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What makes a setup really lightweight?

With the cessation of Crunchbang I had to find a new distro for my old notebook.

1.7GHz Single Core, 1GB RAM, 60GB HDD. It's just chilling in the kitchen all day long and servers basically as an entertainment station for people in the room.
  • web browsing (chromium)
  • music (grooveshark)
  • snes emulator (zsnes)
  • jabber (pidgin)
  • mail (icedove)
Up to now tried LXLE, Lubuntu, AntiX, Bodhi and Debian.

LXLE seemed to have a problem with my wireless card, as the connection was very unstable and the tray icon was constantly posting messages about being disconnected/connected.. I tried to resolve the issues, dist-upgrades (as the 32bit version is still on precise), which took 3h and resulted in even more problems..

Lubuntu made me feel like I found the distro I wanted, until it became unresponsive ~four times within 2 hours, i couldn't use the usb soundcard as a default output device and some other minor problems.

AntiX & Bodhi do feel lightweight - I have to admit that I tested those just in VMs. But they're just not my cup of tea, I can't really tell why.

Debian. Good old Debian. Is currently installing from the netinst iso, minimal and I'll probably install xfce. I'll see how well that goes.

All these tests made me wonder, what does make a distro lightweight?
Is it the minimalism with installed packages? Is it the used applications?

I was confused when I saw how much Lubuntu includes out of the box.. felt wrong for a lightweight distro. (same with LXLE)
Thus I thought a custom minimalistic Debian would work even better for my case.

I considered using TinyCore or something else, not based on Debian/Ubuntu, but the inability to just sudo apt-get install something and the unlikeliness some developer would offer an install package is just not suitable for a kitchen device where multiple user come and go..

What makes a setup really lightweight?


  • irishluck83irishluck83 Administrator
    Lightweight just mean it doesn't have much computing power and also a slightly slower CPU. I would suggest Xubuntu or pupyy linux. Those are very lightweight on the resources.
  • apocapoc Registered
    Lightweight just mean it doesn't have much computing power and also a slightly slower CPU. I would suggest Xubuntu or pupyy linux. Those are very lightweight on the resources.

    I think i wasn't quite clear.. how is the low resource usage achieved?
    Well I've tried Lubuntu and LXLE, which are both more lightweight than Xubuntu.. Puppy would be an option, but as I said I'd love to just use aptitude/apt-get to install/remove software..
  • "Low resource usage" is a pretty broad term. Are you talking about systems that contain/run programs that only use minuscule percentages of the total CPU power? "RAM Friendly" userspace apps? GUI-less? A "Ricer" system where every possible compile-time optimization for the given CPU is used? Systems where only a few small (as in disk consumption) packages are used to provide a running system? Some of these? All of these?

    To me, "lightweight" and "low resource usage" encompasses "the whole". As in, I consider a distro/system to be "lightweight" if I can have all of the programs that I need to perform my tasks, without abusing my hard drive, where having multiple programs open does not throw my RAM CPU usage through the roof, and where aesthetically, there is minimal "cruft". In general, if I've installed a distro and the disk usage is more than 2.5GB, then I don't consider it "lightweight" (it's already violated the disk constraint and I haven't even added in my desired apps!). Much less if my CPU and RAM are "tapping out" after opening a terminal to run the package manager updates and a browser to well, browse while updates are installing.

    What happens after the installation (assuming the other constraints weren't violated) is all up to me. At that point, "lightweight" goes out the window because I've taken the distro and changed it.

    So yeah, "lightweight" is subjective and is thus open to interpretation at an individual level. I love the concept of, for example, Peppermint, Linux Lite, etc, but I don't personally consider them "lightweight". Then again, other users might install Arch Linux and say "OMG there are too many things here for it to be considered lightweight out of the box!"

    Your mileage may vary.
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