Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Best Linux Distribution 2013: Netbooks and Old Hardware

Welcome to 2013!
It's a new year and this means that your netbooks and old towers are another year older. The eternal struggle to maintain you hardware's relevance has crept on into another long year of recession. Someday you will have bags of money to buy something new, but for now you need to find a way to get that slow old laptop to feel a bit more springy.

Not all Linux distributions are created equal. There are so many options to choose from and so many acronyms that it can be hard to get a straight answer on what the hell you should download!

The first big thing you need to ask yourself:
"Does the computer I want to use have modern 3d graphics hardware?" 
(aka a nice graphics/video card)

If you do not have a graphics card in your computer, as is the case with many low end and older netbooks, then you need to stay away from distributions which use Gnome 3 or Unity. Unity 2d was an option in previous releases of Ubunut, but has been dropped from current releases. You have heard that there are other lightweight distributions, but don't know much about them or you haven't found any that are actually lightweight enough.

Well this year looks a lot like last year's lineup with one exception! A new minimal debian based distribution has stolen my heart and is being recommended as the first choice for linux fans who do not want to build and compile their own Arch distribution.

Read on to see the new year's recommendations!

One of the first things I want to get out of the way is the idea that Lubuntu and Xubuntu are still the light weight versions of Ubuntu. They are not. Both of them will require you to have a decent GPU if you want to run smoothly. The CPU and RAM specs are low, but you wont get a nice clean desktop environment or user experience using these.

Second, this guide is intended for people who are both beginners/intermediate Linux users, and are owners of low powered hardware. I am fully aware that there are lighter options on this Earth, but none are easy enough for beginners.
I want to provide a bridge for Windows users and perhaps people who have a little experience using Ubuntu. I picked options here which are viable for the guy who has a 5 year old laptop which ran Windows XP, but just cant cut it anymore. I want that guy to be able to install a distribution and not be immediately turned off to Linux.

With that in mind, I feel like the new addition to my recommendations this year is great for even experienced Linux fans. I have purposefully avoided Arch linux due to the steep learning curve required to build your own distribution.

Netbooks, Low power desktops, and misc.

The best option for absolute beginners again in 2013, is Linux Mint 14 with the MATE desktop.
  • It is debian based so ubuntu users will feel at home.
  • The MATE desktop is a branch of the Gnome 2 desktop which does not require 3d graphics.
  • You can also choose from a KDE or Xfce desktop variations.
    • Be warned that these will need a decent and supported video card.
  • Stay away from Cinnamon, as it is Gnome 3 based and requires 3d acceleration!

Mint will offer you a very modern and exciting desktop environment. The biggest complaint that people have when switching to Mint from ubuntu variants is that, "It's not Ubuntu." You might miss your Ubuntu colors and logos, but you will be happy with Mint's performance. It is quite nice knowing that you can jump right in with your familiar debian terminal commands and applications. You can still use .deb packages. It's great.

The MATE desktop is MUCH smoother than unity 2d on my ASUS 1000HE (1.66ghz atom with 2gb ram). The Ubuntu experience has degraded with each major release on my netbook since 10.04.

At idle, my processor was at about 45-50% use in Ubuntu 12.04 with unity 2d.
Ubuntu 12.10 was not usable.
Under Linux Mint 14 MATE, my idle is down to 5-7% processor use!
Like I said, much smoother!

Mint 14 with the MATE desktop is designed to run on the same older graphics framework and the older version of gnome desktop. This means that you get less eye candy, but you also get smooth performance. The performance is really what you want in the end, and eye candy is useless if your graphics chipset cannot handle it.

I have always disliked Mint Linux... for no reason besides bias.
I have been using Linux Mint 14 on my netbook since last year and have been nothing but satisfied. This computer goes everywhere with me and handles 99% of my schoolwork.
Stop reading this and go download Mint 14! You will not regret it!

Note from last year's post: I did run into a problem installing Mint13 on an ancient Sony VIAO tower.

(Specs:1.33ghz intel celeron, 512mb pc133 ram, single 60gb pata ide drive in single disk/master configuration, old agp nvidia card 256mb vram, installing from live DVD)

At first I was I tried installing with only 128mb ram and no graphics card, just using onboard vga. The GUI installer was very slow and I ran into an install issue with the ubiquity-slideshow-mint trying to write to dconf and failing. Then I got an unexpected quit from the installer. Because the boot process into the GUI was taking ~30min each time, fixing the issue was very frustrating. I finally dug up some extra pc133 ram and bumped up to 512mb. Then i found an old PNY agp 256mb nvidia card and installed it. After some bios tweaking to get the graphics card working I made it into the GUI installer. The experience was faster but still slow due to being loaded into the RAM. I had the same crash when as soom as user info was input and the ubiquity slideshow started.

SOLVE this issue:

  • rebooted
  • opened a terminal and ran
    • sudo apt-get remove ubiquity-slideshow-mint
  • run installer
    • note that the installer will get much smaller than normal as soon as you have finished inputting the user info. You removed the slideshow that was supposed to be filling the window.
  • The install finished nicely and mint 13 runs well on the ancient terminal! There is a 2-3second lag when opening applications, but menu functions are snappy and feel great!

Crunchbang #!

After last year's post I got a few suggestions from readers. Many of the suggestions were valid in that they provided a lighter and snappier OS than Linux Mint, but they were also lacking in eyecandy, friendliness, and sometimes in functionality. There was one suggestion however that I had not run across before, Crunchbang.

Crunchbang is not for everyone. It is slightly less stable than Linux Mint, and I list it on here for people who have at least a year or two experience using a debian based OS. If you used Ubuntu for a year, you are probably fine to use Crunchbang.

One of the coolest things about Crunchbang is the minimalist design! There is no traditional menu button to pull up launchers. Instead everything is opened via the right click context menu!

After your first boot you may feel a bit lost. No menus means that you have to explore a little to find what you are looking for.
I made the mistake of not taking advantage of Crunchbang's build in installation scripts at first.

Highlighted is the install script for Chromium
By simply browsing the menu to the section on browsers you are asked if you would like to install some of the most popular names. Of course Crunchbang comes with it's default browser installed called Iceweasel. I like Google Chrome, so I installed that.

It is also noteworthy that I am writing this post as we speak. In the screenshot above you can look closely to see that I am running Google Chrome (3 tabs open and 7 extensions), KeePass2, My email client Claws Mail, and Dropbox. The processor and memory information are displayed on the screen and I am at 3% CPU & ~25% RAM. Not too shabby!

On top of all this Crunchbang is still built on top of Debian! That means you can still use all your familiar commands here, and everything will work as you would expect it to!

All in all I highly recommend taking a look at Crunchbang if you want a cool and eye catching distribution for your netbook or old laptop, but you also care about speed and comfort!

For the oldest and/or most under powered hardware

Puppy linux is my backup choice again for you this year. If your computer is so lacking in the hardware department that it cannot deal with Mint or Crunchbang, then install puppy linux.
  • Puppy is designed to be small and fast.
  • It is ~100mb and loads to the RAM for fast performance even on older machines.
  • Very, very low system requirements: 128mb ram!
  • It requires no 3d acceleration and has a debian/ubuntu compatible distribution so that you can move from ubuntu to puppy without hassle.

Puppy is less refined, but will still offer the most modern experience on aging hardware. Definitely worth a look if you are desperate to keep some old hardware running, or if you want to give light users a functional machine.

You will not be magically modernizing very ancient hardware, but it will give you functionality. You might be able to use a 15 year old tower as a word processor and basic computer for kids who do not need much more than the basics.

Runners Up:

What about those of us with awesome crossfire/sli $1600 graphics cards?

