Linux Distribution Review: a good distro for an older PC, anybody?

I have an older PC (a Packard-Bell) that I keep as a backup should my trusty Dell Precision 380 go bang. I had Fuduntu on the Packard, which I was very impressed with- once I found out Fuduntu was shutting down, I needed something to take its place…

Looking around at the rolling release candidates (Fuduntu was a rolling release), I hit upon Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) and Manjuro. I really thought that one of these 2 would solve the problem and I was very interested in the ‘young turk’ Manjuro, which has rocketed to 10 in the Distrowatch chart. Update: I attempted to try out Sabayon 13.04 , see bottom of post.

First up was LMDE (Cinnamon), I thought this was a done deal. Mint is No 1 in the Distrowatch chart and I had used Linux Mint KDE before, so I knew it was a very good distro (just not as good as Opensuse KDE) – with a rock solid Debian base, what could go wrong? Firstly, the install was so slow I nearly pulled the plug, when I finally rebooted to the LMDE desktop it was pretty much unusable. I quickly noticed that the cinnamon process was taking up 50%+ of the processors’ time:  because LMDE requires hardware 3D graphics acceleration, opengl is just not going to work. My advice to the Mint people is, why don’t you make that completely fu&*ing clear- make it so clear I don’t waste my time downloading it and doing the install!

Next was Manjuro 0.85, which is Arch without the hassle; Manjuro provides a complete desktop, you don’t have to build it from scratch as you do with Arch. I have used Arch Linux  and admire the distro’s philosophy- they also have first class documentation on just about every topic. Manjuro uses the same installer as LMDE but installed in about half the time. When I rebooted to the new Manjuro XFCE desktop I was happy with what I saw- it worked, it was light and responsive. However, when I tried to install the inevitable updates, Manjuro simply unravelled. There was a pacman update which affected other packages etc etc etc, in a nutshell the updates broke the system and why would I want to use your distribution if you can’t get something so basic to work?

I would just like to say that I have never put together my own Linux distribution, so I have total respect for those that have. However, I can’t see the point of releasing a distribution if it doesn’t work.

In the end I installed Xubuntu 13.04. It’s brand new, although not a rolling distro, Xubuntu installed without a hitch, updated without a hitch, looks good and works well- I highly recommend it.

Update 4th May 2013: I had completely forgotten about Sabayon Linux, it’s a rolling release and the MATE (gnome2 fork) desktop seemed ideal- I downloaded  Sabayon 13.04 x86 Mate iso.

Booting from DVD, the Packard-Bell displayed the Sabayon boot screen and then stopped dead- this happened for both booting to the live system or attempting to install!

On a Dell Precision 380, the Sabayon iso booted but xorg failed to start (it just fell back to a command line),  typing startx also failed! So I was unable to get to the mate desktop and try out the Sabayon system- all in all, pretty useless.


9 thoughts on “Linux Distribution Review: a good distro for an older PC, anybody?

  1. I’m a big fan of Xubuntu. It combines the high package compatibility of Ubuntu, and the speed and customizablity of Xfce. I’ve actually been using Xubuntu on my main computer for about 2 years now and I haven’t looked back.

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