppy Linux is a homegrown mini-distro with several different flavors available. It’s well-known for being lightweight, able to run entirely in RAM even. It’s also the distro that has introduced me to several different applications I’ve never heard of before, including some CD burning programs. A fair amount of the applications and configuration utilities available on the liveCD are written specifically for Puppy; they’re definitely newbie-friendly, and seem to be especially focused on Windows-to-Linux converts.
So, let’s talk about the CD itself. It had just about the fastest boot I’ve ever seen, wasting no time to get me into a JWM environment, which ran quite speedily. It loaded itself into RAM by default, and provided a handy panel applet that displayed free memory available. Unfortunately, it was rather broken in my case; it showed that I had at least 512MB total memory, and that Puppy was using about half that. Oops, not quite — I only have 128MB installed.
Still, the CD had quite a nice selection of packages; it’s amazing how much was crammed in. It came with the Seamonkey suite for internet access (and for HTML editing). I was a bit worried about this, as the ol’ discontinued Mozilla has always felt bloated to me in the past. Not so in this case; Seamonkey ran better than the typical Firefox on every other LiveCD I’ve used. It felt like an embedded browser, actually, in terms of quick response. Puppy has the most comprehensive array of packages I’ve come across on a mini-LiveCD so far. There’s even a CD remastering tool available, similar to the one SliTaz offers. Want your own Puppy variety? A few clicks will do it!
However, Puppy’s support for ACPI and the other necessary bits of my laptop wasn’t working in the slightest. I opened up a root terminal to start loading modules, but ran into tons of “module not found/does not exist” errors. I checked
/lib/modules to verify that the ACPI-related modules I was looking for did in fact exist, but they still could not be found. What’s up with that?
Puppy has a lot to offer, and like SliTaz, I’ll be watching it closely in the future. but for now . . . no way to turn off the fan o’doom or get dynamic CPU scaling means this Puppy is going back to the pet shop. Next!
I gave the MEPIS-based antiX a try simply because a reader mentioned it in a comment on one of the earlier articles. It definitely sounded interesting, so I downloaded the “base” edition and got to work.
It booted reasonably fast, and dropped me into a pretty SLiM screen. The liveCD has both IceWM and Fluxbox, so I went with the latter. The “base” CD was indeed quite minimal. Though it ran speedily enough, much better than most other distros I’ve tested so far, it didn’t come with much in the way of software. Most menu entries were to plain ol’ xterms that launched some CLI application or another. There’s not much in the way of graphical configuration apps, and there’s nothing resembling a real power/ACPI manager.
Which brings me to the biggest failing of antiX: it doesn’t have working ACPI or APM for my Toshiba. Sure, the
toshiba_acpi kernel module can be loaded, but I can’t do anything with it from there. Can’t turn off the blasted fan, nor did CPU speeds ever seem to vary as needed, despite opening the antiX control center and checking the appropriate box.
antiX has promise as a lightweight distribution; it’s speedy enough, but it can’t handle the hardware. So long, antiX.