Well first off, kudos on the beefy hardware!

Many improvements have been made to the Unity desktop in Ubuntu 12.10 and I am sure that the upcoming 13.04 will feel great on your computing beast. With Ubuntu you will also have the opportunity to benefit from the upcoming Ubuntu mobile OS. This might not materialize for a while, but the development is definitely in the works over at Canonical.

Your decision as to which distribution is better, is really a matter of which camp you come down in.

For the beginner, who has no biases about unity, I suggest that you install the reigning Linux heavyweight champion; Ubuntu.
The software base for Ubuntu is very extensive and you have access to the Ubuntu software center, which is a very polished storefront!

If on the other hand you are a Gnome fan, then go with the Linux Mint 14 Cinnamon desktop. You will be able to use Ubuntu .deb packages and will still have access to the huge Ubuntu repositories. The only real difference will be the interface that you use.


I strongly recommend against trying to install Ubuntu and then manually remove the unity interface so as to replace it with Gnome. There are a few vague guides on doing it, and a few semi complete projects... but having tried several different methods I heartily recommend against it. Install Mint 14 cinnamon/mate if you want Gnome. If you are so keen to tweak your linux then install Arch and save yourself the trouble of dealing with zero documentation!

In closing:

Check out our guide to installing Linux for beginners: Getting Started With Linux

Here are a few more reviews of distributions that I tested as a result of user comments:
Some Other Linux Distros for Netbooks [April 2013]


  1. what about Pinguy? the easiest to install and run, with every linux program imaginable already installed plus it has every plugin required preinstalled and is easily the most stable as it has all that "fiddling" already done for you. Ideal for beginners or those like myself who want it to "just work"

    Its MInt on steroids

    1. Pinguy uses Gnome 3 by default, which is far too heavy to work smoothly on netbook hardware. Since this post is geared toward netbooks, I cannot recommend this OS here.

      I would be surprised if Pinguy OS was usable at all on a netbook.

      Thank you for the tip though! :)

    2. After testing, Pinguy did in fact run semi smoothly on the ASUS 1000he. There were a few hickups in the Gnome 3 featureset due to underpowered hardware, but all in all it was usable. Check out the review as well as a few others here:

    3. I run plain Debian 7 with Gnome 3 on a older acer aspire one 150 ZG5 netbook, it has 1GB RAM of which are 996MB RAM left due shared video-memory and it works great. The RAM usage when idle is around 127 - 133 MB. All the Ubuntu based distro's are using much more RAM compared to their parent distro Debian, what Ubuntu does that it's higher i don't know. People could also opt for Debian LXDE, on the same netbook after the desktop shows and when its idle it uses 83MB of RAM.

    4. Maybe I'll try out a vanilla debian install on the next iteration of this post! Thanks for the tip!

  2. i am running pinguy on my asus 1000ha netbook and it works great.Ive tried other linux distros that claim to be good on a netbook but always have some little problem.pinguy just works

    1. Interesting, I'll give it a try today on my asus 1000HE! I'll report back my experience soon :)

    2. So it turns out that I wasn't a big fan of Pinguy on the netbook... thanks for the tip though!

      You can check out the couple of new distros I tried out at:

  3. I've got Fuduntu 2013.2 installed on my MSI Wind and it is a fantastic distro with decent eye candy and is nice and speedy. Also because it is based on Fedora Core it has decent package support. It comes pre-installed with good programs and with it running a Gnome 2 based GUI i've got a good amount of workspace on the limited screen.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Fuduntu is a good option for netbooks as well, the creator of the Fedora/Ubuntu offshoot was aiming at the netbook market. I haven't had much time with Fuduntu since 2011 when it became its own independent distribution and lost all "remix" support from Fedora.

      It might be time for me to give Fuduntu another go on the old 1000HE. My biggest concern is that there is no solid plan for long term support. Since Fuduntu is now an independent distro, there is no accountability from Fedora. Basically when the designer gets bored, fuduntu will slow or stop development. That isn't really a real issue, since all things eventually lose support and die, but it has been enough to make me wary. I was honestly expecting the project to be dead by now haha!

      I'll give it another try as soon as I get enough new suggestions together to write a new post. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Mint 14 cannot be installed on an Acer Aspire One D270:

    Would you suggest installing Mint 13 or some other distro? My main concern is connecting to my office Windows server (which has a DMS system) through Remmina to work on my files. Otherwise I just use my netbook to surf the web and email.


    1. There is not big earth shattering difference between Linux Mint 13 & 14. Plus Mint 13 is a long term support release, which means it is the one they expect people to use for a few years.

      So as I understand it, the issue is (as you have probably discovered) that the GMA 3600 chipset in your netbook has no open source drivers available AND the manufacturer has not released new drivers in a while. It's pretty unlikely that a new driver will ever be released by the manufacturer. In a windows environment this is fine because the kernel rarely changes.

      The developers over at Mint have said that they hope to fix the problem in the Mint 15 version being released in May, but they have been pretty cagey about the issue. Meaning they probably have a pretty slim chance of fixing it. To do so they would need to come up with a tweaked version of the old driver or write their own from the ground up. This is hard due to the hardware level encryption used by manufacturers.

      Remmina should be available on any of the debian based distros which means that you can use any of the options I have reviewed and still install that program. But, the GMA 3600 issue will haunt you wherever you go unless a distro is using an older kernel and is compatible with the older driver.

      For simplicity sake, try Linux Mint 13 with MATE desktop. Get the cedarview-graphics-driver installed and you should be good to go. Hopefully the driver will install automatically, but I've seen a few posts which suggest you might need to install it manually from terminal.

      Remember that this is the GMA 3600 manufacturer's problem, not linux. If the manufacturer were less greedy and just open sourced their drivers after they were done developing them, you wouldn't have any problems. But, the manufacturer wants you to throw your old tech away and buy new stuff from them. So my suggestion is to stop buying from that company.

      I hope you can get something to work! If you like the netbook design and you like Linux enough to be interested in a new piece of hardware, ASUS has just released a $299 10.1" mini-notebook (cough* netbook) which is linux compatible. You are supposed to be able to buy them with Ubuntu pre installed, though I can't find the ubuntu version anywhere. I'll post a link to it in the Newegg store.

    2. Actually, I didn't understand what the problem was, as the tech jargon about "cedarview" and what-not was beyond me, so thanks very much for explaining. That's a pretty fundamental problem, an unsupported chip set. It looks like the best option, as you suggested, is to upgrade to a better netbook once I wear out this one.

      There is one Linux distro that installed perfectly: Jolicloud. Unfortunately, like you, I did not like how it's pretty much a bunch of shortcuts and how it forces me to log on every time. But I found a workaround and it will do for now.

      Thanks again.

    3. Hi, I also have an Aspire One, but it's prob'ly a newer version(A0532h). I would HIGHLY recommend a version of Puppy, or possiby try the Meego v1.2 if You can find it. Otherwise I've had good luck with "Zenwalk" and "Black Panther OS" both from ...

  5. Lubuntu requires strong GPU??? It s based on openbox just like Crunchbang!

    1. Hmmmm... Seems to me that Lubuntu is based on the LXDE desktop environment. You might be confused since LXDE (a desktop manager) uses openbox as a window manager.

      So the question is, which one probably uses less resources, Openbox alone, or Openbox and LXDE running together.

      While touted as a lightweight alternative to Ubuntu, but I have never had a good experience with Lubuntu. Lubunu was idling at ~40% cpu last time I gave it a try on my ASUS 1000HE. On an ancient sony tower with a 1ghz cpu, 256mb ram, and no graphics chipset besides VESA... crunch bang runs very nicely. Lubuntu simply cannot run. These are the types of completely unscientific tests that I use to determine the worthiness of an OS and also my opinions.

