The Easy and the Lightweight

Recently, I switched from Manjaro Linux to Arch Linux to get closer to the heart of my GNU/Linux operating system again. It’s pleasant to be in full control of what’s going on under the hood. However, often there are those small things. How do I know which packages are required for handling the multitude of archive formats (tar.gz, .zip, .7zip, etc.)? Why does the file manager not automatically link images to the only image viewing app I have on my system? We all suffer from similar problems and in some way it doesn’t have to be all on the user to figure things out. However, as with great power comes great responsibility, easy to use GNU/Linux distributions typically come with lots of unwanted software that only overburdens our precious machines. Thus, I asked myself – can I get some but not all?

Not entirely surprisingly, Yes. GNU/Linux is flexible enough that many lightweight distributions were born to cater to users with minimal needs. Below, a short round-up:

Bodhi Linux – based on the current Ubuntu LTS branch, it was one of my first GNU/Linux distributions. Although Enlightenment was substituted with its fork, Moksha, it is still equally lightweight. Bodhi will perfectly suit those of us who prefer simplicity and don’t want to be overwhelmed by software choice. The one application per task rule stands strong.

Peppermint OS – also based on the current Ubuntu LTS branch. Peppermint OS makes great use of web-based applications through its Ice web-app creator/linker. Favorite services like Facebook or YouTube can be locally linked in a browser window to mimic software installed on the hard drive. The desktop environment is a mix of LXDE and Xfce.

BunsenLabs Linux – successor to the Debian Stable-based Crunchbang Linux. It’s a community project that intends to continue Crunchbang’s legacy as a fuss-free Debian Stable distribution. It utilizes Openbox with components from Xfce as its desktop environment. A fantastic alternative to those who don’t like installing Debian from scratch.

AntiX – also based on Debian Stable, though with an option of switching to Testing or Unstable at install time. Out-of-the-box it offers numerous applications for typical daily tasks, still staying true to its lightweight nature. The developers push really hard to make AntiX run smoothly on low-end computers. Granted, it was the only complete distribution that worked smoothly on my ancient Intel Pentium M EeePC.

All of the above distributions do great deeds in terms of resource usage and can be installed even on antiquated PIII machines. Their main strength is that they offer the same base functionalities as full-blown distributions, still requiring barely any CPU and RAM. Every single one of them is worth at least trying out!

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