Linux Left Behind

November 13, 2009

I first started using linux in the early to mid 1990’s. From that time until the last year or so, we linux users have continuously boasted that unlike Windows(tm), linux runs just fine on older and minimal hardware and memory footprints. And indeed, it was true.

But sad to say, we are slowly losing the ability to make that boast. As computer hardware and gaming technology have advanced, so have the basic requirements of the operating systems we run on them; and linux is no exception. More and more, to run the newer versions of linux distributions – distributions by the way that we may have been running for years – requires more memory, bigger processors, and in general, newer and faster everything.

And even with all that, some of those distributions still run some processes and operations more slowly than they used to. The fact is, the ability of linux distributions to run on older hardware with less memory is slowly slipping away. It’s not gone yet … but it’s going.

This is primarily due to the incredible advance in graphics technology and the quality of Desktop Environments which demands that new hardware. All those beautiful looks, those graphics, that eye-candy – it all requires more powerful hardware and more memory. And the sad reality is, those of us who like to keep our older hardware (which is still perfectly good) running and using up-to-date linux are finding it more and more challenging to do so.

Still, there are ways. One such is familiarly referred to as the ‘*box window managers‘. I’m referring to Openbox, Fluxbox, and Blackbox. What does Blackbox, Fluxbox, or Openbox have that the others don’t? All three are very lightweight, designed with lightness and simplicity in mind, providing a bare set of features that are the minimum required for a good start at your desktop. After install, you just have the beginning of a beautiful desktop. Now you get to make it look and run any way you like.

The *box window managers are very fast, light on resource usage, and in general run ‘very well‘ on older hardware as well as newer, and with minimal memory. And you can make them absolutely georgeous with lot’s of eyecandy, or almost none at all. It’s all up to you. The best part is, your old laptop or desktop will run like the wind again, and you will be extremely happy with the configurability of your ‘new‘ old linux computer.

Don’t let that older hardware go to waste, or your hard earned dollars pour out every year on newer systems that you may not need. Give Openbox, Fluxbox, or Blackbox a try. You won’t be disappointed.

–Theoden