      If Lubuntu hadn't been so slow, I may have never written these posts...

  6. Thank you for your awesome advice. I suffered heavy graphic issues, since i updated easy peasy on my netbook to ubuntu 12.10 (or something like that).

    Now that I installed Mint (Mate) on my Asus eee PC 1005PE everything is fine again! Thanks dude, you are awesome.

    1. I am very glad that I was able to help you :)

  7. Replies
    1. A cool with a "K" is the coolest kind...
      Thanks for the affirmation :)

  8. hi, just to say thanks for the post. normally dnt write in forums, but your post was more helpful than any other to explain what the most suitable version is for my netbook. thank you for wrting so clearly, keep it up

    1. I am very glad to have been helpful! This is a topic that many people are confused about and I hope that the suggestions I have made work for you.

  9. What's your thoughts on joli os. Just ran across it today and thinking of trying


  10. Hi - are you using Linux Mint Debian Edition? In your review you refer to Mint 14 as being debian based - on their website it states it is ubuntu 12.10 based but they also have LMDE which is a semi-rolling release based on debian testing. I am think of Mint for my netbook as I am fed up with Ubuntu running so slow. Can you confirm if you put Mint 14 (ubuntu based) or LMDE on your asus? Thanks

    1. So the confusion here is reasonable. Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, which is based on debian. There is also a Linux Mint Debian edition like you mentioned, but thats not what I am talking about.

      Because the Linux Kernel is open source, there are many OSs built up off of it by different people and groups. For example, Debian, Fedora, and Slackware are all built off the same Linux kernel but each have very different lineages. Debian is based on the GNU packages, Fedora is based on its own RPM based packages, and slackware uses basic tarball packages. From the debian line, a branch of developers choose to modify the project and this led to the development of Ubuntu. Likewise, the Mint developers woke up one day and didn't like the way that Ubuntu was being developed so they changed it and called it mint. Of course before there was a linux kernel, there was UNIX. One day Linus Torvalds woke up and said, I can do better... and started working on the Linux kernel. The developers of freeBSD decided that UNIX was fine though, and so it is based on code developed by BSD and AT&T way back when. Now freeBSD has been forked into the popular FreeNAS distribution for NAS devices. The Linux family tree is very complex, just like a normal family tree. We just happen to use debian as a family name for some OSs, even though we could easily look into Debian's past and find predecessors.

      In the end Mint is a Debian based distribution. It is compatible with the .deb (debian) packages and software sources.

      The window managers don't really matter. Crunchbang uses the openbox window manager, but it is still Debian based. You can still use .deb packages, and the core functionality of the operating system is still the same as Debian, and ubuntu, and Mint, and a million more debian based distributions.

      Fedora and Slackware are fundamentally different. You cannot just install a .deb on those operating systems. They may have a shiny shell that looks similar to the linux distros that you are familiar with, but they are different at their hearts.

      I have used Linux Mint 14 MATE 32-bit on my ASUS 1000HE. I have also installed it on many old towers with highly variable hardware. It is my first choice for people who are using non-3D hardware AND are uncomfortable with computers. I ALWAYS suggest crunchbang as a faster alternative, but it is not as shiny as the alternative. Remember that shiny things are slow things. LM14 MATE is a great choice, but Crunchbang might be a better one if you are already familiar with the day to day workings of Ubuntu.

      I hope that this has been helpful to you, If you have any other questions please feel free to ask and I'll try to explain myself as well as possible.

      Disclaimer: (This is a brief and somewhat idealized account of real life historical events. I recognize that I didn't mention what Linus had for lunch the day he decided to start development of his new kernel... and that a few of my analogies are weak at best... please don't pull at those threads, that would be silly folks...)

  11. hi matt. im using acer aspire one built-in with windows 7 starter. i bought this last dec 2012. im planning to use linux based os on my netbook thru dual booting. what os can u suggest for me? i haven't use linux based os yet.

    1. Well the first big issue that you might have is with your cedarview chipset. There is a post several threads above yours where another guy was having trouble with the Acer Aspire One D270. You should read over what is written there...

      Here are my thoughts on dual booting.

      Don't bother dual booting.
      One OS or the other ends up getting used 100% of the time and you just miss your extra HDD space.

      If you are really serious about trying Linux, just go for it and install it alone. I suppose the only reason not to do this is because you are afraid to lose your windows key... if you just write down your Lic# from your windows genuine advantage sticker, you can reinstall any time.

      As I tell everyone, my current suggestion for a netbook is Crunchbang. If you are considering a dual boot, chances are that you are savvy enough to figure out an OS that isn't made for computer illiterates.

      Before you do any sort of full install, try booting into a live USB. That way you know if your hardware is supported fully. The system will run a little slow as a live session, but its better than wiping out your working OS and finding out that the new one is useless.

      Good luck, and post any questions you might have along the way. I'll answer as best I can and the discussion will help others as well!

    2. thanks for your reply. :)

      by the way, i already installed Joli OS on my netbook. but then you're right. there are some incompatibility occurs while i was using it. one thing i've noticed is that i cant use bluetooth. i already installed blueman but still it doesn't work. also you cannot use the joliOS if your not online. so maybe i'll just uninstall it one of this days. but i think the good thing about that is the cloud system. maybe i will try Crunchbang this time..

      again, thanks for you suggestions. well explained..


  13. Thanks for this article. One thing that constantly annoys me is that the numerous distros each with numerous flavors often fail to tell aspiring users what each version is good for. Yes, it's fine to appeal based on taste or preferences alone, but also let us know important things like "good for old 2D graphics" or "works well on 256MB RAM".

    Linux Mint comes in more and more flavors, but the website never explains which types of hardware they are best on. At least, I haven't managed to *find* those explanations when searching the site ;).

    This article is quite useful and I hope you can have the time and desire to update it further each year or so. Thanks again.

    1. That's the plan... this is the second year and there have been two posts so far... feel free to check out the follow up to this post linked at the bottom of the article.

  14. to everyone:

    i came across with this thread were bunch of problems installing linux based os with acer d270. xubuntu 13.04 is finally have the stable and fix the problem regarding videos...

    please try to read the thread before doing so.

    1. This is a great tip for readers who own an Acer D270...
      I don't own this hardware... thanks for the tip though!

  15. Hey Matt! Thank you for this article! It was great, specially to me that also have 1000HE. I was using Ubuntu 12.04 with Gnome fallback but I did a stupid thing and updated it with 13.04...

    I´ve been play for a while with linux so I want to try diferent distros. I will go with your recomendation of Mint with Mate. I just went on their site to download it and I saw that they release a new version Mint 15 "Olivia". Have you tried it already? Is it still the best option for the 1000HE?

    Thank you again!

    1. I haven't had time to try out Mint 15, I've been pretty busy at work and the free time needed to test new distros just hasn't been there.

      My current recommendation is of course Crunchbang, but if you reallllllllly don't want to stop using the ubuntu styled stuff (ie. mint), then just try out mint with MATE. the newest edition will probably work just fine. The 13>14 upgrade didn't cause any problems for me.

  16. How about a Lubutun 11.10. I had read some where that the lightest distro linux and best fix with netbook, so can not see it to download

    1. Lubuntu is based on LXDE. It has always been touted as a lightweight desktop alternative to ubuntu and even XFCE based xubuntu or KDE based Kubuntu.

      I have never had a good experience with these distributions on my old hardware or my underpowered netbook.

      That is the very reason that I wrote this post.

      I do NOT recommend lubuntu, xubuntu, kubuntu, or ubnutu...

      I DO recommend Crunchbang and Linux Mint 14 MATE...

