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Linux distro for 32-bit (i386) machines?

Dialectic

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In April, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS will be deprecated, leaving users of 32-bit (i386) machines without security updates. Numerous other mainstream distros have discontinued 32-bit support.

Do our Linux users have any suggestions for a lightweight distro that will run on a 32-bit laptop and be supported for at least the next several years? The machine is used primarily for ASR posts, messing around with Python and syncing a music server to a backup system via SFTP.

(Suggestions that the machine be replaced with something that has a 64-bit processor will be ignored; this machine has advantages (including an easily removable battery) that my more recent laptops have lacked. This machine has been running more than 50% of the time since it was purchased in July 2006. When it still had reasonable specs, I used it for high-resolution multitrack recording. The original hard drive still works, too.)
 

mansr

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Do our Linux users have any suggestions for a lightweight distro that will run on a 32-bit laptop and be supported for at least the next several years?
If you want lightweight, Alpine Linux might be worth a look. It is specifically aimed at low resource usage and has 32-bit x86 packages.

When you say i386, I hope you don't mean an actual 386 CPU. Support for those was dropped from Linux several years ago. The 2006 purchase date suggests it's probably a Pentium M or first-gen Core processor which would make it i686 class.

The original hard drive still works, too.
If you insist on keeping the machine, I'd still suggest replacing that with an SSD (if you can find one that fits; is it parallel ATA or SATA?). A hard drive that old can drop dead any moment, and an SSD will give you a welcome speed boost.
 
OP
D

Dialectic

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If you want lightweight, Alpine Linux might be worth a look. It is specifically aimed at low resource usage and has 32-bit x86 packages.

When you say i386, I hope you don't mean an actual 386 CPU. Support for those was dropped from Linux several years ago. The 2006 purchase date suggests it's probably a Pentium M or first-gen Core processor which would make it i686 class.


If you insist on keeping the machine, I'd still suggest replacing that with an SSD (if you can find one that fits; is it parallel ATA or SATA?). A hard drive that old can drop dead any moment, and an SSD will give you a welcome speed boost.
I use i386 in the more general sense of the term in which it's often used in relation to Linux distros, with 64-bit processors known as amd64 machines.

This laptop is a Dell with an Intel Centrino Duo. The boot drive is a 2011 Intel SSD that I pulled out of another old machine. The hard drive is in a USB enclosure now and is used for FTP purposes only.

It's an old plastic piece of crap, but it still works and, with the battery removed, runs silently because the fans practically never spin up.
 

restorer-john

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If you insist on keeping the machine, I'd still suggest replacing that with an SSD (if you can find one that fits; is it parallel ATA or SATA?). A hard drive that old can drop dead any moment, and an SSD will give you a welcome speed boost.

If he bought it in 2006, it's likely to be a P4 or centrino/duo or dual core something. The drive may be IDE not SATA. THe IDE/PATA SSDs are pretty expensive.

I've got a Toshiba Satellite P4 HT 3.06GHz which never even had the plastic peeled off it, which I installed Ubuntu in about 12 years ago. It still works perfectly whebn I last fired it up. I have way too many vintage laptops.
 

somebodyelse

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I've still got Gentoo on a 1st gen Atom, but unless you want a learning experience I wouldn't recommend it! Apart from those mentioned already I'd be checking up on Mint, Manjaro and Arch, and maybe Tiny Core Linux for a really lightweight if somewhat odd option. I don't think any of those are planning to drop 32 bit but may have missed an announcement.
 

restorer-john

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This old Toshiba Tecra was chucked in for free when I bought some bits and pieces at a 2nd hand shop.

Cleaned it up, put in an SSD and it goes really well. Built in 2008 I think. It's currently running W10 2H2 perfectly well. The only piece of hardware that doesn't work now is the LAN port (can't find any drivers for it and W10 doesn't even know it's there). Everything else is bang up to date. Even the fingerprint reader logs me straight in.

tecra (1) (Small).jpeg
tecra (2) (Small).jpeg
 

mansr

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I use i386 in the more general sense of the term in which it's often used in relation to Linux distros, with 64-bit processors known as amd64 machines.
I've mostly seen i386 specifically referring to pre-Pentium Pro machines. PPro and later are usually called i686 or simply x86.

If he bought it in 2006, it's likely to be a P4 or centrino/duo or dual core something. The drive may be IDE not SATA. THe IDE/PATA SSDs are pretty expensive.
Hence the "if you can find one" bit.
 

restorer-john

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@Dialectic

Does it really matter that your 16.04 has no "security updates" after April? Most everything that needed updating in the version has likely been done already.

I find it's the browsers that kill the OSs now. Dropping support for older OSs.
 

mansr

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I've still got Gentoo on a 1st gen Atom, but unless you want a learning experience I wouldn't recommend it! Apart from those mentioned already I'd be checking up on Mint, Manjaro and Arch, and maybe Tiny Core Linux for a really lightweight if somewhat odd option. I don't think any of those are planning to drop 32 bit but may have missed an announcement.
I wouldn't suggest running Gentoo on an old machine other than as some unusual form of torture. Arch is x86-64 only, at least the official builds.
 

mansr

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@Dialectic

Does it really matter that your 16.04 has no "security updates" after April? Most everything that needed updating in the version has likely been done already.

