Last week one of my hard drive failed. At that time I was dual booting XP & Ubuntu from that drive, so I lost my bootloader grub. I installed ubuntu on my other drive. Howerver, I have 512 mb ram in my pc. Ubuntu was running good but at times it seemed slow & the issues with my graphic card(intel 82845g/gl Brookedale) & linux has, worsened my situation. Because of my graphic card Ubuntu crashed alot. So I thought why not try out some other distro? So, for past week I was doing just that.
I wanted a distribution that was lightweight & customizable. Now, there are some great lightweight distributions like Puppy & Damn Small Linux, but my pc can handle a lot more than that. I wanted something more customizable, something that doesn't come with all the softwares you use & don't use preinstalled in it. In other words, I wanted to install a bare minimal system that was light on resources.
The Hunt begins….
When I was using ubuntu I knew that one could install a minimal command line installation(without any GUI) through alternative cd or minimal cd. So I thought, why not try it? So, I got myself a minimal cd & installed a command line version. Then I installed xorg & xfce4 desktop environment. It was definately lightweight & customizable. It did fulfill my needs. However it still crashed alot. So I told myself this won't work, I'll have to look elsewhere.
Now I was back to internet forums & they seemed to point me to Ubuntu's daddy. Yes, Debian. So, I went to their website, read a few things & everything seemed to check out. This one was also a minimal install at first & then you can install whatever you need. I downloaded their cd image & installed it. Again I installed xorg, xfce4 desktop environment & a few other applications that I use. Now dabian was definately more stable & faster than ubuntu. It did crash but not that much. But, the only problem I had with it was the packeges were outdated. Not too outdated, but still outdated. Now, I could add testing repositories & get more recent packeges but I am no veteran in linux & if something breaks, I might be able to fix it or I might not & in the end I might end up loosing some data. So adding testing repositories wasn't a wise choice. Now, having latest packeges wan't one of my priorities, but it still bugged me.
So again, I was back where I started : forums & discussion boards. This time I was considering Crunchbang, Vector, Zenwalk, Gentoo or linux from scratch. Now Crunchbang is a ubuntu derivative. It is said to be a very fast & lightweight version of Ubuntu & I love Ubuntu. But, as it is based on ubuntu, probably it will inherit the issues with graphics card & it will crash a lot. Vecor linux & zenwalk both seemed to be light & customizable but I wanted to start from a minimal installation. Gentoo has a reputation for being very customizabe. Basically because you build your whole system from compiling the source code, & creating a system specifically for your pc. The only problem with gentoo is it can take a very long time to compile & install large softwares. Linux from scratch is more like a big how to than a distribution. Because it has a very high learning curve & you will learn to build your system from scratch compiling every single module from source. Now I'd love to do that but need my pc up & running. I can't use my brother's pc for a month while I compile & build my LFS system. So I was leaning towards Gentoo. The only problem was compilation time. Now I have no experience with gentoo but I have read is some discussions that it can take whole night to compile & install openoffice suite. I wanted something like gentoo but without those long compilation times. & then I found Arch…
Archlinux is a distribution that is lightweight & highly customizable. At installation it installs minimal core packeges essential for running a command line interface & from there you can build arch into whatever you like. So I installed it & rebooted. Now I was at the command line. Before now I have used only Debian based distros. So, arch's packege manager was new for me. So I familiarized myself with the commands & started building my system. As before I started from installing xorg & xfce4. Everything was running great. Gradually I installed every application I use. The repositoris are great. I found every single software that I used to use in ubuntu plus some that weren't even in ubuntu's reposotories(like dropbox). It is very light on resources & I love every single bit of it. The greatest thing about arch is it doesn't crash. It does have some problems with graphics. If I run xserver constantly for more than 5-6 hours, sometimes the graphics becomes very choppy(you can notice it in opening/moving windows). At that time all I have to do is log out from xfce session to the command line & then start xorg again & all is back to normal again.
If you want to build similar system or need help in building something like this leave a comment & i'll create a how to & post it here.