  17. Awefome :D.

    At last I found someone who agrees that lubuntu, xubuntu are NOT light weight.I've been trying different linux distros for a while. All the comparisons I encountered on google were done on i3s or a dual core >2Ghz processors, thus making them useless. I am using P4 1.8ghz with 2GB ram for my best os hunt and have found Windows XP to be fastest. I was really looking forward to linux distros, but they all seem forced quick snappy interface as when I run browser and use only facebook, cpu hits 100% with a very laggy experience. I want this pc to use as a basic internet computer (no office needed).
    Windows XP seems Ok. As far as I've noticed Windows XP is considered slow beacuse of its feasibility to install softwares. One can easily install all the bolt-ware and thus, ends up with a slow OS. My super well maintained XP runs snappy but even this lags on facebook.

    Till Joli OS have been able to give me a lag free facebook interface. (the trick I never logged into Joli, connected to internet and used only browser). But after I logged in, it crawls.

    I am in great confusion, how can my smart-phone(android 4.0) single core 1Ghz with 512 mb ram can run facebook effortless and my pc with 1.8ghz with 2GB can not. I know, their architectures are ways apart but still. My phone can even play 720p vids while my pc can't. ( I guess this has do with GPU, my phone contains Adreno 205). So I am thinking to install Android OS on my pc. though I highly doubt if it will be any useful.

    So which OS you recommend. I will try out Crunchbang. Any other suggestions. ( and no to puppy, macpup etc. type ugly looking distros.)

    1. You have hit the nail on the head. Your computer has no GPU and will therefore be incapable of flashy eyecandy. Your phone has tailored software made for that hardware. If you want to decode high def video or render loads of cool looking desktop windows and desktop layers, then you need to have a GPU.

      I agree that Windows XP can be a fast and effective OS. Especially when it is running on the P4 architecture. The biggest bloat is the SP3 upgrade to XP. I have found that XP-SP2 installs and runs very speedily on my atom n280 with 2gb ram. However, when I upgrade to SP3, the OS boggs and I find myself frustrated.

      I recommend Crunchbang. Linux MINT will be a bit more exciting to look at, but you will be a little slower than Crunchbang. Otherwise I believe that you will be happier with your good old WinXP-sp2...

      The nice part about moving to Linux is that you no longer have to deal with trying to get your old Windows keys to work, or screwing around with WGA crackers that never work reliably.

      The big takeaway here is that if you aren't satisfied with either Crunchbang or Linux Mint MATE, then you probably just aren't interested in linux...

    2. Alright! I am currently downloading Crunchbag. I don't know why but Linux mint does not look exciting, at least to me whereas Crunchbag looks beautiful with its clean looks. I prefer nothing on my desktop, not even task-bar ( auto-hide).

      I think I will purchase a cheap GPU for playing 720p videos.But the facebook problem still remains, is it that my chip is so weak that it can't handle facebook. Will buying a GPU help me with smoother fb experience as it would be rendering all the pics.

      I am intrested in facilities linux can provide, but I have found no os which is taking a 100% profit of Open-Source. There is no os ( not even windows) which provides me efficient work. I also have an AMB Athlon II P360 laptop which I use as my main machine. I am using Windows 7 on it, and it does not feel home. I went over to linux, because of I read "higly customizable" but its rather a pain.

      Problems I faced turning to Linux.
      1. lots of Linux distros ( though its an advantage but for first time Linux user, its a pain.)
      2. software installation (no double click, I have to use software center thing.)
      3. I have a higly unstable 3.1mbps internet connection thus downloading softwares with no resume capability sucks and no offline installers.

      As in all I am still interested in Linux. Maybe in future I will create an OS on Linux kernel. As for now, my hunt for perfect os continues.

    3. Downloaded #!. Just ran a live session, it sure is fast and neat. Yup you were right it is not that good looking but it isn't bad either rather its awesome. So how do I dual boot #! with XP.

      And if I were to choose between EasyPeasy and Linux Mint which requires lower resources.

    4. Lets break this down question by question:

      1.) Will buying a GPU help me with smoother fb experience as it would be rendering all the pics.
      A1.) In reality it is probably not facebook that is causing your issue. You are probably being bogged down by your browser's render engine. A GPU will help to speed up rendering by providing rendering engines with more resources to work with. You can also try using a different browser. Firefox is pretty heavy these days, as are the firefox derivatives. I use Chromium on my netbook.

      2.) I went over to linux, because of I read "higly customizable" but its rather a pain.
      A2.) This isn't really a question, but it is true. Crunchbang is especially customizable since the openbox window manager uses easily edited xml files. You have to learn how to edit the code in those files to do anything useful, but this is a feature that Windows and OSx have and will never offer. Good things come to those who work for them.

      3.) lots of Linux distros ( though its an advantage but for first time Linux user, its a pain.)
      3A.) There are a lot of distributions out there, but posts on various blogs like this one are out there and easily searchable to find the info that first time users need.

    5. 4.) software installation (no double click, I have to use software center thing.)
      4A.) This is untrue. There are many ways to install software in a debian environment. First, you can use the "software center", many of these are proprietary designs created for new users. Second, you can use the old but very functional "synaptic package manager" this is the software center that existed before ubuntu designed the software center and everyone else copied them. Third, you can "double click" install any .deb file. Debian uses (.deb) packages to install applications just like windows uses .exe or .msi or .bin. (.deb) files can be installed through the software center or through the GDebi package installer. This option will feel the most like windows. Remember that Windows doesn't have double click install either. All of their software is packaged inside installer software like .exe or .msi. You are just used to windows because you have used it for a very long time. Fourth, many programs in linux can be installed from the command line. This is how almost everyone eventually manages their software on linux. In a terminal one simply types "sudo apt-get install some program". The program then downloads and installs. You can also install pre-downloaded packages from the command line. Lastly, many programs don't need to be installed at all. Many are designed to run portably in Python or some other language. Windows has many thousands of programs like this as well. To run them in linux most people type in a terminal command or create a launcher. So remember, linux has far more options than Windows, many of which are just as easy as a double click. The biggest setback is that people are trained to know Windows environments and the windows way of doing things. If you went to England would you complain about driving on the left side of the road? Nope, thats just how things are done there. It isn't worse, just different.

      5.) I have a higly unstable 3.1mbps internet connection thus downloading softwares with no resume capability sucks and no offline installers.
      5A.) Software resume is a feature built into browsers or installed separately as a download manager. This software exists in linux. A cursory google search for "linux download manager" yields a wealth of great options. The very top result is a page talking about Fatrat download manager which gives simple step by step installation instructions using command line. The second result is a blog post like this one comparing six different DL managers. The info is out there and windows does not offer download resume out of the box either.

      6.) So how do I dual boot #! with XP
      6A.) The easiest way is to install windows. Then shrink the windows partition to make room for linux. Lastly, install linux in that free area and allow GRUB to manage the boot sequence when prompted at the end of installation. You will then be greeted by a selection when your computer powers on.

      7.) And if I were to choose between EasyPeasy and Linux Mint which requires lower resources.
      7A.) I think that more people have a better experience with Linux Mint. I also think that you will be more pleased with the user interface having come from windows.

  18. Hello, there. My name is Mario. Your post is very interesting...

    I have a hp mini 110-1020la.
    2 GB RAM.
    Procesor Intel Atom N270 to 1.60 GHz.
    Intel GMA 950 video card.

    A) It works "well" with Windows XP SP3, but i am thinking to migrate to Windows 7. I´ve heard that W7 works well in netbooks, but i have my doubts. I just don´t want to have slow performance or heating problems. Do you think that it is a good idea to migrate? What can you recommend me?

