Ubuntu GTK1.2 Remix

What is Ubuntu GTK1.2 Remix?

Ubuntu GTK1.2 Remix is a revision of an Ubuntu 8.04 live CD that is intended to run on old, outdated hardware, with a target in the sub-300Mhz range.

It relies almost entirely on GTK1.2-based software, which means it should prove both fast and ugly in equal measures, on almost any computer that can run the i386 version of an Ubuntu command-line system.

This version is free to download and modify by any user.

Future development

There are no plans to update Ubuntu GTK1.2 Remix in the future. The current ISO is “final,” and aside from core updates to the Ubuntu 8.04 system software, don’t look for improvements or rereleases. This is mostly because my own philosophy toward very-low-end hardware has changed somewhat, and the project is no longer appealing to me.

Please feel free to modify and rerelease the ISO if you like, or to use parts of it in your own creations.

What is a remix?

A remix is a ‘respun’ version of Ubuntu built for a specific purpose. Ubuntu GTK1.2 Remix is a variation on the standard command-line installation, with additional packages available, and others removed entirely. You may have some compatibility issues, depending on your hardware profile. For now Ubuntu GTK1.2 Remix is recommended only for intermediate or advanced Linux users.

Technical specifications

Minimum hardware requirements:

  • Processor: Any machine that can handle the i386 command-line version of Ubuntu should suffice; pre-Pentium Pro systems may suffer
  • RAM: Between 32-128Mb should suffice
  • Optical: Booting from CD is, of course, a requirement; if you’re using a machine that does not naturally boot from CD, look into Smart Boot Manager, as Mikko suggests below. šŸ˜‰

Major open source applications included:


  • File manager: emelfm
  • Text editor: gtkedit
  • Terminal emulator: XTerm
  • Calculator: XCalc
  • Cut buffer manager: Xcb
  • Clipboard viewer: XClipboard
  • Clock: XClock


  • Billiards: GTKPool
  • Cards: XPat2


  • Image viewer: Danpei
  • Diagram editor: XFig
  • Image editor: XPaint
  • Font selector: GTK Font Selector
  • Color picker: XColors
  • Color selector: X Color Selector

  • MP3 tag editor: gMP3Info
  • CD ripper: RipperX
  • Audio player: XMMS


  • Web browser: Dillo
  • E-mail client: Sylpheed-GTK1


  • Word processor: Beaver
  • PDF Viewer: Ghostview
  • Sticky notes: XPostIt


  • Process viewer: gPS
  • Load meter: XLoad
  • Memory meter: XMem
  • System profile: XOSView
  • Disk usage profile: XDiskUsage
  • Man page viewer: XMan

Additional packages include alsa-utils, readahead, preload, localepurge, debfoster, scrot and now feh.


The ISO is available from Filefront here, or from this mirror, graciously provided by chris4585. A torrent is available on LinuxTracker.org. The ISO also includes packages of Beaver 0.2.7, as well as a recompiled version of Dillo that removes antialiasing, and a copy of the Hardy rebuild of XMMS available from Launchpad.

How do I find out more?

Add a comment here and I will entertain your thoughts. However, I probably will not acquiesce to

  1. Complaints about the appearance. If you don’t like it, change it.
  2. Suggestions about alternative software. If you want to use Firefox, install it.
  3. Insults against my person. šŸ˜†

Bug reports or difficulties with configuration, etc., should be handled through the usual channels, such as the Ubuntu Forums or Launchpad.net. If you have problems with the two packages that were recompiled specifically for this remix — dillo-0.8.6-i18n-misc or beaver-0.2.7 — post a reply here or send me an e-mail.

If you prefer a discussion thread, one is underway here, in the Other OS Talk area of the Ubuntu Forums.

