Like most companies, my employer has a stash of old, "obsolete" PCs and laptops that won't run the latest versions of Windows worth a darn. Naturally, this represents a great source of systems for testing the latest Linux distributions.
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I thought it would be interesting to find out which modern Linux distro made the best OS for a supposedly "obsolete" old laptop. With this in mind, I requisitioned an oldie but goodie: an IBM ThinkPad 2662-35U (pictured here), with a Pentium III 600MHz processor, 192MB of SDRAM, and a 20GB hard drive.
Next, I set about collecting as many suitable 1-CD Linux distros as possible. These included copies of the latest Xandros and Linspire that had been provided to me for evaluation, plus free web-downloads of the latest Freespire, Kubuntu, Mandriva One, PCLinuxOS, and SimplyMEPIS distros.
After that, I compiled a list of basic requirements. My plan was to do a quick run-through of each distro -- not spend a week of tweaking and fine-tuning each one -- so I needed a check-list that would allow me to rapidly narrow my search down to the one or two that are most likely to work well over the long haul.
Here's my check-list:
Installs and runs usably on the old ThinkPad
Provides KDE window manager
Customizable to suit my tastes
Plays audio CDs
Streams Real media (tested using npr.org hourly news)
Installs/runs my old LinkSys Wireless-B PCMCIA card
GUI tool for easy software download/install/update
Timely and long-term OS/apps update scenario
As part of my tests of each distro, I planned to install the following apps (if they didn't come preinstalled): Firefox 2, latest Thunderbird, RealPlayer 10, Acroread 7, K3b, Amarok, Xine, Kaffeine, KsCD, OO.o, Kate, Bluefish, Gimp, Opera, Konqueror, Gaim, Skype, Ksnapshot, and the Macromedia Flash Firefox plugin.
For my final step of preparation, I created a scorecard template that would help me quantify my findings.