    B) Besides of WXP, i have Fuduntu installed on it. I am not that happy with Fuduntu, but it works well in my mini. The thing is Fuduntu is going to end in a few months. I tried Joli OS but i had problems with the video card. Do you think that it is a good idea to install Linux Mint 13 Mate? 2 years ago, i remember that i installed Linux Mint 12, but i had to remove it because the netbook used to heat up very fast. Should i try with Easy Peasy? What can you suggest me?

    Thank you for your help.

    1. Hey Mario,

      Like I said in the post, I recommend Crunchbang. Especially since you have prior linux experience. I wouldn't waste my time on any other distro. Try out crunchbang. You shouldn't experience high CPU load on an N270, therefore you shouldn't overheat. Openbox window manager is pretty low impact so you shouldnt have any issues with video drivers. The Intel GMA 950 does not support 3d graphics on linux due to Intel's refusal to release a driver. The only driver that they have released is a 2d version. That driver is plenty to run openbox based distributions like Crunchbang.

      Windows 7 constantly soaks up CPU/RAM in my experience. It starts out pretty light, but requires a lot of maintenance to keep it that way. The recent service packs and updates have caused a bit of code bloat too... if I were going to install a "light" windows, I'd go for 8. Win8 is designed to run on low end tablet hardware, essentially the same low power guts as netbooks. Microsoft has made some pretty bold claims about minimum system reqs for windows 8. It might be worth your time.

      Remember that when you are experiencing heating issues, you should be mindful of the system load. If you have a program running that sucks up CPU cycles like a black hole, chances are that it will cause issues on any platform. One such example is dropbox when it is starting up and indexing your files. Dropbox maxes out my Atom CPU in Crunchbang and my desktop AMD Quad Core running Windows 7 or Ubuntu...

      The moral of the story is to tune your netbook in order to maximize functionality. There are no magic pills for diets, making money, or speeding up underpowered hardware. Your netbook can only do just so much, once you learn to work within those limits you will find yourself experiencing fewer problems with any given OS.

  19. Mint 13 Mate, seems to be the edition to go with because of the long term support. Assuming that your old hardware can survive until 2017? Mint 15 no longer fits with our low spec requirements, as it requires PAE support. If you try to install this version you'll just get a "Your CPU is not suitable" error. Thanks. Great, knowledgeable article. I'm off to try Crunchbang.

    1. Good info! I haven't tried mint 15 yet... this is important information for the people reading this post and looking at the Mint web page.

  20. Try PCLinuxOS It works beautifully in my netbook
    I have an HP Mini 1110Nr and it will not run win xp or 7. It just doesn't have the hardware to handle them at a reasonable speed (unless you enjoy 5 minute bootups!!)
    I tried Linux Mint 14 in it an was not able to connect to the internet. It did not detect or install my wifi card. Since my netbook only has wifi and no ethernet connection it was useless.
    However PCLinuxOS installed and the wifi was working perfectly from the very beginning.
    It works amazingly well. My crummy netbook now runs as if it was a decent desktop PC.

    1. Thanks! Based on its specs, PCLinuxOS may turn out to be a great option. I will put it on the list of distributions to test and include it in the next post.

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  23. I like Mint 13 as well and use it on my Media Player PC, I have use Mint since version 9 on this PC. I have also been using recently a similar distro called SolydX on my MSI U100 netbook. SolydX is a debian XFCE distro using some configuration tools from Mint/Ubuntu and is a complete rolling distro, so no more upgrade installations are required. I found it to stable and quite quick on my netbook, where I found Mint 13 a little heavy, although it did work well. I will also try your suggestion of #! on this netbook when I have a chance to see how it compares

    1. Sounds like a good tip for people to try, but since it is XFCE or KDE based I probably won't review it.

      I don't doubt that you find it to be functional, but another debian+xfce/kde distribution is not going to be much better or worse than any of the ten million other debian+xfce/kde distributions.

      Thank you for the information though.

  24. I came across this really interesting blog whilst trying to solve the problem of my netbook always overheating (after just a few mins of video playback usually). Now beyond having heard of Linux I no nothing beyond the world of windows but I am curious to learn more especially if it will make this netbook more usable again.
    So I have a few questions, if they are too basic then don't worry I'll try and educate myself more!
    So the main question is would changing OS make a difference to the overheating problem?
    And if it would help, what happens when I change operating systems? How do I continue to use the software I have installed in the netbook, does it work without windows and in the future can I still buy and install windows based software or do I have to find a linux equivalent? Thanks in advance if you can help at all!

    1. Q1) Would changing OS make a difference to the overheating problem?
      A1) Yes! Assuming that the overheating is a product of high CPU usage. You should be able to find a lighter version of linux that utilizes less CPU and therefore creates less heat.

      Q2) What happens when I change operating systems?
      A2) You already know that there is a difference between Microsoft Windows and Apple OSX... Linux is a third type of operating system.

      Q3) How do I continue to use the software I have installed in the netbook?
      A3) You do not. Your windows software is not compatible with linux. They basically speak different computer languages.

      Q4) Does it work without Windows?
      A4) I am writing this post from a computer running Linux... seems to work well enough to me!

      Q5) In the future can I still buy and install windows based software?
      A5) Nope.

      Q6) Do I have to find a linux equivalent (to windows software)?
      A6) Yes you need to find alternatives. Many linux distributions use a common software center which works just like the apple app store or android marketplace. Generally you can find cross-platform software or viable alternatives. For example the popular media player VLC has a linux version, so that is easy. Microsoft Office (Word/Excel/Powerpoint) is proprietary however and has no linux version. Therefore you have to use an alternative like Libre Office which can read and write any of the microsoft office formats.

  25. Matt, thanks ever so much for that. I've been watching the temps on my netbook this week and it seems to idle around 55 degrees and then will go up to 75-80 after a few minutes of Skype or Youtube.
    I'm tempted to give it a try, would you recommend Mint then for me?
    Presumably if I back everything up properly I can revert back to Vista?
    The only thing I can think of that could be a problem would be Skype, is there a way around this?

    1. Q1) ...seems to idle around 55 degrees and then will go up to 75-80 after a few minutes of Skype or Youtube.
      A1) This is normal for a netbook. Skype and youtube are very video decoding intensive tasks. Since the hardware offloads much of that processing onto the CPU, the temperatures will skyrocket. Many netbooks have trouble even playing youtube. The hardware is not really able to keep up with skype or video decoding these days. Do not expect any OS to solve this problem. "Software Bloat" or "Software Creep" is the problem here. Software becomes more and more complex and resource intensive as time goes on. Your computer stays the same though. This means that you will inevitably run out of overhead on your hardware and eventually be required to buy something new. I always tell people that their netbooks are useless for any form of video decoding. Individual experiences may vary, but it is a solid rule.

      Q2) would you recommend Mint then for me?
      A2) Yes. I recommend mint 14 MATE in this post, but I have been getting reports from users that it has a few graphics chipset issues. If you use mint, try 13 MATE rather than 14. Version 13 is the long term support release.

      Q3) Presumably if I back everything up properly I can revert back to Vista?
      A3) Presumably yes... assuming that you know what you are doing, it is possible to create a restore point disk in windows. You would then use your Windows Vista install disk to install Vista. Input your Windows Genuine Advantage License Key that came with the netbook. And restore the previous data from a restore disk. That's what I think of when I read the word "revert". You can also just install Mint along side Windows if your hard drive is big enough. That option is part of the Mint install wizard. Your best bet is to simply backup your data off site. Why not just use dropbox to manage all of your documents and pictures. Then you just hold onto the license keys for all your software in evernote. That way is a meteor crashes through your roof and demolishes your computer, all you have to do is buy a new computer and restore your data from the cloud. These services are free... there is no reason to not do this...

      Q4) The only thing I can think of that could be a problem would be Skype, is there a way around this?
      A4) I am not 100% sure what problem you have in mind so I'll address the few I can think of. First, skype is a video decoding program. This means that it will be CPU intensive on a netbook under any OS. Second, skype is cross platform. This means that it is available on just about every OS that you can think of. Third, you have video driver issues and the camera/monitor doesn't work. Some manufacturers are paid huge sums of money by microsoft and apple in order to use their proprietary drivers. This means that linux users are out of luck when it comes to certain chipsets. Unless you feel like paying millions of dollars to get your hands on hardware encryption keys from the manufacturer.

      Since you are using Skype and Youtube as your example of normal use, I have a hard time justifying the switch to Linux. You wont really see a dramatic improvement over vista in those areas. Even if you put a formula one driver into a go-cart, the thing can only go just so fast.

      I am going to say that your case is one where its probably time for new hardware. Then you can wipe the netbook and install linux for fun. If on the other hand you wanted to use the netbook for emails, pdfs, internet radio, word processing, facebook, blogging, etc., etc. Then I would have much more enthusiasm for you. I just feel like you might be expecting more from the poor little netbook than it can offer, and I don't want to create false expectations.

      I hope that helps.

  26. Hi , I have a Gateway LT4010U which came with windows 7 Starter. I dual installed Linux Mint 13 and it runs very fast. So far had no problems with it. Matt you have great information here for everybody . Great Job!!

    1. Thanks anonymous comments dude! I love it when a random comment is a compliment rather than an attack!

      Kudos on the dual boot :) sounds like you know your stuff!

  27. Its a great site! How about mentioning YUMI - a way to install any type of Linux onto usb and boot from it..?
    I will take the plunge and install Linux 15 mate onto USB and run from my Toshiba 2 gig 1.6 Atom netbook

    Thanks for a cool site!

  28. Is Linux Mint 15 Mate still a good choice for netbooks? I own a ASUS R105D. At the moment I'm using XP, but it is sometime slow. Will Linux Mint 15 Mate have a better performance?

    1. Oh, I realized that Mint 15 will only be supported until next january. So I think it will be more useful to install 13. My first thought was that newer version will be better.

    2. I agree that using the LTS (long term support) version will be a better choice in the long run. Mint 13 may or may not be faster than XP. XP can be really quick if you configure it correctly. The decision to switch is usually motivated by acknowledgement of the fact that you have stopped using your device because whatever is running on it right now is no longer functional or convenient. With that in mind I absolutely recommend trying linux, if for no other reason than that it is completely free to do so.

  29. Thank you so much for this. I haven't touched my netbook (Acer AOA-150) in months. I had even stolen the hard drive out of it and recently put a random drive I had laying around in it. I installed Linux Mint Cinnamon and it was unusable. I just figured I had forgotten how slow it was. Rebooted in MATE and it's like a new PC. For the last two days I have sat on my couch with the Reditr Chrome app and its wonderful. You brought my good old lappy back to life!

    1. I am glad that I was able to help you find the information that you needed!

  30. hi my name is shaamil.
    I would be a real newbie to linux. I have a medion akoya with 2gig memory, and a ati radeon x1250 . what would u suggest I use.

  31. I have one of the original Asus Eee PC with a 4 GB drive. Which distro would you recommend for it? I use it mostly as a remote control for a home theater PC (using VNC) but I also want to do internet searches. I've tried Easy Peasy from the USB drive and I like the interface but it seems to take a while to boot. (Would it be faster when installed?) Also, it makes me log in with username and password every time it awakes from sleep and I don't need that level of security for my application.

    1. Any and all linux distributions will boot quickly once installed to the hard drive. 4gb is tiny! I was unaware that such a tiny drive had ever been built in the 2.5" format. Or at least in the era of the eeepc.

      Anyway, you want something nice and light and small. I think easy peasy will fit on that drive and run decently. If you experience speed issues, try crunchbang. Crunchbang is the one I run on my 1000HE, it works great. If your tiny drive turns out to be an issue, you might need to run puppy linux. It wont look as pretty, but it will be completely functional on that old netbook.

    2. Hey there. I had the eeepc 701SH model (perhaps the 2nd or 3rd model ever to come out). It has a 4GB solid state onboard (soldered on) but I have a 32GB SD card constantly inserted as my hard drive for chucking my files onto...haha. I upgraded the ram to 2GB and found that running Xubuntu on it to be highly successful and lightweight. The 7" screen can be a challenge but it's tiny and light and for a long term traveller it suits me perfect (except for the battery life since it's pre-atom). Anyway, just thought I'd chime in. Thanks for the post by the way.

  32. What about the duration of the battery charge?

    My laptop is not that old, and is powerful (Acer Aspire 5551: AMD Turion II x2, 4GB RAM, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250). I can safely play Call of Duty 4. But for that I use Windows.

    For my work, I need mobility and battery life. In Windows 7 the battery lasts about 3h30m. In Ubuntu 13.04 and Kubuntu 13.04, lasts approximately 1h45m.

    I do not care the look-n-feel. In my house, I develop software on this laptop in Linux, but I have to leave it plugged into the mains. When I have to go to show my development to my clients, I have to do in Windows 7.

    Do any of the distros you recommend extend the duration of the battery?

    Thank you. I chinox from my iLinux.

    1. Sorry the signature is

      "Thank you. I'm Chinox. Sent from my iLinux" ;D

    2. There is a bit of a misnomer about linux regarding its ability to extend battery life.

      In most cases the battery life on linux will be equivalent to windows, or worse. This is due to the proprietary nature of hardware drivers, specifically those regarding power management.

      I tend to get good battery life with Crunchbang, most likely due to its low hardware requirements. Since it does not use hardware acceleration I dont have to waste power on the graphics chip running constantly. Same goes for the cpu. I also use a low power ssd, but that is not a boost that linux has provided.

      In short, unless you can convince hardware manufacturers to make their drivers opensource, then linux will always fall short in these areas.

      Linux is not for everyone, and as this post was aimed at the netbook crowd, I have to conclude that you may not need my advice here. Try out crunchbang and see if that works for you, but as I said... there is no magic fix for your specific issue.

  33. Hello, I have read your article and it very informative however since it was written in early 2013 things may have changed. I am using an Acer Aspire One D270. I am completely new to Linux and want to give it a try because Windows 7 Starter is painful to use. What would you suggest I use for the best overall performance and speed? I don't need too many features because all I will be doing is typing documents and using the web. Do you still suggest the latest CrunchBang or possibly some version of Linux Mint?

    1. I still happily recommend crunchbang. It will be the most satisfying experience.

      Linux mint 13 MATE is still a good choice too, but it is ever so slightly heavier than crunchbang.

  34. so helpfull and so respecting this post as a beginner i would like to learn much more from you.

  35. Slitaz is the best choice. Lightweight only 35 megabytes and simply to install !

    1. I'll add this to the list for next year's update to this post! Thank you for the tip!

  36. HOLY FUCK THANK YOU!! i have a terrible onboard video card. ive tried fedora, ubuntu, kde plasma (god why), opensuse. all the while trying to figure out wth is going on. i eventually came to the gut conclusion that gfx acceleration was the issue. thank you SO much for pointing out that mate is 2d. i had given up.

  37. A note on Puppy:

    I run Puppy 4.31 on an ancient (2005) Fujitsu Lifebook p2110, passed along by a friend who upgraded.. It's *low* end hardware: an 867mhz Transmeta Crusoe CPU, 40GB IDE4 HD, ATI Rage Mobility onboard graphics with 8MB video RAM, and a whopping 256MB of RAM, of which the CPU grabs 16MB off the top for code morphing. It came with WinXP SP2 and was frozen snail slow.

