Computer Related > Linux with 512MB RAM :( Miscellaneous
Thread Author: RattleandSmoke Replies: 22

 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - RattleandSmoke
I have my new netbook. I took off the pre installed Linplus because it was too basic and found myself in the terminal all the time just do the most basic of tasks. I then replaced with Ubunto but it was using 450mb RAM just boot. I replaced this with Xubuntu but still not much better.

Any other suggestions on a good Linux? I need a browser which supports flash. The main issue is that the hard drive is an 8GB SSD unit so I would like to get a cheap memory card and perhaps store the swap file on that.

I will upgrade the RAM at some point when I get hold off some 4200 stuff (my spare 6400 is not comptable) BUT it involves completly removing the motherboard so its not something I want to do on a brand new netbook because of the warranty.

So for now how can I make the best out of 512MB RAM and the slow write properites of SSD?

I am going to try installing Kuki linux with is an Alpha stages to see if that helps (its been designed for my netbook, the Acer one).

If I don't get any tips I will at least share my findings on this thread as it may be usefulf or other people but just wondered if anybody had any experience of different distros on a low powered SSD netbook.
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - teabelly
You perhaps need to do a custom install. If it using that much memory then it is probably starting up loads of things you don't need....

Some of the older redhat desktop versions are ok in 512mb. Personally I'd go back to linplus and scout around for gui based control panel type apps. Which window manager are you using?
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - Focusless
Someone on here or HJ used to speak favorably of mint and/or puppy...?
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - RattleandSmoke
Mint is very good, used to run it on my spare desktop but its probably too bloaty for a 1.6Ghz Aton/512MB RAM.
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - Focusless
Googling for 'small linux distributions' brought up this:
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - RattleandSmoke
DSL is a bit too basic for what I need.

I have just run Kuki on my 2MB USB stick and it seems very fast, it played a youtube video wirelessly without any lag. It was using 220MB RAM in total to that :).

I am installing it now and will report on it once it installed. I am starting to think the built in SSD is too slow so I may be a 4GB superfast SD card and install an operating system on that.

I think the issue I have been also having is that because of the lack of RAM there is a lot of swap activity and because the SSD has slow write speeds it causes a lot of lag. So the answer may also be to simply get a faster SD card and set the swap partition on that.
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - Focusless
>> So the answer may also be to
>> simply get a faster SD card and set the swap partition on that.

Is that going to cause issues regarding the lifetime of the card? Cheap to replace I guess, but you might lose something important. No idea how many read/write cycles they are supposed to withstand.
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - RattleandSmoke
Modern SSDs are supposed to be nearly as good as hard drives in that regard. The netbook is purely a surfer, no important data will be stored on it, so if the entire file system got damaged it dosn't really matter.

In a few months when the warranty has run out I will just upgrade the RAM anyway and disable swap completly.
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - rtj70
I think the comment on flash write-cycles was a reference to using a memory card and not the SSD. SSD's tend to move data around to prolong life but a flash card probably does not.

I am surprised it did not run Ubuntu in 512Mb mind. When I first had Linux running on a PC in 1993 it ran fine with X-Windows on a 486 with 8Mb RAM ;-)
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - RattleandSmoke
I think the problem with Ubuntu wasn't the RAM as such but the extremely slow write speeds of the SSD. Also the Kernal on Ubuntu was quite bloated. It ran perfectly on my old Celeron 1.8GHz/1.5GB RAM/80GB sata laptop though until it blew up (it actually only needs new hinges and some new cables).

It did run Xubuntu ok but there was a lot of jitter on BBC Iplayer, I no its not the procoessor because even on Iplayer the CPU activity was fairly low, the problem was the swap.

I realise I do need to just strip the thing out, remove the motherboard and put 1GB extra RAM in it, but its to new for that now. I also realise I am asking too much but messing about with distros on a low spec machine is quite a lot of fun :).

Rob it would have run fine but what web browser did you use? Lynx?

The problem now is modern web browsers eat so much RAM. If Kuki is too unstable (Kuki is actually an older version of Ubuntu designed to run on an Acer one with an SSD) I will just reinstall Xubuntu and run a stripped version of firefox.
Last edited by: RattleandSmoke on Wed 19 May 10 at 16:21
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - rtj70
There were no Flash enabled sites in 1993 ;-)

If it's not the RAM, then I cannot see why it's swapping to the disk. And a proper SSD shouldn't be slow on writes. Although it sounds like this is not one might consider an SSD - likely to be just a flash drive or similar. I have a 16Gb PCI Express based memory card in my laptop and that flies for file reads and writes.
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - The Nut
Archlinux is lightweight and totally customizable, after running through the installation you have a very basic os with no xorg or anything fancy, you install that all manually and can choose any window manager you choose, I prefer open box on a system thats basically just to be used for the web.

All sounds complicated but it's not too hard if you can follow the beginners guide in the wiki.

I had this running on a duron 1100 with 256MB and a Radeon 9200SE, worked fine for iPlayer with proprietary graphics drivers and could watch youtube vids even using a generic framebuffer (only way I could get TV-out to work).

edit: there's an article in their wiki on installing on an Acer Aspire One.
Last edited by: The Nut Behind The Wheel on Wed 19 May 10 at 20:00
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - RattleandSmoke
Rob that is a good point, it wasn't just flash but none many images either so I suppose even on a GUI web browser it was mainly all text.