Additional notes

  • An enormous amount of software has been yanked out, including most of ubuntu-standard and ubuntu-minimal. Video drivers for xorg have been left in, but things like the Wacom package have been removed.
  • Most of the internationalization packages have been removed, including low-level packages like util-linux-locales.
  • Locales have been set to en_US and ja_JP, and everything else has been purged out. The sources.list file points at the University of Toyama repositories, which are probably inconvenient for you. All source repositories have been disabled.
  • The sysctl.conf file has been hotwired for performance. vm_swappiness is set to 0, kernel.threads_max is 512, and vm.vfs_cache_pressure is at 50. In /etc/init.d/rc, CONCURRENCY is set to “shell.” Networking settings are adjusted for high-end broadband access, and ipv6 is blacklisted. Unnecessary references in the /etc/rc.? directories have been removed.
  • ~/.profile has been adjusted to automatically start X after logging in at the terminal prompt on tty1. You have only two active console screens — tty1 and tty2.
  • The X desktop uses IceWM-lite as the window manager, has the GTK1.2 theme set to Mist, and sets the /etc/gtk/gtkrc.utf-8 file to use a slightly smaller font than a default Ubuntu system. The window manager theme is IceSimple, from box-look.org.
  • If you want to install this system, run “sudo ./install.sh” from the command line. Please be aware that the installer is intended only for a single-drive system, and creates only one kind of partition scheme. There is no allowance for multiple drives or unusual system arrangements.
  • Post-installation, I suggest reprofiling your boot, adjusting the /boot/grub/menu.lst file and optimizing the directory trees, since the filesystem allows it.

Known Issues

  • The right-click reboot and shutdown commands don’t work; it’s possible that the sudoers file is somehow changed between the live environment and the installed system.
  • The hosts file still makes reference to as ubuntu, which I don’t think should be there. That should be easy to clip out.
  • Text-mode boot doesn’t work; it still jumps to the graphical environment. I think this might be in part due to the addition of the startx command to the default .profile, so no matter what “mode” is started, it goes graphical. I’ll think about this one, but I’m tempted to leave it as it is. It’s not meant to be a command-line live CD, so text-mode boots are tertiary, in my mind.

53 thoughts on “Ubuntu GTK1.2 Remix

  1. K.Mandla Post author

    That’s correct. Just rename the file to .iso and burn it as a bootable CD.

    WordPress.com won’t let me upload a file unless it has one of about six extensions (which are all proprietary, I might add). So I had to rename it before I could upload it. It’s inconvenient, but unless you know someone who will host a 200Mb ISO for free, that’s all I’ve got. šŸ™„

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  3. Pingback: Ubuntu GTK1.2 Remix « Motho ke motho ka botho

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  7. Dr Small

    I may have to try this one out someday. But, if I was running Ubuntu, I might try to remix my own for a Openbox Remix of Ubuntu šŸ™‚

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  9. not you

    Had a chuckle at this –

    any i386 will work

    pre-Pentium Pro systems may suffer

    So, in all honesty, you need an i585/i686 processor, right? Since pre-Pentium Pro is i486 (486sx/dx) and then…. i386.

    Even if you put lipstick on a pig, it will still be a pig.

  10. K.Mandla Post author

    And people wonder why I never bothered doing this before now.

    I’ll change it to “whatever will run Ubuntu minimal.” Perhaps that will keep the masses happy.

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  13. cubiclegangsta

    Very nice, K. I thank you and my 266Mhz thinkpad thanks you.

    Also, nevermind these people. People are bastards.


  14. K.Mandla Post author

    cubiclegangsta: Cool! What’s performance like on that machine? Is it sluggish at all? The slowest I have right now is technically 550Mhz, so I’m wondering what Pentium IIs and lower feel like. Cheers!

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  16. robert shearer

    Hey wonderous things are happening on a very old lappy here!
    Pentium mmx/233Mhz/96Mb Ram and it is running Hardy.

    top reports very low cpu usage when idling but quickly hits max when opening anything.Once opened apps behave fine.

    Great to have gtkedit included and dillo is my fave light browser.

    This lappy has no hard drive but it has a twin that won’t boot from cd.

    I will swap the h/d out and install and see how it behaves with some swap space.

  17. K.Mandla Post author

    robert shearer: Cool! I noticed an unusual CPU spike effect when starting programs, but I thought it was because of the system I was using.

