Some things surprise even me. And yet, at the same time, this isn’t a surprise.
I was racking my brain a few weeks ago, trying to remember a distro I had tinkered with probably four years ago, when I was looking for a suitable low-end distro for yet another low-end wonder.
I don’t think I made any mention of it here, because if I search this site for “Feather Linux,” not much comes up. And to be honest, outside of this site, I don’t see much mention of it either.
Fact is, given the opportunity to mention a lightweight distro, most people jump straight for the jugular and shout “DSL” or “Slitaz.” Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those.
But something low-end-but-not-wicked-sparse like Feather Linux probably never got the benefit of the doubt. I am sure there are some 200Mhz machines out there that would benefit greatly from Feather, but are force-fed DSL apace because it’s “light.”
If I understand the home page correctly, Feather started as a Knoppix remaster, with a little of this and a little of that, and matured all the way to version 0.7.5 — with kernel 2.4.27 and Firefox 1.04 — before it became a ghost distro.
And that’s a shame. Honestly, this runs magnificently at 150Mhz and is only using a fraction of its 32Mb to show the desktop. I can start most programs without heavy swapping or losing system response, provided they’re not overweight to start with.
Boot times are not stellar, but are relatively quick. In a world where Gnome Ubuntu setups on reasonably fast but slightly out-of-date machines can take a full three minutes, two minutes for a Pentium to load Feather Linux is an achievement.
And the variety of software at your disposal is amazing. Everything from Abiword to Siag to Sylpheed to Elmo to XMMS to e3 … and much more. I cower in awe.
All that in 128Mb. Just the “Net” submenu is a veritable who’s-who of Linux network software. But I won’t pretend Feather is god’s gift to the ancient computer; it has a few shortcomings that are noteworthy.
First of all, kernel 2.4.27 did things a little differently than what I’m used to now. I have this machine on a very reliable wireless card, but can’t get it on my in-house network to save my life.
Similarly, sound is a mystery, although I daresay I could solve that in a matter of a few minutes, if I really wanted to. I feel I have enough information and experience now to pin down the audio with a few experimental commands.
But I could say that about any distro, from aLinux to Fedora to Salix to ZOMG Linux. No matter what you use, you should be ready to tweak a few things, to make it your own.
But Feather Linux is something I feel confident in recommending. Depending on your hardware, and depending on your ability level, and depending on your patience, this could be only a few steps away from regular use.
It’s out-of-date and esoteric in some ways, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put it to use on your closet-dweller. Try it out.