Laptop for kids

Heidi finally got a new laptop (Compaq CQ60 118TX) on Friday, so I went about repurposing her old computer (Asus S1300A; Pentium3 1GHz, 128Mb RAM) for use by her niece and nephew.

Given that she’s had the same install of Windows XP on it for… ever (2002), it’s been running insanely slowly. However, we figured it would be fine with a lightweight version of Linux. After all, the kids only really need a web-browser so that they can play flash games right?

Anyhow, the tail-end of the story is that the machine is now running a clean recovery version of Windows XP (and currently downloading SP3). I tried a bunch of Linux distributions and they were either too memory or processor intensive (most commonly) or just too esoteric to hand over to someone else. Maybe I should have tried older versions of Linux…

Here’s the list of Linux distributions I tried:

  • Ubuntu 8.10: required Alternative install CD; memory requirements were too high
  • Xubuntu 8.10: required Alternative install CD; processor too slow
  • Debian 5.0 + LXDE: processor stepped to 600MHz by default; Browser (Ice Weasel) performance too slow; too esoteric
  • gOS 3.1 Gadgets: CD wouldn’t boot (uses ISOLinux); could use a boot floppy, but the laptop doesn’t have a floppy drive

At that point time was running out and I used the recovery CDs that came with the laptop to return to Windows XP. Performance is much better under Windows XP for this particular hardware, although I’ve ordered an additional 256Mb of RAM which should help a lot for Linux.

I’m considering trying to install Ubuntu 7.10 and then installing the gOS packages, but it’s going to be tough justifying putting more time into this if Windows XP SP3 works fine.

Update: I should mention that I used the awesome Super Grub Disk to fix the MBR (to boot into Windows) after using the recovery disks. It was a great tool for MBR repair.

Update: Installing Puppy Linux as per Rich’s suggestion. The Live CD was crazy fast, wifi worked without hassle, and the browser (Sea Monkey) comes with a flash player! 🙂

2 thoughts on “Laptop for kids”

  1. Although the overhead might be a little more to get Linux running, I’d say it’s probably worth it. Linux means no viruses and trojans, a BIG plus IMO when making a laptop for kids. Plus it gives them some experience with PCs running something other than Windows, hopefully encouraging them to play around with PCs and maybe get some more technical knowledge.

    Definitely try an older build of Linux; even my 1.8ghz lappy with 1.5gb RAM and an X700 has problems with Intrepid Ibex. Maybe take a look at Puppy Linux, which is said to run nicely on old systems and will quite happily use your hard drive in lieu of RAM. http://www.puppylinux.com/index.html

    I was gonna mention that they might wanna play REAL games (:P) but Linux has enough ports of PC games to keep kids entertained.

  2. Yeah; It’s another week until family dinner, so I’ll probably try out a few more lightweight distros.

    Linpus performs well on the Linux-based Acer Aspire One. I may try that out as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *