I picked up a free laptop with a decent hard drive (60gb), processor(2.6ghz), and built in wi-fi (802.11g) and a “broken” copy of XP which I promptly wiped and put a fresh install of Hardy Heron 8.04 on here. I debated back and forth as to whether or not I wanted to go with a low resource Xubuntu or Kubuntu of suck it up and try installing the full thing (Hardy). “Well,” I figured, “It’s a relatively modern laptop – might as well give Hardy a shot”. And so I did. Installed like a dream and even recognized my wifi card – but didn’t actually use it due to linux broadcom driver legal issue bullshit.
Four hours later I had my fucking broadcom drivers working in linux, blindly following the how tos on Ubuntu’s user support forums. Firefox took a bitch-ass long time to load, as did everything else, but at this point, I had working wifi on my laptop and I didn’t care. There was no way I was going to reinstall an alternate low memory version of Ubuntu, just to have to figure out how to get the broadcom drivers to work outside of the warm cocoon of the Ubuntu help forums, wasting potentially 8 or more hours of my life.
So you’ve gotten this far and are wondering, “well, how well does the full, vanilla install of Ubuntu really work with just 256MB of ram?” Well I’ll tell you – everything loads like crap (1+ minutes) and the updater will often crash. Especially if anything else is open. It’s like trying to run Win95 on a 486 with 4MB of RAM. Firefox WILL run, and you CAN play fullscreen youtube videos (if your computer has the horsepower for that sort of thing), open office is kind of laggy even after it opens. But the nifty screen effects work. And when you boot up, you only have 27mb of free ram, which goes down to 4mb once Firefox is opened. Opening Terminal with Firefox open usually crashes one or both. It IS usable for someone who is paitent, or has no other options for the time being. Once it gets up and running
But guess what? RAM is ridiculously cheap. I picked up 512MB of laptop ram for $25 (shipped!) for this thing and now it flies – comparatively (768 total). My Core 2 Duo with 2GB of ram has about twice as much of “the snappy” as the laptop, but for “blogging” and general bullshitting it’s plenty snappy. I was a little suprised to see that after adding a half a gig of ram to the existing 256mb, I only had 256mb free. Actually slightly less, something like 246. But plenty to run a couple windows with 2-3 tabs each of firefox, terminal and VLC with goon radio running in the background.
Reading over the wikipedia Ubuntu page I was pleased to see that Hardy Heron, being an LTS (Long Term Support) distro, will continue to be updated until April of 2011 – long last this laptop’s End Of Life. I’d like to adapt the Ubuntu Netbook Remix for my laptop – Netbook remix is designed for 1024 x 600, and the “standard” laptop resolution is 1024 x 768… which means without pushing the F11 button, you don’t have to deal with an open window bar at the bottom, a status bar, tab bar, plus the standard app header and “holy space at the top – combined take up about a third of the screen-space. Remix blends the tabs, app header and holy space into one 20 pixel high bar – perfect for a laptop used as a Firefox Terminal.