View Full Version : Linux distro advice

08-11-2006, 10:49 AM
A while ago, my father-in-law gave me a hand-me-down laptop (http://developer.novell.com/yes/35366.htm). It runs windows 95 and is pretty much useless to me now, since

A) The battery is shot and therefore has to be plugged in everywhere
B) It doesn't have a network card
C) The only development software installed is Visual C++ 6 Student Edition

I'd like to make use of it, so I've decided to install a linux distro on it and use it to learn more about linux and program in other rooms than the one I'm always stuck in (the hottest in the whole place). I looked at linux.org at various distros, looking for one that doesn't require broadband access, would run on an older machine, and came with g++. I looked through the previous thread on favorite distros, as well.

I tried the gentoo Live CD, but when I boot it, it gives me the boot prompt, and regardless of the kernel/options I choose, it restarts the computer, which gives me the boot prompt. Regardless of the kernel/options I choose, it restarts the computer, which...

The Live CD works fine (though the resolution seems off) on a different computer, so I assume there's something with that laptop that won't boot gentoo. Fine. I then downloaded few minimalist distros, most of which booted fine, but none of which included g++. Without a network/internet connection, I can't download the modules/packages that include g++ for a given distro to the laptop.

What I'm looking for is a linux distro that will run on that machine, doesn't require internet access to install, and comes with g++ standard (and vim or pico or something I can create my .cpp files with). The laptop does have a 3.5" floppy drive, so I can transfer files back and forth that way once I get it running.

As I'm sure is plainly obvious from the above, I am almost totally new to linux. I have a SuSE box that I have limited experience with. I am trying to get that one to acknowledge my router so I can pass files back and forth and test my code's portability. (That's a whole 'nother issue :rolleyes:)

Any advice on a particular distro that would fit, or a way to get g++ added to one of the distros I have would me more than greatly appreciated. I don't even need a desktop. A command line interface would be great, maybe even ideal.

08-11-2006, 11:23 AM
I would imagine you could run any distro just fine provided you choose less of the gui options. Use wm or twm as your window manager or don't use a window manager at all.

well I see you tried some with no success. Fedora?

08-11-2006, 04:49 PM
Gentoo's generally a bad idea without net access. I agree with Fedora, or perhaps SuSE, or Mandriva. Not sure how much software Ubuntu comes with, though I would guess it has at least a compiler.

08-11-2006, 11:24 PM
Ubuntu includes GCC on the CD, but it is not installed in the initial setup. The build-essential package has to be installed after the initial installation.

08-12-2006, 12:37 AM
Damn Small Linux all the way... you have to install the gcc pack but you can include that on the CD (I believe) if not, you can always put GCC on a CD along with other software you want to try. I believe GCC is only 16meg so you can throw a lot on that CD with it (perhaps some MP3s or something for archive purposes).

It has VIM 6 included, and is uber lightweight overall (runs on my 166mhz with 64meg ram VERY fast). Another option could be Slackware, cut out everything but X/Flux/Dev tools and it takes up very little room and is quite speedy. You are going to want a decent sized swap due to how little ram the computer has... probably (against standards) atleast double the ram... since this computer is already slow, it wont be weighting on disk IO as much as a faster computer so you wont notice too much of a difference.

08-12-2006, 01:54 AM
Has anyone thought about Freespire? Just been released - looks reasonably promising.

08-12-2006, 06:06 AM
Another one I've just found (courtesy of /. again) http://linux.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/08/11/1451254

08-12-2006, 12:01 PM
Slackware or ArchLinux would probably work pretty well. They don't hold your hands through everything but they can give you a fairly good introduction to Linux in general and not be too harsh.

08-12-2006, 04:04 PM
Ubuntu looked good until the release notes said that 256 MB RAM and 3 gig HD space to install...hahahahahahahaha.

I was focused on the "minimalist" distributions listed at linux.org (www.linux.org) since the HD is so small and RAM so limited. I'm downloading the .iso(s) for Slackware now, but I'm relatively certain it's not going to fly, since the larger distros haven't worked as yet. The few that I tried booted/ran s...o........s...l...o...w...l...y which I attributed to low RAM and slow CD ROM, since I was booting from there. I don't know if that's a correct assumption; what the hell do I know? (hint: not very much).

Which brings me to Damn Small Linux. I thought it looked good from it's description, and saw in his sig that Wraithan used it. No g++, though, so at first I looked elsewhere. I just downloaded the CD and booted it up. After a bit of working around with the boot command, I got it to work right and holy ........ it runs fast!

For now, that's what I'm going with. Now I have to get g++ & gdb. I have it on my SuSE box, but since DSL is a Knoppix-based distribution, I can't just move it there, right? Wraithan, I see that you use the GNU compiler collection on your DSL box, how did you get it?

All this looking around at different distribtions has been a lot of fun. I have an old Compaq in the basement I'm going to bring up and make useful again, too. I'll have to wait until I get another KVM cable, though. (definition: KVM switch: an excellent way to save your marriage by not taking over the entire guest room with computers.)

Witness! A convert in the making!

Thanks to all for the help; I really appreciate everyone's input.

08-12-2006, 04:12 PM
If it can run Windows 95, it can probably run something like Slackware.

08-12-2006, 06:46 PM

MyDSL is the package management for DSL... you can download then transfer the file to the computer you need the package on... then the command is mydsl-load package.name .

I love DSL for my older boxen... Slack didn't run as well as DSL on my old hardware since DSL is made to run on slow low ram computers... (for ........s and giggles... load the DSL liveCD on a box with atleast 256 ram and use dsl toram at the boot prompt... never before have I see a OS move that fast.)

08-13-2006, 08:41 AM
Thanks, Wratihan.
I thought it was more like Yast for SuSE where you have to be running SuSE to get the packages to your machine. That's fantastic.

08-13-2006, 09:12 AM
i would go with Fedora i like it myself

08-13-2006, 11:15 AM
Fedora is too heavy for the computer... unless you go with Fedora 1 or something, which I still think is too heavy. I know my Fedora 5 disks wont even start installation on my 166mhz 64meg ram box.

08-13-2006, 03:26 PM
Will i am running fc5 i ahve no prob on my laptop.But put them on my desktop i have probs with.

08-13-2006, 04:08 PM
I hate Fedora Core 5; it runs way too slow. Same with Ubuntu. Not slow-slow, but for example, Debian runs much faster.

08-16-2006, 10:42 AM
slak, debian or gentoo are most likely to be your best options.

while I like lfs myself, it really requires that you be familiar with linux before starting the install process.
[ building everything from sources is not fast, or simple. ]

deb, slak and gentoo give you far more control over what goes into the system than an other distro but lfs and diy.