[sf-lug] distro advice, please (on low-spec hardware)

Michael Paoli Michael.Paoli at cal.berkeley.edu
Thu Nov 22 03:48:19 PST 2007

> Date: Mon, 19 Nov 2007 14:22:14 -0800
> From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
> Subject: Re: [sf-lug] distro advice, please

> And that is what I seem to keep reminding people:  If you are installing
> onto low-spec hardware, it is, in general, much smarter to install a
> general-purpose distribution and pare down its runtime configuration to 
> what you actually require and is actually appropriate to the hardware,
> than it is to install only tiny distributions that can never do much.
> The job is not done when the installer finishes -- especially on old,
> low-end hardware.

And along those lines (and perhaps what Rick was intending/implying) 
...  in "pare down", I'd generally recommend a "bottom up" "build up"
type approach.  I.e., start with a major distribution, if at all
feasible, but rather than install (or attempt to install) lots or a
rather full installation from that distribution (which may be
impossible or infeasible on low-spec hardware), instead, just do a
quite minimal install of the distribution for starters (e.g. in
Debian, I believe it's called "base").  Once that's done, as long as
the distribution has reasonable tools/software (e.g. aptitude,
tasksel, etc.) to add packages or desired collections of packages,
and work out their dependencies, one can then - as feasible for the
hardware, add the desired packages (or collections) and their
dependencies.  Such an approach is typically much easier and more
maintainable and supportable, than trying to pick some specialized
Linux distribution that is designed for tight hardware installs.  By
carefully selection of what packages and sets of packages one
installs (and doesn't install), one will often achieve functionality
that's about as good as, or better than, many of the distributions
that are specifically targeted for low-spec hardware installations,
and one certainly ends up with a much more supportable installation
with a more mainstream Linux distribution.

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