I installed Kuki linux on it in the end, it is Ubuntu 9.4 (so a year out of date) which has been heavily modified to work with the Acer One. Even the cache settings are optimised for SSD. Iplayer is too still slow but other flash sites work perfectly. No jitter in youtube at all.

Its not the end of the world about Iplayer either as I just put my glasses on and watch it from my desktop.

I can't remember what the browser is called, it looks like a stripped out Firefox and with the web browser up it is still only using 250MB of RAM.
Last edited by: RattleandSmoke on Thu 20 May 10 at 14:37
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - smokie
Jitter is certainly possible with Windows and flash drives. And Windows 7 is the only Windows OS which works properly with V2 drives in terms of evening out disk usage. Some of the cheaper drives have appallingly slow sustained write speeds.
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - RattleandSmoke
I am starting to wish I had paid more money for a hard drive version now :(

But for £130 it works very very well as a web surfing machine and I have my desktop for Iplayer with its 22" monitor.
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - RattleandSmoke
Kuki had several bugs and Ubuntu proper was crying out. I had a spare 512MB 4200 DDR2 lying round so I took the plunge. I followed a guide on ebay and removed the motherboard to upgrade the RAM. It took me about 20 minutes in total (the guides often say an hour but I have a lot more skill than I realised).

Here is what I did.

1) Remove all screws from the base making a note of where they all went
2) Remove the keyboard (usual clips)
3) Detach keyboard and trackpad leads from motherboard
4) Remove screws from heatsink which is attached to the bezel.
5) Carefully remove bezel
6) Detach wireless module and SSD unit from the motherboard
By now the motherboard should just be rested in place
7) Tilt motherboard upwards and carefully insert RAM module into the SODIMM slot, I found this easy but I have inserted RAM more times than I have been to a pub.
8) Reconnect everything and reassemble.

When I put everything back together I got a none system disk error. It turned out the ribbon cable from the SSD to the motherboard was slightly loose, so had to take the damn thing apart again. All fixed now though.

Here is a tip rather than re-assemble everything only to find something dosn't work reconnect the SSD but but leave the bezel, keyboard, and trackpad off. Use a USB keyboard and make sure the system boots into the operating system then do a quick RAM test. It saves all the hassle of putting it back together only to find the motherboard needs to be removed again.

Why acer could not put an access hatch on the bottom of the laptop I don't know, it would save all this faff.

Either way my netbook now has 1GB of RAM and it runs Ubuntu 10.4 with Gnome perfectly. All drivers work out of the box but I found disabled special effects speeds things up a lot.
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - rtj70
>> (the guides often say an hour but I have a lot more skill than
>> I realised).

>> When I put everything back together I got a none system disk error. It turned
>> out the ribbon cable from the SSD to the motherboard was slightly loose, so had
>> to take the damn thing apart again. All fixed now though.

:-) Be careful of what you say and what you want us to think of your skills :-)

Sounds like you sorted the system to get it how you really wanted it, i.e. more RAM.

My fix for an Apple iBook our son uses needed a shim to fix a problem on the motherboard. Fix still in place and working... it's the plastic from some Paracemol tablets I think. Could be other (legal!) tablets.
Last edited by: rtj70 on Fri 28 May 10 at 00:01
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - RattleandSmoke
I think I need to video this and send a link to it because the performance is now staggering. It is much much faster than any Windows netbook I have used, The extra RAM makes a huge difference because it reduces the need for a swap file and of course swap files are a bit of a performance problem with SSDs.

I have now switched to Cromium as the browser as it is a lot faster than Firefox.

As for skills I have always shied away from laptops. I often do hard drive replacements, RAM upgrades and keyboards and but always avoided anything which requires a proper disambly. My next challange is to repair the Dell. It needs new screen cables and a new hinges so I may just buy a dead one of ebay and use parts of that.

The main issue with this acer is despite the keyboard being large for a netbook it is still a bit tricky to touch type on. That said I got a brand new laptop for £133 and out of the box it was crap. Only thing I am worried about is those write cycles, I've had five different operating systems on it already! Sticking to Ubuntu 10.4 now though.
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - RattleandSmoke
Just checked the swap file and its not even in use 0kb :) Also Iplayer now works perfectly with no lag. Its easily as fast as a £300 netbook now :)
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - CGNorwich

But you can buy a Samsung 10.1 inch net book with 160GB HDD and 1GB RAM running XP for £199 on Amazon. Is it worth the effort?
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - RattleandSmoke
Well even with that the first thing I would do is remove the awful Windows. My netbook boots into 10.4 in less than 15 seconds and I am surfing in around 17. I would hate to think how slow that Samsung would be with windows.

In fact the further advances with 10.4 make me think WIndows really is just awful in all flavours. If it wasn't for photoshop I would do without it on my desktop.

Also the samsung would be more than £199 when you include delivery. My acer was £133 inc delivery. I just could not justify spending over £200 on what is nothing more than a toy.
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - CGNorwich
"I would hate to think how slow that Samsung would be with windows."

Mine takes around 30 seconds to boot.
Last edited by: CGNorwich on Fri 28 May 10 at 14:19
 Linux with 512MB RAM :( - VxFan
>> But you can buy a Samsung 10.1 inch net book with 160GB HDD and 1GB
>> RAM running XP for £199 on Amazon.

Or £169 on ebay (with free p&p)

Or upgrade the ram to 2GB for another £39.99

EDIT - just seen the offer has finished, which is only recent.
Last edited by: VxFan on Fri 28 May 10 at 10:19
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