    Then again, the entire desktop should run on a smidgin of RAM and CPU, so if you start a program, it probably just goes nuts and dedicates the entire processor to starting it. Or that’s my rationalization anyway. šŸ™„

    Let me know how the final installation goes. šŸ˜€

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  20. chris4585

    KMandla, I was just now noticing on your gtk1.2 remix the known issue of the shutdown script, not working if you add this line to the inxtaller then the shutdown script should work

    ” echo “ALL ALL = NOPASSWD: /sbin/shutdown” >> /mnt/etc/sudoers”

    this should be near the bottom of the script, of course you should know the security risks

    as for the host issue, if you edit this line from the inxtaller

    sed -i “s/ubuntu/$NEW_HOSTNAME/g” /mnt/etc/hosts

    to what your actual /etc/host file says from the LiveCD, usually ubuntu or casper

    sed -i “s/whatever/$NEW_HOSTNAME/g” /mnt/etc/hosts

    I had these same issues, and corrected them in my version of inxtaller

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  24. Timmy Macdonald

    Thank you! The Live CD convinced me that I was a fan, the install went great, and now I once more have a usable computer (Gateway Solo laptop–64MB RAM, 400-something mHz Celeron processor, 5GB HD) which Windows ME was killing slowly. Even my PCMCIA network adaptor works–this is written on the same computer. And I even have a few ideas about what I can do with it because of this blog.

  25. K.Mandla Post author

    Great! I hope it works out for you. I was a little worried because the installer was unattractive (I saw the note on your blog), but if I can scrape together some time on my winter break, I’ll try to improve it a little.


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  28. Timmy Macdonald

    When I made that comment about the installer, it was because the last time I had read this entire page (and the forum thread) there was something about Ubiquity having problems. It’s been fixed though!
    Now that a few weeks have gone by, I’m very split between UGTK1.2R and Puppy. I feel like the first is faster (and cooler), but Puppy’s a bit more well-endowed in apps, drivers, user-friendliness and bloat.
    Although hopefully I can use UGTK1.2R to learn more about the guts of Linux–that’s a serious hole in my education…

    Fix: Turns out I have 128MB RAM–there are 64MB of normal RAM but there’s an additional 64MB of “extended RAM”, which I did not see when I posted the first comment (…shame…).

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  31. zenfunk

    First of all thanks for your awesome work making these old computers usable again. One of my favorite Computers is a Thinkpad 500 (PII 300 MHz, 128 MB, 20 Gig) subnotebook- way cool.
    Currently Im running ubuntulite as my everyday system and Puppy as a rescue system since the cd-rom is only in the ultrabase which most of the time stays at home. Ubuntulite is snappy beyond expectation, but to be honest, a few speedups here and there won’t hurt.

    Your gtk1.2 remix is cool and much faster too. The retroish look and feel corresponds well with the overall look of the Thinkpad. On the other Hand there are some things I’d like to change (filemanager, add firefox gtk 1.2 etc.).
    I’d like to make this into another live- cd when finished, just like you did. Is there an easy way to do this like a script or a programm that does the heavy lifting? Or do I have to copy every single file to cd or something like that? Sorry if this sounds like a silly question but I simply don’t no where to start making live cds.

    Thanks in advance,

  32. K.Mandla Post author

    zenfunk: I got most of the information for making and rebuilding a custom ISO out of the “Other OS Talk” subforums on the Ubuntu forums — specifically this thread. There are probably more elegant ways to do it, but in my case, most of the “wizards” installed more packages I didn’t want in the first place. So I went with the least-bloated technique I could find. šŸ˜‰

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  35. Fuzzy

    Tried with an Intel Pentium 166 MHz, 32 MB RAM. Wouldn’t boot up, neither graphical nor textbased. Always got stuck at “initramfs” so I’ll assume the RAM is too low.

    Too bad too, I really wanted to try this, as we seem to share similar views on what constitutes good software.

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      Hmm. I’m guessing low RAM is right. I’m in the process of rethinking this project, so if it does get rebuilt, I’ll go with a text-based installer over a live CD version. Stay tuned.

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    1. K.Mandla Post author

      I’ll check, but I have a feeling the answer is no. I used to keep old ISOs like this on a single DVD but I think I weeded them out a few years ago, in an intercontinental move. šŸ˜¦


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