    I reformatted and partitioned, and installed Win2K Pro SP4, Ubuntu, Puppy, and FreeDOS. Ubuntu and Puppy are on ext4 file systems, and mount each other's slices. I found an open source driver that lets Win2K see, reab, and write to the Linux file systems.

    Puppy is intended for low end hardware and is reasonably sprightly, but has quirks. The biggest is that it is explicitly single-user, and you are *always* running as root. (In fact, Puppy's creator ripped out the infrastructure that you let you *create* other users.) Some apps don't want to run as root, and will complains. It's non-standard in a few other ways as well. If you are coming to Puppy from other distros, there will be a learning curve because of the differences. If Puppy is the first Linux system you are using, you need to be aware it *is* different, and a lot of what you'll do on Puppy isn't applicable elsewhere.

    The biggest problem I have with it is dependency management. Ubuntu spoils you: select a package in apt-get, and the package manager examines your system, notes what you have, and adds any dependencies you don't have to the download so stuff Just Works. Puppy is nowhere near as well developed, and finding and installing dependencies may be a challenge. (Current Puppy variants that can use Debian and Slackware distros help, but don't cure the problem.)

    I first installed Xubuntu alongside Puppy, but while it installed and ran, it was too slow. Ubuntu forum posters suggested what I did: wipe and re-install from the Minimal CD to get a working CLI installation. them use apt-get to grab what I wanted. Selecting XFCE4 brought along and friends, and things were much better. These days I run LXDE.

    The biggest issue here after low RAM is slow HD. IDE4 is a BIOS limitation, so swapping in a faster drive isn't an option. Large apps take some time to load and instantiate. (I don't even try to run a current Firefox.) Using an ext4 filesystem helps, as extents provide better performance on sustained reads/writes.

    Puppy is more sprightly overall, in part because the bundled apps are chosen for small size. Ubuntu is slower, but not a lot.

    And Ubuntu just tossed me a curve - trying to upgrade from 12.04 LTS to 12.10 failed. 12.10 bundles a kernel that requires PAE support, and the Lifebook lacks it, so installation of the new kernel failed and things were haywire on reboot because of it. I wound up wiping and reinstalling from an 11.10 Minimal CD and upgrading back to 12.04, then staying put.

    The Lifebook with either Puppy or Ubuntu is no speed demon, but is usable as long as you don't expect miracles. I didn't, and it's mostly a test bed to see what I can wring out of old hardware, so I'm happy enough.

    1. You have said may things here. I agree with pretty much everything you have said about puppy.

      I would like to point out that Ubuntu runs well on your lifebook due to the ATI onboard graphics. I know that the chipset it ancient slow and puny compared to modern equivalents, however most netbooks don't even have that. This puts the entire graphics processing load onto the CPU and essentially ruins the user experience.

      Dont get me wrong, I love Ubuntu, but for older machines without a GPU or dedicated graphics chipset, or for netbooks which inherently lack both... I still recommend a lighter window manager than Ubuntu currently supplies.

      It seems to me that what you have going works well for you though! Congrats on keeping that lifebook alive! My circa 2005 dell laptop just bit the dust last year due to a mobo failure.

    2. Hola, tengo un acs elitegroup 900a del año 1999 con cpu transmeta crusoe y 256 Mb maximo de ram, HD de 20Gb y después de muchas pruebas con lo que mejor funciona es con Boddy linux (bonita y funcional) o con Puppy y sus deribados como Upup para los que siguen Ubuntu (bonita y muy funcional).

    3. Hola amigo! Yo no hablo espanol... :(

  38. Hi Matt,
    I'm sorry if you mentioned before and I didn't see it, but what about peppermint? Have you tried it? I don't own a netbook, but I run it on a 11 year-old dell pc, and it's smooth as a baby's ass, plus it is cloud oriented, which I believe to be specially useful on netbooks.
    Anyways, cheers Mate, kool tutorial.

  39. Thanks for the workup. Mint 13 works very well on my Asus 1005HA and required very little modification. I am now using it as a htpc running XBMC, MiniTube, MPD Server, Bluetooth Reciver for file access to a remote Ampache, PLEX Media Server. And it all seems to just work including the function shortcut or media keys. The only limitation I have found is large 1080 .mkv videos are sketchy outside of PLEX. Over all very happy to be able to run this netbook too the ground. :)

  40. Hi Matt,
    What distro would you recommend for a Sony Vaio VPCM13M1E Netbook?

    I tried a lot of the existing distros but with no luck. It's slow anyway.

    Thanks in advance. Best Regards, Ionut

    1. Try crunchbang!

      Should be a nice smooth experience

  41. Here are the results of my tests:

    hardware: Gateway netbook, CPU - N450 (1.66GHz), 1GB RAM, 1024x600

    Reference OS:

    Windows 7 starter edition (installed on HDD), set to "optimized for speed" (i.e. looks like Win95)
    startup time: 1:15
    startup + opening browser (Chrome): 1:50
    shutdown time: 0:20
    RAM usage: 480MB
    Youtube playback: 240p
    apperance (my rating 1(worst)..5(best)): 1


    Linux distributions booted from Live USB:

    -- Sebayon Linux
    startup time: 1:20
    startup + opening browser: 1:25
    shutdown time: 0:00
    problems: sound needs setup
    apperance: 5
    Distribution: Arch (Gentoo)
    Rolling release: Yes
    Youtube playback: yes, 320p
    RAM usage: 203MB

    -- Zorin OS
    startup time: 1:20
    startup + opening browser: 1:25
    shutdown time: 0:15
    pros: close to what's needed out of the box
    apperance: 4
    Distribution: Ubunto
    Youtube playback: yes, 320p
    RAM usage: 131MB

    -- Bodhi
    startup time: 1:20
    startup + opening browser: 1:25
    shutdown time: 0:05
    problems: no auto discovery for WLAN networks.
    apperance: 5
    Distribution: Ubunto
    Youtube playback: not out of the box (needs installation), 320p
    RAM usage: 159MB (110MB in Laptop / Netbook mode)

    -- Slax
    startup time: 1:50
    startup + opening browser: 2:20
    shutdown time: 0:57
    apperance: 5
    Distribution: Slackware
    Youtube playback: yes, 320p (not quite smooth)
    RAM usage: 205MB

    -- Puppy Linux
    startup time: 1:10
    shutdown time: 0:05
    problems: display resolution 1024x600 not supported properly. Cannot set WiFi.
    apperance: 4
    Distribution: lupu (Ubuntu)
    RAM usage: 60MB

    -- Mint 15 Xfce 32bit
    startup time: 2:37
    startup + opening browser: 2:48
    shutdown time: 0:06
    problems: scrolling by using 2 fingers on touch pad is a bit unstable, slow startup probably due to looking for networks
    apperance: 5
    Distribution: Ubuntu
    Youtube playback: yes, 320p
    RAM usage: 154MB (171MB with background image)

    -- Simplicity Linux (Netbook 13.10)
    startup time: 1:10
    problems: cannot exit (with or without save). Second time it does not start from USB.
    apperance: 3..4
    Distribution: Puppy Linux
    Youtube playback: yes, 320p
    RAM usage: 79MB

    -- WattOS
    startup time: 1:20 (excluding user / password entry)
    startup + opening browser: 1:26
    shutdown time: 0:05
    cons: requires some settings on keyboard / touchpad to get what I want
    apperance: 5
    Distribution: Ubunto
    Youtube playback: yes, 320p
    RAM usage: 134MB .. 154MB

    -- Vector Linux (Lite)
    problems: cannot run (maybe problem with Live Creator)

    -- Elementary OS
    problems: cannot run (maybe problem with Live Creator)

  42. Thanks!

    made a typo on the above post - 320p is actually 360p.

    to wrap it up:

    Mint Mate - 216MB, 360p

    Watt OS LXDE - 106MB (plays 480p youtube video)

    Watt OS Microwatt - 87MB (problem with browser working out of the box)

    Crunchbang - 98MB (using free -m from terminal), not quite smooth 480p playback.

