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Arvi Krishnaswamy

Entrepreneur and Tech Executive

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Got an old laptop or PC with 256MB or less RAM? Puppy Linux can help rejuvenate it for you.

Having said that, you'll need to be prepared to veer off the beaten path and work through challenges that come up.

Here's a few ideas to think about for your old comp:

  • Set up a headless torrent client
  • Lite browser version for guests and visitors
  • Home media center streaming server
  • Private home VPN

I picked up an old 1.13 Ghz IBM R31 that I purchased in 2002 and set up Puppy Linux. The four main things I had to do in order to get things working were:

  • Partition: Split my 80GB partition to offer 1GB for Puppy, 256MB of swap space, and the rest for a shared FAT partition. Yes, you got that right - just 1GB. Puppy Linux is 100MB in size. I kept the rest of the partition FAT in case I decide to install Win7 in the future or share files with my Macs. With Puppy, you also have the option of booting off a USB dongle. Unfortunately, my R31 BIOS didn't support it and I had to install off a CD.
  • Kernel boot params: On my IBM R31, I had to add i8042.nomux=1 in the kernel boot params to work around a Thinkpad mouse bug. Without this, the pointer ends up being all jumpy.
  • Wireless: Unless you are lucky enough to have a card or dongle on this list, you'll need to scrounge around with the ndiswrapper layer. It took me a while, but I finally have a strong signal from my Airport Extreme.
  • Apps: The pup may be a little lite for your preferences plain vanilla. I added on Firefox, Transmission, OpenVPN, Java and Skype. Grab a precompiled Skype binary from here.

Also look at: DSL, Amahi.