Five distros for “fast” machines

Not content to just sit back and learn tmux alongside cone, I also spent a little time over the past few days messing with a few other distros, both on this machine and a much faster one.

The motive in part was to seek out a few ultralight systems that might start up nice with the Mebius, although it was clear after a few seconds that some of them weren’t “light” in the way I need “light” to be. They might have worked well on a machine as old as this, but there was no way in heaven or Helsinki that they were going to work on something much slower.

Of course, some were just distros I heard about from here or there, and decided to try out. Like ylmf 3.0, which got kicked around a lot on the Ubuntu Forums when it was released, because it happens to take a direction that looks vaguely like the Windows XP Luna theme.


Personally, I have no problem with that. In fact, I have a history of clumping together my own Windows-ish setups, and turning them loose on the world. And it’s not such a dead ringer that anyone would feel somehow violated for using this over the default pink-orange-black arrangement that comes with Gnome Ubuntu. πŸ˜› One day the forums will learn to get past the superficial points of what your default desktop looks like.

Next was Qimo, the Ubuntu-based system intended for kids. I looked at this one about a year ago when it first hit the streets, and it has been updated considerably, but has the same goal in mind.


I liked this when I first looked at it, and I still like it now. The kids I know are all probably too old to appreciate this, but a very small person would probably have a lot of fun learning with it. The software isn’t much outside what you could install anyway with a standard Ubuntu system, but you wouldn’t get the benefit of everything encapsulated in a nice neat bundle. And the artwork is cute, too.

After that was Debris Linux, which despite the unusual name is a very clean, very sharp distro.


I harass Gnome users a lot for having overweighted systems, but if you want something that starts clean and small, this looks like a good place to begin. Version 2.0 has Ubuntu 8.04.3 as its base, if I read the lsb-release file correctly, and you can do a lot worse if you’re looking for a basic Gnome system to build up from.

One of the things I really liked about this was its use of Openbox as a window manager, and the addition of only one application per task. So Abiword and Gnumeric and a few other things are on here, but no OpenOffice and no Siag. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things, but there is an obvious lack of clutter in the system and the ISO footprint is a good deal smaller than most other Gnome-based distros. Nicely done, I say.

Salix was next, which was suggested a few months back when I was poking around with the magical Slax distro. Salix uses Slackware and throws together an XFCE desktop that’s not only very attractive, but extremely fast too.


It’s a bit heavier than Debris, but they don’t exactly compete so it’s not fair to mention it. What it shows in extra size it makes up for in clean speed; I don’t get this kind of perkiness out of most live environments unless they drop me at the command line. Things like this — and Slax too — make me want to try Slackware again. (Oh no. …)

The last one was Witch Linux, which is still in its alpha stages, but is fundamentally different by being straight Debian-based, and by offering scrotwm as the desktop interface.

I don’t recall seeing many distros that rely on tiling window managers from the word “go,” so this one sticks out in my mind as an unusual animal. Learning the key commands is going to take a little time if you’re not already a scrotwm user; I’ll give you a little push by mentioning that you can invoke dmenu with ALT+p.

There is a wiki in the works and there are forums for questions, so don’t feel like your first efforts with this one will be sink or swim. I have a feeling this will be worth watching in the future.

That’s all for now. I have a few others that I should mention in the context of the slower machine, but I’ll save those for tomorrow.


7 thoughts on “Five distros for “fast” machines

  1. gullars

    witch linux looks really cool, and I have been wanting to get to try scrotwm for a longer time, well, I’ll have to wait for a connection that distros manage to connect to, And I guess I have to wait until their arch build comes out as something more than just a virtual machine image

  2. Duncan_Idaho

    a great post as always! πŸ˜€
    I’m glad to hear that you tried salix and that you liked it

    besides salix and quimo I didn’t even knew about the others, so thanks for the insight on them

  3. Abe

    Whoa, where can i get the wallpaper in that debris linux screenshot? πŸ™‚
    Awesome post as usual.
    Thanks mate.

  4. Pingback: Five distros for “slow” machines « Motho ke motho ka botho

  5. Duncan_Idaho

    that witch linux sure looks interesting
    a distro that has as default a tiling window manager sure is worth a try ;P


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