    Lubuntu - 102MB, 480p (start up time from USB live 4min 30sec ?)

    Manjaro Xfce - 333MB, 240p

    Manjaro OpenBox - 173MB, 360p (480p almost OK)

    Linux Lite - 153MB, Chrome not working well

    Simplicity Linux - 380MB, problem with browser

    Chromium OS (free version, not from Google) - very slow, 240p youtube playback

    Saline OS and Antergos Linux did not start from USB.

    bottom line:
    any version bellow 200MB ram usage is OK for 360p youtube playback and works OK for me.

    versions with ~100MB RAM usage can squeeze 480p from youtube, and they still look OK.

    start up time is about the same ~1:10 .. 1:30 with few exceptions.

    Final choice for me:
    Watt OS Mate ( couldn't resist the eye candies (BlackMate) :)
    start up time remain about the same 1min 0sec excluding the login time.

    Running very smoothly after the following issues:

    - automatic installation hang up (windows installation had 3 partitions so maybe that confused it). Had to go manual and create "/" and "swap" - relatively easy to do.

    - had to reload the Lubuntu software center using the synaptic package manager. It kept giving me errors that it cannot find a website. I think I had disabled software updates during installation, and probably this created the issue.

    - skype installed from Skype web site (not in software center app list)

    Very happy with my choice so far.


  43. Hi Matt
    Really good article. very helpful,I know you are mainly talking about netbooks, but for my old desktop with chrome-via-graphics vm800 chip, mate is a fantastic choice. Also Zorin-lite takes some beating.

  44. One of the better Linux articles I've read in a while - exactly addresses issues I've spoken to with people who got into the netbook craze a little too early ;-) I'll also tip my hat in and mention PCLinuxOS and Vector perform extremely well on many computers I've tried. I look forward to benching them against crunchbang and Mint Mate Edition.

    1. Thanks :) glad that you enjoyed the article... I'll be writing this year's version shortly I'm sure!

  45. I tried installing crunchbang and the latest mint mate, but neither succeeded...

    1. If you give me specifics, I can attempt to help you... there are many reasons that an OS fails to install... many many many reasons...

  46. I really liked your blog! Thanks for the marvelous posting!

    1. Thank you :) I am glad that you found it helpful.

  47. A little problem, ANY distro you use, when on the internet it uses a lot of RAM 100-200 mb, so it doesn't matter. If using distro only for typing or movies ok, but.... that's the today problem: internet sites uses much resources flash, etc... so... we must chage the hardware (i don't like this also)....... :-(

    1. To a certain extent this is true, the main laptop I use is an old dell d505 with an intel 855GME chip and 512mb ram. It runs crunchbang like a dream, and plays youtube videos no problem. It isn't the fastest machine on earth, but it continues to function well if the weight of a bulky OS is not holding it back by hogging resources.

      Eventually yes, you will need to upgrade hardware. The required time frame for this change, however, is not nearly as rapid as most people assert. You can happily use old hardware for years after it has become outmoded. The way that your browser handles resources is much more important than the way that the internet is coded. Most sites and most browsers don't care about conserving resources because users are constantly upgrading their hardware.

      If you choose the right software, you can spread your hardware resources farther.

  48. First, my specs

    inxi -Fxz
    System: Host: biker-laptop Kernel: 3.0.0-23-generic i686 (32 bit, gcc: 4.4.3)
    Desktop: Gnome 2.30.2 (Gtk 2.20.1-0ubuntu2.1) Distro: Ubuntu 10.04 lucid
    Machine: System: Acer (portable) product: AOA150 version: 1
    Mobo: Acer model: N/A Bios: Acer version: v0.3310 date: 10/06/2008
    CPU: Single core Intel Atom CPU N270 (-HT-) cache: 512 KB flags: (pae sse sse2 sse3 ssse3) bmips: 3191.86
    Clock Speeds: 1: 1600.00 MHz 2: 800.00 MHz
    Graphics: Card: Intel Mobile 945GME Express Integrated Graphics Controller bus-ID: 00:02.0
    X.Org: 1.7.6 drivers: intel (unloaded: fbdev,vesa) Resolution: 1024x600@60.0hz
    GLX Renderer: Mesa DRI Intel 945GME GEM 20091221 2009Q4 x86/MMX/SSE2 GLX Version: 1.4 Mesa 7.7.1 Direct Rendering: Yes
    Audio: Card: Intel N10/ICH 7 Family High Definition Audio Controller driver: HDA Intel bus-ID: 00:1b.0
    Sound: Advanced Linux Sound Architecture ver: 1.0.24
    Network: Card-1: Atheros AR5001 Wireless Network Adapter driver: ath5k bus-ID: 03:00.0
    IF: wlan0 state: up mac:
    Card-2: Realtek RTL8101E/RTL8102E PCI Express Fast Ethernet controller
    driver: r8169 ver: 2.3LK-NAPI port: 3000 bus-ID: 02:00.0
    IF: eth0 state: down mac:
    Drives: HDD Total Size: 160.0GB (8.8% used) 1: id: /dev/sda model: WDC_WD1600BEVT size: 160.0GB
    Partition: ID: / size: 7.1G used: 2.9G (44%) fs: ext4 ID: /home size: 25G used: 11G (45%) fs: ext4
    ID: swap-1 size: 2.11GB used: 0.00GB (0%) fs: swap
    RAID: No RAID devices detected - /proc/mdstat and md_mod kernel raid module present
    Sensors: System Temperatures: cpu: 54.0C mobo: N/A
    Fan Speeds (in rpm): cpu: N/A
    Info: Processes: 146 Uptime: 9 min Memory: 358.4/989.7MB Runlevel: 2
    Gcc sys: N/A Client: Shell (bash 4.1.5) inxi: 1.9.18

    This install is long in the tooth and I will either replace it with AntiX or MX14. MX14 is a XFCE Mepis/AntiX spin with collaboration between distro developers. I've tried and ran crunchbang but it comes with out a lot of goodies I like and uses more ram initially than a stock AntiX full install. smxi,sgfxi,inxi are just a few of the tools besides ceni that
    are missing in a stock crunchbang install.

    MX14 with a Desktop Environment vs AntiX Window Managers looks promising also so I am still on the fence on this one. I liked your
    write up and blog though so just thought I'd "pitch a quarter on the line" on this one.

    I like choice and run puppy also on some partitions. To each their own and run it like you stole it.

    1. It is true that AntiX is a very light distro. It uses the fluxbox window manager which is light on cpu and ram use.

      To be fair to crunchbang, the tools you list as missing are just scripts that can be run on any bash. They can be downloaded and used on either system. Just because AntiX comes packaged with the script out of the box is not really a good reason to place it over crunchbang. The ram issue is much more pertinent. Openbox is a lot shinier and pretty than fluxbox. They have very similar roots, but openbox in crunchbang is configured to give the user something nice to look at.

      I have not played around with AntiX recently, but you can be assured that it will be on my next list of distributions to test! Thank you for your insights!

  49. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  50. Terrific read - Very Nice.
    Thanks, Stew

  51. Recently installed Lucid Puppy on an old AMD Turion with 512 Mb ram, built in graphics, WOW! I love it!


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