Distribution for rather old computer

My nephews have an old K6–350 with 64 MB RAM, 2.1 GB HDD, and S3 Trio64 graphics at their grandparent's hou­se. They used it to play about 6 windows games they have installed, until one day when boot files were suddenly gone. Unfortunately (or not?), I already thrown out all Windows 95/98  instalation disks. I also don't posses working floppy drive for few years, so all the floppies are already gone (except for few, but as I found out, those are unreadable anyway). So I went on a quest finding a linux distribution that:
  • would run on i586
  • would run some desktop environment, while leaving some of the 64MB of RAM unallocated
  • would run recent wine
  • would run X with GL/DRI, so those games could be run
Well, I've got some bad news – there is no such distribution. Here's why:

Damn Small Linux

DSL installed OK to the harddisk, but it only allowed it's ownmyDSL extensions to be installed. Those doesn't include dosbox or wine >0.9.4×. Switching to apt didn't work on that version, because package statuses were broken, and it would mean downloading and forcing installation of each deb. (Well, I'm writing it after few more days of expermimentation, and it doesn't look like big deal now :), so maybe I'll return to that).

Vector Linux Lite

The LiveCD didn't boot, and installation was too big for 1.8GB partition. Where's the ‚Light‘ part?

Deli Linux

Looks nice in VM, however, there are no packages for it – neither wine or dosbox.


I installed XFCE environment, but it looks too heavy for the machine space- and memory-wise. Maybe if I started without X and then added JWM and ROX session, and configure it properly… well it would take some time to have it done.

TeenPup 2008

This is a puplet – spinoff of Puppy Linux 2.1. It contains many applications, games, nice icons. But getting packages for puppy linux is a quest itself – searching forums for .pet files, finding passwords for password protected repositories, and fighting incompatible versions of libraries. This distribution helped me getting acquainted with ROX file manager, which is actually quite nice once you understand the philosophy of it. However, wine package didn't work because of incompatible libc. I also managed to lead it to the state where it wouldn't reboot intead it always just restarted X session. So it was time to move further.

PuppyLinux 4.1.2

So after spending few days with TeenPup I understood desktop and bootup process of PuppyLinux, so I picked generic one. Installing wine went smoothly. But DirectX games wouldn't run on Xvesa or Xorg with vesa driver. The solution looked simple – just download full Xorg 7.3 and finally have answer to question, whether the system is actually capable of running those games from Wine. However, there is bug in Xorg 7.3 – xorg-server 1.3.0 doesn't export some of basic symbol properly, so enabling S3 driver results in linking error „Symbol RamDac not found“. So I tried to find a puplet that includes X.org 7.4

LXDE puplet

I found that one, burned the ISO, and found out it's i686 only.

Arch Linux

and arch linux is i686 only as well.


This is the last distribution I tried. Looks quite momry heavy (still LXDE is way heavier than ROX/JWM) and still has xserver 1.3.0


There's no out-of-the-box solution. So I will either return to DSL or Debian, or get some bootable CD with win95 bootdisk and just run sys c: (to find out, some other system files are missing :)) – but getting such CD is not easy, who needs win95 anymore?
February 24th, 2010 02:30

Hi, I own a bootable Win98 CD. So when you come back i can borrow it to you.

February 24th, 2010 03:18

I managed to get one few months ago. But thanks and welcome to my blog ;)