I find it's the browsers that kill the OSs now. Dropping support for older OSs.
Nasty bugs are regularly found in old software. These won't be fixed in that Ubuntu version. Connecting an unpatched system to the internet is decidedly _not_ recommended.
 

restorer-john

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Nasty bugs are regularly found in old software. These won't be fixed in that Ubuntu version. Connecting an unpatched system to the internet is decidedly _not_ recommended.

There's way too much fear mongering and fear conditioning these days in relation to that. It's not like anyone uses ancient OSs or vintage machines for internet banking.

I've got plenty of ancient WinXP SP3 laptops that I have zero concerns using on my network behind an extremely well locked down router.

@mhardy6647 Lovely machines those R series from 2005/6/7/8. I have R-52 and a R-61 models. Just beautifully built and perform exactly the same as the say they were made.
 

somebodyelse

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I've mostly seen i386 specifically referring to pre-Pentium Pro machines. PPro and later are usually called i686 or simply x86.
Having had a Via C3 that was a cmov short of being i686 I'm all too aware of the distinctions and the misleading use of the terms!
 

Blumlein 88

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I have a Dell of that vintage with that processor. It runs Mint i686 version fine with one somewhat glaring issue. The wifi doesn't work. If you can plug it into a network or use a USB wifi adapter good on linux you'd be good to go. Still original spinning HD in it. I only now and again pull it out. I don't know if Mint also plans to drop the i686 version soon. More and more distros are 64 bit only.

Likely most i686 versions of distros will run more or less on that machine. Any of the more minimalistic ones will run a little snappier.

Magia and Debian are good suggestions with i586 or i686 versions which aren't likely to go away anytime soon.
 
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mhardy6647

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There's way too much fear mongering and fear conditioning these days in relation to that. It's not like anyone uses ancient OSs or vintage machines for internet banking.

I've got plenty of ancient WinXP SP3 laptops that I have zero concerns using on my network behind an extremely well locked down router.

@mhardy6647 Lovely machines those R series from 2005/6/7/8. I have R-52 and a R-61 models. Just beautifully built and perform exactly the same as the say they were made.

I -- literally -- don't know the provenance of this one! :facepalm:
I think I may have bought it (used) for Mrs. H when she was havin' laptop issues quite some time ago.
I stumbled across it a couple of weeks ago looking for something else -- with an 80 gb HDD and WinXP Pro.
Figured there was nothing to lose.

I have a T500 here that I'd really like to reanimate -- but there is actually something (intermittently) wrong with it...maybe the onboard graphics. I had actually installed the aforementioned SSD in the T500 a few weeks back, installed the (a) current 64 bit Linux Mint on it, used it for a couple of days, and it started acting wacky again. Full disclosure, the T500 was my son's and he said it was borked, so this isn't exactly unexpected. I was supposed to pass the T500 along to my "IT guy" (who does fee-for-service repairs and upgrades, and also sells nice used business class laptops, as well as doing "actual" IT support for small clients like my & my little LLC)... but I... umm... have never managed to do so. :rolleyes:
 

q3cpma

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Gentoo, but compile stuff in a chroot on your workstation then make a simple binhost (using rsyncd) and rsync the kernel binaries (or just use the new gentoo-kernel-bin). That's what I did for my Thinkpad x61s.

Alpine isn't too bad, otherwise, but Portage really is the greatest. I do pay attention to budding competition like Ravenports, though.
 
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Phorize

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In April, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS will be deprecated, leaving users of 32-bit (i386) machines without security updates. Numerous other mainstream distros have discontinued 32-bit support.

Do our Linux users have any suggestions for a lightweight distro that will run on a 32-bit laptop and be supported for at least the next several years? The machine is used primarily for ASR posts, messing around with Python and syncing a music server to a backup system via SFTP.

(Suggestions that the machine be replaced with something that has a 64-bit processor will be ignored; this machine has advantages (including an easily removable battery) that my more recent laptops have lacked. This machine has been running more than 50% of the time since it was purchased in July 2006. When it still had reasonable specs, I used it for high-resolution multitrack recording. The original hard drive still works, too.)
I’d personally go with Debian because I hate change, at least in an operating system. It will support x86 for as long as there is x86 iron out there, and it’s likely that old stable releases will still get the 5 years of support for as long as it’s relevant. It’s also going to be a familiar environment. The offerings of projects like manjaro are much better than could have been expected in the 90s, but their focus will always shift more quickly than Debian so you may find support disappears more quickly.
 

Phorize

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Gentoo, but compile stuff on a chroot on your workstation then make a simple binhost (using rsyncd) and rsync the kernel binaries (or just use the new gentoo-kernel-bin). That's what I did for my Thinkpad x61s.
Yep, I used to build my slack builds on my workstation and push them out over rsync to install locally on netbooks etc. Lord knows where I used to find the time!
 
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